A year of finding home, sisterhood and my inner Brighton Girl
On 27th October 2015, I was walking along the seafront all alone with a heavy heart. Brighton wasn't the same place I left in 2011, but then again, I wasn't the same either. I'd been back in the city for around 7 months at that point, but I hadn't quite found my feet yet.
After four years of longing for a Brighton postcode again, I found that just because I pay council tax to a certain local authority, it doesn't mean that I'll instantly get that sensation of 'home'.
As I walked past the Hove Huts, kicking runaway pebbles beneath my feet, I came across a young woman, staring out across the sunset.
"Maybe I'm not the only one who's lost," I thought.
Or, thinking about it, maybe she was just taking a break from a run.
Whatever her reason for leaning over the green iron fence protecting our coastline, I'm eternally grateful for that moment. Because that moment changed everything.
As the waves crashed the shores, those runaway pebbles scarpered over my boots and the pink skies began to lower into the sea, I switched from my Spotify app to my camera and captured the moment.
Armed with inspiration, I meandered across the promenade and poured the following statement into my notes:
Brighton has the power to be all encompassing, often drawing you to venture to the pebbled beach alone. Some days you’ll look out to sea celebrating how far you’ve come, some days you’ll be searching for guidance. In that sea-gazing moment of establishing what’s lost and found, let someone else be your clarity, your champagne glass or your shoulder to cry on. Let Brighton Girl be your guide.
My head was filled with ideas. Brighton Girl would be the next magazine I created. I can help young women by giving them content - because that was all I thought I knew back then.
Brighton Girl Magazine existed for the next 5 months - but, really, it was just a bundle of semi-functioning social media profiles, a sporadic blog and a bi-weekly newsletter.
Until Sunday 13th March.
You don't realise the significance of a day until it's passed - and sometimes you don't really appreciate that significance until you come to a year later, when you're sat in a completely different part of town, with a completely different view, writing about the most game-changing year of your life.
A year that began on that not-so-significant-at-the-time day.
The day that Brighton Girl was really born.
Sure, Brighton Girl has existed as a name since October 2015, but it came to life the moment I made the sporadic decision to create a meet up group.
I didn't make the decision because I thought it would be "good for business". I just thought it would be nice to meet the reader - and see if there was anything that she wanted to read, so I could create a magazine that was really helping them.
As I didn't actually know who the readers were, Meet Up felt like a good way to find them.
For the record, Sunday 13th March is also the same day that I discovered Meet Up.
Most of you know where I've ended up by now - leaving my career to turn the concept of Brighton Girl into the City Girl Network, having recently expanded to Berlin and Edinburgh. My decision to do that was shared on this blog in December, which you can read here if you missed it back then.
It's hard to believe that one year ago to this very day, Brighton Girl was just a pipedream magazine.
Over the last 365 days, I've become more outspoken, more daring and more adventurous than ever in my life. I booked a solo trip to Berlin yesterday, I videoed myself talking in the street on Instagram stories today and I've even started letting people take photos of me again.
This new found confidence is not a coincidence. It's all because of the actions of that day.
And, most notably, the sisterhood that's formed since.
Brighton Girl isn't a magazine, or an event, or a meet up group. It's Vicky, who turned up to our first meet up having only moved to Brighton three days ago and found the girl friends she can confide in. It's Megan, who's lived in Brighton her whole life and started coming to meet ups because she felt lost in her career - a career which we've since watched blossom into fitness training.
It's Ciara, who grew up in Worthing, moved to Japan for a few years, then came back to find she needed a new network - and has since moved to Hove. It's Holly, who studied in Brighton, went travelling for years, came back to Brighton with the intention of travelling again, only to find that Brighton Girl was worth staying for.
It's Imogen, who moved to Brighton for a job after uni, not knowing a single person in the city - and within a matter of months has now found a community that feels like the university experience she left behind. It's Leanne and Jenny, who bonded over gin, cats and careers - and decided to move in together.
It's Victoria, who found that after many years of Brighton, her heart belonged in Berlin - but she couldn't face leaving Brighton Girl behind, so she took it to Berlin. It's also Kim, who decided to move back to the motherland and take Brighton Girl with her too.
And it's Sofaya, who believes in Brighton Girl so much that she pours every waking hour she can into it.
There are 484 more women I could talk about - but you get the picture.
Sure, we do have a magazine - and it's awesome, by the way (yes, I'm both bias and correct.) But that magazine has become our communication tool. We recommend the best places to eat, the best events to go to every month, share career advice that we didn't learn in school, talk about sex in ways that every woman should and we fangirl over the style of our sisters.
Brighton Girl was born from a desire to empower, inspire and support young women trying to feel at home in this seaside city, through the comfort of words. But that clarity, that champagne glass and that shoulder to cry on hasn't come from an RSS feed, it's come from some serious girl power.
I often walk back to the space where I saw the girl looking out to sea - not to celebrate or to find guidance, but to be thankful that just one year ago this city that I'd dreamed of for so long, finally became home.
Happy Birthday, Brighton Girl.