When I moved by myself to London, I thought I was running toward a new life. In a way, I definitely was—but I was also running away from my old life. I had been going through a very rough patch with health, love, financial and work challenges. More specifically, over the last year, I’d had a couple of emergency surgeries that led to significant debt, went through a difficult breakup and, on top of that, I got fired from my job.
When, against all odds, I got offered a new job in an amazing city, far away from home, I didn’t think about it much and accepted. At that moment, I was only looking forward, imagining what I would gain: a new career, new friends, new romantic prospects and trips around Europe. I was definitely not thinking about all that I would lose: being present for a family member’s passing, the death of my dog, the birth of my nieces, weddings and the more routine things of daily life, like Sunday family lunches.
I really like the new life I have been able to build for myself here in London. But somehow, this decision to move made the time-space continuum break and I am now two people living two parallel lives.
My Personality Changes When I Visit My Family and Old Friends
I go back home quite often, and when I’m there, it feels like I never left. I speak in my first language, eat what I grew up eating, go to the parks I went to every afternoon for a walk. I sleep in my old bedroom (which my mother has kept exactly the same), and suddenly, I feel like my London life or self doesn’t exist.
Then, slowly, I start to notice the cracks in the surface that remind me that I do have another life. I realize my friends have changed gradually, and it makes me feel like I don’t know them that well anymore. I start to miss my London independence and lifestyle. I talk about things that my family has no idea about because they have not yet come to visit me.
Whenever I meet someone new in London, I have the chance to choose what sections of me they can access and get to know. I select what parts of my history they can learn about because they weren’t there to witness it. This feels empowering, as I get to cherry-pick and tell my own story, designing who I want them to think I am. But it’s also sad because they will never fully know the real (or whole) me. Some things get lost in translation; they won’t understand my culture; they don’t know any of my friends or family or imagine the things that I considered normal back home.
I also noticed that my personality changes when I’m in London because without making a conscious effort, I adapt to my surroundings. I am less loud, more “proper,” less confident because I feel like a guest here and need to behave.
Back home, I talk faster and I laugh more because I am with friends I’ve known for what feels like forever. We can collectively get nostalgic when we remember our school times, and we relate to and complain about the current problems of the country. I can go to a stand-up comedy show and truly understand it. In London, I have tried, but I don’t get half of the jokes because I lack context.
I’ve Grown Homesick, but I Know I Won’t Be Fully Happy at Home
London has given me the freedom to explore new things I never imagined: eating food that I can’t find back home, taking rowing classes on the Thames, participating in creative writing classes, meeting people from every corner of the world and figuring out who I really am without any limitations or pressures. I love the city so much.
But as time passes, I do feel more and more homesick. When I’m with new groups of people, I become extremely shy because I often can’t contribute to the ongoing conversations and feel like an outsider. I wonder what my family is eating, what music my friends will be dancing to this weekend and feel guilty that my mother worries and misses me.
I think about going back because I miss everyone and I miss small-town life. I miss the kind of nature that doesn’t exist here in the U.K. But I know that professionally, I will feel frustrated, as there are fewer opportunities back home. I think about how I will become bored quickly because there aren’t many entertainment options either. I know I will miss London because it has become such an important, intangible character in my life.
And so when I’m here, I spend a lot of mental energy thinking about home and a part of me is always a bit sad. When I go back home, I feel like a tourist. It’s helped me learn to live two parallel lives, both with amazing things that never feel fully complete.