I might not have been certain of what I wanted to do post-graduation, but I knew I wanted to do it in London. That was my one goal – get to London. Everyone was moving there, everyone had jobs, or internships, or post-grad study, and I wanted to get in on it. And, after umpteen applications to every low-paid gig from Harrow to Kingston, at the end of the summer of 2014, a miracle occurred. I was offered an internship at a fashion label, with a view to it becoming my fulltime job.
And become my fulltime job it did, and some. I was scraping a living, firstly with a trying 2.5 hour commute each way whilst I tried to gather the coin for a rental deposit, and then in a dodgy flatshare in north London, which resulted in me losing a lot of money to a nefarious faux-landlord. Things started looking up slightly when I moved west with some friends from uni, into a charming, dilapidated pile near Maida Vale, but the job wasn’t getting any better. ‘Everyone eats shit at the first job,’ I reasoned with myself, sinking yet another weekday bottle of Blossom Hill that was completely out of budget. ‘We’re all pinching pennies and constantly on the piss.’ This was true, and I was in the industry I’d always hoped to be in, at a reputable label, with a 9-5 – if a poorly paid one. But I was miserable, stretching the limit of my overdraft, and making increasingly worse choices in my professional and personal life. My self-esteem was rock bottom, and so was my bank account. I was crying more frequently than a teething toddler, and laughing like a banshee mere minutes later. It was a time of intense upswings and soul-flattening lows. So far, so familiar to a lot of readers, undoubtedly.
In the summer of 2016, I decided to bite the bullet and pack in my horrible job. It was a tricky, tricky decision, and as I hadn’t had the time or energy to apply to much else, I didn’t have another position lined up. I wasn’t sure if I even wanted to stay in fashion, let alone what roles I should be looking for. I got myself blacklisted from a lot of couture houses for my clumsy cover letters and inadequate experience, and thought about going back to uni. Then came a fateful holiday.
Not long after leaving my job, I went on a trip to Stockholm and Barcelona with friends, ostensibly for a bit of breathing room and relaxation time, but it ended up being pretty reflective, too. Arriving in Stockholm was extraordinary – a punch in the gut. I hadn’t really considered anywhere but London (and perhaps New York – cheers Gossip Girl) to develop a career and carve a life, but there was something about this clean, compact city situated on the edge of the Baltic that turned my head. I spent four days there, trying to understand these ‘I’m home’ feelings that were permeating my body. I put it down to feeling a bit lost and frightened with my newfound unemployment and mounting debts, and a desperation to root myself somewhere. But the following week, in Barcelona, I couldn’t stop thinking about Sweden. I was completely enamoured with the city, the people, the lifestyle – all of which I’d only got a split-second taste of.
Only weeks later, a friend texted saying that her boyfriend was looking to hire a copywriter on his Stockholm-based e-commerce team, at another fashion label. I was floored – the coincidence was too much to believe. Fashion. Copywriting (I’m an English Lit graduate). STOCKHOLM. The stars were truly aligning. I interviewed via Skype, expressed genuine desire to give Swedish life a crack, and was hired within a few days.
And then came the complicated part – the logistics of moving my whole life abroad, alone. Finding a flat, making friends, establishing some sort of routine; it all had to be done. And yet, thinking back, I don’t recall any real difficulty. Things seemed to slot into place, one after the other, like it was all meant. It was summer in Stockholm, the best time of year. Swedes, unfairly labelled as being reticent and difficult, were at their sunny best, making me feel welcome wherever I went. The Pride parade took place the weekend I arrived, and it felt like a welcome party, thrown just for me. I was finally home.
Of course, it wasn’t as seamless an operation as I’m implying, but I work for a fantastic company with a great relocation package, I had the privilege of working for the most caring, understanding and brilliant boss in the game (since moved onwards and upwards, missed daily), and I had the benefit of knowing a few people here prior to moving. But more than anything, in hindsight, as much as London is the goal for a lot of British graduates, I have come to terms with the fact that I wasn’t ready for it. There’s nothing wrong with London, and there’s so much I miss: the proximity to everyone I’ve ever known, the late-night runs to the off-licence, The Globe of Notting Hill and its reliably sweaty basement nights, the inescapable presence of people and cultures from all over the world. But I didn’t know how to say ‘no’, and so I lived an excessive kind of lifestyle that I couldn’t maintain. It’s right for a lot of people, but not for my freshly graduated self. Maybe I’ll be back there one day, with more will-power and a salary that allows me to stay out of the black. We’ll see.
It was a risk, but I’ve just celebrated my second birthday since moving here (ugh, 26. Gross), and I have never been happier. An international move might not work for everyone, but, then, nothing does, does it? What does work, though, is blind faith and an unwillingness to let yourself slide back to where you were at your most wretched. Don’t wait. Just leap.