Hi, Bonita! I’m in the boat of folks who, during COVID-19, are taking hard looks at themselves and where they’re living—and wondering whether they should shake things up. I’ve been living in the Bay Area and am lucky to have a job at all now, let alone one that can be done remotely, and I’ve been mulling over moving back to Athens for the past 10-plus years. Do you know anyone who has moved back to the Classic City after living elsewhere for a while, and, if you do, how their putting down of roots went? I had a lot of time alone with my thoughts in 2020 and continually wonder whether I’m just trying to recapture some golden lightning in a bottle. I have loved visiting in past years, don’t have a partner or kids to consider yet and would love an Athens insider’s outside perspective.
Going in Circles
There’s nothing like the solitude of lockdown to give us way too much time to contemplate in such ways. I’ve also been getting introspective and am currently considering some pretty major paradigm shifts and lifestyle changes of my own. I also hope to be exiting off my particular road of life soon and onto greater quests (don’t worry, Athens, I’m not dumping you) that would improve my quality of life tremendously, so wish me luck. You sound like you’re in a great place for that kind of personal inventory work—you’re financially stable, not tethered to your current location in any meaningful way, and you’re invested enough in your happiness to take a chance on a cross-country move.
I know a few people who have moved back to Athens after long absences, some of them finding contentment,while others fall into their old, less-than-healthy ways. “Golden lightning in a bottle” is such a great way to describe the feeling of discovering a city like this one, especially when you compare it to a sprawling, impersonal coastal metropolis—the night swimming, the dance parties, cheap rent that’s also walking distance from your favorite bar (that’s mostly a thing of the past now, though), $2 tall cans, weird hotties of every age and gender expression, and even a tree that owns itself. I moved here after years on the East Coast, living in boroughs with higher populations than my hometown, and I was mesmerized by this place. I’d only been here for five months when I had my first Michael Stipe sighting, and that same night I watched an adult woman take a poop in the Little Kings parking lot after trying to assault the staff. I still remember her full name, because she left her debit card at the bar. I knew right then that Athens was a charming hellhole, and that I’d found my home. “Wow,” I thought. “This must be the place.”
Athens has a way of sucking us in and laying roots in us, and it’s more than just the first-time homebuyers programs and (relatively) affordable rent. This place is fun. Even in lockdown times, it’s wild every now and then. It’s easy for people to come here and dive head-first into the party scene and work for peanuts because this town is cheap and easygoing, and those are the people whom I’ve experienced as struggling with moving back to town. They didn’t take the time to grow up while they were away, and the beers never got any pricier while they were gone, either. There’s plenty of partying to be had for all ages and lifestyles here, and the cost of living is low enough to trick you into putting your life goals on hold. I’m certainly guilty of that. I sense more happiness and fulfillment from people who come back to town with a plan—a job, a house, a PhD program, a new boo, something. Moving anywhere with no concrete gameplan isn’t a good idea, so take some time to consider the logistics of a move back to Athens. If you have the means, the ability and the willingness to make this change, then I fully encourage it, but be sure before you touch down. You need to have a vision of your life and your future here beyond Mahogany and Easy Rider’s first post-lockdown dance party.
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