I live in western North Carolina, which is a beautiful part of the country. People actually envy me for where I live. They’re right, too. The scenery here is gorgeous. The mountains are impressive. The main hub (Asheville) is very cool too, very progressive for a small city in the South, with a surprising amount of arts and culture. Go downtown and there are buskers on every street corner and a thriving artists’s community and people walking around dressed in tie dies and dreads. There’s even a bumper sticker that’s popular: “Keep Asheville Weird.” I can understand why people find this area so vibrant and want to move here.
But I want out. I’ve been living here for 23 years. I loved it at first (or thought I did), but I’m over it. I’ve been over it for awhile now. I try to look at the positives; I try to look at it the way people who don’t live here and want to look at it. Once in a while I can shift my mindset to more of an outsider one and actually appreciate it. But it never lasts.
This is not a state that is friendly to anyone who isn’t rich, white, straight, and Republican (even though the town I live in is the opposite). I can’t get health insurance (North Carolina did not accept the Medicaid expansion for people who are too poor to qualify for Obamacare because our governor has declared war on the poor–and he’s likely to get re-elected this November) and while we do have a “health department,” it sucks. I won’t get into why here (I could write a whole post about THAT), but trust me, it does. Someone in my age bracket should never be without decent health care. The job market in this area is also terrible, even for college graduates. Everything is unaffordable. Rents and mortgages rival those of New York City. That’s because everyone from New York City is moving here. It’s lost its sleepy southern charm.
I can’t deal with falls and winters anymore. I’m over “seasons.” I’ve lived with seasons my entire life and don’t need to see any more snow or fall foliage. Watching spring unfold is no longer worth enduring the five or six miserable months that precede it. True, winters aren’t as intense here as farther north but it’s still too cold for me. I want to move to Florida. I guess that means I’m officially “old.”
A lot of people hate Florida and I suppose I can understand why. Heat, bugs, crime, hurricanes, tornadoes, and never-ending summer. But the advantages for me are that I’d never be far from the beach. Having grown up in New Jersey and New York, I crave the coast. It’s in my blood. I was never more than an hour’s drive from any beach. During the summers, I spent almost every weekend at the Jersey Shore, or any number of beaches on Long Island. The mountains, as beautiful as they are, don’t speak to my soul the way the ocean does. I feel closed in. The sky here isn’t big enough because so much of it is obscured by trees and hills. To get to the beach, you have to drive at least five hours (Myrtle Beach or Charleston, SC is the closest to me), which requires a lot of advance planning and money. You can’t just get up and say, “Oh, I think I’ll hang out on the beach today” and still be home for dinner.
I could live near my son, and he could help me find decent work (the job market in his area is very good, or at least it beats the one here). The rents are also dirt cheap. My son isn’t exactly rich; in fact he barely makes more than I do. But he’s able to afford an apartment in a beautifully landscaped gated complex with a pool, hot tub, gym, a tennis court(!), and only five minutes from the beach. Here, to have digs like that you have to be pretty well off. Although Florida also hasn’t expanded Medicaid to those who don’t qualify for Obamacare, I’m a lot more likely to get a job that pays well enough that I’d qualify for health insurance.
There’s only one problem though: money. I live paycheck to paycheck. My rent is almost half of what I earn, which leaves very little left for anything else. It’s difficult if not impossible to save anything. Moving costs money, especially moving to another state.
I know you take yourself anywhere you go. Some people have told me that moving wouldn’t solve all my problems. I’m aware of that. I know all about “doing a geographic” and that a new locale won’t suddenly make my life perfect or stress-free. I won’t suddenly be cured of my PTSD or BPD or AVPD or whatever it is I actually have (though it will probably vastly improve my SAD symptoms). I won’t be any closer to God either, since He’s everywhere.
But I really feel like I’m being called there. I’m more than ready for a change of scenery, to be near the water again. But to do that, I would need to take a huge risk, and I’m a risk-averse person. Since I can’t save anything, I’d have to live in my car for a month or two. My son doesn’t have room to put me up in his place, and I wouldn’t expect him to. I’m pretty sure I could find a decent job in a matter of a couple of weeks, if not sooner, and my son’s in a position that he could even find me a position in his company (he’s actually offered to do this). I could also find out if the company I work for could transfer me to the Tampa area.
I’d have to sell or give away almost everything I own, which isn’t that much. That’s okay. I don’t need all that stuff. I might even be able to make enough to afford the rent and deposit somewhere for a month or so until I’m employed. Maybe. But even if I don’t, I could keep what I need in the car and park somewhere safe and convenient. Although I don’t expect him to do this, my son might let me keep some of my things in his large closet.
I know this sounds batshit insane, especially for someone in their 50s. But it’s either that or stay in a place that’s too expensive and getting more so, a place that eats all my income and doesn’t make me happy. I have too many bad memories associated with this place, there’s been way too much dysfunction. I can’t separate those associations from my time here now. I moved here for dishonest reasons and by even less honest means back in ’93 (that would be a whole other post), and I feel like that’s put a sort of curse on my long stay here. Call it karma if you want, but I don’t feel like I was ever meant to live here.
There’s a saying that goes, “life begins at the end of your comfort zone.” Living in my car for a few weeks or a month or two would definitely be living outside my comfort zone. But it’s my only option, outside of winning Lotto (which I don’t play), to live where I want, in a place not associated with bad memories. Some risks are smart; others are just stupid. I’m not sure if taking this risk would be smart or stupid, but if I stay here and never take a risk, how will I ever know?
I’m not saying I’m going to do this. Like I said, I’m not a risk taker. At all. But it’s something I’ve been thinking about. And being too risk-averse has caused me to miss out on so much of life. I’m sick of always having to be practical and reasonable and live in fear of “what might happen.” My mother always liked to rail on about all my “bad choices,” and it’s true I’ve made a lot of bad choices–but the truth is, I never had many choices. I always had to choose the lesser of two or three evils because the opportunity to make better choices was never available to me. Or the choice was made dishonestly. The one big risk I ever took was moving here, but like I said, it was a risk based on deception and co-dependency. I still struggle with regrets over that. Maybe you just have to wrestle life’s limitations to the ground and force that choice by taking a huge risk that most people think is nuts, but still keep your integrity in doing so. I don’t think I’d have to end up like Dustin Hoffman’s character at the end of “Midnight Cowboy.”
Ever just want to do something crazy, that everyone tells you is crazy? Have you ever gone ahead and done it anyway? Was it the best thing you ever did for yourself, or do you regret being so impulsive?