Today marks three years since I moved to London. It’s weird, because I still feel like a bit of a newcomer here, yet three years is a pretty significant chunk of my life so far. Three years is the longest I have spent in one place, doing the same thing, since I was eighteen years old.
I knew when I applied for a publishing course five years ago that working in the industry would likely mean a move to London, where the UK industry is heavily centred. (People often ask, “Is Edinburgh not the next best place for publishing in the UK?” but this means there are about thirty jobs in the industry as opposed to none.) I debated all this and decided I had to give it a try, because making the decision to pursue a job working with books was the first time that I ever felt I was making the right choice for my future.
I have never been someone who dreams of living life in the fast lane in a big, busy city. While a couple of my friends always fancied a year or two living in London – neither of whom have yet – I think I would have been quite happy working in Edinburgh. As far as cities go, it’s tiny – population: half a million. But it’s beautiful and hilly, charming and calm, and – most importantly – I could make it to almost any friend’s house in an hour. I could go home for dinner!
When it comes to London, despite knowing how expensive things would be, that it would mean leaving everyone behind, and that it would be a different lifestyle than I was used to, it has actually taken a long time to fully comprehend these things.
When it comes to housing, I will never not be annoyed that I could have a four-bedroom house in my home town for the price of a studio in London. (Not that I ever saw myself staying there for the rest of my life; it’s just the principle!) Of course, if a bank ever does agree to give us a mortgage that would get us more than a parking space, I will hope that housing prices continue to rise as stupidly as they have done. I was on Rightmove the other day, and a flat that sold in 2000 for £28,000 was asking for offers over £285,000 in 2017. (Why was eleven-year-old me not buying London property, goddammit?!) I almost forget how expensive drinks are until friends visit and have a heart attack at the price of a large glass of wine.
Of course, money is not the main issue. I know people move entire continents away from their families, and for some (like a girl at my work) it’s been three years since they’ve been home at all, whereas I could be home in seven hours. It’s never going to be the same as living there though. One month I went home; only two months later I was back, and I had already missed the chance to have a last conversation with my gran. You do give something up when you move away from your family.
When it comes to day-to-day living, the main thing I’ve had to adjust to is the number of people. You have to fight for accommodation, jobs, space to breathe on the tube – it’s exhausting. This is also more serious than I wanted to get, but I can’t deny that safety is something I think of more than I ever did before. However, I would rather use this as a reason to do more, not less; we have no idea what is going to happen, so we’d better enjoy the good times when we have them.
Regardless of whether I stayed in Scotland or not, we all need to build our own lives. If I had stayed there, it wouldn’t change the fact that my friends have other responsibilities and relationships. It was something I was acutely aware of before moving here: everyone had their careers and their boyfriends, and I was being left behind.
Now I have these things of my own, but it doesn’t mean I don’t miss my friends and family. It does, however, make far more sense to miss them from here, where I have been insanely lucky: I have the best boyfriend (there, I have finally posted it!), who has made this big old city start to feel like home; I’ve got to know an old friend better, and count her among my best friends; and I work for a company I love, where I get to sit around all day and talk about books.
We always have to make choices – I don’t think anyone’s ever had it all yet! – and so I choose to focus the good things, and never take them for granted.