When I graduated from Ohio University and had to drive away from Athens, I sobbed like a baby on the car ride back to Toledo. I sobbed so hard, in fact, that I saw spots and felt like I was going to pass out. And I hadn’t cried a day before that day. When everyone else was hugging and shedding their tears, I remember standing there, wondering what was so sad. When I finally had to leave the place I’d called home for the best years of my life (to that point), I had a total meltdown because it was finally REAL. I finally understood that I was leaving Athens—the school, the city, the people—and I was not coming back.
This all sounds very overdramatic and it is, because I did (and do) go back to Athens whenever I could. I still see all my college friends three times a year, and when we’re together, it feels like we’re back at Ohio University. Like no time has passed. So now, here I am, my last day in Charleston, South Carolina, following the best years of my life (to THIS point), and I’m leaving in the morning. Before I get to jump a plane to Phoenix, AZ, I have to drive with my parents to Jacksonville, FL, where my flight awaits. And I have an inkling the drive tomorrow will look and feel a lot like the drive from Athens to Toledo, back in 2004. Once again, my parents will be with me. Once again, I bet my mom will be crying. And once again, I will be leaving a city and people I love.
However, similarities aside, this is a very different departure. When I left Athens, things were uncertain. I had just graduated from college, and I was now supposed to find a “real” job. Many of my high schools friends didn’t live in Toledo anymore, so who was I going to hang with? Who would be my support? And who wanted to live in TOLEDO, anyway?
Tomorrow, as I leave Charleston, things are not so uncertain. I’m not worried about finding a job, because I have freelance—fully booked. I’m not worried about finding friends, because thanks to Charleston, I have learned that there are truly amazing, wonderful, compassionate people everywhere…if you know where to look. And finally, I’m not worried about support or someone to hang with. For the first time in my life, I have love waiting, in a city where I have never been. I have Jake waiting, but he will not be waiting much longer.
To sum up the past three weeks, I will recap my top ten list of things to do in Charleston. Did I do them all?
1) Walk the Battery. DONE.
2) Pralines at River Street Sweets on Market. DONE.
3) Oyster Shooters at Pearlz, East Bay. DONE. (Several times over.)
4) She Crab Soup at Mistral. DONE.
5) Burger at Poe’s Tavern, Sullivan’s Island. DONE.
6) Beach Walk at Sunrise, Sullivan’s Island. DONE.
7) Glass of wine at Social, East Bay. DONE.
8 ) Dollar on the Wall at Griffon Pub, Vendue Street. DONE. (See picture.)
9) Manhattan at Charleston Grill, featuring Quentin Baxter. NOT done.
10) Bar Dancing, Market Street Saloon. NOT done.
As you can see, I did pretty well. That being said, I didn’t have the chance to do two of the things on my top ten list. In this way, Charleston, SC, is also like Athens, OH. Someday, I have to finish my list. That means, someday, I will be back to the Lowcountry. She worked her magic on me, and I do hope I left something of myself behind for her to treasure.
And with that, I leave you for now. My Exodus is complete, and I will arrive in Phoenix tomorrow night, where Jake will pick me up at the airport, hold me, kiss me, and hopefully, never stop. Farewell, Chucktown. Know that somewhere, in the desert out west, a Midwestern girl will always love you.