I remember when I finished uni, aged 21, all naive and fresh-faced and thinking about how great post-grad life will be with a job and a house and maybe even a puppy. Yeah, definitely a puppy. Maybe two puppies and a birdbath in my massive garden. I was also resolutely against living in London where it’s so expensive and so busy and the tubes are bursting with germs. Ew, no. No way. I’ll just be hanging out in the suburbs somewhere, driving to work and walking my harem of dogs. YAY DREAMS RAINBOWS MONEY PUPPIES.
Er. What a slap in the face. What a massive, gross, fat monstrous reality check post-grad life really was. A birdbath FFS. Come on.
I had a bit of a down-in- the-dumps period after graduation, but between my friends it was a collective feeling. We got through it together. We did any old weird and wonderful job just to get some money and moved home or stayed put or went abroad. I continued being against living in London. Sure, maybe I could work there, but I’ll commute out. I’ll read loads on the train. It’ll be fine.
Fast forward nearly four years (insert hyperventilating here) and guess where I am? Guess where the vast majority of my friends are? We’re in London, obviously. Big, busy, bustling, bright and breezy London town. I know a lot of people who haven’t managed to get to London yet, and they want to so badly. It makes sense. The jobs are here, the nightlife is here, the convenience is here, friends are here. It’s all here. It comes at a price though, and not just in the money sense. When you live, work and play in London, you sell your soul to London.
Everyone knows rent in London is sky high, and house prices are even more obscene. The house price part is a rant entirely on it’s own, so I’ll leave that for now. I and everyone I know in London rents. Buying MIGHT be a thing in the future, but we’ll just all see how it goes. We can’t do much about the times we live in can we? So here we all are, in our rented houses and flats, living with friends, living with strangers, living with partners. There are house parties, cheese and wine nights, pamper parties. Endless gatherings. I envisioned the whole scenario to be lots of drinking until dawn, dancing in Shoreditch until 4am, lazily walking around Hyde park on Sundays and shopping on Oxford Street whenever I fancied. I have done all of these things, many times. The fun literally never ends unless you want it to. Somewhere will be open and you can bet your last penny someone will be doing it, whatever it is. When you’re young, have a bit of disposable income and are out to have a good time, you couldn’t ask for a better City.
However, the above is all just a snapshot. A drop in the ocean. The daily grind can be something quite different.
The tube to work is cramped, squashed, gross, delayed and bloody expensive. You just pay and blank it out in your mind as dead money that was never yours. At work, the first part of most mornings involve various groans and complaints about how bad transport is here and gasps of “guess how much this coffee cost me!” Step outside the office and you’ll see a Pret, Starbucks, Costa, Mcodnalds, express supermarkets and endless, endless streams of people. You can chuck £10 away a day on lunch easily and when you begin to add up how much the morning coffee costs per month, you begin to think twice. Er I know, I’ll bring my own food! You won’t though. Most likely, you’ll buckle to the convenience and buy it all anyway.
When you get home from work, via the pub or a bar or the supermarket, everyone is out running, or off to pilates, or going to the cinema. Your friends want to do something. You end up doing something too because there is just so much to be done. You blink and it’s Friday. You’re a hell of a lot poorer than on Monday. Er, I know, next week I’ll cut back! You won’t though, because saying no becomes really hard.
You definitely don’t, as a London resident, spend weekends going up The Shard, trying to make the guards at Buckingham palace move or viewing the smog from a pod on the London Eye. I mean you can if you want, but there’s just so much else to do. You go out, buy food, do washing, see more friends, drink more, fall into Nandos, accidentally sleep until 12. You blink and it’s Sunday.
Now you’re MUCH poorer. Oops. You’re also really tired from doing all of those things that are happening all the time around you.
It’s a game of two halves, is London. On the one hand, it’s inspiring and fun and buzzing. It’s most certainly never dull. On the other hand, it’s expensive, frustrating, tiring and suffocating. I would be lying if I said I hadn’t loved the last two years and how near everything is, how late everything is and how much of everything there is. I have loved it. However it has also confirmed that I can’t sustain it. I’m tired and I’m stressed and I want to go to work without having someone elbow me in the head or use my back as a reading stand. I also want to not hear sirens for more than ten minutes. SO many sirens.
London will give you a great time, but it’s not always going to be what you might imagine.