A reluctant returner – Jessica Labhart

To be honest, when I was growing up, I couldn’t wait to get out of Wolverhampton. I felt trapped, like many teenagers do, in my hometown and thought that the only way I could prosper was to leave and never return. I didn’t recognise how the city had formed me.

This meant that when I left to go to the University of Cambridge, I decided immediately to lose my Black Country accent, to say I was from a “place near Birmingham” when asked, and didn’t speak to my mother for weeks at a time.

I felt like Wolverhampton was just where I was from, not where I was going.

But, when I graduated, with nothing in the bank, no plan and no university friends living close by, I was forced to return.

And it was hard. I felt like a failure, like I’d regressed, like I’d lost the respect of my peers. But, Wolverhampton again had my back, and working as a PA I was able to save enough to eventually go to journalism school in London.

And when it got too much in London, when the credit cards were maxed out, I was burned out and knackered, Wolverhampton was the place I came back to again – in my first full time journalist job.

As my career has progressed, I’ve begun to realise how good the city has been to me. How I had it messed up in my own mind for so long.

Wolverhampton is an inescapable part of who I am. It’s where my entire family is from, where my 93-year-old grandad came to when he arrived in the country as a young man from Switzerland in the ‘40s.

My experiences in this city have completely shaped who I am, in ways that the other places I’ve lived just quite haven’t. To not recognise that is to do the city a disservice. It is the basis of who I am.

That’s why I decided to apply to be part of TEDxWolverhampton, because it’s taken me a long time to be able to speak about the city positively, to see it in a different light.

I think there are a lot of people out there like me, who have the same perspective that I once had on Wolverhampton and I want to help nudge people to view it differently.

Because by seeing where you’re from more positively, you have a better view of where you’re going.

Out of darkness cometh light, after all.

by Jessica Labhart