It’s been a bit of a rough week.
You may think my ouvre is all about the whine and grumble, but most of the things I complain about are the little differences and cultural incompatibilities that I find fascinating and like to explore and get other perspectives on. I also know that no one really wants to hear about anyone’s travels beyond ‘what’s your favourite country?’ and there’s not a lot you can say about a show or exhibition to someone who doesn’t have the possibility of attending themselves.
If you’ve been following the up-hill-and-down-dale adventure of this blog, I apologise for the radio silence of late. ‘Life’ has been getting in the way a bit lately, and when that happens, I have a tendency to hibernate and get obsessively into someone else’s world through a book or tv series. The urge to bunker down is rather exacerbated when it’s dark at 3pm and barely rises above zero degrees.
Then there’s the fact that I haven’t the money to do much else. I’m pretty sure everyone thinks I’ve been exaggerating the situation, but on Thursday last I woke up to a dead computer and no money on my phone to call the Apple gods. Never mind, do it at work. Got to the tube, and found that both my main and spare Oyster cards had exactly £1.20 on them (not enough for either tube or bus fare) and none of my bank cards had the £5 minimum top up. Had to use my NZ credit card (conversion rates ‘n all) just to get to the office, of course it costs to call Apple so I couldn’t do it from work, and when I finally got through, they had no appointments until 2013.
These are all extremely trivial first-world-problems, and it grinds my gears just to hear myself complain about them, especially when the very complaint contains the richness of my life: the abundance of technology, having a job and access to emergency funds, and the fact that I got to choose to come live on the other side of the world in a giant fantastic beast of a city.
I knew even at the time that my mini-meltdown later that day was out of step with reality, and was clearly just a last straw that (temporarily) broke the camel’s back. And so I turned to a fellow Kiwi-in-London and sometimes traveler to dark places, who always has a perspective on ‘the crazy’. What she said instantly fit with what I’d been gradually starting to feel:
I had the Six Month Blues.
The first month away from home is all excitement and nerves and new places and fresh faces. It’s what you’ve been working towards for so long, pinching all those pennies, and then pinching yourself as you finally stand in front of things you’ve studied, and read about, and dreamed of all your life. Of course it’s daunting to go so far away and know that you won’t see a lot of dear people for at least <insert Visa eligibility>, but it doesn’t really sink in when you’re having adventures and it’s only been weeks since you’ve seen your Ma.
You knew month two might get a little rough. Suddenly the travels are over and it’s time to set up a real life. Job and flat hunting are awful wherever you are, filled with rejection from jobs you don’t want, and flats you wouldn’t possibly consider back home. Hunching over job sites and sleeping on pull-outs is giving you aches in all places, but at least when you go out you meet up in Trafalgar Square, or walk along the Thames, or go to the British Museum, or find a bar in Soho where Brits tell you in their sexiest accents what a rockstar you are for moving to the other side of the world.
Month three is what you’ve been waiting for. You’ve got a flat, you can unpack, you can make friends with your new flatties, you can chill out in your own space, you can put your things in the shower (oh small joys after travel!). You’ve got a job, which gives you the structure you’d been starting to miss, puts you in the city every day and therefore close to (and able to afford) everything you want to do. Suddenly there’s shows, and after-work drinks, and day trips. You start to know your way around, you get braver, you take night buses, you fall asleep on night buses, you take three more night buses, you somehow get home. You’re doing it!
The fourth month starts to hitch a little. All those shows are adding up, you hate your job, and suddenly you have to move again. Maybe you have a few more wines on a Monday night, but you’re not gonna cry over it. You did this already in Month Two, and you’ve got your shit way more together now. Much easier to flat hunt when you know where you’re going and how to get there. The job might suck, but at least you have one this time. And maybe just switch a few of those shows for free exhibitions and have a few more nights in with a £2 M&S soup, rather than a meal out in Covent Garden.
Month five is pretty much the same. And maybe that’s where the problem lies. The excitement of novelty has worn off a little. You stalk through the crowds in Leicester Square with your eyes firmly on the ground, and you’ll do anything to avoid Oxford Circus. The joy you were starting to find in just going for a wander as a free (and often rewarding) bit of touristing, has become inaccessible now that the dim and damp have set in. Suddenly the one-suitcase-worth of Summer clothes you brought from home and the hastily-bought bare minimum of bedroom essentials from Argos isn’t cutting the mustard, and a day trip to York is sacrificed for a day searching M&S for socks, gloves, hat, tights, coat, and some goddamned waterproof boots. Luckily though, once these things are found, there’s some little nuggets that were booked away ahead of time: a weekend in Wales, a bus trip to Bruges, a play, a festival, a movie, a party. Though it might be cold, there are friends and fun and the twinkle of a first cold Christmas approaching.
That’s when the Six Month Blues hit.
Despite all the amazing things I’ve been up to, and have planned to come, that one day knocked me flat. I think it’s because all of the fantastic things are mostly hanging out in the one category of friends and fun. This is just one piece of the pie chart that I measure my happiness against, which also includes family (tho’ my definitions are different to most), love-life, work-life, home-life, money (to bring comfort, the ability to do/have the things I most want/need, and being my own back-up), and a vague sense of future (I like to work towards something).
The problem now, then, is that a bunch of the categories are in the red. Always a dedicated saver thanks to growing up poor and insecure, the disproportionate cost of living versus wages in London has all but eradicated the stash under my virtual mattress. My new flat is much better than my old one, because it’s permanent, cheaper, and closer, but it’s also colder, and once again filled with people that I barely see. My job continues to challenge me – not mentally or professionally, but in a personal, bite-tongue-or-walk-out-door way. I also now know that I won’t have that job after this week until April, and so the hunt begins again, and as much as I want something different, I also want to pay my rent in January.
The thing about all of this though, and the reason I’m baring my guts publicly, is that it’s all okay. I wanted to share so that other people in the same situation could stop feeling guilty if they’re not having ‘the best time evaaaa’ all day every day. When you’re doing a limited-time-deal like this it’s easy to feel the same pressure as New Years to live up to other people’s expectations of what you should be doing. But it’s okay to occasionally go to bed at a normal hour and watch Dexter reruns.
As soon as LD said those words ‘the Six Month Blues’ I knew she was exactly right, and that it was alright to feel that way. It does not mean that I don’t love it here. It does not mean I’m not still ecstatic that I came. It does not mean I want to go home. It just means that things aren’t always all good in all areas. It just means that I wish I could have a job that was going somewhere rather than just ‘a job’. It just means I need to pinch those pennies A LOT tighter, but keep getting out there doing cool free stuff and seeing the sights.
It just means it’s the holidays and I miss my people.