What becomes of a CA born and raised girl when her husband lands a job in the South right as their youngest leaves for college? She goes! She’s all in!
This is where I found myself just over a year ago. Almost 50, my whole family within about a 20 mile radius my entire life and my husband’s job interview went so well that he got the offer on the spot…. but the job was not remote.
List the house. Check
Sell the house. Check
Purge almost every piece of furniture, camping gear and knick knack. Check
Donate a few items to a good cause. Check
Invite family and friends to rummage through your personal things. Check
Send husband off to work in Charlotte. Check
Start packing and organizing the must bring items. Check
Board the plane with the tiny dog in a purse looking every bit the California cliché. Check
Touch down at Charlotte Douglas. Check.
I arrived in The Carolina’s wide eyed and with a sense of adventure. I had made it my personal statement to “look at the flowers rather than the weeds”. It was my anthem. When my sisters, mom or dad called I was happier than anybody had ever been. But it wasn’t that easy. I found myself telling anyone and everyone who would listen or ask, be it new neighbors, the checker in Harris Teeter, or the attendant at one of the many dry cleaners I tried out, that I was from California.
“Oh, why would you move here?” was the question I was asked 99% of the time. I recognized that I was defending the Carolinas’ and almost denouncing beautiful, sunny, Southern California. I really did find so much to like/love here but at times it was incredibly lonely.
I realized there are so many people that aren’t from here either. That at some point they had been new once too. I also discovered that a large proportion of people moved here to get out of the cold. I did not. I left an idealistic fantasy land that so many people only know from the movies.
I knew that I needed to find my people. I missed familiarity. I missed comfortable friendships. I missed people who knew my name and my kid’s names. I missed my sisters being 20 minutes away. I missed my home.
I started with church. I tried 4 Catholic churches on various Sundays and different times during the week. Nothing fit. Then one day I landed at a children’s mass during the week and I felt a level of comfort I hadn’t had. I spoke with a sweet Southern lady who was in my pew. She mentioned a group for newcomers I could join. And I did. That was just the start.
I met a fantastic group of “new to the Carolinas” ladies just like me. We all had varying reasons for our move. We met for 8 weeks on Wednesdays. It felt good to have somewhere to be. Where I was needed. We started meeting for dinner before class. Some of us branched off and did things together separate from the weekly meetings.
I bought a map of the Carolinas and made it my mission to take mini road trips to the bold printed places on the map. I would take pictures and call my old friends to chat as I drove. I got lost a few times and I always found my way.
I was really “seeing the flowers” when I decided to join the Greenway. I missed my walks to the beach in California. Investing in the beauty of the outdoors in the South was literally eye opening. I hadn’t lived where the leaves changed. Now I did. I could get used to this.
I found a place to play tennis. I started back. It had been some time and I eased in with drills and skills and met a few women and we clicked. They started to invite me to play with them. Now we meet for cocktails and fun.
Can you move away from everything you have ever known and find a feeling of home? You can. Because I did. I am and will always be a California girl in Carolina. But this is my home now. I love the Queen City. Our kids call it home, too. They don’t want to return to California to live after college. My husband loves it too.
Was this the easiest thing to do? No.
Are we done finding our way? No.
Is there so much more to see and do? Yes
Do I still get lost sometimes? Yes.
Do I miss my people? Yes.
But the realization I have had is that a move is only as hard or as difficult as you make it. One year in a new place is a lot easier than one month. You can find your fit when nothing is what you have always known. That is what makes this life what it is.
Charlotte, I am hooked!
Photographer credit: Siobahn Webb
Kelley Conrad || Follow Kelley on Instagram