Making Someplace New, Home

tiny clay houses
Credit: Flickr / D. Ferragamo

I’ve had this conversation multiple times lately, so it’s time to document it. I feel like a hippocrite offering these observations, since I don’t feel at all at home in London yet, but at least I’m mindfully unhappy about it.

Even somewhat 1-dimensional workaholics have multiple aspects to their lives (they normally have somewhere to sleep, for example). Most of us have many. Mine are:

Career: Where am I working, what am I working on, am I learning, progressing, appreciated?
Friends (and Family): Who do I hang out with? Who can I call if I need to chat? Do we have standing dates?
Life Infrastructure: Apartment, commute, food, gym, airport (where can I go for a weekend?).
Culture: Art, theatre.
Romance: Who I’m dating, or the dating scene if I’m single.

Typically, a move is driven by one of the big two (career, romance), but everything else changes too. You have to work to build up the other aspects of your life, or in the case of the Life Infrastructure category just accept that they are different.

Career

If you move for your career, that is a lot of pressure to put on your job. If your job is the major thing in your life, and it sucks, then you life sucks. Sometimes it is going to suck. I moved to Sydney for career/life infrastructure/culture reasons (I wanted to live in a city again). For the first 6 months, my career was great – I was doing exactly what I wanted to do, I got promoted, I felt stretched in the right ways. Later it kinda started to suck. And I was so grateful that I had friends outside of work, that I could call and cry on.

And then I moved to London so that I would have a better job – I evaluated the data on what helps women in tech (essentially, a sponsor), I found it. I followed it. It was a good decision. But because this was a 1-dimensional move, I had to work extra hard on all the other aspects to make them manageable.

Friends (and Family)

The book I recommend to everyone who is moving is MWF Seeks BFF. It’s a book about a woman who moves to Chicago for her husband, and how she managed to build a group of BFFs. The big thing: follow up. You ask someone to do something specific, and if they say no you have to ask again. Unless they say, “no I never want to see you again”, of course. If you suggest a theatre show and they say “just not into theatre” you suggest brunch. If you suggest brunch and they tell you they don’t eat out because gluten/money suggest a walk, or a free show somewhere.

Possibly weird behaviour, but… I read the Londonist, filter through the mass of information, and pull things that appeal to me into a spreadsheet. I add restaurants that appeal to my todo list on foursquare. This means I always have things that I can suggest someone do with me.

I have managed to get to the point that I will follow up after one rejection, but that’s it. Maybe at some point I will manage to follow up twice.

Meeting people, get intros, or take courses, I’ve met some great people via Twitter. If someone seems fun and you chat suggest that you get coffee together. Most people will be flattered, and what I’ve found is that there are very few people who already feel like they have too many friends.

Life Infrastructure

I tend to choose an apartment by deciding what is important to me, and finding something that fits those criteria. In KW, this was basically “walking distance from office, has a washing machine” – this narrowed it down to one apartment building, which made things very easy. In Sydney, I liked where my friend lived – close to downtown, walkable to work, so I just got (well, she got for me) an apartment in her building. London was harder, but also less pressing because I could commute weekly from my parents place. So, I took the train in for the week, and booked surprise (secret) hotels in different parts of town. This helped me see different parts of town, and get an idea of where I would like to live. Eventually I picked Kensington and Chelsea, now I know more people, I wish I lived in East/Central London, but it’s manageable until October.

It’s important not to underestimate the misery of the commute. This is well documented in behavioural psychology. Long commutes make people miserable. Don’t do it.

Other key things: I’m on a tube line that goes direct to Heathrow. My gym is less than a 20 minute walk away, and it’s really nice – a little oasis of calm in a hectic city. There are places to eat, and an M&S nearby so I don’t need to cook (or own plates). These are the things that are important for me.

Culture

This is the one thing about London that I have to admit is amazing. I do something cultural every week. I also did this in Sydney, but in London there’s even more. I love the small shows, and that I get to see originals of artists that I’ve seen online and loved – like Liu Bolin (the invisible man), Leonid Tishkov and the Republic of the Moon, The Architecture of Density. There is so much theatre, I got to see I Can’t Sing, which was such a disaster that I doubt it will ever be shown anywhere else, but I really enjoyed. In Sydney, I adored Cockatoo Island, and the Biennale.

Everywhere has stuff going on. KW was surprisingly vibrant for such a small town – Ignite was a big deal, for example. Find out what’s going on, and go.

Romance

The second big reason to move, not that I have ever moved for this reason. If you move for your partner, you have to find a way to create a life for yourself there too. Otherwise, it’s a lot of pressure to put on your relationship, and them.

If you move for other reasons and leave someone behind, or go long distance… it’s so hard. This I have done. I felt sad, and guilty. They can be resentful, angry. Everyone gets to have their own emotions here. It’s hard to leave; it’s hard to be left.

The last date I went on was the one with the misogynist that I live tweeted, after which I decided to take 6 months off dating. But typically if I’m single, I try and go on dates. I have to put myself out there, and it’s a good way to see things and meet people – even if you don’t end up in a relationship with them. The thing, I think, is not to let it become a distraction. It’s easier to find date-dates than friend-dates, so don’t focus on it to the exclusion of other aspects of your life.

In Summary…

Your life has more than one dimension! Think about what these dimensions are. The dimensions that suck the most after you move are the places which require the most effort. Don’t neglect them.

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