On Taking Risks, Following Dreams, & Moving to London

Gates to Buckingham Palace

Today is Tuesday, and for the first time in two years I didn’t wake up and go to work. I didn’t hit snooze five times, scroll through Twitter until the last minute possible, run three minutes late out the door and smoothly make a buzzer beater into my office. I didn’t fret over my outfit being conservative enough for corporate America (the cape blazer didn’t go over well), miraculously avoid the Chik fil A breakfast in the break room, and I didn’t settle into my comfortable routine with my work friends that have become my salvation from the day to day office minutiae.

You see, Friday was my last day at my job in my little cubicle home that sometimes too much resembled Office Space, and to the surprise of many (sometimes even myself) I’m moving to London for grad school next week. Well, actually, not everyone was surprised because this gypsy attitude (ugh I hate that oh I’m such free-spirited millennial, yay wanderlust cliche), this somewhat impulsive and very BIG move for life experience over stability is not entirely out of character.

The day after graduating from Arizona State, I packed my life into a UHaul and moved to Los Angeles to pursue a career in entertainment PR. After achieving that goal and assisting an A-list publicist for Oscar winning actors, I decided that even the love of my job couldn’t overcome depression, my own self-doubt, and the soul sucking effect of the Hollywood scene. Almost as quickly as I chose to move to LA, I again decided to cram my life into boxes and return home to the Midwest. I had no idea what I wanted to do for my career, but at that point I knew if I couldn’t achieve a rock-star job, I could at least achieve some personal happiness while surrounded by family and friends.

That cozy feeling of home restored me, and soon I regained my sense of self-worth, positive outlook and that Midwestern belief that you truly can make your own happiness. Once that space was filled, however, a different hole appeared, or perhaps just became more noticeable. While I enjoyed many things about the sales job I fell into here at home, little by little cracks started to appear in the edifice. I started to question my motivations and what truly made me happy in my work. Could I help people? Well, some days yes, but my career relied on lots of money motivation, as most sales jobs fairly do.  I realized that, while I’d like a certain lifestyle, I also have artistic, cultural and intellectual needs that need to be nurtured and grown. Simply, money isn’t all that motivates me, and I’ve been longing for the fulfillment I get out of something creative like blogging, except beyond just a hobby for nights and weekends. (Sidenote: I realized that I’m very lucky to be able to take this world-view and not everyone can afford to be motivated by things other than money. I’m just speaking from my own situation and place of privilege).

So, this is where London came in. During my first visit in 2003, I immediately was entranced by the city. Long after my family had fallen asleep, I’d sit up in our hotel room, staring out at Big Ben and the city lights, sure I was missing out on something exciting happening.  That energy stayed with me, and when I visited again in 2014, I again fantasized about moving there.  It seemed the perfect mix of the historical, multicultural, and cosmopolitan. Still possessed by the negativity of LA, though, I was beyond considering silly childhood dreams and tossed that idea quickly aside.

Brother and I in front of Big Ben in 2003My brother and I in London in 2003. Notice I’m wearing the pinnacle of middle school fashion: A North Face jacket and Paul Frank t-shirt.

Finally, after taking care of my attitude and returning home, I revisited the dream and researched it more seriously. I’ll probably go more into the logistics of my move on another day when I’m not feeling so philosophical, but after looking at applying to jobs, I decided to apply to one year master’s programs, as attaining a student visa is not nearly as impossible as getting a company to sponsor your work visa. More importantly, the program I was accepted to is relevant to my career aspirations, and I think will allow me to pivot toward a creative life again that will fulfill me not just monetarily, but in my heart and soul.

Also, I think a one year program affords me the opportunity to “test” the city and see if it’s somewhere I’d thrive beyond a vacation or middle-schooler’s daydream. LA taught me that visiting somewhere or seeing it on an episode of The Hills or Entourage is very different than living there on an entry-level budget, so for London I’ve put my British Lauren Conrad fantasies away and truly want to size up the city before a more long-term commitment.

Even if I end up hating living there, I’ve arrived at a mindset where I can accept this outcome and have no regrets. Trust me, it took a while, and I’ve had several nights tossing in bed with anxiety over student loans and “not making it” in a new city again. Like so many of my friends I’ve feared that I’m somehow “behind” in life because I haven’t stayed at the same company since graduation or gotten engaged, or whatever those invented societal expectations of life milestones are. It sounds so simple, but if it doesn’t work, then so what? I’ll move somewhere else. I’ll have a relevant graduate degree from a top university and a much richer life experience. Experience that will force me to grow as a person, get outside of my suburban, privileged American bubble and expand my world view.

My mantra has become “There are no failures, just lessons,” and I’ve realized at the ripe old age of 26 that my life doesn’t have to follow a grand pre-destined path that I mapped out as an overachieving high schooler in between National Honor Society meetings and AP classes.

