The big city brimming with buzz and opportunity, culture, people and enough going on to keep one busy for a lifetime.
Many people only dream of such a place. Especially where I come from. I come from a small beachside village in Cape Town that could fit into one corner of the SW. Somewhere like London is so far removed from reality, so when I was lucky enough to be given the chance to move there, you can imagine my excitement.
So I packed my bags, said goodbye to my family and friends and took the biggest plunge of my life at the time filled with hopes of the dream job, new friends and new experiences.
Six months later I was back in Cape Town.
There was a family emergency that pushed me to move back, but I knew in my heart that even if this wasn’t the case I wouldn’t have lasted much longer. I was lonely and lost and extremely unhappy.
1. TOO MUCH TOO SOON:
Growing up in a tiny town called Kommetjie where the beach was a stone’s throw from my house and life was so laid back it was one pace away from being backwards, I wasn’t quite ready for the culture shock that was London. The pace, the noise, the never ending sea of people. It was all too much in one go and I think I was in a constant state of shell-shock. A constant state of fight or flight.
2. THE ISOLATION:
One would think that moving to London would bring an abundance of friends. I was baffled to find that this was not the case. It didn’t make sense – there are SO many people??? But the truth is that big cities are isolating. Especially one like London where everyone is constantly on the hustle. It is known that London is career obsessed, meaning I (and everyone else, it seemed) had very little time to do anything. Commuting was exhausting in itself and all I wanted to do after work was go home and zen out. But then the months pass by and I looked back and realised that I’d made no real friends. I was the loneliest I have ever been.
3. THE REALITY:
I went to London totally naive. I had just graduated and had stars in my eyes. I went over with the dream of landing my dream job, dream friends, and a dream girlfriend. And in the six months that I was there,
none of these sufficed. Let’s just say that it was a very rude awakening to the real world. And I wasn’t quite ready. Throw in an eating disorder and generalised anxiety, its safe to say that I was a mess. What made matters worse was that I couldn’t accept it. It was me against myself. “You’re young, you should be loving this Michael!” was what I told myself. I couldn’t admit that maybe, just maybe, the big city life isn’t for me.
4. THE DEPRESSION & ANXIETY:
My issues with anxiety began before leaving Cape Town, but moving to the big city certainly shifted it up a gear. There is enough in London to exhaust anyone, but as someone with anxiety (who didn’t even realise he had anxiety at this stage), the challenges are endless. The hoards of people, the constant energy, the overstimulation, the lack of work/life balance. I was constantly fatigued and riddled with what I now know was anxiety and depression, due to personal issues that were totally out of my control. All I wanted to do was bury my head in the sand and call it a day.
Having said all of this, I do have some space for London in my life, but that space is limited. I have friends who still live there so visiting them is great. Booking a show to see, an event to attend, or immersing myself in the rich culture is something I can appreciate, but I am only willing to handle this is small doses. My priorities are different and my state of mind ranks above the buzz of the big city.
Someone once said something to me which really sums up my view of the home of Big Ben. “London is a great place to come home from”, and I could not agree more.
I would love to hear your thoughts on this! Have you lived in London before? If so, what is your take on it?