In August my dad helped me load everything I owned into the same 1976 Caprice Estate station wagon that we used to take our family vacations in, and he moved me to southeastern Tennessee. Oh, it was terrible because he kept getting flat tires, which meant that we had to unload half my stuff from the back onto the side of the highway in order to access the spare in the side-panel. And then there was the pit-stop in Metropolis, IL-- the home of Superman, if you don't know-- where we spent a few hours getting something fixed under the hood. I will say that we got some awesome pictures from that trip, though.
I had befriended a couple people from Chattanooga during my internship year at Frontier and the following year I had visited the town a couple times. I thought it was one of the most charming places I had ever been and to this day I say that I like everybody I have ever met from there.
Even though I love the city of Chattanooga and the people and there is something about the eastern time zone that just works well with my internal clock, that was one of the hardest years of my life. I had people around me but I found it very difficult to connect with most of them on a personal level. It felt like I was this new kid on the playground and I was walking around every day asking, "can I play?"
I don't mean to knock the south because I can go on about how I loved it, but I found that the whole cliche about southern hospitality left something to be desired when it came to newcomers. I felt like people would say all the time things like, "Let's get together," or, "I'll have you over," and it rarely happened. Most of the people I really connected with there were transplants from somewhere else.
So I put myself out there a lot and I did do a significant amount of dating but a lot of times I would go do things by myself. Every week, for example I would go to church and then to the Farmer's Market, which ended up being one of my favorite things in the city. I did a lot of walking into downtown and Coolidge Park via the pedestrian bridge and spend many nights at one coffee shop or another. I will say that the thing I probably value most about that year was my quality solitary time.
Some of the best writing I have ever done came out of my year in Chattanooga. I poured myself out into my journal and onto my blog. I found that I experienced this odd breed of friendship that came with people I kind of knew from real life, in college or something, where I would read their stuff and they would read mine and we connected on a deeper level because of it. Paper-- or computer screen or whatever-- has always been the most patient ear for me to pour myself out to and I have found in my life that whenever I have fewer people around to hear me, I speak less and write more.
So when I was thinking about moving or staying I emailed some of my best girl friends to ask for their advice. I told them that they knew me and I was only confusing myself so I needed to hear them speak to me and help me understand what I needed to do next. One of my friends, Amy, wrote back and told me to "quit with the Lone Ranger stuff." She was right. I had spent the last couple years moving about every six months or so and I shouldn't have been surprised by the gypsy that looked back at me in the mirror every day. So I did what I though I would have done a couple years before: I moved to St. Louis, MO.
St. Louis is where most of my best friends lived and it was a lot closer to my family and it seemed right. So my dad, as loving and supportive as ever, came the 700 miles back down to Chattanooga from Kansas City with his station wagon, loaded up my stuff one last time and moved me to a place I could finally put down roots.