Not a disappearing act – personal reflections, the move to London.

Ever since high school, I’ve dreamt of taking off and heading overseas to work.  Work on a cool video concept and design for a band in northern Europe.  Work on a hot new startup with some guys I met in a sports bar in California.  Do some location independent work somewhere in South East Asia.   I knew that this was bound to happen one day when I was “ready”.

Then the global financial crisis hit.  I’m Aussie and we’ve just scraped it but I remember the anxiety in 2009 not knowing as to whether or not I would be graduating to the recession.  Luckily, I didn’t.  Other youths in countries such as Greece, Spain, Italy, Ireland didn’t fare well with the economic crisis still hitting many in the EU – Nearly 25 million unemployed (in general, not just Generation Y) as of April 2011 and numbers for young people ages 15 to 25 not looking up at all.  11 million 15 to 24 year olds unemployed across the OECD with Greece and Spain facing 50% youth unemployment rates out of the youth labour forces.

My decision to move to London from Australia involved ignoring the news.  News about the riots, Eurozone crisis, potential of double dip recession in the United Kingdom, and more.  I deliberately did not read news articles, tweets, comments and more about the situation.  Whenever I mentioned my move prior to leaving the first question asked was “Why”.  It wasn’t just what was happening here, but also because it involved leaving a lot back home – of which many was the fruits of my endeavours and hard work since I first moved out of a regional area to Brisbane to study.  I wasn’t running away from anyone or anything.  I knew that I was ready to leave and that whatever it was that I was facing – I was more than ready for it.  I was prepared to fail spectacularly – for people to say “I told you so”.  I was ready to lose money, lose potential opportunities back in Australia, hopefully I haven’t lost friends

My work visa was in the mail a week before I fly off.  As soon as I recieved it, I confirmed a global agency regarding my status and they later confirmed a few interviews and meetings with various recruitments agencies in London.  Even though I purchased my tickets in October, I was still unsure of leaving and was also doing some traveling which required my passport so I had a six week window to sort out my Tier 5 Youth Mobility Visa.    My work announced my old job position online when I came back to Australia from traveling in the United States – possibly keeping it there in case I changed my mind and decided not to leave.

My first day in London was chaotic.  I couldn’t find the hostel that I was meant to stay in, another hostel that I approached was booked out so I decided to stay in a hotel.  On my first week, I went to three recruitment meetings.  I failed spectacularly when it came to not only having a CV actually readable (it was too long, too complicated, not in the right format, and so on) but also having myself being interview ready.  I had one recruiter state that I need to practice with her before she introduces me to her clients.  I had another one who was fierce and asked me why exactly was I doing in London and was I even aware of the unemployment rates?  I told her that I deliberately ignored “the news”

I attended a number of events and ended up coming up with a strategy in regards to job seeking.  I’ll share it here eventually, but after ten days was given an internship offer with a startup.  I declined – I wasn’t here to do free work for anyone.  But it was also difficult working out of a hostel and on my final night or two before I found a place to move in, I was sitting on the stairs outside my room at 3 am, unable to sleep because of the noise and the uncomfortable bed, and checking spare room listings.

In my first month living in a flat inner east of London, I was either sharing with interns, those looking for internships or jobs, or those about to graduate and not knowing what post-college world would be like.  I was also sharing with those who not only had management skills but also international and multiple Masters under their belt.  One of the tenants worked for free rent at the place.  More than a few from Spain who moved to London to seek work and improve their English.  I was borrowing a computer from a lab at the downstairs business to teach myself Javascript and look for work.  The rental manager would constantly ask me whether or not I found work – at first, I saw it as a sign of concern but it actually wasn’t seeing as the business he was involved  was fraudulent.  As in, the business was renting out their property to tenants illegally.  Like myself.

I decided to go to Ireland and then to Dublin to visit my relatives.  My cousin, younger than me, has just given birth to the most beautiful little person I have ever seen.  I met family that I haven’t seen for years, or I was too little to remember and we literally went all around Ireland.  It was a break.  And it helped solidified what I really value as well.  I could have stayed in London and slugged it out looking for work.  But I made similar mistakes in the past – of constantly putting work ahead of family or life or myself.  It was another reason why I left Australia.  I had to learn what it was like to lose so much.  I lost a lot and that feeling of loss still reverberated even in London when I had some promising opportunities fall through the cracks because of the move.  But it was more like a silver lining in the cloud.  I can now start to unattach myself now, away from my established lifelines back home and see where I will end up… Someone commented that people move to London to disappear.  Originally I wanted to disappear but it was the opposite.  I disappeared and I wanted to find myself

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