How are you to answer a question you don’t know the answer to?
“Why not London?!”
I always answered that question with another question. It was an easy retort and because people had no answer to it, the matter was settled. Over and done with. And I could continue on my merry way.
But now I’m moving back. By the end of the year, at Christmas, I am moving back and I will remain in Belgium for the foreseeable future. Actually, I hope to stay there for a very, very long time.
Why now? And why Belgium? Or, more importantly: why not London?
About four years ago today, I was attending business school back in Belgium. I was making new friends, learning new things and having the time of my life. Attending business school also meant that I was serious about self-development and becoming a professional at work. I didn’t really have any other plans beyond that.
But quite a few of my classmates did. Moving in with boyfriends. Getting married. The prospect of getting a house big enough for children down the line. And as I was watching these plans, these hopes for the future unfold, I was utterly terrified. I mean for the love of all that’s holy, we were only 22 for crying out loud?!
All of a sudden, I could see my life flash before my eyes. The next 50 years was spanning out in front of me and I just… I wasn’t ready. I really wasn’t ready. I could see myself finding some job and then find a place to live not too far away and then live my life as I’d always done it, except now with more responsibility attached to it. It wasn’t exciting. It wasn’t different. It was just… the rest of my life.
And so I got the opportunity to come to London. And I jumped at it. Because while I didn’t really know whether that was what I wanted, I sure as hell knew what I didn’t want. Coming to London was at least something different from that.
Truth be told, it was too different. I mean, it was great! It was probably one of the richest experiences I’ll have ever had by myself. But it was so different. People don’t say what they mean here – you need to learn to read between the lines. The food is pretty awful, let’s be honest. Culturally the after-work scene is not what I had hoped, mainly because I like to actually cover my ass while out in public. I also don’t enjoy spending every weekend completely hung over and then complaining about it on Monday. People have a weird relationship with money here: buying expensive luxury items on credit when you’re struggling to pay your regular bills is completely normal. Maybe I was raised differently, I don’t know, but it seems none of my friends back home ever do this – so it really seems like a cultural thing.
It was different. It was exciting for a long time. And I did it. Let me stress that right: I did it. By myself. I figured things out. I found a place to live. I made it home together with a jumble of flatmates. I moved flats in less than a year and took on all the responsibilities with the bills. I quit my job. I was unemployed, yet still paying said bills. I found a new job. I took writing classes. I did a ton of shit and I learned how to count on myself. I’m not saying it was easy. I’m not saying I did it in heels or with a ton of grace – trust me, I stumbled more often than not and I had the bruises to show for it. But I did do it.
And now I’m done.
I was looking at the prospect of finding yet another flatmate and yet another job in London and… it’s nothing new. I’ve done it all before. It doesn’t excite me anymore. It doesn’t make me feel like this is something different. And that’s because, after 3,5 years, it’s just not anymore.
You know what is different? Moving back to Belgium, that’s what.
I’ve never been a professional there before. I’ve never lived alone in my own flat. I’ve never been available for impromptu dance sessions with my best friend. I’ve never been able to come home for a surprise family dinner. I’ve not seen my sister progress with her pregnancy beyond the occasional FaceTime. I’ve not been able to do a lot of things.
It doesn’t mean I regret coming here to London. Not a chance. I’ve loved it. The ups, the downs, the whole ride. Even the horrors of the tube, I’ve loved it. And I’m tremendously grateful I had the opportunity to do it all and have my friends & family’s support throughout my time here. But it’s different now.
I’m ready for the next 50 years. I’m ready for… the rest of my life.