I moved from San Luis Obispo County, California, to Cardiff, Wales, 4 years ago – and the most frequent question I got asked throughout those 4 years was ‘what the hell are you doing in Wales if you’re from California?’ Now, more recently, I’ve moved to London – and nobody looks at me in confusion and asks ‘what the hell are you doing in London if you’re from California?’
I’m astutely aware that, even in my recent video ‘This Gay Boy Moved to London’ I don’t really discuss why I made that move, or the ins and outs of how often I’ll be back in Wales, and what exactly I’m now doing in London. With this blog post I want to enlighten friends, followers, and family about this big change in my life, why I made it, and what’s going on in my life too – but more than that, I want to explore the cross cultural attitudes to the very distinct places I’ve now lived.
It’s abundantly clear that Welsh people don’t have an enormously high opinion of their own country, or at least in comparison with an internationally glamorised holiday destination like California. People are shocked that I would leave California and come to a country that they perceive, for some strange reason, as less than. This is no doubt largely based in the UK’s bizarre obsession with California and America at large, that I honestly am still confused by – but it goes deeper than that. The Welsh people have been the subject of colonisation, and as with many states throughout the world, they’re still working on shrugging off the yolk of their oppressors. A country with little power and even less funding, it’s not entirely surprising that Wales hasn’t always done the best with internal and external perception. The country itself, however, is one of my favourite I’ve ever been to. It’s one of the most beautiful, culture rich places I’ve visited, let alone lived in – and yet (many of) its own residents don’t appreciate it.
I could write essays and essays on why I think Wales is a wonderful place to live and why I don’t regret a single one of my years there, living, working, and studying there. In comparison with my home town in California, Cardiff was metropolitan, green, quaint, international, culture rich, and filled with media opportunities. And yet, in comparison with London, it is small, limited in opportunities, and still sadly behind in cultural attitudes. At the end of the day I feel like my relationship with Wales was one sided. I loved Wales, and I had so much to offer the country with my videos, articles, and on the ground activism. I had Welsh LGBT+ stories I wanted to tell, places I wanted to put on the world stage, and people I wanted to inspire. But I don’t feel that Wales was really ready for the work that I’m doing.
The amount of emails I sent to local Welsh media, for instance, pitching ideas and trying desperately to start important conversations – and yet they were all ignored. Wales Online received numerous emails from me, and yet my only mention from them was when I got listed as one of the most influential LGBT+ persons in Wales, which was almost ironic considering all my attempts to get stories like my own and many others into their publication and yet I didn’t even get the courtesy of a response. (reader note: this happened with plenty of other local publications too).
On the other hand, Wales absolutely has given me opportunities – opportunities that have changed my life, and which I will forever be grateful for. Last year I was hired to become a contributor to BBC Wales’ new platform, BBC Sesh, for example. I’ve loved working for the BBC, and it’s been a fantastic opportunity for me. I’ve got to share some amazing stories, my own included, that I think really had a positive cultural impact – but even still, I don’t actually have to live in Cardiff to make my films, and quite a few of the other contributors live in London as well. It’s also worth noting that BBC Sesh, a Welsh platform, came years behind similar platforms like it’s Scottish counterpart, BBC The Social – and whilst that’s nothing against the platform, it is another example of Welsh media being a step behind.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s clear that things are improving in the media landscape in Cardiff. It’s a fantastic city to be involved in the film and TV industries, and the digital landscape is growing everyday. But I’ve been there for 4 years, and in just a couple of weeks in London I’ve already gotten more emails and opportunities being handed to me than I have in my average year in Cardiff. Working in the digital landscape is so incredibly challenging – and I want to still work in Cardiff, and still support the growing world of media there – but I can’t do that at the detriment to my own career, happiness, and ambitions. Luckily I can do both – I’ll still go back to Cardiff for jobs and to see people, but I feel like London is the inevitable step forward for me.
It’s more complicated than just career, of course. There’s other reasons why I’m excited to be in London, and plenty of things I’ll desperately miss about Cardiff. I’m writing this while I’m on an airplane to Rome, and being in London means the whole world is that much closer to me. Plane tickets are much more expensive from Cardiff, which means any time I wanted to travel, I’d have to go to London anyway – and now I’m already there! London’s a far more international city, and I honestly feel that I belong here more. I feel more welcomed. Nobody gawks when they find out I’m American, and nobody tells me to go back to my own country. I also feel more free to express myself how I want to, free from the darker side of Welsh traditionalism. On the flip side, however, I’m going to miss Cardiff’s sense of community, accessibility, and friendliness. London is busy – but I’m busy too, and I’m ready for this next adventure.
I’ll always care so much about Wales and Welsh decolonisation, and I will always work to put Wales on an international stage, and highlight Welsh LGBT+ voices – but for now, I’m going to be doing much of that from my new headquarters in London. I can’t guarantee what my future holds. Will I return to Wales one day? Will I become 50/50 between Cardiff and London, as many are? Or will I become slowly more and more established in London, and have less and less time to return? All of those are a possibility, and for now I will simply follow the inevitable strands of time and my heart to where they lead me.
Thanks so much for reading and caring about these changes in my life! Feel free to read some of my other blog posts if you haven’t yet, and subscribe to this blog if you want to stay updated with my thoughts and life. Also I’ve got a new travel vlog coming in a couple days on my YouTube channel, so go subscribe to that if you haven’t yet!
~ The world’s a noisy place… Make your words count! ~