“So, what brought you to Atlanta?”
I plaster a benign smile on my face, preparing to answer this question for the umpteenth time. It’s an understandable one, especially for a writer who moved from the creative mecca of New York City to the much smaller pond that is Atlanta, Georgia. But to truly answer that question, I have to take it back, back to a time when I was struggling so hard, I could have been a character in a Lena Dunham show.
The sun streamed through the window of my brownstone apartment in Queens, illuminating my jet-lagged body sprawled across the couch. I was too exhausted to get up, close the curtains and go to bed, too loopy to sleep. St. Patrick’s Day festivities were beginning to rage in the streets outside and I’d just gotten home from China where I’d been visiting one of my oldest friends for a week. After seven days in a foreign country, plus fourteen hours on a plane, it seemed like the perfect time to reevaluate every single one of the life choices that led me to this moment.
I stared out the window at the rooftops stretching into the distance, thinking how much I had wanted this…and how much it kind of really sucked. I was broke, anxious, depressed, and exhausted, sporadically working full time while pursuing a master’s degree and a writing hobby that I secretly wished wasn’t just a hobby. It was less than a week from my twenty-fifth birthday and I was gripped by what I now recognize as a quarter-life-crisis.
I’d experienced something incredible and different in China and started fantasizing about a life that was different. A bolder, more creative life where I traveled the world and wrote about what I saw. I would take lovers and cut the strings that tied me down. I would be a free-spirit, Eat-Pray-Loving my way around the globe. It was exciting and scary but I believed in that moment that it was exactly what I needed. The universe, however, had other plans for me.
Now, I will one hundred percent admit that what I’m about to say sounds woo-woo in the extreme and if that’s not your cup of tea, feel free to skip over it and accept my standard proclamation that I moved to Atlanta because I was sick of New York winters, and desperately needed something different. Those things are true enough that it doesn’t fundamentally alter the story.
But the true truth is that as I sat on that couch, jet-lagged beyond all reason, my brain did a thing. It dropped me into a dreamy scene of a future that I never would have considered otherwise. What I saw in this dream was the kind of domestic life that I would have never guessed I wanted: Husband, kids, house in the suburbs, family barbecues in the backyard. But there was one thing this life had in common with the boldly bohemian one I’d been imagining moments before. For all the traditional domesticity of the scene, I was fulfilling my dream of being a full-time writer.
What struck me most about this bizarre moment wasn’t the woo-woo-ness of it all—though I struggled with what to call this strange vision. The strangest part was the deep tugging in my gut that said unmistakably that I wanted this life. And the place where this cozy scene took place was as obvious to my mind as if it had been written in neon lights: Atlanta. So, as crazy as it seems (and it seems pretty crazy even to me) I left Atlanta to chase this strange dream of a life I’d never known I wanted.