By Scott Douglas Jacobsen and Pamela Machado
Pamela Machado is a contributor to Conatus News, and a journalist based in London, UK. She took some time to sit down and talk about life in London. Here are her thoughts.
Scott Douglas Jacobsen: You went on a bold trip to London for a young person. The story needs some background, which we have discussed and will explore in this Q&A. The ups and downs, the pluses and minuses, and the personal triumphs and tribulations with life in London. To begin, when did London seem like the more desirable place for you?
Pamela Machado: Like many of the people here, I used to see London as the capital of the world, as the most exciting place to be. Being an eighteen year-old in a small town in Southern Brazil, I had desires which couldn’t be fulfilled at home. I wanted passionately to become a journalist and travel and London seemed the place to be when you want these things.
SJ: London is a desirable place. It has an appeal as a global hub for culture and innovation, especially youth culture and education. How did you come to the conclusion at 18 to leave to London? Was this an instant choice or a slow, incremental development?
PM: Leaving to London was the final result of various moments of dissatisfaction I had back home. It felt the right moment to come here because I didn’t have much to lose.
SJ: Travel is an exciting prospect, but the stress and anxiety resulting from new travels into a new place can be both exhilarating and crippling, it’s fun to see and do new things, but it’s nice to have family and friends from the previous life to bolster and encourage the new life.
PM: For a good part of my time here I lived with the excitement. I was excited about all the different things and people I am surrounded by. It felt as if I could never get bored or get disappointed because it would always be a new place, a new person. Probably around after the first year, a new feeling started to grow. I suddenly came to realise that I was getting used to life in London and London felt as much as any other place. The normal frustrations of life hit me, along with longing from home. Coping with the high cost of life, working on pubs and cafes on weekends, leaving with strangers… all that add up to my starting to feel overwhelmed.
SJ: It must be stressful without someone to reach out to, being away from home without too many contacts, especially being an introvert. Also, how tenuous can friendships in London be? Are there fast turnover of friendships? Are there lasting relationships more often than not?
PM: As a foreigner in London, most of my interpersonal relationships are with other foreigners. It is just as enriching as it is fragile. I don’t have any official numbers here, but most foreigners leave London at some point. They go back to their home country or go somewhere else, in many cases because they are tired of life in the city. Most of the friends I made are not here anymore. We eventually keep in touch but it is not the same. A true, lasting friendship takes years to be built.
SJ: There is an “it.” It comes and goes when in a new place and feeling as if without bearings. Have you found out what “it” is?
PM: I discovered it is important to keep things under perspective, always remember myself how much I have conquered and grown by being here. However, for most of the time, I find myself stuck in a mental spin, lost in the thought of things I need to do. People walking around London are usually so busy, rushing somewhere and it is contagious. Anxiety can be a really big problem over here and it definitely is to me. Competition is tough and the pressure one puts on oneself to succeed in London can be insane. No wonder London is the city with the highest mental illness rate in the UK.
SJ: A not common, but more frequent, phenomenon of women outpacing male peers in education and work, then hitting 25-35 and thinking, “Uh oh, what will I do from 40-80?” For many, not all, people, it becomes family – possibly children – and friends rather than work and hobbies. It can be a tough dynamic, which, reproductively and professionally speaking, can make women’s lives more complicated and difficult than men.
PM: I understand your point and even though I haven’t figured out exactly what I want for my later life, I do appreciate the presence of friends and family in life. Relationships and work life shouldn’t oppose each other – like happens in many cases, unfortunately. They should act together. A professional achievement has a lot more sense when it is shared with the ones will love. Coming from a tiring day of work to an empty home is not exactly a happy goal but it is what happens to many.
SJ: Only question that comes to mind for me that I feel as though you would want an answer to is, “What now?” So, what now?
PM: As someone from a small town in the south of Brazil, and as a eighteen year-old, I wanted to travel and be part of a world that was unknown to me. I came here, left my family, my friends, university and came here. I wanted to study Journalism – which I’m now doing, I wanted to be here and grow but somehow it is not as good as I thought it would be – like everything in life, I guess?
There is a saying in London that you become a true Londoner after four years in the city. Well, more than four years later, I am still here and one could say I am doing pretty well in life. Yet, I did not achieve the fulfillment I expected I would get when I hopped on that plane. The ultimate question is, how can I feel fulfilled?
I mean, doing a general balance, I’m happy. I don’t regret any of my decisions. But this journey led me to value my roots and my people in a more meaningful way, and eventually open my mind to different possibilities.