One day last year I was pushing a cart down the grocery aisle at my local target store when I turned the corner and ran into my older sister. I was surprised to see her on my side of town on a random weeknight, but loved the little moment of running into her at one of my regular stops. We hugged and chatted for a few minutes, then continued our separate shopping.
I spent my Senior year of college telling everyone that I was applying for jobs in 49 states — every one but South Carolina. I wasn’t bluffing. I’d moved here unwillingly as an almost 15 year old, and I wanted to see what else was out there. I took a job in Mississippi that taught me a lot about myself very quickly. Most important was the fact that I was not ready to be one of the only people in my entire family who didn’t live within a 4 hour radius. I work for a great company and a great boss who helped me find a way to do the job I love closer to the people I love.
Twenty two months ago I spent a Saturday evening walking through downtown Greenville by myself with a giant smile plastered on my face. My parents helped me move in to my new apartment that morning and I’d done some of the standard first day unpacking, but I couldn’t wait to get downtown. It was that dreamy hour in South Carolina where the sky is a ridiculous combination of pink and orange. The kind of sky I don’t remember seeing as often in any other corner of my world. I tried to take a picture with my blackberry. You know the picture tourists always take of the Reedy River running through downtown. The camera blurred what I saw and after several takes I gave up trying to freeze it. I was too excited to care that no one on the internet would get to see what I was feeling. You can’t capture, especially on a grainy blackberry camera, the way it feels to be home.
That first fall I went to a couple of football games at my high school, the rural south’s place to be on a Friday night. I took each of my parents out for lunch when their birthdays rolled around. I spent some weekends at home on the farm just because I could. I still often pick up fresh produce and eggs from my mom and dad because they’re just 35 minutes up the road and they care enough to let me live off their land a little bit (or a lot). I spent some summer days by my sister’s backyard pool. I tried out restaurants downtown that I never knew existed. I tailgated at Clemson games. I drove (probably too often) by my grandparents’ old farm, and the house my dad grew up in on the old mill village in Liberty. I spent the first year just getting reacquainted with my home — The home I was reluctant to claim at first, and excited to rediscover the second time around. I was hooked on all of it, the magic of just being home.
Moving back to where you’re from isn’t all easy. I admit it. It’s particularly tough when you’re still not far enough removed from high school to understand that people change in those key years from 18-24. Moving home makes you face that fact, quickly. You don’t return to things as you remember them. If you’re lucky, they’re better. Some people moved away in those gap years. Some people still live with their parents. Some people are still around, but you just don’t really want to hang out with them. All of that is okay and good. The fact is, it’s part of growing up. Most people learn those things when they come home for the holidays, others of us get to learn them year round.
Some old friends remain, and new people fill the other gaps. In my nearly two years back in Greenville I’ve met incredible new people. Many of them are transplants. That’s the nature of journalism. I work with people who came here from all over the country because they followed a job. They’re doing what I always thought I’d be doing. Now I get the chance to show them what I love about this place. I get to help them enjoy my space for however long they stay.
When it comes down to it, I could’ve decided today that I wanted to change my course. I could’ve said I was going to walk away from a job I like, and people I love. I had the chance, like any other journalist to try out another new city. While I admire and encourage people around me to do that if it’s what they want, I’m just not ready to give up the chance to be able to casually bump into my sister when I run up the street to pick up a loaf of bread.
Greenville is my city. The upstate of South Carolina is my home I never thought I’d love, and I am so happy to spend at least another few years here.