I did it! On March 29th, I packed up my truck put the rest of my stuff in storage and pointed the bumper south and drove until I hit spring. I’ve been planning my escape for 18 months now, vowing 2019 would be the year I left the frozen hell of Chicagoland behind for good. I am back where I belong, in the land of the pines.
It took me awhile to hit my “F*ck it!” point, that point at which the pain of staying outweighs the anxiety of moving to an unknown and unsure situation. That point came in late February when I had to travel south for work to find a new tractor for the tree farm I was managing in the far north of Illinois. My travels brought me to Wilmington, NC on a sunny 70 degree day. I ate dinner on the beach with my girlfriend and walked barefoot in the sand. Meanwhile Chicago was suffering another 10 degree day with snow and wind. The long drive back to winter was not pleasant.
Chicago is a great place. There’s so much to do there and so many interesting people. It’s the cultural, food, and beer capital of the Midwest. I just couldn’t make peace with it though. My first issue was the nearly 6 month long winters and almost constant overcast skies from November to April. I’ve lived in a lot of cold places in the winter, including the Rocky Mountains. None of them had that same feeling of oppression and gloom that hangs over everything in the Chicago winters. People are just miserable and its a constant battle to avoid being overtaken by the depression. I had to get away.
North Carolina is not perfect. The south has its charms but also its dark secrets. Prescription drug abuse is rampant everywhere you go. Poverty, while just as prevalent in the Midwest, is a little more noticeable in the south. Wages are lower too, but offset by the ridiculously low cost of living in most places. All that aside if you desire a simpler life among genuine people, you can find it down here if you know where to look and how to appreciate it.
My family has been in North Carolina since 1690. 2 hours from where I sit writing this is an entire graveyard filled with my relatives and ancestors going back to before North Carolina was even a state and barely a colony of England. I have deep roots here. It’s where I first drove a car, kissed a girl, drank a beer. It’s almost ironic that I’m back here again. I say almost because I always had a feeling I’d be back. As cliche as it sounds the red clay dirt and creaking pine forests have always called to me across the miles as I traveled and worked my way across the country these last 22 years.
Becoming comfortable with doing what I want, versus what people think I should do has not always been easy. I’ve had to endure some harsh looks, mean comments, and vicious judgment from people close to me but in the end its been worth it. Time is a precious commodity, once gone we can never replace it or get it back. Hitting 40 last year hammered that point home for me. I thought I had more time to do the things I wanted to, make my mark, and build my legacy, I don’t. Statistically I’m 60-70% done with my life. If family history is any indicator, I have at best 25 years left to accomplish my goals. It’s time to get busy.