Did you know that some Native American tribes would send their young men into the woods for several days of intense fasting to find direction and meaning in their lives and, therefore, become adults? Did you also know that the Matis tribe of Brazil have a ceremony in which they inject themselves with the poison of the Giant Leaf Frog (after being whipped and beaten), all to prove themselves ready for adulthood?
Yeah, me neither.
Now, there are many, many of these rites of passages across the world that involve some pretty eye watering self-injury and risk (glove made of bullet ants, anyone?) and they keep going because no matter the risk, proving yourself and learning from these experiences is fundamental to self-development and your standing in accepted society. Simples right? Not quite, because the rite of passage facing many twenty somethings these days is a whole different kettle of fish……..
………..to London or not to London?
I’ve lived in a few different places now, but I’m a Leeds lass born and raised and this is where I’ve been the last 10 months. I did have some reservations about this (mostly along the lines of ‘I can’t move back home and live in the same room that had Barbie curtains. I have a DEGREE for goodness sake!!’), but actually it’s not been bad at all. I have a job that I adore, have become closer to the fam and have some absolutely superb friends, old and new. For those who haven’t been to Leeds – and I mean actual Leeds, not a field nearby for Leeds fest when you were 15. My hometown is so much more than your first spliff and thinking The Libertines/Razorlight/Dizzee Rascal/delete as appropriate were the best band ever – it’s a brilliant city. It’s fun, it’s young, it’s exciting, has gorgeous bars and restaurants and some beaut vintage shops (priorities, people) and it’s a great place to spend your twenties and beyond.
However…I am having some major FOMO in regards to not spending my twenties in London and I can pretty confidently assume this is the same fear that Native American tribesman feel when their mates test their survival skills. It feels like everyone goes to London. Most of my friends have. All the cool bloggers, with their vlogs and their trendy coats and youth have. All the interesting exhibitions/festivals/plays/events that I read about have. Approximately 99.99% of employment has, if you go by any recruitment ad ever made.
And when you’re faced with a constant stream of people making the move to the Big Smoke and Instagram accounts that make your own Northern life seem comparatively rural and ‘cute’, the rite of passage seems almost inevitable. Now I do really like London, I find it really exciting; I can totally see that I would never ever be without something interesting and different to do but I can also see that there would a coating of grime permanently stuck to my skin and that I would have to sell my stem cells to pay rent. And I just don’t think it’s worth it.
Don’t get me wrong, if I found the job of my dreams in London with the payslip to match, I probably would move, so that I can experience a new place with the job to justify it. But I’ve finally come to realise that not being in London isn’t a bad thing. In some ways, it’s so much better. Yorkshire is down right beautiful. I can walk into the countryside in 10 minutes. That’s 10 minutes from my actual bed. That may seem quaint and whimsical, but in comparison with the endless movement of London, it’s oh so welcome especially because when I eventually I get sick of suburbia and quiet, I can be in Topshop then Nandos followed by my favourite hipster bar in double quick time. AIN’T NO SIGNAL FAILURES ON THE TUBE HERE.
I may feel disappointed when I can’t go to Scroobius Pip’s Film Club or whatever, but my fierce belief in the rest of the UK far overrides that disappointment. For example, anyone that knows me knows I am all about Edinburgh, another fabulous capital city alternative. There is a chance, however remote, that one day I could afford a nice house in this almost perfect city. Or back in Leeds. Or Manchester. And there would be rooms in this house. And good schools close by. With carpets. The kind of money necessary for this house would get me a catflap in London. And tenuous future plans aside, these cities are just that. CITIES. With all the museums, bars, people, opportunities and adventures to be had.
And what really bothers me, that some people dismiss the other choices. The amount of Londoners (native or otherwise) who make negative comments about the rest of the UK, especially the North, even if they have nothing to back it up, drives me MAD. The arrogance is painful. Especially when they don’t even realise they’re doing it, it’s so engrained. One of my dearest friends, a born and bred Londoner, once said to me ‘Let me know when you need a good night out, you can come back to London’. As if fun can only be had within the confines of this one huge, over-priced, gimmicky city. As if there aren’t any clubs or alcohol or music or creativity or fun or people in the UK’s third biggest city. There’s an innocent assumption that you’re missing out if you live anywhere else when actually, I have brilliant nights out in Leeds which ends with the same hangover it would in London, but with a slightly heavier purse.
I’m not saying that London is awful. I know it’s not and even I would move there, under the right circumstances. But there is so much more to the UK, to your twenties, to life experience than this one place. So, right now, for me, I’ll say no to having my teeth filed into fangs (the Mentawai tribe of Indonesia), I can have a full set of pearly whites outside the bubble.