The DC Dilemma Continues

October 9, 2011 § Leave a comment

So yesterday I spent a good hour or two looking at rentals and FSBOs in Birmingham (again) to see what my options were in the event that I choose to move back. And seriously, I could move back, even if it’s just for a couple years, it might be worth it to move back, spend some time with my family, and get bored enough to move back to DC. Of course, who knows what state I’ll be at the end of my master’s, but I like having options already planned in my head. There are some insanely gorgeous lofts available in downtown Birmingham. Apparently there’s a loft district? It’s close to the business district. Of course I’ve never heard of these districts in the ‘Ham and have no idea where they are. Birmingham is just such a small city, it’s basically “downtown” and “southside” for me. I know all the neighborhoods too, so it’s kind of a shrug to me if there are new “districts” since they’re each probably only a few blocks or so in size. there two really beautiful bungalow homes for sale (for ridiculously low prices, both under $250k) for sale as well. one of them I’m pretty sure my family looked at back in the day when we were thinking about moving “into town” from our country abode 45 minutes outside of Birmingham. I would say it’s odd that the house is back on the market, since it’s a stunning construction on a rather large plot of land for the suburbs, but I think it’s the location that hurts it. it’s not in the best part of town, and it’s kind of isolated, so I understand why some people might be like “OMG this house is amazing” but then realize after living there that it isn’t worth it to live that close to the airport. I ran the numbers, and if we were paying what we pay now per month as a 15 year mortgage, we could easily afford a $250k house. insanity. ANYWAY, beyond houses and fabulous lofts, there are more things at issue here.

when alec and I have talked about moving back home in the past, it was within a complex social mindset. we both feel that if we moved back home, we would be seen as failures, as if we “couldn’t cut it” in the big city. that couldn’t be father from the truth, of course, considering the insane accomplishments we’ve achieved in the “big city” especially considering our short time being here. we both upgraded within six months of being here from super shitty jobs that made us miserable to fairly high paying (we both make almost $40k/yr, which is pretty impressive to me at least considering we were both fresh out of college, from Alabama, in a new city, and in the worst recession in the US since the Great Depression) jobs that we enjoy. sure, we both complain about our jobs, but deep down I think we both enjoy them. furthermore, we moved from a shithole tiny 500 sq ft basement apartment with two windows, peeling linoleum floors over concrete, and a bedroom almost too small to fit our bed to our fantastic 2 br, hardwood floor, windows in every room, second floor with views onto the courtyard apartment. it’s astounding the amount we’ve achieved in such a short amount of time. at least, I’m astounded. sometimes I get really down on myself, beating myself up for not getting a museum job right off the bat or for not getting into the best graduate schools. but fuck that, I’m doing an awesome job and things are kind of amazing in my life right now. alec and I both have done SO much and come SO far in a year, we should be free to move home and not feel like failures.

I worry too, though, about what will happen when and if alec moves home. I’m sure he will at some point, because outside of his job, he seems unhappy. I know he misses his friends and his cars and the familiarity of his hometown. I miss my car too sometimes, even though it tried to kill me multiple times, the most recent time being when it tried to light itself on fire. ah good times. but in all seriousness, I think DC has been great for alec in that he’s finally on his own two feet. he’s supporting himself, he’s making new social connections instead of relying on the same relationships he’s had for the last ten years, he’s learning the twists and turns of a new city, and he’s exploring new parts of himself in many ways. it’s not my place to determine what’s best for him, and while I probably would never actually admit to him that I think this, but I think he would slide backwards if he were to move home. his friends are all still unemployed, still living off their parents, and most of them don’t see anything wrong with that. I don’t think alec sees anything wrong with that either, and that’s what worries me. he’s grown up a lot this past year, but he’s still got a lot to learn too. if he moves home, I’m worried he’ll get back with the same people and do the same shit they do, that he’ll lose the maturity and independence he’s fought for since he’s been in DC.

but there’s something in him that’s changed too, and it’s something I haven’t been able to figure out (that’s why I love this boy, because he’s anything but simple or clear. always interesting.). the few times I’ve mentioned going home to him, he hasn’t jumped on board like I always think he will. I keep thinking I’ll suggest it and he’ll be like “YES, let’s do it.” but he doesn’t. I know he misses his friends, his cars, his old routine. so why isn’t he jumping at the chance to go back? the only thing I can figure, and I think this is more a reflection of me than an accurate characterization of him, is that he’s realizing he’s outgrown his friends, he’s outgrown his old alabama life. it seems to me that the only reason he’s in DC is because of his job, but he’s also voiced in the past that he wouldn’t be opposed to moving back in with his mom until he could find a job in birmingham. so why would he want to stay here? I can’t figure it out. he complains a lot about how complicated the city is, how much effort and planning it takes just to go out to dinner, how horrible the crowds of people can be to navigate around. it doesn’t seem like he’s that interested in the goings-on in the city, especially since we’ve gone to very few events in the city together and to my knowledge he doesn’t go to any of them on his own. so I don’t understand why he’s not jumping at the chance to go home.

I just don’t want to live in alabama. I hate being so conscious of stereotypes, but I like being associated with a liberal, progressive, “artsy” city like DC, in contrast to the conservative, Christian, close-minded associations with alabama. when we first moved to alabama, I thought we were moving to the armpit of the universe. after I got into art school, I totally changed my mind, and by the time I got to college I was proud to say I was alabama and I actively tried to present myself as the “new alabamian”, a blatant contrast to the stereotype. but the recession has not been kind to alabama, and with recent anti-women’s rights laws and immigration crack-downs, I’ve returned to my feeling of semi-disgust for the state. there are racist, sexist, conservative idiots in every state (especially arizona and texas) but alabama seems to still be filled to the brim with them and it pains me to think about moving back and immersing myself in them. blerg. blech. belch. in DC I say “I’m pursuing my Master’s in Art History and I work at a non-profit” and people understand. they respect and value education. they actually know what non-profits are, which is a step up from alabama, and they see the significance of nonprofits in society. they see why I would want to study art history, and it makes sense for me to study it here in DC, in the midst of the museums. people don’t understand these things in alabama. the educational system (even through college) is treated as a day care center for people too lazy or drunk to raise their own kids. maybe I’m being too harsh, but what I’ve seen of alabama in the *ahem* ten or so years I lived there, I’ve hated.

despite all that, though, there are parts of alabama I absolutely love. people aren’t lying about the politeness and warmth of the southern people (assuming you’re the right color and in the right part of town). I miss how people hold doors for you, say good morning to you in the street, ask you how you are if you look like you’re feeling down. that’s more rare here in DC, but not unheard of. most of all, though, I appreciate the emphasis on family that the south seems to perpetuate. nothing is more important than family, not even football. well, family and food. the two things I love most! family in the south is some serious glue.

anyway, thoughts are still mulling over in my mind and decisions are far from being made, but I am structuring some plans for the future. I like making plans, I like seeing my options, and I like having goals whether they’re realistic or not, just because they help keep me going, keep me motivated. a few years in alabama wouldn’t hurt, and if I could work at the museum, then I could get my “three years of museum experience required” to get a job at any other museum in the country. plans are in the cooker. I’m just glad I don’t have to use the pressure cooker just yet.


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