I moved to London four years ago and in that time, I went on approximately 830 dates, drank more cocktails than my insides care to admit, attended over 1,000 champagne-fuelled industry parties and brunched with my girlfriends religiously every single Saturday. It was fast and fun, for a while, until the flicker faded. That’s the problem with glossy lifestyles: it’s just a sheen slathered on top of a product.
I would romanticise the way I burned the candle relentlessly at both ends. It was glorification of being busy at its finest. Working as a showbiz journalist, I was getting home from celebrity parties at 3am and getting up at 6am for a day in the newsroom. Despite being in a permanent haze of delirium, drunk or hungover, I got good at working through my default state of exhaustion. I used alcohol at shiny work events as a coping mechanism in a competitive, dog-eat-dog industry. I was chasing stories and exclusive scoops from celebrities each night and the pressure was on to deliver to my editor.
I’d also romanticise when men I dated told me they couldn’t commit. I’d naively tell myself maybe they were my Mr Big. For me, relationships in the city were pain, not love. Much like the SATC girls, my dating life was fast. I went from one man to the next in some warped real life version of Tinder. I dated doctors, lawyers, CEOs, scientists, bankers and of course, your everyday city wankers.
In a rare moment of authenticity and clarity in the showbiz cloud, I remember interviewing an A-list actress at a swish restaurant launch party full of posers and background noise. After the interview, I embarrassingly spilled my guts to her about my latest heartbreak and she gave me some of the best relationship advice I’ve ever had:
"Be with someone who makes you feel safe, not sick. The butterflies aren’t actually a good thing. Don’t look for them. The butterflies are often just a worry and anxiety about whether the other person feels the same. They aren’t making you feel sure. They’re making you feel panicked."
She was spot on. I didn’t want the whirlwind romances and the hold-on-to-your-hat type of love that goes out as quickly as it ignites.
life in the slow lane without all the frills is a beautiful way to live. The drinks taste better, the dates are more substantial and the parties actually mean more than a throwaway Tuesday.
Friends of mine seeing my posts on social media would continually tell me how lucky I was, and even though I was always grateful for the opportunities, I didn’t feel #blessed like they said I should. I felt wrung out.
I found myself in a diluted Devil Wears Prada and living on little sleep, too much drink, often working for bullying news editors and always mending some kind of heartbreak from the insane culture of millennial dating. My anxiety was getting worse and no amount of champagne on tap or fancy award shows could make that go away. The truth was, with every day that passed, these things seemed painfully superficial and I didn’t find much joy in them. I didn’t want to rub shoulders with influencers taking hundreds of photos of themselves in different lights and angles. I couldn’t and didn’t want to keep up with any of that. My life was on-paper glamour but really filled with exhaustion, heartache and angst.
As much as I’m a fan of SATC, enjoying the programme and living it out were two very different things. Could I always be on top of work, have a thriving social life and be investing in romantic relationships? As it turned out, no.
Now that I’ve quit that lifestyle and moved back to my home city, Liverpool, I truly couldn’t be happier. I’m a freelance journalist writing stories and articles that I feel passionate about and for me, it's the most fulfilling way to work. I spend more quality time with family and friends, as opposed to cramming as many catch-ups as humanly possible into one weekend in London. My weekends used to be so segmented and scheduled: a quick morning coffee with one friend, lunch with another, the afternoon with a different gang and out that night celebrating someone else's birthday. This style of socialising is encouraged by the fast, busy, fomo-driven culture of London, but in Liverpool, when I hang out with a friend, we’re not on the clock. We’re not frantically trying to debrief our lives over the past month to each other in the time it takes to drink two flat whites. We aren’t striving, we’re simply enjoying the present. It doesn’t feel like a mental tick off the friends-to-catch-up-with list; it feels like we’re doing life together.
I wanted more out of life than just what appears to be 'successful' on Instagram. I wanted to live a life like no one was watching.
The quality of life in Liverpool is sweet, too, without the pressure of high prices, super long restaurant queues and stressful, overpopulated public transport. I’m even saving up to buy my first house, which I never thought possible in London.
I also find that people are less superficial here, less money-driven, and there’s less ego thrown around. People take themselves less seriously. The first question someone asks you in London, after your name, is "What do you do?" This question doesn’t get asked until much further down the line in a conversation in Liverpool. It’s not that people don’t care, it’s just that their priorities are different.
My mental health has massively improved and life in the slow lane without all the frills is a beautiful way to live. I’m not forever chasing my tail. The SATC lifestyle was so busy, distracting and time-consuming, I realised I was missing out on the things I really wanted, like spending time with the people who mean the most to me. Now I’ve made space to allow relationships to blossom and my capacity isn’t overfilling with fickle things that I don’t really care about. I wanted more out of life than just what appears to be 'successful' on Instagram. I wanted to live a life like no one was watching.