I awoke groggy, alcohol still lingering in my system from last nights leaving drinks. Co-workers, senior management, ex-colleagues, all of whom I class as friends were there to give me the best send off by buying me endless drinks, recounting my first days at the company and eagerly questioning where my next adventure lays…
Reaching my usual London underground station, I pass the crowds of busy people, rushing to get to work and suddenly feel the urgency in my pace slow. This is the last time I’ll be here, going on this route to work. I look around me at the faces of strangers, tired eyes burning into phone screens and newspaper articles, and wonder: have I travelled with them before? Was I always in too much of a rush to notice? Why do they never look back at me? Why do we never speak? The tube pulls into the station and the all familiar uncomfortable shoving begins, it seems us Londoners forgot what English folk are well known for; queuing.
My thoughts shift, showing a petite girl, timidly stepping aside for people to enter the tube, not wanting to be a part of the awkward intimacy that came with forcing herself onto the packed carriage. She held her head low, trying to hide the panic that she felt rising within herself. For a girl who used to be too scared to even talk to a sales person behind a counter, moving to London as the first time of living away from home was a BIG deal, one that would change me forever. I’ve come so far from being that timid girl, afraid of the sweaty confrontation within rush-hour on the London Underground.
So many times that girl wanted to escape London, to run from the stresses of a new environment, to run from the expectations of a fresh and fast-paced job role in the advertising world, to run from the loneliness of being in a city which held so many people who ironically were so distrusting and ignorant of one another as strangers.
Now, two years on from the timid girl who entered London for the first time, I have left. But I haven’t escaped. I left because of what London had taught me, how it moulded me, and I will never forget that.
What did it teach me?
London is filled with success. It’s a city that’s known for it’s opportunities, career-focused inhabitants, innovative events and luxurious life style. This is all true, although the life style is far from ‘luxurious’ if you can’t afford it. The most luxuries my house shares offered were the rare moments when the mice decided to move on to another home and the boiler worked for more than a few weeks, but that was all part of my character building. (Plus the mice were actually kinda cute.)
Coming from the laid-back seaside city of Plymouth, Londoners were the most ambitious people I had ever met and I couldn’t help but look at them in awe. From the ‘big-shots’ with their fancy job titles, to the creative ‘hipsters’ with a vision who seemed to simply have luck on their side, but always knew deep down what they were doing. It’s true, Londoners might not seem like the most considerate and friendly of people when they’re rushing to their next conference meeting or in heavy thought over their next ‘big idea’; but these people know success, they’re surrounded by it every day! Within this lifestyle it is the norm to dream big and to work hard for it. Where else would you hear of a successful cereal café or an over-the-top cinema experience that makes you dress up and gives you roles before you even reach the event?
You’re probably wondering why I left such an inspiring city. But that’s just the thing, I don’t believe it’s the city, I believe it’s the mindset that makes these successes. The people I met in London are so positive about their visions and aren’t afraid to take chances and fail a few times before they get to where they envision themselves being. They simply won’t settle for anything less than their own aspirations.
That’s where moving comes into this. I may seem ‘successful’ to others by having a job as a Developer in a well-known advertising company and living in this fast-paced city that others only dream to live in; but that’s not my aspiration. I have a need to travel, a longing to explore overgrown forests and jump into the chilly English waters, a want to embrace strangers and fill their lives with a little more joy. I have a dream to understand narrative, play with storytelling mediums and create things for myself; to work hard but with a passion and a love for the work that I produce.
Living in London has taught me to chase my dreams and never give up. That with hard work come great rewards. Leaving the city that opened my eyes to how attainable success really is was scary, and I’m still not 100% sure of where I will end up to obtain my goals; but I know that I can, and I know that I will. I’ll take this essence of London life and keep it with me throughout my life-long adventures.
I will not settle for anything less than my own aspirations. Nobody should. We are all worthy of success if we just believe it.