13 May The Reality of Moving to A New City During a Pandemic
You probably already know where this is going. Not necessarily in an “oh, I had an amazing experience” direction. In August of 2020, I moved to Birmingham, Alabama, to chase my dreams of working for Southern Living. But, God had different plans. COVID-19 canceled Southern Living’s post-grad fellowship. Birmingham also brought the appeal of moving in with my childhood best friend. She moved to attend occupational therapy (OT) school, which is more time-consuming than a full-time job, and nothing like an MBA.
Anything was better than being stuck in my childhood bedroom in Atlanta, Georgia, not being able to leave the house, even for a Target run. Quarantine reinforced the notion that Atlanta is not the city for me. But thanks to the crazy traffic, a summer internship commuting to the city, and 18 years growing up in the suburbs, I already knew that. Passing through on the way to Tuscaloosa, I always liked the idea of Birmingham. Smaller than Atlanta, great food scene, a city on the rise, and low cost of living. You can’t beat $500 a month to live 15 minutes from downtown in a gated community.
Finding the Right Job
The first hurdle I had to conquer was finding a job. Not the dream job I had anticipated or even a writing gig, but a job. And with me, there’s never just one role because my hobbies are my side hustles. I did a lot of things before landing the right position, a recruiter at a pyramid scheme, call center rep (the first gig with insurance), social media manager for a home store and coffee shop (freelance part-time gigs), and finally, a content writer at an advertising agency. That’s the role that stuck. And I didn’t land that until November, month four of being in Birmingham. Guess how many W-2’s I had to file for 2020 taxes…seven in two states.
I hustled for months, trying to network with the right people, find the right company, and land the right job. Eventually, September rolled around, and I settled. I continued writing freelance and ran two social media accounts aside from working 40 hours per week in the call center. In November 2020, the tide turned. I received an email from an editor at Southern Living about freelance opportunities within six hours of getting a job offer letter from the ad agency. The good news came right when I’d hit my breaking point in the call center. The best part—I didn’t even apply for this job; the networking I’d started in June had paid off. It was all a huge sigh of relief and happy tears. God’s timing is beautiful, but the journey can be a rocky road.
I moved to Birmingham to write for Southern Living, and I intended to do just that. After writing a few articles, I began contributing a few pieces a week in 2021. And the best part, I can write from anywhere. Every week, I look forward to writing for Southern Living and weekend brunch. Ultimately, I’m glad I moved here. But it hasn’t been easy. When I took the content writer role, I anticipated staying in Birmingham for at least two years. I wanted to re-evaluate when my roommates finished school.
Meeting the Right People
August, September, and October were exhausting as nothing, including my schedule, was ever consistent. I did make time to be social. After all, I was stuck in my bedroom working 60 hours a week. How else would I have remained sane? I can assure you. I tried everything to meet young people at a similar stage in life. Birmingham has a lot of families but fewer recent college graduates. And most folks in Alabama seem to be connected somehow. It’s a state with a small-town feel because somehow everyone knows everyone. A lot of people my age come back to Birmingham for their families after graduating from Auburn or Alabama. There’s nothing wrong with that. It’s just an observation I’ve made that can make it hard to “break” into social groups.
I went to church regularly, joined a bible study, and got plugged in with the weekly young professionals’ group. But, everyone knew each other and had for quite some time. A tough setting to break into. I made several acquaintances but didn’t develop a one-on-one relationship until March. I don’t know if it wasn’t the right church or what the deal was, but I have yet to find Christian community here. God created the church as a home to build relationships with others.
I wasn’t too worried about loneliness moving here with my childhood best friend. But, again, OT school is more than a full-time job, and she leaves town every weekend to see her boyfriend. Birmingham got very lonely very fast. I downloaded an app, Bumble BFF. 10/10 would recommend as I intend to use it again, but Birmingham is smaller than you’d think. People often forget to check the app, myself included. However, Bumble BFF is where I met my best friend, Brynn. Truly my other half in Birmingham, and I would’ve been miserable here without her. We travel at least once a month and keep each other entertained. I’m all about the friends you can call anytime to do anything. Spontaneous humans make for some of the best friends. With Bumble BFF, I met two other friends I hang out with, probably once or twice a month.
