It feels like a thousand years, a lifetime or more, since I was last here.
It really hasn’t been that long, but I’ve changed so much in between visits. Brighton is where I grew into who I am. It wasn’t about growing up, that happened quickly and without warning during my early teenage years. What I grew into though was damaged and confused, bound by expectations and self inflicted restrictions. Thats why every time I return here, I realise that I’m a bit more of who was, hidden under those layers.
I’m more me today that I have been in the last ten years.
It comes down to small details. Specifically, this coffee shop. I’m sat, looking at the cloudy sky with bright sun shining. It’s the sort of winter sky that illuminates everything in white; snow would be too much to ask for in England, even this close to Christmas. Anyway, as much time as I used to spend here, which was several hours on most days of the week, I was never completely comfortable.
When I would come here to read, write or draw, it was to be by myself. I was looking for a space where I could feel safe, something that house sharing didn’t truly allow me. It was also a space that I used to escape. An afternoon immersed in sketching a scene from a comic book I’d just read felt infinite, yet flew by. But there was also a sort of fear and shame associated with it.
I’d try and place myself out of the way, looking into the room to be aware of all that was going on around me. It wasn’t to be observant, it was to know who might observe me. I didn’t realise it till I began writing with this new feeling, having walked along the road and down the hill from Brighton station about 30 minutes ago. Brighton was where I first began to realise that I was living ashamed of myself, hating myself. It was here, in this very coffee shop, that I had my first taste of the other side. I saw that I shouldn’t be resided to the life that I had and the feelings that went along with it. I could be someone else, someone who I missed and loved when I was a child. I often consider that the innocence of my youth was also my strength. It created a barrier from the self criticism, nervousness and perpetual over analysis of every word said to me and every thought that passed into my mind.
When I lost my innocence, from various hormones and familial revelations, I let in all the deadly things that would affect me for years, and still do.
But now I’ve chosen, not to take my usual seat near the door and in full view of the people, but nestled on the side, facing the bright sky and without any worries about what people might be thinking about me.
Its difficult to explain the feeling of memory that comes with visiting Brighton. As my university town, it was a place that I lived in for five years. It was also my first home away from home, the first place I lived independently (granted under the protective shield of student loans and parental worry). My independence now it much more real, or perhaps just more consistent, than it was. The safety net no longer feels like a ghost following me around but instead a choice on a winding road, a muddy track to be taken in times of need.
I’ve always written to help get out of my head what I’m thinking. But also to record what changed, how it changed, when the realisations happened. It segments moments in my life, which might sound like I’m trying to forget the past. But no, its more about accepting the past, the things I’ve done, how I felt and the choices I made. I’m trying to be more honest with myself.
I’ve just re-listened to Kristen Johnston’s book, Guts. It had a profound effect on me when I first read it. She relays how her addiction destroyed her, but also allowed her to rebuild. What rings most true on this second listen is that one must always remember that even if you are ready to accept the truth, not everyone else will be. And you can’t force that decision onto others, no matter how much you might want to. My liberty is not a domino knocking into someone else’s. Unless of course they choose to read this and something clicks, though that might be wishful thinking.
Among what could be counted as successes in my life, Brighton is a scale of memories being reweighed over and over as I recall the past. People I’ve hurt, people who’ve attacked me, friends I’ve made, lovers I’ve lost. I’ve accepted that i’m probably not a bad person but I’m realistic enough to know that I didn’t make every right or fair decision.
Now however, I don’t worry about making all the decisions seem right in my head. Instead, I let them go, as part but not all of my personal narrative.