Summer 2016. Yeah, that summer. The summer of Rihanna & Drake “Work”, on repeat. The summer I had my first romantic fling. And the summer I left my beloved Chicago to start a new life abroad in Europe. Super cliché, I know, but that’s how it went down. I left Chicago at the end of that summer, August 30th to be exact. As I write this, I think about the years leading up to that day and the woman I was before I left. So sad and extremely depressed. Confused, hurt, and trapped by inner demons and insecurities. All I wanted was to uproot my life and start over somewhere new, preferably abroad and preferably in London. I thought about it constantly. For as long as I can remember, I’ve been obsessed with travel, culture and seeing new things. Growing up, my family and I spent a lot of summers in England visiting extended family. I used to say to my Nan, “all I want to do is travel when I grow up”, and she’d reassure over and over me that I would. It seemed so impossible to me at that time, considering that, at the wee age of 13 or 14, I’d already planned out my life – I was going to go to medical school after college, meet someone, get married around 27 and have 4 kids (lolol). I had no idea where travel would fit into this life I had planned. Anyways, I digress.
Thinking back on it now, I realized the few years before my departure were the most depressing years I’ve experienced in my life, and I’ve struggled with depression for many years. I was in a really dark place, and I had dark thoughts often. I was consumed by social anxiety, constant worries about money, family pressure, and shame for not being accomplished like my peers. The loneliness and inner thoughts were crippling at times. I was also stuck in a job I hated, but I was too comfortable to change anything. And then suddenly, I was let go from said job. An actual blessing in disguise. Suddenly, I was given the opportunity to start fresh and I decided this was the time to go after my dream of moving to London.
To make a long story short, after 5 unbearably long months of unemployment and job searching, I eventually found a cool opportunity in Arhus, Denmark working on a 2 year contract at the headquarters of a Danish fashion retailer. It wasn’t London but it was abroad and it sounded super cool! And there were lots of moments that were pretty cool, I have to admit. Through the contract, I got to go to China for a second time (I studied abroad in Beijing during college) and I lived in Amsterdam for 6 months while working in their local Dutch office. I got to meet people from all over the world, and experience different cultures. Although these were all really great experiences, the transition from Chicago to Europe wasn’t easy or glamorous. It was extremely difficult and lonely at times. Change is hard, and life doesn’t stop for you just because you move to a new place. The environment may change but the responsibilities stay the same. I appreciated being able to experience slow living in Denmark, a great healthcare system, Danish aesthetic, and really good quality coffee (this is actually what inspired me to become a barista). But I struggled with the dark, and I mean DARK, Scandinavian winters and the introverted Danish culture. I also experienced being homesick for the first time. Seeing something really cool happening back home or not being able to celebrate my favorite American holidays sometimes was a new kind of heartache I never experienced before.
After 2 years in Denmark, I moved to England at the end of summer 2018, and two weeks ago I officially moved to London! (I spent my first year here living in Cambridgeshire) The move to England felt like a no brainer. I wasn’t ready to go back to the States, and because I’m half British and a British citizen, it just made sense to move here. So here I am now, living in Southeast London and just about to start a masters in Branding, Communication & Culture at Goldsmiths, University of London. If you’d told me 4 years ago, just when I was about to get fired from my job, that I would fulfill my dream of moving to London (and be going back to school!), I wouldn’t have known whether to cry or laugh. But life can be surprising like that.
I always get asked whether I plan to go back to Chicago. To be honest, when I left I was so sure I would come back after a few years, and there is still a part of me that wants to go back eventually or at least visit more. But an even bigger part of me wants to keep living in different places, experiencing different cultures and seeing the world. Call me crazy, but I will sacrifice my home to live out my dreams of traveling the world. I look back and feel extremely proud of who I am today, and how far I’ve come. In 3 years, I have grown more than I ever could’ve imagined, and moreso in this last year. Truth is, I still struggled a lot mentally after I left Chicago. In Denmark, I was completely isolated; if I felt loneliness in Chicago, this was a whoooole other type of lonely. I literally had no choice but to sit with myself and look deep within to figure out who I was and the life I wanted. As much as I had wanted to leave Chicago, I needed to leave Chicago. Life was screaming at me to get out of my comfort zone and dive into the unknown.
I am no longer that scared 20-something that was too utterly afraid to put herself out there. I am now a 30-year old woman who’s so much more confident and happy. I feel completely different to who I was when I left. Hell, I feel different to the woman I was 9 months ago. I’m not saying I don’t still struggle with mental health or that I have my life completely together - trust me, I’m still figuring things out everyday, and I still very much struggle with my anxiety & depression. But what I have now is the reassurance that I can handle whatever comes my way and that everything truly does work out. Everything does happen for a reason. I can feel my fire and passion for life coming back. I’ve made a promise to myself to stop letting fear dictate my life, and instead do things in spite of the fear, because life is too fucking short. My 3 year anniversary of living abroad just passed but it honestly feels like my adventures are just beginning, and the best days of my life are ahead of me. I’m so excited for what’s to come.