Treading water, OR, not knowing what's next and being okay with it
It's just 10 days into the new year and I've already experienced a bit of a whirlwind when it comes to my personal life. The latter part of last year was spent in a kind of treading water phase; after two amazing holidays, the final quarter of the year was about waiting for my partner's house sale to go through, so that we could move into our own place, he could start his business and we could plan the rest of our future, etc, etc.
Instead, as Christmas approached and the house sale was finally final, we found ourselves with around two weeks to make a decision. We held a crisis talk; the BF had been looking at the cost of starting a wellness business in London (astronomical rent prices, as per the housing market), and we had both been eyeing up properties in areas that we would like to live in. Looking at our earnings and how much of those pounds we wanted to spend on renting, we settled on the traditional 'rule' of spending a third of what we earned on accommodation. But the London property gods must have had a good old laugh at that.
If we wanted to stick within our budget, and save for future travels, wedding etc, we would have to live in a one-bed in what we viewed as an 'undesirable' area. So all that vision-boarding I'd been doing didn't really amount to shit.
Instead of freaking out over the thought of having to leave London, we pivoted; what if the BF started his business in Brighton? It's not far from London and you definitely get more for your rent, but, with a population of just a few hundred thousand, a large percentage of which was already knowledgeable about the health and wellness industry, and was served by a good amount of existing veggie/vegan/healthy food spots, we were concerned that starting a food/juice business there would be like taking coals to Newcastle.
For some reason I decided to look into what our budget would get us in my old home town of Birmingham. Now, this was a city (like Dubai) that I'd basically decided I would never, ever live in again. I think growing up in a small town (Coventry and then Birmingham for university) makes some of us yearn for the 'bright lights' of a bigger, more vibrant city. Growing up I always imagined I would live in New York, or at the very least, London. For me, staying in a small town meant being pregnant by 18, working at Asda and having a Friday night curry every week and maybe one holiday a year. (If this is currently your life I am not slating it; I'm just saying it's not for me. And hey, there's nothing wrong with getting a discount on your weekly groceries!)
The difference in what you could get in Birmingham compared to London was ridiculous; just plain silly. It made me think what a massive con the property market in London was: like the emperor's new clothes, everyone just goes along with it. We could live in a stunning two bed apartment with all the trimmings for less than a one bed in London. Or we could have a four bedroom house in one of the more affluent areas of Birmingham, for the same price we'd pay for a one bed flat in a decent London suburb.
I knew the price difference would shock the BF, and he immediately was up for leaving London - a little too fast for my liking. I mean, he was born and raised in London, all his friends are there, and he was more up for the move than me. Moving to Brum would mean I would be just 30 minutes away from my family, as opposed to a couple of hours. I'd moved away from home a long time ago and always missed being closer to them, so moving would definitely benefit my relationships with the parents and siblings. But as soon as he jumped on it and started researching places in Birmingham, I started backtracking. I was seriously going to miss London. I mean, what would I actually do in Brum? Working for myself I have my own routine; work, gym, socialising etc, and in London that socialising can encompass so much. In a smaller town, what would it mean?
On a deeper level, I felt like moving out would be an indication of failure - but I soon snapped out of that nonsense. With my work I can be anywhere in the world, serving my clients and refining exactly how I do it. All I had to do was keep doing the work.
Once I accepted the move and what it could mean, we packed all of our stuff into storage and went to stay with my parents over the Christmas break. We would chill out over the holidays then start looking at apartments in the first week of January. The very first viewing gave us the opportunity to see this amazing, industrial-style apartment. All floor to ceiling windows, it was just like Tommy's apartment in Power - very New York. We loved it and thought that we'd sign up for six months.
But for some reason (yep, it was me and my big mouth again), I started to wonder out loud; what if we stayed with my parents and saved that rent money for six months? How much would that help our plan to travel for three to six months later this year? The facts were undeniable - we could potentially save five figures and the BF wouldn't have to dig into the money from his house sale. Instead he could use that for his business. Plus, he wouldn't necessarily have to get a job and could pursue research on his business and our travel plans. Now, the BF being the BF, he can pretty much cope with anything, any situation. Me on the other hand; I'd been so looking forward to living in our own place, especially as, for most of our relationship, I have lived with him and his mum. So I was more than ready to get our own place and organise my bookshelves and buy loads of cookware, and be a bit more naked.
But once he started doing the maths, he started selling me that whole, 'sacrifice now to enjoy later' story. I also spoke to one of my most accomplished and daring friends, Sarah (check out her Facebook group here) probably in the hope that she'd be all, 'no, you need your own space NOW'. Instead she gave me the same theory that the BF had - she even coined her own phrase: 'higher goals, higher reasons, maintain you in the most mundane of seasons.'
Inside I wanted to be all, 'er, yeah, thanks Sar,' but I knew she was right. I know how much sense this sacrifice makes. I think I just take issue with the fact that things aren't happening right NOW. I spent last year making the move from being a co-founder of a business to being a solo player, and I guess I thought that our living situation would be the next thing to fall into place. But I'm realising that treading water doesn't always have to mean that nothing is being done; sometimes it exists as an opportunity for you to get all the elements sorted into the right order. So for now, I've upgraded my digital equipment so that my work time is more productive, I'm learning more when it comes to my photography and social media practice, and I get to spend more time with the nieces and nephews that I would normally only get to see a few times a year. For now, I can do this.