You’ll arrive unsure of your shoes, but quite certain everybody knows you’re not from here. That will embarrass you. Everyone is a somebody with their hair, and their beard, and the way they upturn their trouser bottoms that way. London has a special kind of energy, like an older brother who has been travelling in Nepal this past year and now smokes roll ups and seems impossibly cool- he’ll chat with you, but you know there’s somewhere else he’d rather be. It makes you crave his approval all the more.
You’ll try on different parts of yourself for size, figuring out which version of you London will like more. (It will take you almost twelve months to realise it’s actually you who has to decide which part of London you like more.) You’ll drink out of cans in Trafalgar Square at twilight, and shelter from the elements with an order of deep-friend courgette and a best friend one rainy Sunday in Soho. You’ll bump into a favourite writer one random Monday off Oxford Street, sit and look at the river for hours on the South Bank with boys. They’ll be curry on Brick Lane, all-night clubs in Camden, brunch in Notting Hill, cocktails in Covent Garden. You’ll be a different person for all of those things, because the rest of London is so busy she doesn’t see you playing dress-up. It gives you the confidence to keep trying.
TFL will get a quarter of your first salary because you get lost a lot when you refuse to slow down at tube signs, or look at maps on bus stops. Within weeks you’ll become one of everybody else traversing bridges and four-lane roads and steamed-up buses and crowded tubes to get to a vaguely media-related job that doesn’t exists outside of your new city. You’ll bond with colleagues hard and fast, because nobody else understands the pressure. It won’t be until you leave London, maybe in five or six years, that you realise it’s all sort of pretend. Not that it matters.
They’ll be queues for bars, delayed trains, sudden road closures because of a riot or protest. You’ll pay more attention to BBC News, because now those are landmarks you pass everyday, and slowly you’ll pay less attention to the actual landmarks because… you see them everyday. The Thames will never fail to take your breath away though, and when you’re overwhelmed or sad or crazy, which will of course be quite a lot, because you’re building a life from scratch, you’ll stand on a bridge and listen to Mahler and you’ll know you’ll be fine. You will. With that view, you’re superwoman. You’ll take strength. LOOK! WHERE! YOU ARE! LONDON!
You’ll be tired, when you first move. You’ll want to say yes, because you might miss out if you stay home, and you’ll be working hard all day, sometimes into the night, and you’ll think you deserve to blow off steam so you’ll party, but really, it’s a recipe for a car crash. If you arrive in the September you can expect it to happen around Christmas time, then. Start again in January.
They’ll be points when you’re so lonely you don’t know if you can leave the house for takeaway pizza, because should the service guy show you even one ounce of kindness you’ll cry and never stop. You wonder what everyone else is doing on a Saturday night, but the one time you do it with them you’ll end up drunk and sobbing because this isn’t what you want, either.
You’ll find your people. It won’t be who you think. Sorry to break it to you, but you’re not cool. You are, in fact, a total geek, and your tribe will be the ones who hold Christmas craft parties, and do jigsaws, and go to power ballad club nights and play Scrabble at Sunday lunch and not one bit of it will be ironic. The sooner you surrender to all of this, the happier you will be.
Your London will turn into a small handful of amazing friends who you decide to give all of your time to, because they’re the ones you like yourself around, and a neighbourhood filled with food markets and cobbled streets. Within the year you’ll realise that for too long you were trying to keep up with the idea of the city, not the city itself. Life will keep moving forward, even if you aren’t propelling yourself down its corridors.
You’ll look back after 365 days of being here, from your tiny flat with the bonkers housemates and all the books and the constant stream of favourites through your door, and you’ll realise that you’re happy.
You’ll realise that for the first time in your life you committed to committing, and lo and fucking behold it’s brilliant. You'll grow into yourself in London, get more comfortable with who you are. She'll force you to. It’ll be a nice feeling. A relief. To be happy. You've waited.