DUNDEE wasn’t my first choice. I moved there for a boy because I was 17, in love, and absolutely sure that everything would work out. I was supposed to be going to Glasgow University, but in my infinite teenage wisdom moving in with my boyfriend instead of striking out alone on the other side of the country was a smart move.

Spoiler: the relationship soured in a matter of months. I hated my course. I was so broke I pawned my guitars and amps to pay my share of the rent and tried to work two jobs while studying full-time. But most of all, most clear and profound, was my hatred of Dundee. I blamed it for everything. I blamed it for the longest time. “It’s definitely not me, Dundee. It’s you.”

Though I didn’t realise it at the time, I’d become submerged in a deep depression, one that would colour my view, turning a rundown city into a wasteland. An underage undergraduate, away from home, I was desperately lonely. I was the first in my immediate family to go to university and had opted to go after fifth year, before all of my friends.

I had no-one to talk to about how isolated I felt in this strange new place. I got to know the buildings and the topography more than I got to know the people on my course.

I spent a lot of time walking the length of the grey streets – an activity which brings me the deepest of pleasure now, but that then only saw me as the cartographer to my own misery.

Sometimes I’d walk out to Discovery, and wonder why this beautiful thing was flanked by an ageing railway station. Sometimes I would just sit in the Howff graveyard, right in the heart of the city. I’d take in the buildings, the headstones colonised by moss and time, the rusted, peeling railings. There’s something especially lonely about somewhere forgotten in the midst of where so many people live. That’s how Dundee felt to me. A bygone place that had had its day and was destined to be overlooked forever.

Despite the cultural veneer of two universities, museums, galleries and a flourishing games industry, the bones poked through wherever you looked. The population would ebb and flow as students flocked in at term time and out again over the holidays. There wasn’t enough work. There were soot-smeared buildings, bin bags taped over broken windows, grand houses and hotels in various states of decay. Alcohol, drugs, poverty. It felt like it had been marinating in tragedy for decades.

I wasn’t on easy terms with the world then, so I rarely slept. I’d walk down to the city quay at 4am or along the water in the early morning by the black lattice bridge, where I’d pick out the stumps of its predecessor, imagining what the passengers must have thought as their train plunged into the icy grey water. Everything about the city felt lonely, desolate, and forgotten. A perfect mirror to how I felt myself. I left Dundee because I couldn’t live there. We were not a good fit. For years I didn’t go back. It was saturated with unhappiness.

I paint you this picture as a former resident finally excited about Dundee’s future. Even though my time there was strained, it’s always remained important to me on some level, as part of my history. I’ve gone back intermittently, though rarely of my own volition, and in the past five years I’ve watched the city gently blossom. There are hallmarks of care where previously there were none. It feels as if there is a future here. I’ve found myself thinking the previously unthinkable: “I think I could live here again.”

The masterplan for the waterfront regeneration was approved three years before I’d moved in, but it’s taken 15 years’ gestation to see it bear fruit. This weekend, the V&A Dundee – Scotland’s only design museum – opens its doors to the public. I’m looking forward to taking my children, to spend time wandering the streets and making new memories. I’m thrilled at what this little city is becoming, and what message it will telegraph to the world beyond our borders. Dundee is flexing her cultural muscle. What this can do for cities abandoned by industry should not be overlooked.

Back in the 90s, Bilbao, a grimy post-industrial city in the Basque Country took a punt on a little thing called the Guggenheim. Despite protestations by officials and citizens alike, the government decided to invest in the arts. Frank Gehry gave them a great glowing ship of glass and titanium so brilliant that the world took notice. People began to visit with intention. Today, Bilbao is thriving. The arts turned an ailing city’s fortunes around. It’s enticing to think that the same could happen for that our little city on the Tay.

Don’t misread me: I know this is no quick fix. One building alone cannot uproot decades of social problems. There’s no magic bullet – certainly not in Kengo Kuma’s dramatic concrete walls – but this grand building is a prominent reminder of what Dundee has always had to offer despite a wealth of issues: culture. The V&A offers a prompt to recalibrate our view of the city and to remind the world there’s more to see outside of Glasgow and Edinburgh. I believe Dundee is ready for change and that change will come as hoped. It’s been turning the soil for decades.