It was four years ago today that my over-packed Honda Civic and I (along with my mom who was driving an equally over-packed rented Expedition) drove out of the city that I loved, Chattanooga, Tenn.
I'm a through-and-through East Coaster who grew up smack between the Chesapeake Bay and the Atlantic Ocean. But Chattanooga was the first place where I collected a real, adult paycheck at my first real, adult job. It was a job I applied to on a lark while studying in Northern Ireland. I got there expecting dueling banjos, and instead I found one of the most amazing and beautiful small cities filled with some of the most amazing and beautiful people I could ever imagine.
It was a place filled with stories and ambiance and atmosphere and soul. And I, without a doubt, loved it.
My friends there became my family. A college friend, who convinced me to move to Chattanooga in the first place, became after a series of stumbles, my best friend. Classical violin lessons that I'd hated in high school became a bluegrass habit I've never quite been able to quit. Chacos became the best footwear on the planet. Wrap-around porches shaded by magnolia trees became outdoor living rooms. PBR (which I firmly believe should never cost more than $1 for a tallboy) became as quenching as water.
And, during my three years there, I became an almost grown up.
It was 6 a.m. exactly four years ago when my mom and I left for our drive to Indianapolis. And it was beyond picturesque that morning. The sky was the perfectly blue and the leaves were the perfectly green and the mountains were perfectly dark. As we went north on I-24, we rolled through ridge cuts and along switchbacks and then over the Cumberland Plateau. I listened to the mix CDs Currer Bell made for me and then I said good bye.
(For the record, only an absolute idiot thinks it's a good idea to move to Indianapolis on the weekend of the Indianapolis 500, which is, in case you're oblivious, the world's largest single-day sporting event. Apparently, I am that idiot.)
I didn't last long in the Circle City. In fact, I was there just long enough to attend the next year's Indy 500 (and get swept up in Danica madness) before I was packing my car again, this time to head to Chicago.
At the end of this summer, I'll have called Chicago home for three years. Which, since it's the same amount of time I spent in Chattanooga, is making me draw a lot of parallels between my life now and my life then. I finally feel settled here, it just took me so much longer. You know what it's like... the further removed you are from home, and from college, the harder it is to make friends and put down roots.
It was tough, but now I run into people I know on the street. I have my favorite haunts. I've established a routine. And I'm finally starting to find friends who are on their way to being called family, too.
It's finally home, but it's different. (And by the way, it's flat. Very, very, very flat.)
Next weekend, I'll be reuniting with my Chattanooga peeps for our yearly reunion. We pick a different destination, rent a house, and spend three days playing music, bonding, drinking and generally doing our best to get our fill of each other so we can last for the next 52 weeks.
Every year we're different. There are new boyfriends and girlfriends. We know kids probably aren't too far off. We're a little pudgier, a bit better dressed, a smidge more cynical, a little more tired, and a lot less drunk every year. (In my case, I am all of those things. I am also a lot more blonde.)
There was, I swear, a point to this blog post. Of course, I now have absolutely no idea what it is. Other than that I'm a little nostalgic. And it's Memorial Day weekend. And every Memorial Day weekend I think about Chattanooga and my time there, and the day I left, and the amazing friends I have because of my time there.
So, in honor of the Boulder of the South, maybe I'll put on my Chacos, open a way-too-expensive PBR and flip through some old photo albums and play one of those CDs. And then, I'll think about the next four years.