How I kept myself afloat in London

Think about this:
I had just moved to London all by myself while my husband went on a 6 months meditation trip to India, Vietnam and Thailand.

I left my cats with my parents until I had a more comfortable life, said goodbye to our beautiful home in Lisbon, friends and family.

While I still had some money set apart, I was editing most of the weddings from the previous summer, but being London the expensive city that it is, it started getting shorter and shorter.
I was working on wedding photos, on getting my new website running, doing a few flash photography workshops and was getting more and more worried.

Should I get a normal job?

I didn't want to ask my parents for money, or Miguel, who was doing meditation 24/7 and shouldn't have to worry about his wife. I was a grown ass woman, ffsake.

Should I get a temporary job? Should it be part-time, full-time? But what about my goal of making my brand known? What if I got drowned in other work?

I needed to focus on Starling so that I could book more 2017 weddings and being in another job would make me so miserable, thinking about all that I had conquered so far and that I had now thrown away because I needed the adventure of trying something new. Was I a failure? Maybe I was...
I started getting worried that London might have been a bad idea.
And I think it's only normal, when you start seeing the numbers on your bank account fading and fading...

Finding out I was depressed

Have you ever been depressed? Because I had been sad many times in my life, but I never knew what actual depression felt like.
And it wasn't just the money. It was the whole failure feeling that haunted me:
  • I wasn't booking many weddings as I wanted, so maybe I just wasn't that good in the end
  • Comparing my booked weddings with other established London photographers (some already had 30 weddings booked by January and I had like 2) 
  • I felt lonely without my hubby and cats
  • Our families didn't really approve that I was by myself in London. And though I understand it comes from Love, I didn't really need the disapproving lectures
  • I missed home. not living in Lisbon per se, but little things about home
  • Getting used to an entire new city, culture (yep, many UK things came as a shock!), and people, and way of being...
So when suddenly I didn't leave bed for 24hrs straight and still woke up tired, I knew what was happening to me. Yep, I was depressed. I could feel it.
I had friends coming to visit me and I didn't feel like visiting Portobello Market, or shoot outdoors, or talk to couples on the street and ask them to model for me (that is such a Luisa thing). All I wanted was my cup of tea, warm fuzzy blankets and figure out how the hell I was gonna make money, put myself out there for weddings and still not mess up the time I needed to focus on my brand.

The video that changed my life

Lucky for me, one of my best friends in the world is a London expert survivor, and she told me about these events agencies she always did work for.
They pay you by the hour (not too much, but not too bad), you can choose the shifts you want to do for them and where. 
This seemed like something I could do, and that wouldn't take all my time.
Then, I also saw this video:

I remember crying so much at night, watching it. I was under the blankets, trying to again find a meaning for all that I was going through, and Heather Dorniden gave me the biggest slap in the face I had ever gotten.

No one was gonna run that race for her. 
If she wanted to win, she had to freakin' run for her life!
I had to run for myself too. 

I wasn't going to ignore my feelings, though, I was going to acknowledge them, give them time to teach me the lessons they needed to teach me, but still, there was nothing anyone could say to make me feel better than me saying it to myself. 

In depression there is no 'snap the fuck out of it!' and then you are cured. 
If you have a friend going through depression, or a dear family member, be there for them, but do not encourage them to move on. Do not remind them of 'how happy and amazing they used to be'
Even though we know it comes from love, it only does worst. 
Instead, be there for them and ask 'How can I help you?', and listen to what they actually need. Not what you think its best.

Little side note:
I had a hard time figuring out that one, until I felt it on my skin. 
Sometimes I wish I could go back in time and help my grandmother Luisa more. She had medical diagnosed depression, and I remember people arguing with her because she was so blue. 
I admit I ran away a lot because I didn't know what to do. 
She always wanted to tell me the story of her life and I ran away because I knew that right after, she'd be in bed. So she passed away without ever sharing her story with me, and I think about it all the time.

What happened after I got out of bed

This is not one of those posts like in the movies where 'I got out of bed and seized the day, and everything changed forever, and blablabla'.

This is a post where I tell you I had found a way to sustain myself just enough, with just the right amount of motivation, to still allow myself to be blue, but get out of bed.

And you know I always like to see the good in everything, so here is what happened when I let myself out of my comfort zone:

I got myself into those events agencies my friend told me about...
And surprisingly, they are filled with creatives, small-business owners, lawyers, doctors, international people who had just moved in to the country, and needed some fast cash like me, until they could do their own thing.
I made really good friends while waiting tables, serving prosecco at celebrity events, polishing silverware. 
They were people just like me, going through the same things I was too. And just like that, I kinda had my little support group.

I learned things that I really value telling my clients
Through these agencies, I have now worked in some of the most beautiful venues in London. 
And not only did that gave me a better knowledge of the city, as I became a connoisseur of places my clients might be interested in getting married, or have their parties. I can now advise them. 
And as a plus, I know how the behind the scenes (kitchens, cloakroom, hostesses, food, etc) work for each venue!
Also, I have met such amazing creatives in the most various fields. I have cards from florists, cake designers, toast masters, etc etc that I can send on my clients way, and that would probably have taken me more time to get on the normal internet ways.

