A year ago today (March 17), I locked the door to apartment 404 for the last time.
I spent four of my five years in Charlottesville in that apartment. That fourth floor walkup on Swan Lake Drive has a story. It was passed from friend to friend, the lease signed from one to the next. I had three roommates over those four years. Megan (and her dog Dash) was by far the best and longest. One was short-lived. The third, well, she’s a story for another day, best told in person and over drinks.
404 holds a lot of memories. Hours and hours spent watching Disney movies with Megan or The Bachelor with our friends. There were book clubs, Bible studies, Friendsgivings, long conversations on the couch about love and life over wine and cheese or coffee and Bo-Berry Biscuits. We prayed there. Cried there. Laughed so much there. 404 was a gathering place and in the last weeks of my tenure as a Charlottesville resident, it served as the place my friends came to share meals and memories before the non-avoidable tide of change swept me three hours south.
It was cold and spitting sleet and rain when we left Charlottesville, a caravan of my stepdad driving the Budget moving truck, my mom following in her car with my disgruntled sister, and me leading the way in my SUV, the back packed with the most precious of my belongings, Knox in my lap, my brother in the passenger seat, my cousin Peyton in the back.
The sun was out and the temperature 40 degrees warmer when we arrived in Chapel Hill. We unloaded the truck in record time and everyone headed back to Virginia except for Knox and I. I stood among the boxes in my small but recently remodeled apartment and allowed myself to feel the excitement and nerves for a few minutes before I set to work unpacking. It took me less than 10 minutes to realize two things:
- I needed a trash can.
- There was nothing to eat.
The moment you realize you haven’t the faintest idea where a grocery store or Target is located gives you pause. There is no longer the option to cross the street to Wegmans or walk a couple of blocks to Food Lion. God bless Google maps and Mazda’s built-in navigation system.
Month one was tough.
Knox struggled with the move. He’s a stage five clinger in the best of circumstances, but he had spent four of his six years as a resident of 404. He would hide when I tried to leave, let out the saddest cries when he was finally wrangled into my bedroom, and in one especially scary instance, bolted out the door. It took him a while to settle, despite having all of his things and a similar routine.
I started my new job two days after my move. Most people come home to the familiar after the first day of a new job. I got lost on my way to the office. I transitioned to CrossFit and weightlifting from powerlifting. I couldn’t text one of my friends “want to grab drinks?” and meet them a half hour later. I didn’t have a doctor, a vet, hair stylist, a preferred coffee shop. I survived by Google, co-worker recommendations, and a lot of metaphorically throwing spaghetti at the wall to see what stuck.
One day, I really wanted tacos. I got in my car and actually pulled out of the parking lot to head to Brazos. Which is in Charlottesville, not Chapel Hill. I had to pull over and Google “Chapel Hill tacos” to find somewhere new. There was another day in which I thought “I’ll stop by Mudhouse and get an Americano and a power ball before my workout.” Mudhouse is also in Charlottesville, and I have yet to find the equivalent to their power balls in Chapel Hill. I didn’t have coffee that day.
Uprooting my life wasn’t without its challenges and sacrifices. I grew up 45 minutes south of
But it was the right decision.
I needed Chapel Hill.
I was stagnant in Charlottesville. I loved my job (mostly), but there was no room for advancement. I saw the same faces and did the same things every day. I didn’t feel like I had room to launch my personal training business about all the existing fitness outlets in town. There always seemed to be a new piece of gossip or a new “thing” we were supposed to be upset about. I won’t touch the dating scene.
Chapel Hill has given me the space I needed to grow. Change. Challenge
Is Chapel Hill my “forever” home?
I don’t know.
Frankly, I doubt it.
I don’t know what the future holds – and life has a funny way of shaking itself out in unexpected ways – but Chapel Hill is home for now. I’ll never feel the same passion for the Tarheels as many of my new friends (Vol for life), but I do look good in Carolina blue. I’ve found a few decent coffee shops, a new place to post up and “work” on a Saturday afternoon (Root Cellar). I have a gym I love, new friends that are quickly becoming like family. I’ve found a doctor, a groomer for Knox, a place to wax my eyebrows, a hair stylist. I still haven’t found the equivalent of Stock Provisions or Paradox Pastry, but we’re getting there. On one hand, it feels like it’s been just days since I turned in the keys to 404. On the other hand, it feels like years.
Funny enough, I had my biggest pang of homesickness on the one year anniversary. It came out of nowhere, and probably had a lot to do with the fact that my mom was re-admitted to the hospital, this time with an infection in her “good” leg. There were a few moments in which I just wanted my favorite tacos, my favorite Americano, and to know I could drive to Grandma’s house or meet Granny for lunch whenever I wanted.
And then I taught a class at my own barre studio and thought “hey, I really like it here.”
Me and Chapel Hill? We’re doing okay one year in.
Carolina blue and all.