You can see why many people fall head over heels for Bristol. From its staunch liberal stance to the gentle hum of the First buses past Cabot Circus and the congregation of people from all backgrounds,  legs swinging over the harbourside edge, clutching greasy chips and cans of cider between their fingertips. You cannot deny the fervor and unbeatable spirit that this city possesses long before the sun has settled and ‘Jason Donervan’ has packed up after a busy night of serving students.

All in all, its clear that I love Bristol, and I decided to give it another chance when I returned back to the southwest from University. If you had spoken to me a few years ago I would have said that I had grandiose plans to move to cities anew, whether that was London, New York or to the continental delights of Florence or Paris. I have always had a taste for traveling and exploring new cities and places. What’s more, I wanted to flourish within the writing circles and creative arts – so why have I returned to my old stomping ground? Below, I have detailed why not only I have decided to return to Bristol as a graduate, but also why as a graduate, you shouldn’t be ashamed to look back upon a place that shaped you.

Rare opportunity to live with friends and in a city I already knew so well

This all started when my lovely friend Sarah gave me a phone call when I was leaving a lecture and walking back to my uni house in Nottingham in November 2017. She simply said, ‘my parents own a flat in the centre of Bristol and want to let it out to me and two others – would you like to join?’ to which I obviously said yes of course. It seemed like the perfect option; neither of my parents lived in Bristol any more (both of them now living in very rural areas), and it gave me the perfect chance to have some breathing space and figure out what I wanted to do in life, but equally have responsibility and independence.

Funnily enough, during this time was when I was in the initial stages of seeing Tom. We had started off long-distance, and it was very early at that point I couldn’t say what was happening in the next year, whether we would be together and so forth. I did know that he lived in Norfolk at that time and Bristol and Norfolk were five hours away from one another. I knew then also, that we would cross that bridge when and if we got to it.

In March 2018, after being together for four months, Tom said to me that he was also considering moving to Bristol, to not only continue our relationship but also he could live with one of his best friends and simultaneously figure out what he is doing in life. As like me, he didn’t have a clue. What’s more, Bristol had a bustling creative photography scene that attracted Tom because film and photography was his passion, something that Norfolk lacked. It all seemed like everything was coming together.

Chance to explore new places and see old ones with fresh eyes

Living in the centre of Bristol wasn’t something that I had ever done before. Previously, I had lived in Bishopston and Redland area, with Gloucester Road being my stomping ground. Resulting in an interchange of takeaways from delicious places like The Grecian, Bishopston Fish Bar or Dev’s Kerala. And, whilst I enjoyed these very much, the chance to live in the centre meant that I was truly in the thick of it.

What’s more, I am fortunate enough to work in Bedminster for a really cool and young digital marketing agency. When I grew up in Bristol, I didn’t venture to the South of the city much, so it suddenly felt to me like a wholly new city altogether. North Street has become my new Gloucester road, with Fishminster and the Tobacco Factory being my frequented haunts.

Close to family and loved ones

Though my family didn’t live in Bristol anymore, they were just a short bus or train journey away. During my final year of university, my anxiety went beyond my control which culminated in a variety of other issues including insomnia, mild depression, and obsessive-compulsive disorder among other things. Though this was horrible, and I still struggle with this now, at the time it felt like it robbed me of my identity and self-confidence. I knew that moving to a city that felt like home to me was the perfect next step in building that again and moving forward to more exciting adventures. I also was close to family and loved ones so that if I needed a hug they would be there.

Life is only just beginning

I know that I won’t live in Bristol forever, in fact, I only planned in my head to stay here for a year or so whilst I found my feet. I know that London is calling for me in future, and I want to arrive so ready to grasp it that I never look back or question it as the ‘right’ decision. Though I had dreamt about moving to London throughout my whole university life, the third year of university had shaken me, and I felt within my ribs that I wasn’t ready to take on such a sprawling city.

What’s more, I also know that I want to go travelling again, and truthfully living in a cheaper city (not to negate the fact that Bristol is bloody expensive) than London, meant that it would give me more opportunity to save up and plan to take on the world.

Because the post-university funk hit

As much as graduating is a time for happiness and excitement, its also confusing about where you want to go and what you want to do. Moving to Bristol felt like the right stepping stone that I needed to propel myself forward and start my career as a writer.

I’m not blind to the fact that there are more opportunities elsewhere, but not every graduate needs to go to London. One of the beauties of writing is that you only need a laptop and an idea to get started.

It’s hard to see fellow students and acquaintances having the times of their lives on social media, whether they have just graduated in degrees that I would love to do, or working for big-name fashion brands, magazines and newspapers that I would give my left arm to work for. It makes me think – did I make the right decision? Am I stalling my progress?

But in fact every path is different and I am so thankful to all of the new friends that I have made since being here, and it has given me the chance to reunite with old ones too. You don’t always need to take the road often trodden, and actually moving to Bristol could stand me out from others in the future.

There is no shame in returning to a city or place that you lived before. You are not regressing.

Sometimes I do feel like I have outgrown Bristol, but that is when I have that gnawing feeling to travel and see more of the world. When I left university, I wasn’t sure what path to take. Yet, living in a city that is so vibrant, so culturally and politically aware has made me even more proud that I am a Bristolian born and bred.

On reflection, I needed to be in this space to know what I wanted to do and where I wanted to go. I know currently that staying in my comfort zone is right for me, as it is preparing me to see the world and take it on with my mum’s 30-year-old backpack on my back that she took to India when she was 22. I dream about travelling to lots of countries and writing whilst I am there, expanding my repertoire in fashion, culture, art and lifestyle – then moving to London to take it on. My mind may change also – I may want to experience another city in the UK or elsewhere that takes my fancy.

Thank you for reading, it’s been cathartic.

Molly x

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