Last November, I started a blog post I couldn’t finish. What you’re about to read sat in my drafts for a year and 3 days where I looked at it every now and then and just shook my head. I wanted to tell the story of my new life in Charlotte, but I didn’t know exactly what that story was yet. I was struggling but couldn’t put a name to the struggle other than, “it wasn’t supposed to be like this.” More than anything, I felt confused and impatient.
When I moved to Charlotte, I knew it would be hard because I would be homesick. I knew I would struggle with minor things like knowing all my friends back home were hanging out without me. I had no idea the hard part would be questioning why it was so easy to move to Charlotte but so hard to settle in. The way doors opened for me as I planned my move made it feel like God was leading me here. So why didn’t everything fall into place soon after I arrived? I expected it to take time, of course, I wasn’t naive enough to think I could replace a life overnight, but I did think by the year mark I would be so much more certain about my decision to move than I was. I imagined living with my parents for 3-6 months while I looked for a job and a house but what really happened? It took 9 months to get a job that made me miserable and paid so poorly I couldn’t afford to quit my part time job and still buy a house.
Here’s what I wrote last year:
It’s been almost a year since I uprooted my entire life to move to North Carolina. If I had known at this time last year what my life here would be like, would I still have gone through with it?
I really want to say yes. There are so many things I love about Charlotte – my church, the friends I’ve made, the idea that my family is so close, the overwhelming feeling that God is preparing me for something bigger than I can even imagine right now.
This was a year of growth for me and the reality is, growing seasons are not exactly pretty or dreamy. I’m not sure what I was expecting. Honestly, we’ve glorified the “clean slate” concept. We paint it like starting over is a quick and easy path to the perfect life we always wanted. The truth is, having a fresh start means you have to rebuild. You can’t replace a lifetime’s worth of knowing how to navigate your way to 6 Targets without GPS or the ability to drop whatever you’re doing and rush to your BFF’s side in 20 minutes or less if a crisis hits.
Even after a year, I still lose my breath when I think about everything I left behind. That’s largely due to the fact that I am still not settled in here. Yes, I am making friends, yes, I have a new job, yes, I can get to the closest Michael’s and Target without my GPS – but the rest of the pieces take time. It seems like it would be easier to pack up and go home than to tough this out until I feel at peace with this part of the story.
And just about every single time I get to the point where I’m ready to call it quits, I find another reason to stay.
It’s been a year and my heart still aches when I read those words. I remember how lost and confused I felt. I sobbed on the phone to my best friend about how I’d blown up my life and begged her to tell me it was okay to come home. She was stunned – I don’t think anyone had a clue how hard it was for me to be here. Don’t get me wrong, for all the hours I dreamed about giving up and moving back, I was still able to stay positive most of the time. I was leading a volunteer ministry team at church, I’d started a bible journaling meetup group, I had an awesome small group and was making friends. I wasn’t miserable, I just knew it wasn’t supposed to be so hard to feel happy. Particularly because I was so sure of myself at the beginning of the process. But now I know how that chapter of my story ends and I’m so unbelievably thankful for all the little reasons I found to tough it out.
What I didn’t know as I wrote those words was that I was about to go through the hardest few months of the transition. Every year I struggle with seasonal affective disorder. My anxiety acts up, energy drops, moods get moodier, and I struggle with sleep and weird dreams. It’s predictable, but always tough. Last year was no exception. I knew my job was not a good fit for me but I didn’t know how hard it would be to stay in such a negative environment. I knew our housing market was tough but I had no idea that every time my offer wasn’t the winner it would feel like a personal rejection. I was about to go from just vague “struggling” and being confused about why I was in Charlotte to the edge of depression. Why, after I felt so firmly that God wanted me to be here, didn’t my life here look like I expected after a year of doing everything I could think of to do? To make matters worse, I felt like God had gone silent. It was harder and harder to find reasons to stay. I just didn’t understand where I’d gotten it wrong. I tried to find hope and encouragement wherever I could but I felt stuck and alone.
I also couldn’t have known that in February I would interview for a job that was exactly the right for me, get the job, hit my 90 day mark and close on a house just 10 days after that. I lived through it and I still can’t believe it happened. Moreover, I could never have known that the words I wrote in November about how I felt God was preparing me for something I couldn’t imagine were exactly right.
It’s now been two years since I uprooted my entire life to move to North Carolina. If I had known at this time two years ago what my life here would be like, would I still have gone through with it?
It’s hard for me to tell this story without feeling like I lived through the adult version of a tantrum. I didn’t get what I wanted when I wanted and that was tough, oh boohoo – but I know there’s more to the story. This was never just about getting a job or a house. I didn’t sit around for a year and a half feeling sorry for myself when I didn’t get my way, I was here building the life I wanted. I made the choices about my attitude and perspective that I could and cultivated a mindset of gratitude. That’s what maturity tells us to do – focus on what we can control and try to let go of the rest. Maybe the real secret of being an adult is understanding that sometimes it’s just going to be hard despite our best efforts. I don’t know. But I do know that’s where growth happens. I also know that walking around thinking, “if I could just have ____, I would be happy” is only going to end with disappointment.
As I sit here two days before Thanksgiving, I think what I am most thankful for are all the reasons I found to stay, to keep fighting to make Charlotte home. I can’t tell you the number of times these past few months where I’ve been overwhelmed by how everything worked out. I fought hard to make it work here and God made up the difference. Since coming here I’ve had so many experiences I wouldn’t trade for the world, I’ve grown tremendously in my faith, as a person, and as a professional, and I can’t imagine missing out on any of it.