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As I looked through my diary the other day, I noticed some significant anniversaries were on the horizon.
Not romantic ones, although we are celebrating our two and a half year anniversary this month, if that counts? And when I say celebrating, we’re not doing anything to mark this magnificent achievement. In fact, for half of the month, we’ll be in different parts of the country!
The kind of anniversaries I’m talking about are of the life variety.
Within the space of ten days, I’ll be celebrating/reminiscing/acknowledging/crying into my pillow over the following milestones:
- 9th August – I’ll be reminiscing over handing in the keys to my Battersea flat, one year ago
- 10th August – I’ll be celebrating six years since I moved away from my home county, Northamptonshire, for the first time!
- 10th August (double whammy!) – I’ll be acknowledging/crying into my pillow as I recall the god awful online meeting (thanks pandemic) which took place a year ago, with my then CEO and the HR Advisor who politely informed me that my job was at risk of redundancy
- 20th August – I’ll be celebrating having lived in suburban London/Surrey for the last year
That’s a lot of anniversaries in a short space of time. There are some bloody great moments in that list, but some pretty shoddy ones too.
I’ll remember each of these milestones/anniversary’s/occasions for many years to come for very different reasons.
Bye Bye Battersea
My little flat in Queenstown Road (affectionally known as QT) was a dream. I never owned it, of course, but I enjoyed almost three years living there. It came close to being the longest I had lived anywhere since I was grown up enough to move out of my Mum & Dad’s!
It was a beautiful, light, airy flat, and it was full of little quirks. I had a postage stamp-sized terrace, which I filled with a bounty of plants and herbs. I will forever remember my little patch of outdoor space for being the place where I stood every Thursday throughout the first wave of the pandemic, clapping for our NHS heroes.
QT will be remembered lovingly for being the place where my boyfriend and I shared our first kiss and where we would end up spending most of the first lockdown together, relishing in the newfound time we had for each other.
QT life wasn’t all roses, of course.
Queenstown Road had been the place where my first serious ‘London’ boyfriend and I had moved in together. Things were great to start with, but after a year, things began to deteriorate. There were arguments, tears and lots of sleepless nights, which eventually lead to me sleeping on the sofa for a few weeks before he finally moved out.
Then there were the rats! Unbeknown to me, when I first moved into QT, there was a huge rat problem. I would sometimes smell something vile in the stairwell. I presumed for a long time that it was our neighbour’s dustbins. It wasn’t. It was decaying rats. Except I didn’t know this until one fateful morning when one decided it would like its final resting place to be underneath my living room floorboards. The smell was grim. My once fresh, airy flat now smelt of decaying vermin, a potent scent that would linger for weeks to come.
As much as lockdown life was blissful for my now boyfriend and me, it was during this time that I realised I’d had enough of city life. Queenstown Road was peaceful for the first month of lockdown, but the noise levels soon increased again, and when I found myself working from home full-time, I found it incredibly difficult to concentrate. We had to contend with fights in the street, drug dealers using the alley next to my flat to do their dirty deals, and constant traffic. Not to mention the loud new neighbours who woke early and had no consideration for anyone living around them.
I had been missing country life, and lockdown had made me realise just how much I needed to immerse myself within nature.
With home-working looking like it would be around for a while, I decided it was time to hand back my keys and move to suburbia.
Exciting New Life in the Big Smoke
2015 pretty much changed the course of my entire life. I had broken up with my long term boyfriend of 6 years in 2014, and my world had crumbled for a time whilst I pulled myself back together again.
In 2015 after nine years of working for the same company, I was offered a role in London, working for the same National Governing Body, but under a different arm.
I had never lived outside of Northamptonshire, and I had certainly never lived on my own. I had never even driven on the motorway until a couple of months before!
I was about to take on the most challenging role of my life, but what better place to do it than in our very own capital city!
The next few years would be a complete whirlwind. I don’t think I ever truly knew who I was as an individual until I moved to London. I was about to become an authentically, empathetic, resilient human being. I now pride myself on having these characteristics, despite going through moments of sheer hell to discover I had them within me.
During those first five years in London, the company I was with would end up going through three restructures (including the one where my role was at risk), three acting CEO’s (including yours truly), three actual CEO’s, and 40+ members of staff.
With all of the madness at work, I struggled to find the time to make friends in London, something I’m only just starting to fix now, six years later!
Moving to London forced me to take control of my life. I had to look after myself, both from a safety point of view and a health & wellbeing point of view. Self-care became a critical part of life. With a crazy ass day job and living in a city that is awake almost 24 hours a day, it was often tricky to find a balance.
A few days ago, I received a random message from an old university friend. His message read:
“I’m so proud of you and the move you made to London and everything you’ve achieved. That was so brave and fortune favours the brave. You had the drive to do it…you’re going to rock the new venture too – without a doubt“.
I sometimes forget just how brave it was to take that leap. Moving to a new city, away from my family, friends and my home comforts, and doing it all on my own, does sound pretty epic when you say it out loud. Reading my friends message the other day made me stop and think about just how epic it was.
