Some thoughts about having left London

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(A sunset I saw on the beach about a month ago)

So I returned perman­ently to the UK in Septem­ber and moved to Margate. I grew up in Kent, but haven’t lived here perman­ently since I was 18, which feels like a long time ago. Settling in has been both good and hard. I trav­elled non-stop essen­tially from Janu­ary to Septem­ber, and adjust­ing myself to being in one place and the idea that I live some­where has taken a while. It’s also kind of weird pretty much only being surroun­ded by people I’ve known for 1-2 months- you feel like the awkward new kid at school.

I spent the last four years mostly in London, and frankly living in London is brutal. I came to the real­isa­tion recently after a conver­sa­tion with a friend who returned to Leeds after years in London, that you just get used to this continu­al back­ground low-level rejec­tion from people in the capit­al. Wheth­er you are worth talk­ing to or acknow­ledging as a person depends on where they place your value in terms of status or connec­tion. People speak to you with one eye over your shoulder for someone better to talk to than you. People you have met and spoke to many, many times claim they don’t recog­nise or remem­ber you, I guess because you weren’t import­ant enough to remem­ber. People would look eager when I said I worked some­where pres­ti­gi­ous (museum) and then their face would drop when it turned out my job was extremely unpres­ti­gi­ous (tour­ist inform­a­tion desk and tick­ets). If you’re not status or money-focused (I’m not) it can be quite a grim social envir­on­ment. Even so-called “altern­at­ive” places could be like that- very focused on wheth­er you knew the right cool people or not.

Of course I have/​had like actu­al friends there (most have left or are plan­ning to leave) I like and enjoy spend­ing time with, but with busy sched­ules and every­one only being able to afford to live in peri­pher­al areas, there’s a whole lot of logist­ic­al wrangling and book­ing things in a diary two weeks ahead to actu­ally get to see them.

Also it seems pretty much the only way to meet people for rela­tion­ships was via inter­net dating, which is extremely depress­ing. No-one speaks to you in places like pubs or gigs. Some people find dating sites a wonder­ful expans­ive use of tech­no­logy, I find them a depress­ing neo-liber­al way to commod­it­ise people. My few very short and depress­ing attempts at using them gave me a strong impres­sion that people felt they were order­ing up some custom­ised person off a cata­logue. They weren’t look­ing for a real human, just a nice life­style access­ory with every feature to their satis­fac­tion (and prob­ably very unreal­ist­ic expect­a­tions). Aside from the nasty harass­ing messages that most women get, even a good chunk of the men who were ok in messages were nasty in real life, and because they felt it was anonym­ous and we’d never meet again, it was ok to be nasty. (Either a lot of people have been read­ing those terrible MRA pickup guides, or they have inde­pend­ently become an arse­hole). For example, who does things like look into my notice­ably green eyes and then start telling me at great length that of course the most attract­ive eye colour is blue? Why? What result do they think that will get other than piss­ing me off and making me leave? You also of course have no refer­ence or back­ground for this person, and have no choice but to believe what they tell you about them­selves, making it ideal I guess for compuls­ive liars. It’s better to retire from the field.

Socially and logist­ic­ally, living in a small town again is pretty differ­ent, and I’m still adjust­ing my brain (I still mildly panic when I look at a clock and it’s an hour before some­thing, because I would already be late in London). I’m still always so pleased at the way that people seem to genu­inely want to talk to me as a person though. They remem­ber meet­ing me! I keep getting hugged! I get intro­duced to people’s friends. When I initi­ate conver­sa­tions with people, they are happy to chat to me, rather than making it clear I’m essen­tially filler mater­i­al until they spot a better person. It’s actu­ally pretty sad that I notice this, and makes me wonder what the hell I was doing in London.

In pretty much every way, my life is easi­er, despite the fact I have way less money. I can just about afford to live alone and not have to live with a million house­mates, everything is in walk­ing distance, and people are nice to me. I should have left London way earli­er.

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