The Summer My Life Happened By Accident

Have you ever looked at your life and suddenly, inexplicably, felt physically sick? I have. I did every day for six months until I decided to do something about it.
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Becca Day-Preston
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Have you ever looked at your life and suddenly, inexplicably, felt physically sick? I have. I did every day for six months until I decided to do something about it.

I was working as a receptionist at a university in The North. It was a safe, well-paid, shitty, shitty job to pay the bills while I worked towards my MA. In two years I went from being a happy, engaged person to being anxious, miserable and so, so tired.

After I burst into tears at my desk for the third day in a row, I called the counselling service for staff and students, and made an appointment for the next day. I won’t go into it here, but the counsellor was shocked at my mental state and was all like “hie thee hence to a GP and getteth thee a sicknote, forsooth!”

So I did. Over the next seven weeks I attended counselling (crying every time) and went to the GP to renew my sick note (crying every time). But here’s the thing: I wasn’t crying at home any more. Or on the way home smoking 5 menthols end to end (on a 20 minute walk). Or in the toilet at the pub because I suddenly felt sad in the middle of an evening out with friends.

But I was scared, because my GP was getting tired of signing sick notes (he was a douche, BTW) and that meant I’d have to go back. Back to colleagues who literally ignored me when I spoke directly to them. Back to students who called me a “fucking retard” when they erroneously showed up in the wrong building because they’d misread their exam timetable.

And, out of nowhere, came a glimmer of hope in my inbox: a contact from my half-arsed attempt at becoming a freelance writer had an opportunity for me. A full-time, 5 week writing gig in London. Was I interested? Yes. Yes. 100% yes.

Guy and I had been saying we should move to London for ages. It seemed ridiculous to take the plunge on the strength of a temporary job, and I wouldn’t recommend it to everyone, but we were lucky. Guy’s parents are in London, and they love us, so we shacked up with them.

Not a day goes by that I do not realise how lucky that makes me: without the generosity and financial help they offered, we would not have been able to move.

So we packed me a big suitcase, and Alan the cat in his little box, and moved me into his childhood bedroom. Of course, it still wasn't a walk in the park: I had to start the job fairly quickly, meaning I didn't give notice to my old job (but, seriously, were they expecting me back…?) and Guy had a month's notice to work in Manchester.

Alan on the train journey down...

Alan on the train journey down...

 Being apart sucked, my job was fun but the hours made socialising quite hard, and Guy wasn't there when I got home. There were times when I wondered what I was doing and times, when I 'dressed' a pillow in one of his smelly tshirts, to cuddle, that I thought I might be going a bit mad.

Guy got a job in London a week into his Manchester notice period, which was spectacularly lucky. I was then offered full-time work for the next six months.

I don’t believe in karma, but I kind of feel like I should, if not to explain this sudden clicking-in-place of puzzle pieces, then to make myself feel better about doing such a shitty job for so long.

Maybe if I had to go through that to somehow, in the eyes of the Universe, deserve some luck, then it was worth it? Of course, I know that’s not how the world works...

We found a flat fairly quickly, after seeing some shitholes we happened, almost accidentally, upon a perfect little basement flat in the East End.

We now have a back yard where I'm going to grow leeks in the Spring, and Guy has a weird little office room under the front garden (the front garden!) where he can play his nerdy computer games while I soak in the lovely big bath.

The first night in our new flat. 

The first night in our new flat. 

It's cheap and there's space for our impulse-bought grandfather clock that always seemed out of place in our modern apartment in Manchester. We own furniture now, because the flat was unfurnished and Gumtree is crawling with mad bargains.

I don't feel sad any more.

This all happened four months ago, and when I look back, I can’t believe that that was my life; it feels like that awful job, that feeling of despair and all that crying happened to somebody else.

When I told my brother I was quitting my job and moving to London, he said “You’ve got so much GO!” and my best friend was inspired to get some ‘GO’ of her own and quit her shitty job to do a much better one.

The thing is, though, it all happened to me by accident. I didn’t actually, you know... do anything. Except for saying yes.

Surveying my yard and imagining all the leeks... 

Surveying my yard and imagining all the leeks... 

So, that’s the story of how my life happened by accident. I appreciate that not everyone will have helpful in-laws, and not everyone will find work so easily. But I also think that sometimes you need to take a leap of faith.

It could all have blown up in my face: I could have failed to get a proper job, or hated the one I got, or the stress of the move could have affected our relationship. But it didn’t. It all worked out OK.

I’m still not sure how this one ends, but I know that by staying in that job I was stagnating. By just saying yes, and turning my back on so much that made me so miserable, I’ve finally started my life.

Becca is tweeting about leek-growing techniques @becca_dp