When London becomes your home but leaving is inevitable
Sitting here writing from my parent’s backyard, it’s hard to imagine what I felt like two years ago when I had my fresh two-year work visa in hand and purchased my one way ticket to London. At the time, I never thought I could have fallen for this insane city. The thought of living in London for two years seemed like plenty of time and I thought I’d be ready and happy to leave at the end of my visa. Good god was I ever wrong.
Let’s rewind to June 24th, my first night in London. In the simplest of terms, my first night in London was a complete and utter disaster. I got off my coach bus at Victoria station and purchased my very first Oyster card (surprisingly, I never lost it or had to purchase another. Mini London success!). I left the bus station with my fresh Oyster card in hand and hopped on a bus to make my way to my hostel where I would be staying for the next few days. After circling the streets around my hostel for what felt like an eternity, I finally found my hostel just after at 11pm and was shocked to find out that there had been a mistake with my booking. By mistake with my booking, I mean they didn’t have a bed for me and I was going to be homeless for the night. WELCOME TO LONDON JESSICA!
Regardless of the inconvenient situation, this was one of my first hand experiences of the kindness of strangers, specifically hostel staff (THANK YOU DEAR HOSTEL STAFF ❤ ) The lovely Australian hostel worker tried to find a bed for me at one of their sister hostels, but of course there was no availability since it was 11pm at night…and I definitely couldn’t afford a hotel room in London so I really did contemplate becoming homeless during my first night in London. Despite not having a bed for me, the lovely Australian hostel worker let me store my bags in a locker and sleep on a sofa in their common room. I could not have been more thankful. Being summoned to a common room because I had no other place to stay and being dubbed the ‘sofa girl’ proved to have its perks. Everyone was so curious and incredibly kind to me – I had some conversations that night which I’ll never forget! I woke up at 6am the next morning, not quite fresh eyed and bushy tailed, but completely ready to start a new day at least. I made my way to Marble Arch and took a lovely stroll in Hyde Park, joined by the energetic morning joggers. At that moment, even after a terrible first night in London, I knew this is where I was meant to be and was so happy to be in this crazy and defeating, yet rewarding, and beautiful city called London. This is when I learnt that when London knocks you down, which is always does, it will inevitably pick you back up.
A few days later, my now-dearest friend Alexa (at the time, my sister’s close friend from University), took me under her wing and let me stay at her house for the summer. This was the biggest blessing I could have ever experienced in London. Without that, I probably would have ended up homeless haha. From there, all things fell into place. I was absorbed into the most welcoming, crazy and lovely group of friends I could have hoped for, and as they say, the rest is history.
Fast forward what felt like a million temp jobs later, I finally found stability in a permanent job with Ronald McDonald House Charities. And then fast forward an incredible year and a half later with RMHC, the day I had been dreading had finally come. I found out that my work visa would expire with no chance of renewal. Reality finally sank in. The decision was made for me, I had to go home back to Canada. After many google searches for immigration lawyers and contemplating going back to University so that I could stay in London, I realized that I just had to face the facts and make the most of my time I had left in London.
The prospect of leaving London was devastating to me. Having known for four months of my expiry date, I thought it would make it easy but if anything it made it harder. I had an internal countdown of when I had to leave my job, my colleagues, my friends, my boyfriend and my new home.
Even after several goodbye parties and work leaving dos, I thought I would be prepared. I thought I would be prepared for what it would feel like to leave and to come back home. Reality is, you’ll never be prepared for what it feels to have to leave when it’s the last thing you could possibly want to do. You just need to face it and make the most out of the situation you are in.
I would lie if I said being back home is easy. It’s not. It’s lovely to be back home with family, my dog, and my friends, but it feels like I left a part of me back in London. I feel homesick for London. However, I’ve learnt to make the most of the time I missed out on here at home and to look for adventure on my suburban doorstep.
Two years down the road from that first night on the sofa in a West London hostel, it’s hard to imagine everything that could have come out of my two years in London. The friends, the adventures and the career experience.
Goodbye London. You have made me a better and stronger person, an incredible commuter, and have ignited my Wanderlust more than I ever thought possible. The only thing I never learnt how to do is how to apply my makeup on the tube….I’ll keep trying though.
Until next time London. You’ll be missed.