I felt invisible as a single woman in London so I moved to a totally new town (by Tola Fisher)
Today is my 38th birthday.
That also means that this newsletter is officially three years old. I sent my first newsletter out on my 35th birthday and wrote about being OK with waking up alone (check out the ‘logo’ I had before I got the professionals in!)
What a wild ride it has been since I first launched. I had absolutely no idea back then just how many people would be interested in reading about single life (especially in a newsletter format and especially when I steadfastly refuse to centre the topic of dating). I also had no idea how much I would love building a community around it. Thank you so much for reading my words and joining in and supporting each other. I love you all.
I am still working on some big stuff so can’t commit to weekly newsletters yet but I am really excited about coming back properly as soon as I can. I have some great things in store for you. Because I am so distracted at the moment, I was delighted when the amazing Tola Doll Fisher reached out with an idea for this newsletter. Long time subscribers may remember she wrote for me back in 2020 and it’s great to have her back. I love the topic especially as someone who has also left London for a town. I think some of you may relate.
In all the reading and research I’ve done on being single, the biggest thing that makes a difference to wellbeing levels is community and Tola explains really beautifully why being somewhere where she has been easily able to build a community has made all the difference. Of course, this can also be done in London or any other large city but cities can also feel incredibly anonymous! Anyway I will leave you to Tola.
Have a good week!
I felt invisible as a single woman in London so I moved to a totally new town
By Tola Doll Fisher
I’m a Londoner. I was born just outside London, grew up in London, ran back to London as fast as I could from Birmingham where I went to university, and moved just outside London with my now ex-husband. I have worked in London since I graduated and aside from brief spells of SATC-induced longing to live in New York or Paris, London was always in my life plan. But in Autumn 2020, I hit a bit of a wall. The pandemic showed me how isolated I was as a single woman in London. Despite most of my friends living in the capital, I still felt slightly adrift, in my rented block in Islington.
Many people couldn’t wait to get back to “normal life” during the infrequent lifting of restrictions, but all it did was highlight for me how lonely I was when things were “normal”. My ex-husband and I lost our baby in 2012 and I was divorced in 2014. However, despite coming to terms with both those things, I still felt the isolation keenly observed by those who don’t fit into society’s couple and family oriented set up.
So when my friend, who owned the flat I was renting, hesitantly told me she needed it back, my immediate reaction was something like relief. Simultaneously, the media company I worked for, announced that remote working was working and it was here to stay. This serendipitous happening made it possible for me to make a fresh start. Five years previously, I’d visited a friend who had moved to Cheltenham for work and I’d fallen in love with it. Ok granted it was summer and there was some drinking and a random limo ride involved but even with sober eyes it was still beautiful. It lacked the intense rush and busyness of London and everyone seemed very active and healthy. At the time I couldn’t find a job there and Jess moved back from Cheltenham a couple of years ago and had a baby with her partner. But in February 2021, I still jumped at the opportunity to move there even though I knew no one.
People often ask me, why Cheltenham? And I think well why not? Google the place and you’ll see it has so much going for it; it’s a town known for its festivals and culture. Close to Bath and Bristol and yet with its own Cotswold charm. As a Christian I reached out to one of the many churches in the town and told them I was planning a move. One of their team, who is now a close friend, was instrumental in helping me assess areas and finding a place to live. (As daunting as this may seem, you don’t have to be a Christian to do this – Church of England churches have a duty to serve the local community and are a great way to help you feel grounded in your new home.) I also connected with a friend’s sister who had moved from Surrey to Cheltenham and she invited me to her baby’s Christening where I met Lottie, who is co-founder of the Cheltenham Wellbeing Festival and I’ve now spoken at a few of their events. Lottie is also a PT, which means she knows pretty much everyone in Cheltenham. Two weeks ago I did a modelling job for a Cotswolds-based clothing brand whose social media manager found me via Lottie’s Instagram.
The thing about living in a town vs a city is that everything is local. This means that the opportunities to connect are so much greater than they ever were for me in London where I was – or at least felt - unhappily invisible. I go hiking with a friend every Sunday on nearby Leckhampton Hill and have joined a wonderful yoga studio that is much more affordable than my London one. Every time I leave my house I bump into someone I know and this sense of being seen and known is something I realise I need as a single person at this stage in my life.
It’s ironic that moving away from everything I knew, has resulted in me being more connected, and I know that uprooting seems risky but at the end of the day, what’s the worst that can happen? If you don’t like it, you can just go back. It’s better to know you tried, than to wonder and not try at all.
Tola Doll Fisher is creative director and editor of the Premier Woman Alive brand and writes as an opinion columnist on topics including sex and relationships, baby loss, wellbeing and success. Tola is also author of 'Still Standing:100 Lessons From An 'Unsuccessful' Life' (SPCK) and writes a weekly newsletter on life lessons, based on the themes in her book.
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For those who don’t know, I’m Nicola Slawson, a freelance journalist who lives in Shropshire, UK. If you particularly liked this edition, you can buy me a coffee, here’s the link to my Ko-Fi page. Follow me on Instagram and Twitter.
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