Brace yourselves for my reality of moving abroad. I wish I could say this is going to be a glamorous and picturesque rendition of my first week in London, but I find honesty is one of the most important qualities in any relationship. As painful (and embarrassing) as the truth is to share with you all, it’s all part of the journey. I will add though that my head and my heart are in a completely different place now than they were last week. I feel it’s important to know that before you continue reading.
I’ve been planning this move for over a year at this point. The beginning of 2016 is when the flame was ignited in me to uproot my life and move across the ocean. Why? I couldn’t tell you exactly why, but I do know that my heart was being called to London. Now, you can imagine that a year is quite a bit of time to think about something like this. It’s also plenty of time to romanticize a place and to build up expectations that are so far beyond reality it’s a bit embarrassing to admit.
All of this dreaming and fantasizing led to HUGE disappointment once I landed in London and arrived at my new flat. The reality is, the touristy historical parts of London make up about 15% of the city. The rest is not so victorian and glamorous. I share a flat with four people I’ve never met who have completely different lifestyles than me and we only have one bathroom to share between the five of us. That’s right. Do the math on that one. Five humans, to one bathroom. As a 25 year old woman, this was a shock to the system to say the very least. Now, you must be thinking “but surely you saw pictures of this place before hand and knew what you were getting into, Ryan?” Well, yes, I did see pictures of this place but I guess I hadn’t quite grasped the reality of sharing such a small space with four other people. The photos also did not do justice to the location of the flat. Imagine a quiet residential area where English is not the native tongue. I mean I thought I moved to England, right?
Within the first day I cried so much, I was surprised my body kept producing tears. I was like a fish out of water. I had bitten off more than I could chew while being thrown into the deep end without knowing how to swim. All of the cliché one liners that you can think of…that was how I was feeling. I was at an all-time low, which is when I had to decide to either pull up my sleeves and keep moving forward or head straight back to the airport and return home to the safety of my home town.
It’s funny how God can plant something in you that grows over a year and really stirs in your soul for such a long time and in a single day, the enemy can come in and completely uproot all of that faith. Well, let me correct myself. The enemy can TRY to come in and uproot what you planted in faith. I learned not long ago that the voice of fear and doubt and loneliness is the exact voice of the enemy. It’s way easier said than done (trust me, I’m still struggling with it on a daily basis) but don’t believe those lies. Don’t dig up in doubt what you first planted in faith. Yes, change is flipping hard and it’s ugly and scary and often times messy. But you have to trust that God is going to bring you through what He brought you to. The purpose may not be what you originally thought, but you better believe that God is growing you and shaping you through every single experience in life and that His purpose is far greater than anything your little brain could ever comprehend. Overcome the doubt and fear by refusing to listen to what the enemy is trying to tell you. Look past your circumstances to what the bigger picture is…that you are here for a purpose and it’s your job to keep moving forward and persevering! “You got this!” is something I tell myself multiple times a day by the way. It really helps.
So yes, even though I live in a not so glamorous part of London and even though I haven’t quite found my sense of community yet, London is still a magical city. I was walking through Westminster last week and looked up at Big Ben and said to myself “Ryan, you live here now. This incredible historical building is part of the city that you now call home.” I mean people only dream of even visiting London and here I am living it.
In one short week (which actually felt like the longest week of my life) I’ve done almost a 180 degree turn. I’ve reconnected with friends I haven’t seen in years, I’ve joined a church and a serving team; I’m finding my way around the city better. God keeps blessing me with little beams of light to help show me that this is all part of His plan. Every day is a new beginning to be productive and seek peace and joy and that’s what I intend to do. So when things don’t turn out quite the way you planned them in your head, remember that’s not necessarily a bad thing. It just means something better is ahead. You just have to keep moving forward.
So stay tuned as the days get brighter and the weather gets less dreary. If you’ll hang in there with me, I think we’ll manage to make quite an adventure out of this!