I always know it’s been another year when the magnolias start to bloom. The scent hits me first and I search the trees for those huge white blooms that greeted me when I first arrived in Atlanta. I remember driving into the city after two straight days in my car and two years of planning this move, and the city smelled like…flowers. Exhausted and emotionally drained, I briefly wondered if I might be having a stroke. The cities I knew smelled like hot garbage and urine, not perfume. But as I exited the highway into the shadows of the intown forest, the scent grew stronger and I spotted the magnolias dotting the trees like Christmas ornaments. They’ve since become my favorite flower; my first welcome to this city I’ve come to love.
Even to me, my first two months in Atlanta sound crazy. After two years of thinking about this move, you’d think I’d have a better plan in place. But I didn’t. I kept waiting for the practicalities to be settled, for the job applications to get a response, for the PhD programs to pan out. But in the end, nothing happened. And I determined that nothing would happen unless I did it myself. So I did. I took a ridiculous leap of faith and moved with no job, just a place to stay and enough savings to last two months. After that…well, I would cross that bridge when I came to it.
Blame it on southern hospitality or on the sheer ballsiness of my (nonexistent) plan, but the reaction I most often get when I tell this story is that what I did was brave. And maybe to those who “could never do something like that”, it is. But to me, it was pure survival. Despite all the artists and creatives that flock to New York every year looking to fulfill their dreams, I was suffocating. The struggle was oh so real and it left zero room for my creative dreams to flourish. I needed a place where I could breathe.
But for the first two months in Atlanta, things didn’t look any better than they had back in New York. The struggle was even more real with no money coming in and none of my usual support systems to lean on. I felt so ridiculously alone and so scared. And that didn’t exactly change overnight…but it kind of did. Just when my savings was about to run out, when the lease was almost up and I was about to reach that cliff of having nothing left to live on, I found a job. It was the only interview I’d gone on since I moved and with my bank account melting away, I probably would have taken it even if it wasn’t what I wanted to be doing. But miraculously, it was exactly the work and even the title I wanted, with a salary right in the middle of my range. It was essentially, a saving grace.
I tell this story not because I think everyone should drop everything and move across the country to pursue their creative dreams. After all, my life now is much more traditionally structured with a 9-5 job and daily responsibilities than it was when I lived in New York. I tell this story because it’s mine and it’s why I believe so strongly in the power of creative dreams. When you trust them, when you put energy towards them, it can change your life.