AdviceHey, Bonita!

Do I Stay or Do I Go?

Hey Bonita,

I’ve been reading your column for a while and know that you’ve moved around a bit. I moved from my hometown to Athens for school and have been here ever since, so I didn’t grow up here, but I’ve been here for a while. My question is, how do you know when it’s time to move on? I love Athens, but I also feel like I’ve outgrown a lot of my situations here. Sometimes I feel like it’s time to go somewhere new, meet new people, try something different. But at the same time, I’m worried that what makes me want to leave here is something that I’m going to end up finding everywhere. The grass always looks greener, after all, and people tend to not change too much no matter where you go. I don’t know if it’s actually worth it to start over in a new city without having a career or something like that driving the move.


Hey there Restless,

You know it’s time to move on when you don’t see yourself flourishing the way you want to, and you know that you’ll never really be able to because of where you are. I left a very big city on the East Coast not long after I accepted that my B.A. in journalism from a tiny Deep South university would never be able to compete with degrees from nearby schools like Howard or NYU or Penn State. I had managed to get one high-paying corporate gig—a job that I considered “successful” at the time—but it was a temp position, and after six months they let us all go. I voraciously applied for jobs with the same company, but they never bit, and soon I was doing seasonal work for UPS to keep from burning through my savings. All of my work experience prior to the move was college journalism (which isn’t “real” work experience, I found out) and retail, and I knew that I was going to stay in retail forever if I didn’t either beef up my credentials or move to a place where bachelor’s degrees had more mileage. I was a party grrl who absolutely did not want to go to grad school yet, so I ended up moving to Athens to be near a bunch of my friends from college. It was the best decision I’ve ever made, and it’s not like I can’t still go to graduate school. There’s a whole university here!

You’re right that people don’t change. Any interpersonal drama or existential crises I experienced on the East Coast absolutely exist down here, and relationship troubles or friend drama are decidedly NOT good reasons to uproot and leave town. Terrible people exist everywhere, and so do your own personal mental health struggles. You can work on those problems exactly where you’re at right now, but some quality of life issues are more tangible and malleable than others. You can put your finger on why you’re broke: You don’t make enough money, and maybe your particular professional field is not as well developed here as it may be in other cities. Maybe you’re trying to buy a home but can’t because out-of-state companies keep buying up properties in Athens, raising rent, refusing Section 8 vouchers and driving people into homelessness, while also raising property values to the point that it prices out locals from being able to buy in our own city. That’s as good a reason as any to abandon a place. I’m about to get priced out of my own rental if they raise the rent like they have every year since I moved in, and I’d rather sit on a knife than ever have a roommate again. So yay, we both may be looking for greener, cheaper pastures soon. 

But I love Athens. I’ve found my place, and I hope that I can buy a house here one day without having to win the lottery. Athens meets my needs in almost every way, but it’s fine if it doesn’t meet yours. Trust that what you want for yourself is correct, and go for it even if that means skipping town.

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