London Calling

I took up the opportunity to spend a month in London working on a broadband related project. I didn’t really know what I was letting myself in for initially but I was up for a new challenge. I can’t really remember if I was looking forward to the trip or not. I remember that I never once thought I’d enjoy being in London, I thought spending the month away would show how committed I was to my job and how willing I was to explore further opportunities.

I was hopeful that my time away would give me the chance I needed to turn my career around. For nearly six years I had been stuck in the same role, technically speaking. Although during my six years my job had changed so much, my job title and description that went with it never did. A lot of the time I was performing beyond the responsibilities of my role without any acknowledgement, worse still, I was continually overlooked whenever I applied for a different position in our office. This was my last chance to make something of myself and stay in this company.

Shortly after all the details were nailed down I was informed that I’d be staying in Ealing Monday to Friday each week, two other agents had been put forward for the secondment too. One other person from my office, Alex. The second was a guy from our offices in Scotland, Ben. We all worked in technical support and had a lot of experience between us, I wasn’t worried about the task at hand. I must admit I was a little worried about spending so much time away, about getting bored in the evenings and how I was going to manage to keep my fitness routine going.

Meanwhile, Lara was just beginning to think about University. We’d been going to open days and exploring her options for when she’d finished her college course. When Lara first started talking about going back to school I thought she ultimately had an idea of going into a job like being a PE Teacher, that’s why she chose to study Sports Science. However throughout her studies she had developed an interest in Nutrition and was looking at pursuing that further. I continued to be supportive, helping in any way I could such as helping with her application and personal statement, driving her to open days, thinking up all the right questions to ask.

Lara seemed a little daunted by it all to begin with. However the master plan seemed like a good one. The whole time she would be at University I’d be able to put in the effort required to get ahead with my career. It seemed like a great plan. It bought us at least three years to get our lives in order, after such time we would be free to explore ideas like moving in together and other grown up stuff.

On my first day travelling up to London I did quite well. I found the hotel without getting lost and located the free shuttle bus service that would take me to the office. We were introduced to the team we’d be working with and our temporary teammate Ben from Scotland. The three of us would all be staying at the same hotel which was great for us, at least we’d all be able to go to dinner together.

The whole month we had beautiful weather, even for July it was completely uncharacteristic. It was also a first for me not to be staying in central London. It was really nice to experience a different side to the overly busy, can’t move for people, claustrophobia that I had so often encountered before. I got to see a side to London where strangers weren’t rude and abrasive, instead they smiled and said things like ‘excuse me’ rather than just pushing past you. I was pleasantly surprised.

So throughout the month we spent going back and forth I was slowly getting over my aversion to city life. All of a sudden the idea of perhaps one day living in a city wasn’t repugnant to me. Better yet Alex and I did a great job of making the most of the great weather, often having a few drinks every night after work, it was liberating not having to drive to and from all the time. It seemed like a nice lifestyle to have, the best parts of living in a city without the negatives like overcrowding and bad manners.

I managed to keep up my fitness routine, thanks in large part to the on-site gym at our office in West London. It would get a little busy at times since it was so cheap to employees. I’d blagged free access since I’d only be staying for a month. I didn’t go to the gym quite so often as I did when I was back home, yet when I came back at the weekends I’d go running and swimming so I was making up for that. By this time I’d replaced a lot of my wardrobe and invested in some smarter clothes, I was beginning to dress better since I could now fit into clothes I could purchase on the high street.

What really changed my outlook on my career was how different the culture was at this office. In the month that I spent there I felt more appreciated than I had done in my six years with the company to date. Not only that but there were countless opportunities and such varied roles throughout the site. I couldn’t help but be tempted by the possibilities. In just my second week up there I started to consider the possibility of making the move permanently. I just had to figure out if it truly was plausible, what would it mean for Lara and I if I moved away to London, what about my friends and family?

Lara and I seemed solid during this time on the one hand during this time and completely disjointed at others, we were both working on making our lives better for ourselves and for our future together. I had hoped that the absence throughout the week would make the heart grow fonder and we’d be excited to see each other by Friday, that wasn’t always the case. I wasn’t sure what to make of our situation anymore. I was past trying to make things better, nothing I had tried over the years worked, Lara said it was all on her, so I would wait and see if things got better. I’d invested so much in what we had I still wasn’t ready to dig too deep and attempt to figure out why that spark was lacking.

While I was away in London I spoke with Lara every day, heard her say she missed me and loved me and couldn’t wait for me to be back. Then I would go home on a Friday evening and there would be no amazing reunion, we’d just fit straight back into our routine as if I had been there all week. It was a confusing time for me. I also heard from Daryl and Heidi regularly while I was away, often planning what we’d all be doing with our weekends together when I was back, we had a lot of fun and we were all looking forward to our holiday to Bulgaria that was fast approaching.

During my last week in the office in London I had a call out of the blue from the guys back home, even with Bulgaria only a couple of weeks away they were already thinking about the next holiday. They called up to ask if they could go ahead and book us up for a holiday to the Canaries in February next year. I very much liked the sound of that, my brothers wedding would be the following month and it would be awesome if I happened to have a bit of colour from the winter sun on the day. The price happened to be manageable too so I told them to go for it.

All too soon the mini London adventure was over. The project had been a great success and we’d all left feeling like we’d spent our time wisely and made a lasting impression. The guys we had been working with took us out in London in our last week, I got spectacularly drunk and wouldn’t stop talking crap the whole night. Standard. We said our goodbyes and the I had a chat with the managers we had been working with, they invited us all to apply for any roles that might come up in case they’d managed to sell us on life in London. I was sold, I just had to make it happen now.

After just a week back in the office in Somerset I couldn’t have been more certain that London was exactly what I needed. Another week later and we were due to be travelling to Bulgaria. The riots had started in London and it was mayhem. We had been staying in Ealing and it got hit pretty hard, we couldn’t believe the timing of it all, if we’d been staying just a couple weeks longer we would have been caught right in the middle of it all.

For now I was happy to go on holiday with my gay family and have a good time. When I got back I would look at making London happen and see if there were any opportunities that I could take advantage of right away. There was no way I could spend another year in the contact centre, I had seen the light and I knew I always had more to offer.

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