All photos in this post were taken by my Annemari.
Under my “The Diaries” category, the expat subcategory is still called Expat Wannabe. It’s not inaccurate. I’m still feeling my way around this whole living in a different country thing — though then again, that’s a lie. It’s not living in a different country that throws me. It’s making ends meet for my ridiculously expensive London rent. Ultimately, finances and housing are the two things that are keeping me from calling myself a proper expat, from believing I’m here in London to stay.
But I am. And I’ve been here six months, today.
I wanted to mark this moment in some way because I’ve been missing all my previous month Londonversaries — a week before the 28th, I’d be like, ooh, in four days I’ll have been here five months, and then it’d be the 29th and it would have completely slipped my mind. But it didn’t yesterday, even if I didn’t get this post up then. It’s been a week of low-level mental health downs — tachycardia on Friday, anxiety, sobbing. Always, always about money.
But I also didn’t hit rock bottom, and you know how they say the one good thing about rock bottom is you can only go back up? That’s never helped me in the slightest. I’ve never had a change of heart or a change of routine after hitting rock bottom. But this weekend, I somehow kept it together despite feeling incredibly, utterly dejected and hopeless, and that wobbly stability somehow allowed me to go through the motions — to get some work done, even go to bed at a semi decent hour.
There was an attitude shift somewhere, and I can’t put my finger on it but I want to make the most of it before it fizzles out. The goal here is to strengthen my work routine — acquire one, on some levels — and I’ve never felt this inclined to work hard and regularly before, but I’ve always, always been better at doing things when I did them every day as opposed to once every two weeks, and never skipped a day (unless it was planned beforehand, see: Sundays). This post is taking me ages to write and it’s probably partly because I skipped Monday — which, you know, I was moving my blog from its blog.lixhewett.com subdomain to www.lixhewett.com, and finishing up the mockup for my new design so my friend Leila could get started on it, and pushing my work on Twitter, and… working, too, at that.
It would be a lot easier to get things done if I didn’t get up so late. It got dark today while I contemplated getting out of bed. This is what I’m trying to avoid.
This picture isn’t me poking installation art at Tate Britain in April. Nope. This picture is a metaphor. The installation art is obviously my brain, or my life, or something equally transcendent and a shambles, and I… am poking it. Gingerly with one finger while holding my camera in my other hand.
It exemplifies everything, obviously. Mainly the fact that my life and my brain somehow keep going even through the meltdowns, and I am mystified by this. I’m still standing. I mean, I’m lying down right now, but my anxiety and depression haven’t gone anywhere, and I’m still in one piece. It’s mystifying.
One thing that’s changed here in England is my eating habits. I don’t know if it’s the going off antidepressants, or no longer having my parents around pushing me to eat when I’m nauseous (or triggering nausea by pushing me to eat when I’m not hungry). I don’t know if it’s the reduced daily pressures — despite everything, and even though I’ve been taking lorazepam every day in halves or wholes for a week right now, it is different. It’s definitely not my sleep schedule, because that’s still shot. But the fact of the matter is I’m eating at least one proper meal every day, and enjoying it. That’s kind of huge.
I’ve also sort of cut back on coffee, but that’s mostly because I started going to Starbucks every day and that was more than enough. Now I’m trying to cut back on Starbucks, so I got a pack of Azera latte sachets that were half price today. Gotta find a balance. Even if I have a workspace where I live now, I still find Starbucks incredibly comforting. Even when I choose the one I need to walk thirty minutes to reach —
— which is another thing that’s changed. Most people, even in my small town, are used to ten-minute walks. Twenty-minute walks, even. I used to be used to these things, but then I dropped out of college and became a bit of a hermit who only went out of the house roughly once every four months, and that is not hyperbole. So coming to London was a learning curve. A training curve, in fact. But now I can walk those totally normal distances without dreading it or getting tired, and can even get to Hampstead without breaking a sweat walking uphill.
As long as it’s not raining and I don’t have an umbrella, anyway.
(I got one yesterday, finally. It’s a PR sample so you’ll see it on the blog soon enough, too.)
I don’t know. It’s been six months and I have fewer moments when I look at myself and think, exhilarated, “I am living in London.” But then that’s in large part because I don’t get to experience London very much. I get to experience Belsize Park and Hampstead, and I love it; I’ve actually always had a thing for Starbucks, I could talk about that at length, and I’m so happy I now live in a place where I can sit at a coffeehouse for hours with my laptop — or a book, hypothetically; I should make this real sometime, like I always did when I was in Oxford the summer of 2008 and work hadn’t consumed my life — and just enjoy that. It’s so good for my sanity, that minimal excuse to get out of the house. I’m cutting back because it’s not as good for my wallet, but still.
I like it here. I like this place. I like my neighborhood, and I like London — a lot. I go back and forth on whether I’d like to maybe move to Oxford for good one day or if I never want to live anywhere else, ever. London wins more easily when I’ve actually been to central recently; I guess my memories of loving Oxford are just that strong.
It’s weird as hell to be an adult — completely responsible for myself — for the first time ever in a different country. It’s a learning curve, for sure, and there’s so much I have left to do. I’m not good at making friends offline, and it’s too expensive to go back home even for a holiday — the train from Madrid to Ciudad Real is actually more expensive than a return ticket on a low-cost flight, figures. I miss my cat so, so much sometimes, and some other times I miss simply not being singlehandedly responsible for my own well-being. Miss raiding a kitchen somebody else has stocked.
But I’m not going anywhere, so I guess I’ll have to get used to it. And it’s encouraging to know I’ve managed this long despite the first two months with their weekly moves and the public breakdowns and the days that threw me for a loop and the weekend I truly hit rock bottom. It’s encouraging to know I’ve managed to shoot people, and model for people, things I would never have done back in Spain — even if the bulk of my work at the moment is still on a laptop.
It’s all taught me something, one way or the other, and it’s all helped me stay afloat. That’s still my main goal, staying afloat. Maybe in six months, my finances will be stable enough that I will no longer be losing weekends to worrying about rent, and I will actually be living off my work with absolutely no help from anyone. I’m so, so grateful to the people who have helped me, and I don’t think that part of my life is behind me yet, but I want it to be
Maybe in six months, I’ll be heading down to London every week to experience the things I love about it — the museums, the photo walks along the Thames. Maybe I will have settled into a good work routine that keeps me well ahead of my workload, instead of dragging behind.
But I can’t imagine not being in London still, regardless of any of that. And I’m so fucking proud of myself for making it this far, and so thankful for the people who are proud of me, too, knowing every bit of my journey so far. That’s mostly Annemari, to be honest, which brings us full circle.
Happy six-month Londonversary to me.