I love you.
Ever since I came back I thought I’d never leave. You’d always been my definer, the fixed point on the constantly moving map, the only unchanging island in the maelstrom.
I only left the city I loved a few months ago, yet when I (all too briefly) returned recently I inexplicably burst into tears. I was born there but had left barely 18 months later; I never had the chance to know the place.
When I returned in 2002, I found I didn’t know it at all but knew instantly that I’d come home. Everything, although new to me, seemed utterly familiar. I took this to be A Good Sign.
How can you love a city? It’s a place, a thing, a stinking, maddening mass of smog and bricks. Yet all through my changing life, in spite of all the different places I have lived in, what brought me back was the fact that I’d always believed that Leeds was where I was from. Now that I was back it was where I was going to be for the rest of my life, where my kids would grow up. With each passing day I could feel myself bonding with the place, feeling more and more as if it was an intrinsic part of me and I of it. I was never going to leave.
Eight years on and I’ve moved. Far away this time – Oxford could not be more different. The new job was perfect and came at just the right point, not just for my career but because I felt I had begun to fall out of love with the city. It had grown too familiar, had begun to annoy me, depress me. I was refreshed by moving away, despite the sacrifices I had to make to do so. This was the Right Thing To Do.
Going back, I realise now that I had fallen out of love not with the city, but with the way my old job made me feel about it. Because that job concerned every part of that bizarre, jumbled, paradoxical place, every part of it had become saturated with the attendant unhappiness. It had become a cancer that was eating away at my relationship with Leeds, with the city I loved and belonged in more than anywhere in the world.
I love Leeds. It is where I am from. It will always be a part of me and I of it. I just can’t be there right now, though I one day hope to return and know it again as if I’d never left.
We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.