Both 2017 and 2018 are years I do not look back on with great affection. To start, I moved to Canada in January 2017 to escape a high-pressured career as an editor which almost gave me a mental breakdown and zero social life. My home life was frosty at best, and a new start where anonymity and the possibility of a happier life were central to the escape plan was what I needed.
My new life, however, came to an abrupt end after a questionable Tinder match left me broke and heartbroken. My Nan had to send me some money so I could get back to England – meanwhile I was holed up in a hostel near Toronto’s Church and Wellesley village, surviving on food from the local Dollarama, at the mercy of tourists giving me cigarettes in exchange for suffering my sob story, and watching every cent so I could catch the two subways and bus to Pearson International Airport. There was no welcome when I landed at Gatwick, just a two-and-a-half hour train journey to an empty house, next to nothing in the bank and the realisation that I’d have to start all over again.
My confidence was at an all time low. Depression hindered many chances of getting back into journalism. I would arrive to an interview and successfully move onto the final stage of a writing test, only to either not bother writing an article or send something unfinished due to a lack of self-esteem. I survived by doing some freelance gigs for recruitment agencies, writing blogs and producing social media posts to help pay the rent, until a recruitment consultant reached out in late July 2017 about a role at Which?
I was hesitant about working in a contact centre; I envisaged angry customers, call after call and strict working conditions. All did become reality, but, during one of the saddest times of my life, my colleagues made me feel welcome and part of a team. In a matter of months, I had made some firm friends and, although I was still suffering with crippling anxiety and depression, my luck was beginning to change.
I rang in the New Year with my friend Emma, a good friend from school who was going through a difficult time herself: “This year is our year, I can feel it.” I was determined to make sure 2018 would not become another disappointment; I needed to prove to my family and everyone around me that I could bounce back, re-establish my thick skin and demonstrate the determination I once had to make myself a self-made success.
I attempted to date again throughout the last half of 2017 and beginning of 2018, but the apps only offered slim pickings and what I now consider most to be the dregs of society. I was met with people who turned out to already be ‘involved’, came with excess baggage, after just one thing or compulsive liars. On top of this, I pushed myself to keep putting on a brave face through depressive episodes, and a looming announcement was made in March of this year that the contact centre would be moving to Cardiff. If I did not relocate with the company, I would be made redundant by December.
I was adamant that I would not be moving to Cardiff. My life was just starting to come together back home. I made some new friends at work and reformed friendships that were previously broken during the height of my depressive state. I quickly had to come to terms with moving on and not let this setback destroy my road to recovery.
Prior to the announcement, I had regained some confidence to create a website showcasing my published work as well as writing blog posts on previous travels. I would use this as an application tool when applying for reporter jobs, only to be quickly turned down due to making the transition from journalism to a call centre. No matter how many doors I knocked on or the interviews I managed to get, the industry switch was frowned upon by managing editors and publishers who didn’t want to understand my situation (not to mention that I needed to make a stable living instead of surviving on the small amounts of money I would get from the odd freelance job). As it was made evident to me from the get-go: I’ve made my bed, and now I need to lie in it. One time, two editors from a high-profile business-to-business magazine publisher sniggered in my face after I explained the career gap in my CV and how I ended up working for Which? On a separate occasion, a Baroness’s partner ended an interview after just 10 minutes, exited the meeting room and left me to pick up my things and find my way out in front of a leering office of what appeared to be privileged university graduates.
I still persevered despite the vast amount of rejection. I found my strength from regaining self-motivation, reminding myself of the pressure that comes with working freelance and removing any distractions that would have potentially interfered with me once again finding my feet in journalism. Although the attempt could be seen as admirable, it was clear that my efforts were wasted. Time was running out, and I needed to make a decision on what my next step would be.
Consultations at work resulted in the company agreeing that those who chose to relocate, even on a trial basis, would receive a generous incentive. I was offered the opportunity to take the offer for a minimum of six months and, if I didn’t like it, I would be able to return home. No other job offers materialised, living at home was trying at the best of times and my romantic life was non-existent. I considered this proposal a lifeline, another chance to start afresh with people I already knew. By September, I had left for Cardiff feeling both nervous and optimistic about what was in store. I made it my mission to see this as a new start; I wanted to join social groups to make new friends, be a visible reference at work to lend support to my new colleagues and, now looking back rather foolishly, find ‘the one.’
I’m now in Cardiff and, after three months of trying to make new friends and carve a brand new life, there has already been a number of personal and professional obstacles and this time of year has allowed reflection on how I ended up here. I’ve made some amazing friends at work, but the dating scene is worse than back home and many I have met – even without any intention of a romantic relationship – are reluctant to be my friend. Going into 2019, I will uphold my optimism that has got me through some very challenging times. A potential career change and a another move could be on the horizon, but the main lesson I would like to take with me into the New Year is to find some true happiness, even if that means starting all over again.