London is almost unrealistically expensive. Wiser men have told me that rent should ideally comprise about 1/3 of your monthly income (with the average rent in London costing around £1,500 PCM as of June 2018). In fact, if you want to rent an apartment here without having to go through extensive complications, the estate agent will require you to provide proof of income that’s at least 2.5 times the amount of rent per month. Otherwise, you need a UK-based guarantor, which brings about an entirely new set of challenges.
I could write a detailed post about how counterproductive and mendacious estate companies are in London because, as a German, I like to complain about inefficient systems.
Perhaps another time.
In any case, it costs a lot of money to survive in London and a lot more money to live here. I barely have enough to survive.
So, I had a decision to make after moving into my new house in North-East London and dealing with the resulting costs. I could either get a well-paying job, work 50 hour weeks, earn upwards of £5,000 per month, and at least sleep comfortably because my waking hours would be spent making money. Or I could find a part-time job that merely covers rent and some bills but have enough time left during the week to spend it on my own projects like my music, my writing, and my company.
I desperately needed money, so I decided to go for option one. I redesigned my CV and sent out a few applications for consultant roles at large corporations in central London. I know enough about consulting and recruitment to seem like I know a lot. Kind of like my piano skills.
So, I attended multiple interviews wearing my friend’s suit because I don’t have one of my own. All interviews went well; three went extremely well. Two of the companies said they could pay me 20£ an hour. The other company offered me 25£ an hour. The last interviewer told me that I’ll be able to enjoy weekly Michelin-starred restaurant meals with my coworkers as well as a luxurious company car and business trips to Dubai and Singapore, staying at all-inclusive 5-star hotels. I would’ve had my income and expense ratios sorted and living in London wouldn’t be so daunting anymore.
Side note/pro tip: your bachelor’s degree doesn’t mean much (and a degree in music means even less). However, if you are well-versed and ostensibly competent in a particular field, can prove your experience in real-life scenarios, can articulate properly and speak with brevity, and if you are commercial, confident, and sell yourself effectively, the recruiting officer is very likely to slot you into their company at any level of the workplace hierarchy. Make sure you tell the interviewer how their company will benefit if they hire you and finish by asking, “Is there any reason why you wouldn’t hire me?”
Funny enough that the highest paying company told me that they would love to have me start first thing the next week. It was a Friday that day.
While playing a song called “Take My Time” I started crying. I can’t say exactly why; the audience was incredibly supportive, my bandmates played in perfect harmony with each other, and the atmosphere was crowded with emotion. Some audience members had that tearful shimmer in their eyes as well. I guess it was a mixture of all of those things. It was embarrassing and cathartic and joyful all at once. At that moment I knew that it would be absolutely insane for me to work at an office in a corporate setting, talking to prospective clients on the phone, closing deals with partners, and holding meetings with shareholders and company executives. I am fully capable of doing all those things but that particular moment on stage made me realize that passion trumps income.
I called the company the next day and told them off.
I had no money in the bank, no other possible job opportunities lined up, and £2,500 due for rent in two weeks.
Option two it is, then.
I’ve worked with coffee before and loved it, so I applied for a part-time position as a barista at my local specialty coffee shop. I did a trial shift, pulled some decent shots, poured some decent latte art, and got the job.
My life could have changed completely if I took the consultant position and stuck with it. I could have made a lot of money and had a stable, secure job with a pension and a company Mercedes-Benz. I could have had enough money to buy a brand new Nord Electro 6 and no time to actually play it. I could have joined the legions of money-crazed businesspeople and said terms like “KPI” and “ROI” and “NPV” a lot. #LetsGetThisBread
My life is changing either way and I’d rather sacrifice Michelin-starred restaurant meals for pasta leftovers in return for the chance to establish a personal connection with people through the medium of music, for the chance to make audience members tear up and smile, for the chance of participating in a meaningful conversation using the universal language, for the chance of making enough money to live by doing what I love.
If all else fails, I’ll just move to Lisbon, Portugal, and call it a day. Sayonara mi amigo.