I remember the day that I moved to London. It was the 28th May 2005 and my former boyfriend and I arrived from Dublin, where we lived for one and a half years. He was Italian and I am from Germany. We were in our early twenties and worked hard to create a life, adapting to different cultures, a different language and certainly different weather.
During the first days of my arrival, I made my first friend. He worked in the building complex, Bow Quarters, that became my first home in London. To this day –more than eleven years later- we are still friends.
And so it went on –I was surrounded by people of all nationalities, races and religions who taught me, who grew up in a relatively monotone demographic, how to be tolerant, patient and kinder. I studied at the London Metropolitan University and observed its student diversity with marvel. Never had I seen such an array of people.
As the years in London went on, I adapted to life in the capital. I see myself as a drifter; one who can’t hold down a job for more than three years and who, as of June 2016, has relocated ten times. My hair and dress style change almost monthly and I so do my eating habits, position of my furniture and tastes for music. I am not attached to material possession and own very little furniture. And I’m fine with that way, despite its nonconformity. Since 2012, some stability appeared as I have become self-employed and have employed British people to work for me.
A few things are constant in my life, however: people and creativity. I have come to terms with the fact that I am committed when it comes to people. My relationships last long and so do my friendships. They are the one thing that kept me going when I was between jobs and flats yet again.
Living away from my own family, I created a new one. Someone became a surrogate aunt. Someone else my brother, another person became a grandmother figure. The fact that they are of various nationalities and races doesn’t matter. I adopted these people into my life and I love them with the same love that I have for people who I am related to by blood. So are my ties to others and the uncertainty that I have now is numbing.
With the UK soon leaving the EU, there will doubtless be changes for many people, myself included. What could happen? Deportation? My guess is that we will have to purchase visas, possibly one for the right to stay in the country and one to work. Perhaps there will be other options, like student and spousal visas. The point is, we will quite possibly have to pay a lot to stay. Purchase the privilege to continue to do what I have been doing for more than ten years. Money I’d rather invest in my art, not into my right to work. Perhaps, there will be interest in immigrants’ salaries too and a resulting cap –like the one that has already been imposed on a few nationalities. If you don’t earn a certain amount, you’re out. Whatever the decisions will be, there is now a deep insecurity within me about my future and, of course, it’s not a good feeling.
I survived so far, lived both in comfort and struggled, so I know I will survive whatever will happen. There was always a way to make it through for me, but for the first time I can see my support pillars cracking: What if I have to leave the people who I love? The ones I have known for more than ten years. The ones who saw me at my best and worst and who accompanied me during the majority of my adult life. One of the two things of consistency that I have ever had. What if I can’t express myself any longer in the way I have always done?
I do believe that I can make friends wherever I go. But when I distance myself from people, I want to make that decision on my own, for personal reasons. Some people are worth keeping and some worth letting go –and that’s a very subjective choice that I want to make but not be forced to make because of political reasons.
For now, with all the ambiguity of the situation, I will live in gratitude to the wonderful people who surround me and concentrate on my second constant: my creativity.
If my future in the UK sees my creativity threatened as well, I know what to do. But that is content for another article.