Today marks two years home in England. Two years since I unceremoniously tipped entire drawerfuls of belongings into suitcases and boxes, tearfully wheeled several 15kg boxes to the Postal Room and shipped them back to England.
To be honest, I didn’t really count on leaving Hong Kong so soon. But my decision was pretty much made as soon as I arrived back on home shores for Christmas that year. Friends greeted me with open arms, home felt so much like home, I wanted to be home to spend time with my Granny and family in general. So much was changing – had been changing – since I’d moved. Once I landed back in Hong Kong, I handed in my notice at Lane Crawford and excitedly looked forward to being able to focus on my family soon, so soon. Sadly that was not to be and my plans were scuppered as the flight I’d booked home all those weeks ago ended up being the day of a funeral.
I’m not lying when I say I had no plan when I came home. No backup plan. Nothing.
That probably sounds like a lie because it is wholly unlike me to jump into things without a plan, but I hadn’t applied for any jobs, had no idea where I’d stay (my brother took my old room) and didn’t have a car anymore. I was back to square one and I actually really enjoyed the freefall while I grieved and simultaneously tried to get used to living in the UK again.
Possibly the toughest thing about being home again was and is the issue of independence. Of course I am wildly lucky to be able to live at home almost rent-free, meaning I’m able to save much quickly than if I were to rent and eat avocadoes on tap. Moving home from Hong Kong meant that I had to trade in the freedom of living in and exploring a city alone with mountains, beaches, skyscrapers and more to offer, for living with my family in a small town that was at the very least, 20 minutes away from a city.
Although it was my choice to return, I couldn’t help but feel like a bit of a failure. I’d planned so much for my year in Hong Kong, and yet here I was with no job, twenty steps backwards from where my friends were (nailing job promotions, getting hitched, purchasing first homes, etc.), no car and ultimately relying heavily on my parents to get me through each day. At one point, I remember thinking the only thing getting me up in the mornings was to see – and Instagram – a beautiful English skyscape.
However, two years home also means almost two years with my sweet Milo pup and two years with Harvey. Sometimes when I feel as though I might amount to anything, I remember that 2016 brought me these two at least, and the world feels a little bit brighter. I’m a big believer that the stars align for those in need of it and 2016 certainly picked up for me in that respect. Harvey and I began talking whilst I was on holiday in Japan, and we brought baby Milo home on the day after returning from Japan. What a trip that was. Milo gave me a reason to get up in the mornings and stop sleeping through entire days and evenings at a time.
And then, I decided to give freelancing my all. Of course, I continued to freelance for my two Hong Kong clients that I’d managed to pick up a few months prior, but I also managed to nab myself a few new gigs that meant I was almost back to earning the same amount as in my full-time role at Lane Crawford. I went from working half a day a week to building my very own small business from scratch. I threw myself into my business and felt encouraged by the shifting work landscape, by fellow freelancers and the Girl Boss movement coined by Sophia Amaruso.
In these two years, I’ve struggled with feeling stagnant, particularly because I wonder ‘what if?’ I’d stayed in Hong Kong or if I’d decided to move back after the funeral after all. But ultimately, it takes monumentally huge life changes beyond your control to make you realise what you’re here for. Get up, show up, even it feels almost incomprehensible at the time.