When I first moved here, it wasn’t so much a case of, “going to Brighton”, as it was, “leaving Leicester”. I felt, perhaps naively, that moving 150 miles away from what I believed to be the cause of all my misery and misfortune to that point would make me happy. Happier, at least.
I wasn’t wrong.
I have always loved Brighton. The first time I visited, in 2006, I wrote a letter to my best friend saying that we should move here. I thought it was magic: it had pastel houses, the sea, little shops. It didn’t have my family. I fell in love. The first time I came I bought a pair of pink and black striped shoes and a Billy Talent CD. That’s how young I was.
But I was tethered to Leicester, and burdened with a dog I couldn’t move away for University. So I stayed. My last year there was my worst: I was sexually assaulted. My friend died. I got really, really sick. I learned the true, awful extent of my childhood. All of this culminated and I barely finished my degree, despite it being in a topic that I still work in now. That year was difficult, and I honestly did not want to live. One of the only things that kept me alive was the idea that in just a few months I could move, finally, to Brighton.
Barely weeks after I handed in a dissertation that almost didn’t get written, my boyfriend, dog and I headed to the coast. We spent five days in Brighton looking for a house. We found one. It was shit, but it wasn’t in Leicester. A week later we moved into it, and I spent the summer working in cafés and shops and scraping by. I missed my friends, a lot, but they visited. I went to California. I felt free.
I did my MA in Brighton, and it wasn’t easy. My friends moved here, and that was fun. I made new friends. I fell into a way of living that wasn’t only comfortable, but was 150 miles from everything that hurt me back home. It wasn’t perfect; I was still trapped with my own not-great health and brain, I still met some absolute scumbags, I still had to deal with my family. But I am so, so far from them.
I am not leaving Brighton because I want to. I am leaving Brighton because it’s the right, proper thing for me to do right now. For me to stay here, when all of my work and meetings are in London, would be irresponsible. I have always known that it was not permanent, and I have always relished the time I have here. I would love nothing more than to sit around writing on the beach and skateboarding on the front every day, but it isn’t realistic. It isn’t sustainable. I have spent six months travelling to London most days for work and it’s come down to: work or Brighton. Me being me, I have chosen work.
So I am taking another leap of faith and I am moving to London. I have been stubborn for a long time, maintaining that I hate the city. Maybe I do, still. But it’s the right time. I am trusting that the friends and work connections I have there will be enough to make me happy. I am trusting that I won’t panic and want to flee to the seaside the second I get a bit sad. I am trusting that the decreased distance between me and anyone blood related to me won’t make any of them expect for me to visit more often. It won’t.
I spent three years in Brighton and it was everything that I could have realistically hoped for. It isn’t perfect. There is plenty that I hate about Brighton, but it’s more of an, “oh, you!” than a soul-crushing hate. It hasn’t always been easy being far from London while trying to work, but my mental health is better than it’s ever been. The space and time has been invaluable in helping me to recover from what was honestly a really fucking difficult, shitty 21 years in Leicester. I can value Leicester when I go back and I do value what being from there has given me, but I fucking hated it. Moving with no money and no work prospects was the right thing to do. It forced me into action.
I had some of the best days and nights of my life here just walking around vaguely tipsy, taking in the lights and the sunset and the sea. I love the sea, and I love to see a sunset here almost half as much as I do in California. I don’t like to be sincere or soppy, but I love Brighton a lot, and it’s hard for me not to feel as if leaving is a failure on my part. Brighton has given me everything that it could, and I am grateful.
And I’ll be back. Let’s just see what London is saying, first.