One year ago today, I drove out of the state of Georgia. I cruised down back country roads, undoubtedly faster than the speed limit, trying to stay ahead of a thunderstorm sweeping across flat, open cotton fields. My car packed to capacity with the last remaining remnants of my life in the South.
I cried, overwhelmed with emotion, when I hit the South Carolina state line, when the storm, Georgia, and nine months of unhappiness were finally behind me. I spent the rest of the evening and part of the next day diving North, into the mountains, toward home.
I’ve thought a lot about Georgia lately: what changed me while I was there, some of the lessons learned, and how in being completely broken down, I was able to emerge a more authentic version of myself. The past twelve months and my mind, as they are wont to do, have dulled and rounded out the sharp edges of my memories. Finally allowing me to be more at peace with the experience I had in the South.
While my time in Georgia wasn’t happy, it was profoundly transformative.
Georgia taught me where my heart resides and where I belong. The rolling foothills of the Appalachians are my true home and always will be, even if I stray from them. I belong to the mountains, four seasons and my family. I belong to the flowing, mighty Ohio River. They are where I get my strength. The hills I once though were closing me in, are now comforting and welcoming.
Always reminding me I am home.
Life in the South taught me how to ask for help in a way I was completely unaccustomed and how to stand my ground while holding on to my beliefs. It pushed me to do more on my own, be more comfortable with whom I am as a person, and taught me what is truly important in my own life.
Those nine months taught me how to hold on to my own truths and live those truths in a way I had previously never done. Georgia taught me that I’m not a person who can just pick up and move to an unfamiliar place on a whim. I need to explore and be more familiar with my surroundings and the terrain.
Georgia challenged me to become more opened minded about previously held beliefs. In my quest to find a friend or two, I was forced to let down walls and share parts of myself that I wouldn’t have otherwise, forcing me to be more open and honest about my feelings.
I quit apologizing for who I am and they way I’ve chosen to live my life.
Georgia taught me that sometimes happiness, that genuine feeling of pure unfiltered euphoria, comes in completely unexpected ways, like leaving.
My happiest day in Georgia was the day I left.