It’s been seven years and a few weeks since I moved from Manchester to Birmingham. Why is this number significant? Because seven years is also the amount of time I spent in Manchester, from May 2003 to April 2010, and I want to now compare these two chapters in my life. As you get older time passes more quickly and so, needless to say, my seven years in Birmingham seem shorter than my seven years in Manchester, despite having achieved so much more in the same space of time.
I enjoyed my time in Manchester and I didn’t want to leave when I did. Circumstances at the time kind of forced my hand, however, having made a few poor choices during those years, both professionally and personally. I was out of work at the time of moving and living with a very good friend after I stopped being able to pay my mortgage. One day he turned to me and said that he was moving to Birmingham to work on a project. I was welcome to tag along if I wanted, but otherwise I’d have to sort myself out.
I wasn’t in much of a position to do anything but “tag along”, so, reluctantly, I did just that. I moved down to a shared house in Sutton Coldfield, and as nice as the house and the area was, it was very different to what I was used to; I went from city centre Manchester with all its life and convenience to a sleepy family-orientated suburb of a strange city which I did not know at all. I didn’t have my own transport and I felt very miserable and isolated from my friends and my life in Manchester.
Within three months of moving down I landed a job in the city centre. At the time this position felt like a huge step backward for me, and for the first nine months I saw it and treated it only as a stop-gap until something better came along, or a chance to move back to Manchester came my way. This negative attitude didn’t help me either perform particularly well at the job or start to build my new life in Birmingham; I convinced myself that it was all temporary and so I didn’t give it the care and attention that it deserved.
But then, in the spring of 2011, things started to change and get better for me. The company helped me deal with some issues and gave me more responsibility. I had also started to build a network through the company I worked for, both personal and professional, and I found it to be much warmer and more supportive than any previous network I had earlier in life. Manchester wasn’t unfriendly, but it was more ruthless, professionally and personally, and I never really flourished there in either regard. This time it felt different, and it was different.
It turned out that, in the end, this “stop-gap” of a job which I had so reluctantly taken after so reluctantly having moved, was the best thing that ever happened to me. I’m still working for that company, seven years later. I’m well-respected and I sit on its Board of Directors and I have roles in the parent company which bought it during 2016. None of this came overnight, certainly not, and nor should it have; it hasn’t come without lots of hard work and proving myself, but I’ve done it, and I’m happier than I have ever been before.
The company gave me structure, support, aspiration and challenge. I was lucky in that I was able to grow with the company. I was its 12th employee and now there are around 80 of us, and I think had I joined the company when it was 80-strong instead of 12 then I probably would have drowned.
But I didn’t drown. Instead, I grew, and I made a difference, both to the company and myself. Through this company I have met some of the most important people I have ever met or ever will meet in my life and the value of that is simple incalculable and not something I ever could have imagined I would be blessed with when I so reluctantly left my old life in Manchester behind.
In late 2011 I was able to move from Sutton Coldfield and into the city centre of Birmingham in a place of my own, back into a setting with which I was much more comfortable, and one which I at that point then fully embraced and appreciated, not only because Birmingham wasn’t strange to me any more by then, but also because I dearly missed city life whilst I was out in the suburbs and I wasn’t going to take it for granted any more. I was arguably a little spoilt in Manchester, in many respects, and didn’t realise or appreciate what I had.
In early 2014, after a couple of years of living on the convenient but noisy New Street, I then moved to the quieter and fashionable Jewellery Quarter area (ironically enough just down the road from the office I first worked in with my company) and I’ve been living here ever since. It’s a nice quiet area at night but still only a 15 minute walk to work and the city centre. It was a bit down-at-heal in 2010 when I worked here but has undergone significant gentrification in the years since. My plan is to spend another three years living in the same place before purchasing a suitable house somewhere, probably outside the city centre, but that will be on my terms and by then I will be ready for it! I know I can’t spend the rest of my life in the city centre.
One thing is for certain. I’ve spent longer in Birmingham now than I did in Manchester, but I have absolutely no intention of closing this chapter any time soon. I know and appreciate this city much better than I ever did Manchester. It and the people I have met here have given me the right opportunities and its helped me get me to where I want to be, with firm structure and plans for taking that even further.
It’s not just work, of course it’s not, and although work is responsible for facilitating many friendships I have made I’ve also built a life outside work. I’ve met new and amazing friends, with many of whom I celebrated my 40th birthday party in the Jewellery Quarter.
I’ve not mentioned any names in this post. It’s not that certain individuals aren’t important to me, they know all too well how important they are to me and they don’t need to be told, and so they don’t need to be named in public. Needless to say they have been instrumental in enriching my life over past the seven years, whether they act in personal, professional, or both those capacities.
I’ve also become physically fit, much fitter than I ever was during my 20s and 30s, something for which I failed to form the required habit for so long, something which I somewhat regret now (but not that much, I’m still enjoying it!). It’s not just about looking good, the fitness is a major contributing factor to my well-being, self-confidence and performance at work. I wish I had done it 20 years ago.
Even the country’s politics are going my way after being dominated the other way during my time in Manchester, what more could I ask for?!
Thank you for reading :)