A little late to the punch, again, but I haven’t forgotten the latest Weekend Assignment:
Tell us about the last day of anything: the last day of school or a job, your last day as a smoker, the last day before you moved or got married, the last day before you got that car you always wanted, or even the last day of a particularly memorable vacation. Here’s the catch: I’m looking for happy memories here, happy endings rather than tragic ones.
Extra Credit: What happened the next day?
I honestly struggled with this one, for a while. And then I remembered my truly quintessential “last day”, the anniversary of which is actually right around the corner.
In October of 2006 I said good-bye to my home-town of ten years (though it was never my true home town; military brats don’t have the luxury of a true home town) – a place I like to call V-town. My destination: the “big city” of the South, Atlanta Georgia.
V-town is one of those incongruities of the rural South. In the last Census (i.e. the 2000 Census; I wasn’t there for the 2010 Census), V-town had crossed the threshold and was classified as a “Statistical Metropolitan Area”. In other words, V-town wasn’t just a “town”, it was a bonified city. And that’s what everyone down there calls it: the city. V-town boasts an honest-to-goodness mall. There are outlet stores just down the road. It’s home to a small theme park. They have a major regional university (where I got my undergraduate degree). But if you drive ten minutes in any direction from the edge of V-town, you will feel as though you’ve lost yourself in the middle of nowhere. Because V-town may be a city in the strictest sense of the word, but it’s still smack-dab in the dead middle of rural country. It’s farm land and swamp and old abandoned plantations and old-time, traditional life for as far as you can see and farther.
And in ten years, I had seen and experienced everything V-town had to offer, again and again, and I finally knew what it didn’t offer: a future for me. It was time to move on. There was no reason I should feel tied to this place just because my parents, my father having retired from the military, decided to stop moving once they got here. There was too much I wanted to do in life, and I wasn’t going to be able to do any of it by staying in V-town. So, I decided it was time to see what was around the next corner of my life.
Atlanta’s not so far from V-town. It’s in driving distance, with enough time to left over in the day to actually settle in and go get some dinner and maybe catch a show. It’s a long drive but it’s not an arduous drive. So, it wasn’t so far to go that I couldn’t still be in reach of my family, and the emotional safety that implies. But Atlanta is worlds away from V-town, in size, in culture, and most importantly, in opportunity. It was just what I needed if I was going to kick my life in gear. It was also a big risk, or at least it felt like it.
I had a great job in V-town. My coworkers were great, and there was career potential. In time, had I stuck with that company, I’d have had to move along out of V-town, anyway. In Atlanta, however, there was uncertainty. When I decided to make the move, I hadn’t first secured a new job. But I had a mission, and finding a job wasn’t my only consideration, nor necessarily my primary concern at that time. I was looking for personal development. To put it one way, as I said to myself at the time, “I ain’t getting any marrieder staying here in V-town.” Yes, there was a bit of a hole in my personal life, and there weren’t many opportunities to change that in V-town. But there was something else, too. Yes, I had a great job there, but I wanted to take my career to another level, to do things I couldn’t do with my company there. And I knew I wanted to advance my education, to get a graduate-level degree. I set my sites on a high-caliber and highly competitive school in the Atlanta area. My intent was to get in there and get a Master’s degree.
All of that, so far, and I haven’t told you about my last day there, yet. It was spent frantically packing. My roommate, a buddy of mine, had just gotten married. I was renting a room in his house, but he was coming home with his new bride, and I needed to vacate the premises, and pronto. This was another reason why I felt that the time was right for my move to “A-town”. If I was going to have to move out of my buddy’s house anyway, why go back to renting a small apartment in a dead-end town?
It was the end of an era, in those days. My buddy’s house had been “The Bachelor Pad”, the three of us living there all went to the same church and were part of the same social circle. I had only lived there for a little over a year (having rented an apartment before that), but for several years I’d been a part of this social group. But, one-by-one, all of my single friends had either married or moved away. Our one roommate had recently departed our pad for a religious mission, and with the owner of the house having just married, I was the proverbial last-man standing. So, I was ready to go.
In the last minute, I still wasn’t fully packed: I underestimated how much stuff I’d accumulated since leaving my parents’ nest. I called on an old D&D gaming buddy to help me load everything up into the U-haul. He was the only person I left on my phone who wasn’t already busy that day. With half the day gone, I finally latched my car to the U-haul’s tow-trailer and bid farewell. I spent the rest of the day driving.
It was night by the time I pulled into the place where I’d live for the most of the next two years. My sister and her husband had already moved to Atlanta long before I had. They had a fairly big house in the suburbs – big enough, at least, that there was a spare room in the basement where I could crash. That night, I pulled into her driveway, unloaded the U-haul, took out her mailbox with my bad U-haul back-up skills (it was my first time behind the wheel of something that large, and I wasn’t used to the lack of a central rear-view mirror), and returned the truck.
The next day, of course, was spent unpacking, settling in, and heading out to Lowes to pick up a new mailbox post to replace the one I’d laid low in the dust.
But that’s not the end of the story. There’s no happy-ending there, yet, is there?
What happened in Atlanta is what I’d planned for. I got a job, of course, and I’ve managed to put my career back on track. But more importantly, I met the woman who would later be known as Dear Wife, and I got into the prestigious school I was targeting. Since then, Dear Wife and I first added our dog, Shasta, and then our son, B.T., to our family. In fact, in all the ways that I could’ve hoped for, my decision to move to Atlanta was a resounding success.
Well, all ways except one, but I never expected my move to Atlanta to have much of an effect either way on this last great life goal: I am, of course, as-yet unpublished. But this, too, shall pass. With all that I’ve accomplished since I moved here, I have to say it’s been a whirlwind four years. There’s barely been time to focus on my writing. But I know that the days of my education will have an end soon, and that new opportunities to sit down and work on my stories and to write that novel will be coming. As I was in 2006, I’m ready for the next step in my life.