I've lived in three places in my life. I grew up in Bedford, a very rural Central Virginia county best known for losing more men per capita in the 1944 D-Day invasion than any other American community. Today, I can't guarantee, but feel relatively sure there are more cows than people there. It was a safe, serene place to grow up, but I longed the opportunity to do more things and meet more people. In high school, I started daydreaming about moving to New York City after college - it would be a complete 180-degree transformation for my life. When I imagined replacing my daily views of dairy farms and dilapidated barns with skyscrapers and crowds, it was like the credits of a sitcom - country girl quirkily takes the big city, grinning out the taxi window at the future.
I attended college in the happiest city in America, where I got totally spoiled by having places to go and people to see every day of the week, surrounded by beautiful architecture and landscapes. Charlottesville isn't a big city by any means, but was a perfect place to attend college - there's a cute downtown area, quality art museums and theaters, and plenty of international restaurants, and I got involved with volunteering in a low-income housing development, which deepened my ties to the community. I majored in English and education, all the while keeping my New York City dream in the back of my mind - I'd teach by day, write by night, and explore the city every chance I got.
Then, my father died, and I couldn't imagine leaving my now-widowed mother, my friends who were beginning to marry and have children of their own, or the boyfriend who had stood beside me through my greatest loss even though our relationship was a very new one at the time. Family - not necessarily my blood relatives, but the family I'd gathered together for myself - became the most important thing in my life. I said so long to my New York City dream and told a very kind man from the New York City Department of Education that I'd made other plans. When I graduated from college, I moved back home and got a job teaching in the town where Mr. Q grew up. When I married Mr. Q, I moved with him into a cute townhouse right behind the school. His hometown is famous for having been the seat of "the wettest county in the world" during Prohibition in the 1920's. Our townhouse is adorable, but for most of the four years we've lived here, it's felt temporary - I hesitated to even hang anything on the walls because we always planned to move into our own house, our "real" house. Teaching is not a glamorous job, and living in a small town can start to feel claustrophobic - I can't go to the grocery store without seeing someone I know. Every now and then, I would feel like I'd given something up - some other life - and I'd wonder if I'd made the right choice about where to live.
I recently realized that something had changed. We've recently begun house hunting - I mean in-person, with a bona fide real estate agent, not just clicking on links on Zillow. When we got back from our first excursion - which was great - I found myself wanting to cry.
I'd fallen in love with where I live when I wasn't paying attention. What I've finally realized is that home isn't a place. It isn't a list of must-have features or a perfect-looking Pinterest board. It's something that happens in the heart. I'm looking forward to the day that Mr. Q and I realize that we've found the just-right house in the just-right neighborhood, but it's not going to be a home until it fits our family and friends, our hobbies and interests, our lives.
This month, I'm taking on my first 31 Days series here at Beyond the Aisle. I've wanted to do something similar for years, and I've had this topic in mind for a while. I realized - after that little cry for our sweet townhouse - that the time hasn't been right until now. This October, I'm going to be spending 31 Days writing about a myriad of ways to love where you live. Even if it's not what you envisioned as a kid. Even if it's not your "forever" home. Ways to love where you live right now. It's not the first time someone's taken on this topic for a 31 Days series, but I'm hoping to put my own unique spin on this idea that is close to my heart.
This series is for you if you've ever felt restless in your home or neighborhood. It's for you if you've ever felt like there must be something more out there. It's for you if you're tired of waiting for the kind of happiness you've dreamed of. I want to help you fall in love with where you live, right now.
Here's my writing plan for October - you can come back to this post to follow along!
Day 1 - Introduction
Day 2 - Explore your neighborhood
Day 3 - Play tourist for a day
Day 4 - The Ache for Home
Day 5 - Clicks: Moving, Nancy Meyers, and avoiding Seasonal Depression
Day 6 - Learn something new
Day 7 - Create "hygge" in your home
Day 8 - Eat local and fresh
Day 9 - Enjoy local music
Day 10 - Play photographer for a day
Day 11 - Castles in the Air
Day 12 - Clicks: Living for the moment and letting your soul breathe
Day 13 - Get a local energy boost
Day 14 - Unique local home decor
Day 15 - Eat local cuisine
Day 16 - Enjoy local theatre
Day 17 - Play college student for a day
Day 18 - The Place You Created Yourself
Day 19 - Clicks: Halloween fun, transitioning to fall, and moving tips
Day 20 - Get fit in the great outdoors
Day 21 - Bring your dreams home
Day 22 - Explore local sips
Day 23 - Keep it weird
Day 24 - Explore local history
Day 25 - Where You Feel Like Yourself
Day 27 - Support your home team
Day 28 - Bring your travels home
Day 29 - Exotic food just around the corner
Day 30 - Enjoy your local art scene
Day 31 - Celebrate the seasons at home