I’m a very different person from the one who left Northamptonshire 6 years ago. I’m still Becky, just a different version.
I like to call it v.37.8.
What a bittersweet day 10th August will be. Not only will it mark six years since I moved to London, but it will also mark exactly one year since I discovered my job was at risk of redundancy.
After five years of project whirlwind, I had a huge decision to make. Should I jump, or should I fight?
The frustrating thing for me was that I wanted out anyway. But I had wanted out on my terms, not anybody else’s. I had the opportunity to apply for the new role that was effectively replacing mine. On paper, the new role barely looked any different, so I knew I could do it, but I suspected the company wanted fresh blood, and why would they appoint me to one of the new roles when I had been so vocal about wanting to leave anyway?
I had had enough. I had spent 14 years working in the same industry. I had suffered from burnout on multiple occasions, and I knew if I walked away now, I would get a small redundancy package that would hopefully give me enough time to find a new job.
The two things which hurt me the most about taking redundancy:
- The news came on my five year work anniversary.
- Despite being made redundant during a pandemic, the redundancies were not finance-related.
I made my decision pretty quickly, and in December last year, I left the company for good.
I tried to remain positive throughout the redundancy process, and on the surface, I probably looked like I was coping. But, I was terrified. Redundancy was unknown territory for me. I’d never been without a job for longer than a couple of weeks since I had been 16 years old!
I was also about to move into a new flat, I had no savings, and whilst I had rough ideas about what I might like to do next, trying to find something in any field during a pandemic was going to be incredibly tough.
I also had no idea that I would experience grief over the loss of my job, which would also hit me out of the blue, just as I was starting to build my exciting new business.
As it turns out, redundancy was the best thing that could’ve happened to me.
As I sit here typing this today, I am now eight months into running a content & copywriting business, and I couldn’t be happier. Whilst my income fluctuates and continues to be the number one source of sleepless nights, I have more work, life, balance than ever before, and I genuinely wake up every morning, excited for the day ahead.
Ahh, suburban life. I cannot even begin to tell you how much I craved peace and quiet whilst I lived in bustling QT. Strangely, moving to a quiet street would be the one thing that would end up causing me the most sleepless nights when I first moved! The irony!
Despite my worries about moving once I learned of my redundancy fate, I was grateful that I had at least put a deposit down on a rented flat that would be costing me considerably less money than my flat in Battersea.
Having the Surrey countryside on my doorstep would also turn out to be a godsend. It was my escape as I battled with the ups and downs of redundancy, tied up loose ends in my old job, and started planning my new business. It would also turn out to be a great source of comfort as I went through each of the stages of grief once the reality of what I had been through sunk in.
I had to make some sacrifices when I decided to move to suburbia. If I wanted a flat with lower rent, I would have to say goodbye to any chance of having my own little outdoor space. Suburban living has replaced my terrace with a communal garden which I’ve never seen anybody use, let alone used myself.
Back in bustling Battersea, I had restaurants, cafes and supermarkets on my doorstep. I now have to walk at least 10 minutes to get anywhere. That’s not a bad thing, of course. It means I’m walking more and getting much more exercise!
Moving to a new place during a pandemic was also quite exciting. I had an opportunity to do lots of walking and exploring on foot, between unpacking and the daily grind. I can safely say that I now know just about every nook and cranny in this part of suburbia!
Moving to suburbia (in addition to being made redundant) has given me the time and energy to start meeting new people and making new friends. I’ve joined a local walking group which I love. I’ve met some lovely people, all whilst doing something I love. I now often meet some of them for coffee and walks outside of the group. It’s been lovely to develop female friendships again, something I had been missing in what had been a heavily male-orientated industry.
I love that London is still only a short train journey away (I can get to Clapham in about 13 minutes and Waterloo in around 20!) should I get an impulse to venture into the big smoke. Yet I also love that I can now walk for 20 minutes and find myself in countryside heaven. I’ve loved watching new life being born and raised this year. I’ve watched swans carrying their cygnets on their backs, and I’ve seen fluffy goslings nibbling on the grass by the riverside in the afternoon sun. Even as I sat by a nearby lake reading a book earlier this week, a duck appeared by my side out of nowhere, clearly intrigued by what I was doing and why I was there.
I may have the occasional moment where I miss my Battersea terrace, or I miss walking down the stairs into the curry house next door, but for the most part, moving back to suburbia was the best decision I could’ve made.
Whilst I am very aware of these anniversaries, I have to stop to remind myself not to dwell on them. There will be moments where they cross my mind this month, and I might want to sit and reflect quietly for a moment or two, but it’s important to remember that they are in the past, and whatever guise they have arrived in, they have all helped me to get to where I am today.
That’s it for this week, but don’t forget, if you’d like to keep up to date with more of my musings, you can now subscribe to my monthly newsletter. Click here to subscribe.