In 2008, I spent three weeks in Oxford. I was going to say it’s well-documented on this blog, but that’s a lie, actually; I’d love to pull some travel posts out of the 2,000+ pictures I have from that time, many of which I still like. I do however mention it a fair bunch.
What I don’t think I’ve ever talked about is the two weeks I spent wondering if I could maybe — possibly — if it might be viable for me to find a job, and stay.
At the time, I had a laptop, and I had my fandom corners and friends online, but I didn’t have a blog, or a shop, or anything resembling income. I didn’t have any work experience either, and I’d never in my life written a CV. I’m sure people used Skype at the time, but my mom and I talked by phone. Internationally. I’m pretty sure she ran up a three-digit bill.
Oxford wasn’t a perfect experience by any means; I had to attend an ESL course I didn’t feel I was getting anything out of, and I was put up with a host family that I got along with so poorly everyone was relieved when I was moved to a flatshare for my last week. That flatshare was in Jericho, which is a ten-minute walk to the very middle of Oxford — possibly the middle of Oxford itself; I’m not that familiar with what falls where geographically — and it was the biggest room I’ve ever been in, and maybe my favorite week of my life, perhaps second to the week my best friend was here in London last year, the first week I was here — and even then there were stressors because I had to flathunt and wasn’t exactly swimming in savings.
Oxford suited me in a way I’ve never felt any other place suit me before. I felt at peace there. I was on my own, but I didn’t feel it. I wanted to stay. I really did.
I just didn’t know how to, so I moved back to Spain.
Fast-forward six years, or wait: let’s have a little montage of those six years first. Started an English degree in my hometown in Spain; dropped out as I couldn’t afford the tuition. Proceeded to spend five years at home, going out of the house maybe once a month, once every few months, to the library or when I had to buy something, which was rare because my family was pretty damn poor and I had the internet to keep me company. I wrote a lot of fanfic and I wallowed and my anxiety got so bad I eventually asked my GP for antidepressants. Those helped. In August 2012, I started paroxetine and quit writing. I tried to sell bits and bobs on eBay. Then in December, I opened a photography print shop on Etsy.
My laptop was on its last breath, and I couldn’t blog, or design, or do any of the things I was now realizing might be a viable career — the only career in a job market where the only available positions ever were door-to-door salesmen; a job market where a street-long queue waited to give in their CVs for a retail job that popped up behind my building once. I ran a crowdfunding campaign, one of the most stressful experiences of my life, bar having to pay rent and flathunt. New laptop led to this blog (with help from my friends, and with help from a specific friend for the hosting of this site as well), and then, on my birthday, I opened a design shop. November 2013. I was 24 at that time.
I started thinking about taking the leap to London. My laptop allowed me a movable source of income, a growing source of income, and my best friend started planning a trip to London to see her friend Ashley, who was doing a semester abroad here. My home life had been a toxic environment for a long time, and even though I could have saved up further, I knew if I waited, not only would I not see my best friend for god knows how long (we first met face to face in London in 2008, for one morning) but I’d never have the courage to jump on a plane on my own and book a hotel on my own and start flathunting on my own.
So I booked a flight, and I booked train tickets to Madrid. I bought a suitcase and got another from a friend of my mom’s. And I came here thinking, well, if it doesn’t work out, it doesn’t work out. I may only be here a week.
It’s been eleven months, and sometimes I’m so proud of myself for having made it this far. Sometimes, however, there are weeks like this week, where I need to flathunt and I’m still broke and my anxiety isn’t triggered by my toxic living environment but my financial stressors, constantly. I keep breaking down.
But I don’t want to go home. I don’t want to move back to Spain; I don’t want to leave England. Not for long, and not for home, not when summer’s approaching — braincell-killer summer in Spain; so much nicer and more productive in the UK for a photographer and model! — and it’s my parents’ turn to host my grandma, so I wouldn’t even have a room of my own there.
For the first months I was here, I skyped my mom daily. I fell into a bit of a depression hole in October and it went down to several times a week, once a week, sometimes longer periods without. My wifi fails and it frustrates me when I’m already doing badly with my mental health. But we still communicate — through twitter DMs, of all places. No huge phone bill is run, and I get to see my darling cat up on the screen, sometimes, though I miss him most of all because I can’t exactly communicate with him.
I’ve thought about going to Europe, finding cheaper places and traveling a little, for blog content, because it may well be cheaper than living in London for much longer, because maybe I’d eventually be close enough to Spain to visit my back and do it all over again.
I don’t know if I have the strength, but I’m thinking about it. And after that, maybe I’d be making enough to live in Belsize Park again, or give up the London thing and go back to Oxford.
Either way, this entire thing couldn’t have happened six years ago, and if I didn’t have the Internet none of this would have worked. I’ll refer you to the contents of my bag on that train from Stansted to London, and the person who took that picture — someone I met online a full decade ago.
I wrote this post for the Second Time Lucky campaign with Ocean Finance. I’m hoping they can help me get back on my feet, and have a clearer head when I consider options like ‘move to Berlin for a month because it’s cheaper there and you’ve always wanted to go to Germany, self, don’t front, you’d swoon in the little towns and take all of the selfies.’
Also in partnership with Legal & General. My entire income comes from cameras, laptops, blogs — technology has basically changed my life for the better, and given me options where there would have been none otherwise.