I have two additional friends I hang out with maybe once a month, whom I know from blogging and Southern Living. I’m also friends with my other roommate, who’s available on weekends. So roughly one best friend and six friends, two of which are my roommates. And yes, there have been several weekends where everyone I know is working, out of town, or busy. So I spend many weekends alone. Hence why I leave Birmingham so often. I’m an extrovert and thrive off of authentic relationships with deep conversations. In the past, I’ve had no trouble keeping a smaller circle of close friends. It doesn’t help that I worked remotely from my bedroom and often didn’t leave the house during the day while transitioning from college into the workforce.
I planned on attending Birmingham’s Creative Mornings meetings to network with fellow local creatives. But COVID canceled all live events once I moved here. Birmingham is beginning to bring back live events this summer as I’m on my way out. With the pandemic and moving to a new city, I had to get creative with how I met people. And, I’m proud of my efforts in putting myself out there and giving it a go. I’ve made a few great friends here, but I can always come back and visit.
Locating the Right Place
I began to grow lonely and depressed in Birmingham around January. It’s not necessarily the location that’s the issue, but the lack of people. After making an earnest attempt to meet folks over the past several months, I’ve realized it’s time to go. My mental health is more important, and it wasn’t the right move for me to re-sign my lease. I’ve been praying about this decision since January. And, I knew if it was meant to happen that God would engineer everything according to his timing.
Guess what, he did! At the end of July, I’ll be moving to Charleston, South Carolina, where I know a ton of people. This time, I double-checked the demographics. There are ample amounts of people around my age. It’s the friendliest city in America, and their Southern hospitality is unmatched. Downtown is bustling with creative souls like myself, which I thought I would find in Birmingham but didn’t. I have an uncanny ability to make connections and build relationships in Charleston like nowhere else. Over the past few years, I’ve made friendships in this town that have stuck with me. I met the former art director of Garden and Gun at my favorite coffee spot downtown. That’s one of my favorite stories, but we’ll save that for another day. FYI, I went to college near Savannah, Georgia, and visited Charleston every chance I got.
Charleston is the only city that has ever felt like “home” to me. It’s my place, with my people. There aren’t words to describe it, but I belong there. And, I’ve always known that. Charleston has not been a matter of if but when—the place where I’ve wanted to open a business and settle down. I’ve dreamed about moving here for five years. There was never a company that drove me here. Charleston has always been just for me. Birmingham caught my eye with Southern Living and Austin, Texas, because of Kendra Scott. I’m grateful that I didn’t move halfway across the country to Texas during a pandemic. That would’ve most likely been very bad. I’m thankful that I didn’t experience living in Charleston during the height of the pandemic because it’s not the same.
Everything happens for a reason, and I’ve learned not to question God’s plan. I’m excited to see how he authors my next chapter in Charleston. I’m ready to thrive, be inspired, and hustle to freelance for Garden and Gun. In the next year or two, I’m determined to buy a house. All I can think about is morning beach runs at sunrise, strolls around South of Broad, brainstorming with fellow creatives, and all of the coffee, cocktails, and brunches. Charleston has been calling my name for five years too long, and I am counting down the days until I move in. Five minutes from the beach!
I’ve persevered through a season of waiting since March 2020. This story needed to be told so I could move on. I’m not interested in rehashing it, so I’ll direct people here. Furthermore, it’s a great resource for me to reflect on God’s goodness. Birmingham will always have a special place in my heart, as it’s the first time someone else called me a writer. More than one individual took a chance on an ambitious rookie fresh out of college and believed in my abilities when I didn’t. I wasn’t applying for writing jobs…I was applying for social media roles. I didn’t know I was a natural writer until I moved here. And, that’s a special moment.
I’m choosing to end this chapter on a good note and enjoy Birmingham’s highlights while I’m here. Stay tuned for a Birmingham guide to launch on the blog. I’ve done just about everything here, as I’m an avid explorer and don’t view boredom as an option. You can be lonely without being bored. It’s called being a workaholic–which I’ve done in this season to fill a social void.
Good times to come in Charleston! xx, Daria