Hello new blog

As I’ve moved city, changed job and started again, why not start a new blog.

(Thrilling content to follow!)

Should (or can) I leave London?


I read recently that although we are taught everything from art to algebra, from sport to sex education, no one teaches us how to be happy. I wanted to write this post, partly to draw a line in my own mind, but also to help anyone else in a their pursuit of happiness.

I’m a loyal fan of Frasier. One scene that has always haunted me is when Niles (Frasier’s brother) asks Frasier whether he is happy. Despite many attempts Frasier fails to give a straight forward answer, trying to justify aspects of his life to himself more than anyone, and never arriving at yes or no answer. So I ask you, are you happy?

I realised earlier this year that I’m not miserable, but I’m also not completely happy. I had nothing to complain about as such, but I also had a gut feeling that things just weren’t right. After many months of contemplation I decided that I would never be happy in London and things had to change. Let me try to explain why.

I arrived in London to start a job at the BBC – at the time it seemed like a dream. I didn’t pause to think through what London would be like, I just wanted to work for the beeb. It took me a long time to settle in but gradually I enjoyed more and more of what London had to offer. I had a great social life, lapped up the culture and to be completely honest I thought I’d made it!

After three years in London I was happy enough, but I was determined to see the world. So I packed my wide-brimmed hat and set of to find myself and danger. Much travelling later I realised that I actually knew myself pretty well and came home with a tan but otherwise pretty much the same man.

I remember when I set off travelling I was almost sure that I wouldn’t return to London. However, when I returned I just couldn’t see any other life. How could I possibly get a ‘good’ job outside London? How could I have a social life anywhere else? How could I miss out on the wonders of the great city? So I hurried back to satisfy my addiction.

Ever since I returned, I had a feeling I may have taken the wrong path. I still enjoyed London in many ways, but I became increasingly disillusioned. I couldn’t work out why I was unhappy given that my life seemed to be ticking all the right boxes. I seemed to be doing all the right things that society dictates, but I never felt settled.

After an awful lot of thinking I knew I could never settle in London long term, and therefore I could never be happy in London. For me happiness is not living in a commuter town, cramming on to a packed train twice daily and telling people through gritted teeth that I’m wonderfully happy with all the money I earn despite never seeing my kids. Happiness to me is having a good job that I can afford to balance with other aspects of life, living somewhere I enjoy and having time for family and friends.

I’m sure to a great extent you are either a city person or you are not. I grew up in a small town where we talked to our neighbours and stopped and chatted to people in the street. There was a sense of community and people seemed to be genuinely happy deep down. For someone from my background London has no soul. It’s exciting, brash, always on, and unrelenting. It is not warm, comforting, homely or satisfying.

Despite becoming very clear on why I wasn’t happy, I found it extremely difficult to finally move from London. Just as when I returned from travelling, I found it very difficult to imagine life elsewhere. Surely I would lose my career and social life? I believe there are many people in this trap.

I’ve now finally managed to make my escape, and take it from me, I’m much happier already. I’m seeing more of my family, I have time to enjoy life. I have no less money, I have no less of a career. I’m making new friends and I don’t think I’ll ever look back.

So am I saying never move to London? Not at all. I think it’s an amazing place to build a career and live life to maximum in so many ways. I just think personally that you need to make the most of it then move on whenever the right time is for you. I probably made the move a year or two late looking back.

I felt trapped in London, and I know many of my friends have done (or still do) too. I believe that a huge number of people end up in London but then feel they can never leave. This is not true. Make sure that you find the confidence to leave. You can find that balance between a good career and a more enjoyable life. Escaping London may well be your first step towards much greater happiness.