It was the frying pans that did it. I sat in my room at my parents’ home around the Christmas holiday, legal pad and pencil in hand, jotting down lists for my new apartment kitchen—or flat was I was trying to remind myself to call it. The flat was still entirely hypothetical, but it was more of a reality now than it had been at any point in the last six months.
I left my life in New York in May, packed up a few suitcases, shipped an obscene number of out-of-print research books, and said goodbye to the city where’d I’d spent m formative adult years. It was the place I’d gone to graduate school, worked my first job, written nine books, and fallen in love. However, as much as I loved New York and the people, I’d found myself pushing against the boundaries of my life. It was as though I was trapped in a moderately comfortable room and unable to settle because I knew that the longer I stayed, the more difficult it would be to find a way out. There’s an adage that it takes ten years to become a New Yorker. I had almost hit nine, and I could tell I was dangerously close to waking up thirty years later only to find I was still there. And so, regretting only the friends I’d left behind, I picked up and moved to London.
I spent six months living with my parents, renesting in the family home after being the first daughter to leave it years ago. Mum and Dad are patient, wonderful people who might tease me about being a boomeranging (old) millenial, but who were also endlessly supportive of having a writer muttering about books all of the time. I spent the six months I was with them focusing on writing, fulfilling publishing deadlines, putting systems into place to help me do the business of being an author better. During that time, I saw two books come out. I wrote and edited three and a half. I hunted for a day job. I reconnected with old friends from graduate school. I tried on my new chosen city and found it a comfortable fit, more suited to me in some ways than New York.
I also looked for a day job. Cultivating a sustainable income for many authors is a long process of building backlist, praying we earn out our advances, and waiting for royalties to come through, figuring out how indie publishing can help hold up another side of our careers. I needed to work and write if I was going to fly the nest again and leave my parents in peace.
During my six months I cold applied to hundreds of jobs, called in every favor I had, interviewed, turned jobs down, applied some more, rinse, repeat. Nothing quite fit. Then, a few days before Christmas, the perfect mix of company, job description, and salary came together. I accepted the offer and that night we opened champagne.
Which brings us to frying pans.
With a new job and the prospect of a steadier salary than writing could promise me in late 2017, I could finally start looking for a flat. It will surprise few of my friends that, even before I’d looked at one flat, I was already building my kitchen. I made my list, putting down those pans, and went to a restaurant supply store on Fulham Road within spitting distance of Stamford Bridge, where Chelsea plays its matches. I loaded up a cart with stripped down, professional grade spoons, cutting boards, and mixing bowls to replace the ones I’d left behind in New York. For someone who loves—even needs for mind-emptying purposes—to cook, there’s nothing like the acquisition of these tools to make one feel more complete. By arming myself with a stock pot and some utensils, I was claiming back the independent part of my life that I’d temporarily lost when I moved to London.
I found the flat, a Victorian conversation that still has its plaster ceiling rose, carved wood mantel around the fireplace, and big bay windows, just a few days later.