New City, New Identity
Ever since I arrived in this city, 8 weeks ago, I have been searching for my equilibrium. To tell you the truth, there have been more lows than highs, too much Netflix and absolutely no “chill” and the only sense of balance in my life has come from equal consumption of Ben and Jerry, a dirty ice-cream habit which has already taken the life of two of my favourite pairs of jeans.
The toughest thing has been establishing myself in a city that I know very little about. It’s hard enough mastering the basics like how to get from one place to another, let alone landing the perfect job. Yet each day I persist, even though I know that some point during the day I’m likely to get knocked down.
The question is how do you find balance when you’ve just moved to the other side of the world? I pulled on my boots and went looking for answers in Notting Hill.
Before you find a real sense of purpose in a new city you fill your days with three things: having coffee, buying flowers and eating. To someone with a reasonable workload, this mindless combination seems like a dream.
I found a quaint café a stone’s throw away from Hugh’s famous blue door and ordered a piping hot cappuccino.
The funny thing about the art of doing absolutely nothing is that once you’ve mastered it you want to do everything. I can’t tell you how many times I fantasised about being really busy again.
I left a few pounds on the table and wandered off in the direction of Portobello Road. I never liked sunflowers very much until I moved to London; since then I have found myself being obsessed with the brightness of their golden petals. I wondered if the new me was someone who loved sunflowers and wrote poetry. Absolutely not. I bought an orchid to add to my collection of things-that-look-pretty-but-die-almost-immediately.
By lunch time I was feeling exhausted despite not having ventured more than 100 metres from my flat. Another side effect of moving to a new city, you waste all your energy overthinking. Instead of heading back to my apartment to tear open another packet of Digestive biscuits (a British delicacy with a misleading name, covered in a thick layer of chocolate and probably worse for you than Ben & Jerry’s). I accepted an invitation for lunch and meditation at a popular local restaurant, Redemption.
It was a sing-for-your-dinner type of agreement, first, you must join a small group of people for a private guided meditation session then you get to eat. It’s not difficult to figure out which part I was most excited about.
Soon after I arrived, myself and a few others were ushered into a dimly lit corner of the restaurant and told to find a comfortable position. Radiant girls in flowing pants tucked their legs into expert poses while became even more intune with the top button threatening to burst open on my third pair of buckling pants.
I’d assumed that meditation was for busy people with no work/life balance and thus it wouldn’t work for me, someone who felt like they had done nothing for the past eight weeks. And so I did what any other hungry person would do, I closed my eyes and tried to fake it for 30 minutes.
Somewhere between the millionth exhale and the sound of fresh rain hitting the pavement, the menacing inner monologue that had been plaguing my mind with critical thoughts disappeared.
My mind drifted to the start of the year, I was sitting in a glass office that faced the Sydney skyline and although I knew something had to change I didn’t know how. In Sydney, I woke up anxious and went to bed exhausted and worst yet I was completely unmotivated.
It was at that point that the meditation guide asked us to slowly open our eyes and become aware of the present.
As my eyes ajusted to the light I looked out at the busy London street in wonder. In three months I had found the motivation to not only change my circumstances but my environment and that was something to be proud of.
My second reward was a delicious vegan lunch made especially for us by the beautiful people at Redemption. It was the first meal I’d had in weeks that made my soul sing and my pants feel a little looser, can I get a hallelujah!?
In your first month of living abroad, you get swept up in the excitement of it all, the new places, faces and an endless list of things to do. By your second month, the novelty of being in a foreign country begins to wear off and you come to the realisation that you’re not on holiday anymore. You find that you can’t afford to be constantly entertained by an endless parade of flashy restaurants and instead you must face that little voice in your head that says…
I’ve found that moving to a new city is a lot like building a new identity. It requires you to find a new job, build new friendships and sometimes when it all doesn’t come at once you start to panic and lose confidence in yourself.
Try if you can, every now and again to silence that critical inner monologue and appreciate how far you’ve come.
The rest of the pieces of the puzzle will fall into place eventually, for now, let’s stop to enjoy the coffee, flowers and a Digestive biccy (or two).