I’ve been living in London for getting on to five years. The first year was spent in halls, desperately trying to balance food purchases and nights out on my student loan, all interspersed with standing in pissed-in lifts and finding live mice in the cooker of our Zone 1 flatshare. Year Two’s accommodation was a beautiful but freezing cold Victorian home between Archway and Finsbury Park, where we would sit in the kitchen every evening and use the oven heat for warmth. The third year involved moving further into Finsbury Park, and was tainted by a downstairs neighbour who dragged me out of my house and shouted at me one evening, along with dissertation stress and the regular commute between my home and my ex-boyfriend’s. And in the fourth year, tired of seeing drug deals and strange zombie-looking men who would walk repeatedly up and down my street every day from out of my window, I moved to West London and found a nice, safe neighbourhood full of families and dogs.
Moving here was my safety blanket. I’d had a rough year and figured it would help to be close to my friends and my boyfriend, and be able to walk home at night without stressing too much about my safety. But very quickly after the move, the boyfriend vanished, I came off my pill and I plunged head first into an incredibly stressful job. Stability, after the three years of moving around, was still unattainable. But I survived – in fact fuck that, I passed 2017 with flying colours – and this little flat, with my SpareRoom flatmates, did become a place where I felt safe, happy and comfortable.
Its never been perfect, though. I may have moved to a safer part of London, but it isn’t exactly in the heart of London culture. If I’m honest, it’s a bit boring. I think that when you swap out the areas full of interesting people for a quiet, affluent pocket of London, you may as well move to Zone 6 and become a citizen of suburbia. Which is no bad thing; many people, and I’m sure I will too one day, want that peace and quiet away from the busyness of the centre. But I’m not there yet, unfortunately for my wallet. I want to move somewhere close to all of the stuff I love doing but haven’t been doing as often since I moved here. I miss going out for drinks with my friends and not having to travel an hour to meet them. I want to meet my friends and work with them in coffee shops. I want to go to meetings and it not be a full day excursion. I want to go on nights out without worrying about the closest night tube or the cost of an Uber across London. For work and for my social life, I want to be in a different part of the city.
In addition, finding balance and peace of mind unfortunately didn’t occur in 2017, partially because of work and I think also partially because of my flat. I spent 2017 trying to keep my head above water with work, and as a result, I didn’t prioritise making my flat feel like home. Now I look at my bedroom and don’t know what to do with it. I don’t really like sleeping there, the street lights outside my window shine through and keep me awake, and my room feels vast and empty. It also contains no storage, so I somehow have to hide all my crap in a single chest of drawers. It’s a constant battle between having enough things to make the shelves look full but keeping all other things out of sight – a battle I often lose. It looks like I have loads of stuff when really there’s just nowhere to hide the not-nice-looking bits. I don’t want to buy any more furniture until – guess what – I’m a bit more settled. The next place I move might have some pieces there already, and I don’t want to end up with a gazillion wardrobes. Silly I know, but I’m not down to be Freecycling my Ikea furniture when I’m going to have to fork out £900 for a deposit in six months.
And, of course, I am still craving stability. I want a place that feels like a home, and even though this flat is the closest I’ve found to that in London, it’s still not quite there. I don’t feel as though I can settle here, in a place far away from my boyfriend and far away from the places I love and need to be in the centre of town. I don’t know if my landlord is going to hike the rent at random, I wouldn’t put it past any of them. It’s all tied up in my anxiety and mental health too. This space has been kind to me, but it doesn’t feel like mine. Right now, all I want to do is settle down with a dog and have some structure in my life, and whilst that’s definitely a pipe dream, I think the only way to get a step closer, and to improve my mental health, is to move somewhere with shorter commutes, night buses and to a place I feel more at home.
Which leads me to a dilemma: finding stability and a good environment for me is going to involve moving house – the idea of which is currently giving me intense bouts of anxiety. I went to view a place last week and for the three days beforehand, I was having heart palpitations, increased sweating… you know the deal. My anxiety was worse than it has been in months, and annoyingly, I’m going to have to get used to it as the moving process continues. This is the first time I’ve been really anxious about moving; perhaps because I’m getting older, or perhaps because it would be the first time I’d be moving without the help of my dad – probably something along those lines. Its suddenly become an overwhelmingly scary task to me, and a big part of me is thinking, “Well I could just stay here for another year and just manage like I do now.” The irony of having a dodgy brain is knowing logically that moving will help but yet it holds you back from doing the thing that you need.
So yeah, I’m going to have to learn to ignore the fear and just push ahead with what I need. Turns out that assertiveness is necessary, not only with regard to other people, but also in your relationship with your own mind. At some point this year, I will move home, and it will be a huge task. I’ll freak out about it, I’ll lose sleep over it, but ultimately it will happen, I’ll be brave and I’ll find a home for myself on the other side of London. And ultimately, I’m really excited for it.