So, I’m moving to London in almost a week. I’m going to savor every minute of it and hopefully share the highs, lows and day to day life as an American in the UK with you. Maybe I’ll love every minute of it, find a job and marry my own Prince Harry. Maybe I’ll love it, but not be able to find a job to sponsor my visa. Or maybe I’ll decide I loved  the experience, but living there is just not for me, so I’ll find a job back in the States. No matter what the outcome, I’ll share it with you here, and I won’t have failed. I’ll have learned.

There are no failures, just lessons; inspirational quote

 

If you gotten this far, thank you for taking the time to read this. It’s tough to feel vulnerable, but I’m hoping to get better about sharing more personal topics. Please leave any feedback in the comments, especially if you have any experience moving abroad or places I must visit in London and the UK. Thank you again!

Linking Up With:

Wanderful Wednesday hosted by Lauren of Lauren on Location, Van of Snow in Tromso, Isabel of The Sunny Side of This and Marcella of What a Wonderful World. Click on the button below to check out more great travel content!

Wanderful Wednesday

  • Erin, I found this because of your post in the Blog Boss Babe Facebook group and just wanted to say I admire your courage and wish you an amazing time in London! 🙂 As someone who did it the other way around (Europe –> US) I know it’s not always easy to make that decision, or even to settle into your new “home”. I can’t wait to follow your journey!

    • Thank you so much, Natasja! I love our little Blog Boss Babe group. I really appreciate your support and words of encouragement – it’s really cool to see other people have gone through something similar and come out on the “other side” ok! Sidenote, I’m really glad you commented, so I could discover your blog! I’m trying to ensure I stay healthy while on a student budget, so I’ll definitely be trying out some of your recipes. Lovely to meet you!

  • Wandering Feline

    Hello, I just want to wish you lots of luck with your move and hope you enjoy London. I am about to leave after 12 years and must say it has been a roller coaster – fast-moving, sometimes scary and always exhilarating! Oh and Londoners are a pretty friendly bunch too! (as long as their not on the tube! He he!) a brilliant choice you’ve made no matter what happens next! 🙂

  • Erin, I LOVED reading about your story! I felt like my own journey and reasons why I wanted to move to Europe are so similar and although this is the first post I’ve read on your blog, I’ve found myself cheering you on like, you get it, girrrrl! Many people start with the Masters program in London and end up getting employed there (because you make so many connections once you actually get there), so it could happen 🙂 I want to recommend you read Orwell’s “Down and Out in Paris and London” to cheer you up on your poorer graduate student London days. It is the antithesis of London/Paris glamour and I love it so much.

    • thank you, cynthia! i’ll download that book right away – it sounds like it will be right up my alley. also, so glad to hear that others have had success going the master’s route – i’m still anxious about it all working out, but a lot more hopeful/accepting that whatever happens, i’ll be better off because i did it.

  • This is such great news! I can’t wait to follow your move and wish you the best of luck!! I can totally understand what you’ve been going through as I’m kinda going through that with my job myself right now. I don’t think that working in marketing is something for me – it kinda exhausts me and I hate the money focus of it too. I have no idea what I want to do with my career other than that I really want to be creative as I otherwise get depressed and that I’d like to be challenged by my job instead of being bored to death as I so often am by analyzing statistics and stuff in my current job. Long ramble short, you’re not alone and I can’t wait to read more about your time in London 🙂

    • thanks, van! i feel you about that job stuff. i think what bothers me the most is that work is what we spend the majority of our lives doing, so if it doesn’t make us happy then it can be really soul sucking and draining. i hope you find something better that fulfills you! i feel like it can be a constant struggle/discovery process.

  • GOOD for you Erin!!! This is amazing news! You’re going to love London and moving abroad is such a great idea for growth as a person. I’m sorry to hear that you haven’t yet found exactly what you’re looking for in a career path, but that is way too typical today. So many in our generation are no longer happy just working to make ends meet or even working to be our culture’s definition of “rich.” You’re not alone in this slightly scary move and you’re going into this with the perfect mindset, trying it out and seeing what will come. If anything, I’ve realized there is no such thing as a permanent move. You go somewhere new, you give it a real shot and you see if it’s for you. If it is- AMAZING. If it’s not, on to the next place! Can’t wait to read about all your adventures to come! Good luck!!!

    • thank you, lauren! people like you how prioritize travel really inspire me. with all this encouragement, i’m feeling better and better about the move and that no matter what happens in the longterm, i’ll be better off because i did it. can’t believe it’s in two days now!!

  • This is written so beautifully. Wishing you all the best for your move to London, I couldn’t think of a better city to be in 🙂

    • thank you marcella! i’m getting more and more anxious as the move draws closer!