In 2009, I returned to Australia after my first time living in the UK. I was ready to leave London, ready to be back home in my beloved Melbourne. The pain of being parted from my parents and sister had been too much to bear. As had the woeful weather, the life-crippling salary and the constant battle with eight million other people. As much as I had enjoyed most of my time in Bath and London, February of 2009 was bitterly cold with a snow blizzard blanketing the city the day before I was due to fly out. I went to bed that night hoping my flight would not be cancelled. I was done with England. Or, at least, I thought I was.
|See how it's a photo of Melbourne AND London?|
It would be some years before I felt ready to return to the UK. Which I did, in 2013, on a three-week holiday. As soon as I touched down after that exhausting flight, I knew I had been wrong to stay away for so long. As I rode the Heathrow Express to Paddington Station, I revelled in how familiar everything was. When I arrived at Paddington, goose bumps covered my entire body and I had to choke back tears. (It wouldn’t be the done thing to show so much emotion at a train station in the middle of London, surrounded by harassed commuters and tourist.) I was instantly in love again. London was alive. Every part of the city offered a chance of a new adventure and I threw myself into my holiday as I hurried to get a black cab (my Australian salary being much, much better than it ever would be in the UK) to take me to my hotel. I didn’t stop smiling, and had tears in my eyes, for the whole journey.
After my UK holiday/revelation, I was back at my desk at work, staring at my pin board. This wasn’t an unusual occurrence in itself – I often stared at the board which was filled with inspirational quotes, beautiful images and a publishing schedule that always left me feeling halfway between joy and heartburn. But on this day, I knew something was missing. After a quick internet search, I found what I was looking for. It was a photograph of the city of Edinburgh (a city which had been part of my recent UK holiday) as seen from high above at Carlton Hill. The city, looking beautiful at dusk, was added to my pin board as a nice reminder of my holiday.
At the time, I had honestly believed I had pinned up that photograph to be reminded of my brilliant holiday. We've all done it. Needed a little help to get through those post-holiday blues. But as the days, weeks and months went on, that photograph began to represent something more. It reminder that, actually, I had enjoyed living in the UK and perhaps if I had been at a different stage of my life and career, I wouldn’t have been so eager to leave when I did.
Every day for three years, I looked at that photograph and wondered if I would ever consider another move. Every day for three years, I looked at that photograph and wondered if I would ever consider a different kind of life. Every day for three years, I looked at that photograph and finally realised my story with the UK had not quite finished.
|The photo that I looked at for those three years.|
Three weeks ago, I found myself at Carlton Hill, looking out over the beautiful city of Edinburgh. I was looking at the exact view that had been pinned to my board at work for three years.
There weren’t ENOUGH goose bumps to cover my body that day. My face wasn’t big enough for the smile that imprinted itself and my eyes glistened with so many tears that I was momentarily blinded.
Sure, it wasn’t dusk and the weather was so terrible that my attempt at recreating that photograph failed before I had taken out my phone from my jacket pocket, but it didn’t matter. I was looking at that view not from my desk of a job and life I'd known for so, so long. I was looking at that view as a new person, with a new life, in a new city.
I have been living in London for one year. My life looks nothing like it ever has. Every day brings new challenges, new adventures, new opportunities. London makes me happy, miserable, fulfilled and wanting more. I pine for my family every day, the weather is still ridiculous, my salary is non-existent and I’m nowhere near done.