The feeling of dread filled my chest
Blood rushed to my face. I wanted to run out of the office screaming. His words echoed in my head ‘I’m sorry, but we’re not going to be able to pay anyone this month.’
I had left a comfortable job in Bradford; left my family, friends and entire history for the dizzy heights of London, where the folks are unique and the streets are paved with gold. Could this be happening? The first month in my first job in this glorious city and I wouldn’t be earning a penny?
The build up
I’m not one to do things by halves. Back then I also didn’t do much research. I decided living in Hampstead would be a great idea. The place just ‘felt right’. Little did I know….
I’d spent my savings on the deposit for the flat and didn’t have a penny to my name. Paying the rent was reliant on being paid at my job. Since the latter wasn’t happening, I knew what was coming. But I didn’t know what had to be done. Not yet.
Curled up in the lap of luxury
Walking around little Hampstead that weekend, the trees didn’t look so green. The people didn’t look so happy. The wealth was not so appealing. Luxury isn’t so alluring when you’re in a black hole.
Two weeks after receiving my redundancy letter, a friend referred me to a friend who was looking for a PA. Great, I thought – anything to get some pennies in the door. At this point, I was ready to accept whatever, even if it was way out of my skill set.
What ensued was two months of abuse. My boss was the most scolding, emotionally stunted whack-job I had ever met. He gave me warm words of encouragement like ‘no-one will ever employ you’ and ‘people like you never succeed’.
And I accepted it to be true.
What did I do? I remained in his employment earning 90% less than what he said he would pay me. My self-confidence was not just fractured – it had smashed into pieces.
One grey, rainy Tuesday, it all became too much. I walked out.
I took a break for lunch, and just went home. He called me; I didn’t pick up. For two weeks.
He owned me over £2k in salary. I was in £16k of debt from my credit card, an overdraft and money borrowed from friends and family.
Spending time in that office was not serving me.
That afternoon, I walked to the unemployment office. It’s viewed as a place of failure and shame where I come from. Standing in the queue waiting to be seen, to me, was admitting defeat.
After filling in more forms than my life was worth, I was told I’d receive £50 a week to live on. It would ordinarily be enough if I didn’t have piling debt to pay, as well as the debilitating rent.
So I accepted this as my lot. I didn’t switch on the heating in the middle of winter. I ate dry cereal for meals, and used all the cash I had to start paying off debt.
One brick at a time.
Home, oh, the sweetness of home.
Finding the cheapest way to get there using a service I didn’t know existed, I went back to Bradford for a weekend.
I met a friend who sat with me for over two hours in her car whilst I cried until my heart felt like it was bleeding. My pride was on the floor. How did I get here? How was I going to pay off all the money I had borrowed to keep this ridiculous life in London going?
Walking into my mum’s house that night, eyes blurry and heart heavy, something in me changed.
If I had the power to create this, I had the courage to turn it around.
I sold books, clothes, CD’s, stuff – to lighten the load and take the edge off the red in my bank account. Selling it all wasn’t enough, but it was a start.
Negotiating an early leaving date, I moved out of the noose of luxury in Hampstead and into a small room with a single bed in a different part of London. This house share was my saving grace. I like people. Being around them makes me feel alive.
I decided to throw the job-search rule book out of the window. No signing up for a zillion job boards and uploading my CV onto every website. My approach was more targeted. Speaking to people I knew, speaking to people they knew. I like people …
I eventually got one interview and landed the job, even whilst having the guts to ask for £20k more than I was earning in Bradford.
With this four month gig, scrimping and saving, I put a massive dent into my £16k worth of debt.
Hope. Sit back. Breathe.
Using the same method, I landed another job, more permanent this time. It was the perfect balance of people, location and challenge.
It was the kind of job I initially moved to London for.
This London thing – it was the beginning of the rest. My initiation to life alone. The restoration of faith that good colleagues exist, good businesses exist, and not everyone allows their emotional recklessness to seep into business.
I fixed the problems I created.
Without London? None of that would have happened.
The ride didn’t stop there. London served it’s purpose when it taught me the lessons I wouldn’t have allowed myself to learn willingly. And then change came without my request preceding it.
I was invited to Paris to work for a French company. Bring on the adventure …
Living in France brought unexpected adventures. New friends that became family, a new language that took me back to my mother tongue, and new visions of possibility that had previously felt like someone else’s dream.
Paris also brought travel: As far as China and as close as London. My love for airports – finally serving a purpose !
I left the job and started a business. Whirlwind.
To know the people I do.
To share my life with them.
To the friends that supported me and the family that challenged me. Even when confidence had forsaken me, I was full to the brim with love.
That I can share this experience with you, along with the lessons I’ve learned.
That this experience was the making of me.
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