I was on the phone the other day with my friend when I first said to him ‘I completely forgot how winter feels like back home. Or even Fall. I just can’t remember.’ And then it hit both of us. The strongest memories of winter and every smell of it I have were during our high school years. When we got to wake up in the morning when it was still dark, get our school uniform on, 2 layers of socks in case it was too cold, have a cup of tea (mum’s speciality) and head out. I remember that cold in my bones first thing in the morning while getting into the car, and how the temperature was developing into a warmer feel later in the day. I remember the smell of my Grandpa’s lemon trees and the then orange trees that were still growing. I remember that, home during winter was cold but the warmth of it made everything feel better and safer. I strongly remember all of the above because I was lucky enough to have grown up in a family that truly loves me and I was surrounded by friends who shaped the best years of my life with the most lively memories. It was years ago, and so many have passed already so quick.
The year 2010 was the transitional one where I finished high school and applied to different universities in the UK to study architecture. I remember the goodbyes to my friends and various relatives, my Mum’s tears which she couldn’t hold before we were separated. I remember how excited I was to be leaving home behind to chase a different kind of life. The scary moment when I had to say goodbye to my sister was the moment when I realised I would be living away from all of them. It was terrified. I was terrified! I was 18 for goodness sake and NEVER have been in the UK before especially London. But I made it. And here I am now sharing it with you.
As the years passed I got to learn a lot about friendships, distance, relationships and family and living on my own. In the end and through all of these years I realised that the most valuable lesson was how to be true to my self. It was hard. The whole process was hard. When I first got to London I saw it as a beginning a new life. One can say that it was a second chance for someone to begin over again in creating new friendships and an image of himself. But all I ever wanted was to feel at home and have friends who I knew I could rely on any time. I was lucky enough to have family friends from Cyprus over here in London who I can actually call my family. These people are so close to my heart that even words cannot describe how I’m gonna miss them. They stayed next to me all of these 8 years I have been here no matter what. Next to me while moving places and always happy to have me over their lovely house during the holidays. During the times I was missing my family in Cyprus the most.
Throughout the years I got to grow a thick skin. A skin that doesn’t allow the hurtful words of ‘friends’ or strangers to hurt me anymore. A thick skin that was scarred so many times before it was healed again. I always keep in mind that, if there was nothing wrong there would be nothing right. I believe that it adjusts so well with everyone’s lives. Whoever you are and reading this now, you know it is true. Throughout the years I learned that we all make mistakes. We all fall down at a point. We all trust the wrong people and give away a part of ourselves which will never come back to us. The point is to learn and get better.
London is such a big part of my life. It will always be no matter what. I grew here in a whole different way that I did back in Cyprus. I discovered who I am and I saw what me, as Maria can achieve anything that wants. I stepped out of my comfort zone. Various experiences made me realise that there is no need to keep toxic people next to me. Hell, I survived London on my own. On my own! And I’m proud. Whether it was my decision or not, I gained and lost friends. I gave chances and I lost mine. I grew. I am who I am today because of everything. With my family’s support (who at the end where the only people who were worth all the while) I got to chase and study photography. My dream. Today I am a professional, published photographer because I believed in me and I had people next to me trusting my skills and sharing this journey from the very beginning until today. I am a totally different person than I was that September of 2010 and I am glad.
What London gave me the best, were memories with my favourite person in the whole world: my sister. I got to share too many experiences with her during the 4 years of her studies in the UK that I will forever carry with me. She was my concert buddy, shopping partner and everything in between. Our relationship was always so unique. I don’t believe in other halves as I don’t like to consider my self as half of a person. But she is the only person that completes me in such a strange way. Siblings are magical. We share the same blood. We come from the same body that carried us for 9 months (cheers mum) and we communicate in a way that it will never happen with anyone else. And trust me when I say that, blood is so much thicker than any type of water, it is. Whoever tries to proves that otherwise, will fail time after time. Because of her, I got to meet my boyfriend as well. And from that moment life got even better. I was no longer feeling small in a big city. Life seemed sweet. And life is sweet.
But the time has come. And the point of this blog post! After 8 wonderful years in the big smoke, I AM MOVING BACK HOME in two months. In July I visited Cyprus with my boyfriend (as we did the past 3 years and always did on my own) for holiday. When we returned from our trip back to London, I felt like a stranger here. I was so upset that I got to leave my family behind once again. I didn’t want to get out of our flat or commute anywhere. I just wanted to go home! And that was the time when I, deep in my heart, knew that I would be leaving very soon. Both I and my boyfriend have been discussing our future and how both we wouldn’t want to stay over here for long. We both knew that we wanted to return back to Cyprus. We just didn’t know when. And when the time was right we took the decision and voíla. We are leaving in two months time. I did not get tired of London or moving to Cyprus to retire. I will continue my photography as much as I can. This decision is not for everyone to understand or relate to. I’m not expecting anything like that. I’m so grateful to have worked here, gained so many experiences, travel to more than three places in one single year to shoot and not only. Everything, hopefully, will continue to happen. And if not, it’s still okay because everything happens for a freaking reason. Always.
Will it be different? Yes. Will the adjustment back in Cyprus will be tricky? Absolutely. Will people try to judge our decision of ‘leaving a good job in London to return to nothing’? Fuck yes. But none of the above matters. Our values have changed. As long as we are next to our family and share our best moments WITH them and not through facetime, we are happy. I am going back home with a professional experience on my field that under other circumstances would not have gained. I am returning home to work with people who need my skills and to offer the best of myself. I am going home because I have been a long time away from it. I am going home knowing that, here in London, I gained friends who might be few but they are worth the world to me. I am going back home with a man by my side who supports me and cannot wait to see what the future has for us. I know that nothing lasts forever but until it does I will enjoy it to the max because that’s the way of living throughout this life.
Mom & Dad, there will be no more goodbyes anymore. I’m coming home.