I re-learned how it is to have a good leader instead of a boss that screams at you...
Which taught me a great deal of things on what it is to be a great leader. 
Yep, I learned lessons I'll take with me to the rest of my life. 
I can say I had everything, from the boss that only gives orders and screams, to the one who gets their hands dirty with you.

I even learned how to survive the bad ones, like this one day, they sent us all home 5 minutes before midnight. On our contract, they were supposed to get us a taxi home after midnight, but if before, we had to find our own means.

I remember being all alone at midnight in central London, trying to figure out how to get home with no tube and only night buses. 
I lived in zone 3 at the time, and getting home that way would take me 4 hours! I got home at 4h30am, and remember thinking 'they'll never do that to me AGAIN. Never.'

You see, a lot of people (like bad bosses) look at waiters and bar tenders like they are mere servants. A lot of times they ignore the amazing people behind the uniform and couldn't care less about their well being. That is one thing I learned about London the hardest way. They'll have you working until you can't anymore. And when you are done, you are easily replaceable.

But no, they wouldn't do that to me anymore. 
I wasn't going to be all by myself in weird alleyways at 1am waiting for night buses, some of them going through dangerous neighbourhoods just so I could get a few bucks here and there. But I had a plan.

The next day I went back to that venue, did a kickass great job, and by 23:55 I went to the ladies bathroom and made a really big poop (yeah, I wrote poop on my blog).

When I came out of the ladies room and my boss saw me he became so nervous, going like 'Ana Luisa, you need to leave! I've sent everyone out!', and I went like 'Oh, but it's after midnight, you need to get me a taxi!'. And he did. 
This, is called London survival on the events industry, my friends. You get smart with time. 
Do you know how long it took for a taxi to drive me home? 25 minutes. Big difference from a 4 hour and many different night buses, right?

'Cause honey, you can be the worst boss you want to be... but I am a Portuguese.

This simple thing taught me great lessons, believe me. I always drove my second shooters home. Even if it meant an even bigger drive home for me. But the wellbeing of those who work for me, and who give me their time, is the most valuable thing and needs to be taken care of with love.

I also worked at Buckingham Palace!
Everyone treated me really nicely here, though. ahahaha!
Like, when in the world, would I get a chance like this? I served food for three days straight at Buckingham Palace, saw the Queen, son, grandsons really close, and I was just in there. It was awesome!
Don't think I'll do it again though, because I like trying different things, but how many people do you know who have been inside Buckingham Palace's gardens? I knew only one.
One of the best moments was when I was picking up plates and the Queen of England had already left and the band played the soundtrack to Game of Thrones. Just epic.
I remember all of us waiters putting our heads up and giggling to it. I made two besties working there, you know?

Other than that, these events gigs were just the right thing for me
No homework. Go there, do the job, get paid, come home.
I could make my weekly schedules as I wanted it, choosing the shifts I needed according to payment, number of hours, venues I really wanted to work at, and closest to home. (I really do recommend any new Londoners to do it. Just take care of yourselves, ok?)
I also spent time away from home. 
Besides learning great lessons I never thought I would, I was catching fresh air, away from the computer.

It took me a while to get out of that feeling of being blue. But little by little, by doing things, I started feeling a bit more comfortable with being in London.
Also, living here is about building a big shell. It is a beautiful city but it's also one that will skin you and eat you alive. And not just job wise.

It was when I started getting out of my comfort zone that I started to learn and grow. 
And even though I was depressed, I started feeling braver and stronger, which totally helped building my self esteem. I am not depre free yet, but I am in a really good phase. 
I am happy most days, and I am back to being silly and bubbly. The best part is that I don't feel like I'm a failure... whatever that word means. And being able to be independent with my money again really helped loads. I am proud I did those jobs, and I am proud of those who daily give their time and energy to be able to stay afloat.

If there is one thing I'll always be grateful, is for the fact that London teaches me how to survive.

PS: The photo above was part of an exercise I did at the 'Moment Driven Workshop' by Candice C. Cusic last year, and it was really life changing. She is my photography Yoda, and I owe her a lot of my self-confidence and exercises in letting go of what is holding me back as a wedding photographer. 


  1. Luísa, a tua história de vida continua a fascinar-me e a tua resiliência e capacidade de sobrevivência - uma inspiração.

    Beijinhos de Portugal *

  2. Amei este post. Embora soubesse algumas dessas lutas por que passaste, há algo mais perene e forte ao vê-lo por escrito e ver que superaste o momento mais complicado. Tenho um orgulho gigante em ti miúda, adoro ver o teu crescimento pessoal e profissional nos últimos tempos. *abracinho virtual carregado de saudades para ti*

  3. This post is amazing, and so brave and inspiring! I honestly just broke into tears when I saw that video, I could do nothing about it. This is London, my friends. And this is you. And this is your life. Go for it!!!!