Wednesday, September 18, 2019

One Year In Birmingham + What I've Learned

The beginning of this month marked my official one-year anniversary of living in Birmingham! I think back on it and am so torn as to whether or not it feels like it flew by since in a lot of ways it feels like I am so settled here. Time is a funny thing, so I’m not even going to try to figure it out since in short, being in Birmingham has felt so right! 

This time last year, I’m not even entirely sure I was processing all the changes that were happening in real-time since it was a lot all at once. In the span of a weekend I found a house in Birmingham (well my roommate’s mom happened to find us our home and stalled with our landlord long enough for us to both give her the ok), packed up my entire apartment in Greenville, SC, graduated with my master’s degree, drove the U-Haul of my stuff to Birmingham with my parents, put all of my things in the living room of the house, and interviewed for the job I currently have the next day. That sentence is exhausting just to read, and I’m sure glad I don’t have to relive it any time soon. 

I couldn’t let a year of being here pass without reflecting on it and while I’d like to think I could remember all of the things I’ve learned in this new (well not so much anymore) place I know there are things I’m leaving out. Below are just some of the things that I have learned over my past year that may be due in part to moving, changing jobs, but also are probably lessons I was bound to face along the way as I grow up. 

A House Is 100 Times Better Than An Apartment
While there is nothing wrong with living in an apartment, if I can help it, I hope it’s not something I’ll do again since I LOVE living in a house. A bit more elbow room, not having neighbors you don’t know above and below you, and a place that feels cozy and your own are just a few of the perks. I am definitely biased, but I think our house is the cutest (it has been confirmed to be the cutest house on the block) and it certainly feels like home to my roommate and me. Our house is old, and our landlord is young, so it comes with its fair share of quirks (read: most of the appliances), but I wouldn’t trade it for a brand new apartment! 

As a happy to celebrate our one-year in Birmingham anniversary, I gifted my roommate with this adorable print from Paper Eliza of us in front of our house. I can’t wait to frame the print (since naturally, I wanted my own copy too) and have it as a sweet reminder of this past year and the years to come. 

Making Friends In A New Place Takes Effort But Is So Worthwhile
Thank goodness for having a few good friends in Birmingham before I moved because it made making friends more seamless than if I had moved here completely alone. Even with those connections, I made it my goal to build a community early on. I’ll never forget my roommate’s mom claiming that Rebecca wouldn’t have friends if it weren’t for me and the way in which I pulled groups together. I don’t think anyone else would peg that on me, but in some ways, it is the truth. I don’t think I’ve ever been so intentional about trying to make plans with people and hosting things to meet and make friends. I did a whole blog post about how to make friends in a new place here that may be helpful for those of you in the same boat. 

Work-Life Balance Can Exist
Y’all, one of the biggest changes I’ve noticed in the past year is that I finally have a balance between work and my regular life. This was unfathomable in Greenville while teaching and also getting my master’s but boy does it feel good. I can go home at night and not have to worry about doing anything related to my job. Nope, no emails and no stressing about what I have to do the next day! This is going to sound dramatic, but it has made my quality of life so much better. There are still times when things are hectic at the office (especially since I now work on two different titles) that I’ll bring work home so that it can all get done but most nights and weekends I am completely disconnected from my job. It’s a dream come true so much so that I sometimes get bored on Sunday afternoons even when I have a blog to keep me busy! The Sunday scaries are also not a thing, and I don’t think I’ve cried about work once (and I cried too many times to count while teaching...)!

You Don’t Have To Have Your Life Figured Out At 24
You know that plan you had in your head about what your life was going to look like in your (nearly) mid-twenties? Yeah, go ahead and scrap that. My life looks a lot different than what I pictured, and there are times I find myself laughing and thinking, thank goodness it does. I hope to have this same mentality when I hit 25 in December (for whatever reason I’m scared that birthday/number is going to be a harder pill to swallow than previous ones). As someone who could definitely be pinned as a “planner”, it’s nice to remember that you don’t have to have everything figured out at this point. Fortunately, I have a job I enjoy in a city I love, and that feels as “figured out” as my life needs to be right now! 

When You Want To Explore On Your Own Put On Your Running Shoes
So much about Birmingham has been great, but with so many friends in school who need to study and a roommate whose schedule is very different than mine, there are times when I felt like I didn’t have anyone to explore with. I don’t know if it was wanting to pass some time when other people were busy or hope to get to know the area better or a combination of the two, but I’m so glad the solution I found involved running. I know this may not sound enjoyable to everyone, but this post is about me, so it gets to stay ;). I feel like I know the area where I live SO MUCH BETTER thanks to long runs on the weekends weaving down different streets. This became so much of a thing for me that I even decided to cross off the goal of running a half marathon thanks to it. I will warn those of you in Birmingham thinking about running to explore; it’s not called MOUNTAIN Brook for nothing… 

Routines Are Great, But It’s Nice To Get Out Of Them On Occasion
I know I mention this all the time, but I am a routine person to a fault. I like to have my week mapped out in advance and typically know exactly what I’ll be eating, when I’ll be working out, and what days I can get away with using dry shampoo instead of washing my hair before the week even begins. Because I write a lot of this down, my routine can feel very scheduled, which tends to get boring after a while. I’ve found myself saying no to spontaneous things with friends because I’ve already forced my brain into thinking that some other to-do is non-negotiable. Again, totally my own fault but fortunately I’ve learned this about myself and can make it more of a priority to schedule things outside of the norm with friends or say yes even to last-minute things to make week-night life a little bit more fun! 

Summer Can Still Be Fun Even Without An Official Summer Break
When I decided to stop teaching, I had an odd number of people ask me if I was sad to give up my summers. This always made me laugh since the summers book-ending my year of teacher didn’t exactly feel like the summers that most teachers get since I was in grad school all day. My response was usually along the lines of that it was best to give them up when I was in the habit of not having them and therefore not knowing differently! Fortunately, my roommate and I both agreed that even when working during the summer, we should do our best to have a summer mentality. That meant being social with friends more frequently than usual, staying at baseball games later than we should despite early alarms, and taking advantage of weekend activities as much as possible. Let us be proof that summer can still be plenty of fun without an official break. 

Somewhere Aside From Fairhope Can Feel Like Home 
Sappy much? I don’t mean for it to sound cheesy, but after being in Greenville for so long, I was still quick to tell people that I’m from or that home was Fairhope, AL. I still proudly claim Fairhope as my hometown but have grown to consider Birmingham home for the time being. I think that’s due to feeling very settled here. My parents like to give me a hard time about the fact that I’m now 4 hours closer to Fairhope and visit a lot less now (in their defense the last two times I was home I didn’t even stay at our house for the whole weekends). Maybe I’ll make it back before Christmas, but weekends this fall are already filling up fast! 

To sum it all up, it's nice to be in Birmingham. Hope that joke is clear based on the picture...Making a move to Birmingham and starting a job that was very different than my major but something I was passionate about was definitely the right decision for me. Have I been overwhelmingly happy every moment since I’ve moved? Of course not. But overall have I been a lot happier than I was previously. Undoubtedly. I have the best group of friends here that have created a community I was afraid to have lost when I left Greenville, and the group only continues to grow. I’ve put myself out there more than I have in the past and have become a lot more confident in who I am as a person. And the list goes on and on. 

I look forward to continuing to share my life here in Birmingham with y’all in posts to come and maybe I’ll finally get started on a guide to Birmingham in year two! 

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