living ghosts of a life that could have been.

(Title: In Another Lifetime by Zoe Sky Jordan/Kyler England)

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Everything I own is boxed up. Again. That’s nothing new to me. What’s different is this is the first place I’ve moved out of where it wasn’t my choice. “Leave before you’re left” was kind of my motto for the first decade of my adult life.

When I first moved to Charleston, I hated it. I didn’t come here because I had some kind of personal attachment to the city. I came here because my boyfriend was called to go into a war zone and I was 100% convinced that he had less than a year to live. Just like an adult child might move back home with their parents when one of them is terminally ill, I thought I’d come to Charleston temporarily in order to be with Tyler during his last months. About six months into my stay here, his deployment was cancelled.

That constant terror of “when will my favorite person die?” soured my initial experience of the city. During my first few months here, I was rarely sober. I had spent the majority of my time at a friend’s trailer in the dangerous part of town, smoking weed, drinking cheap wine, and spending my weekends at parties where people snorted coke in dirty bathrooms. I just wanted to forget.

When my party friends were arrested for growing weed, I found myself alone. (Except for Tyler’s once-weekly visits.) That time was spent expanding my Etsy shop and saving up for a road trip that I wanted to take with one of my internet friends. My travel companion was one of the first to convince me that I should just leave Tyler and leave Charleston, because I had been so miserable. I didn’t listen to him. When my disability payments were cut off suddenly, I was forced to move “home” for six months, but since my housing plans there were unexpectedly changed, I came back here because I couldn’t think of any better (or easier) option.

Over a year later, I’m getting the same advice. Most of the people I confide in are convinced that me moving here (especially a second time) was a mistake. I don’t want to believe them, but I do.

It’s plain to see that my life here is significantly harder than it was when I was in Atlanta, mostly because of the transportation issue. In Georgia, I never felt out of place for not having a car. I took the bus/train to grocery stores. I got rides home from church. When the Gwinnett County Reddit page had meetups, we carpooled. Here, I feel more like a charity case, rather than a low-income suburbanite who would rather not pay for parking. Everyone drives.

The housing prices are ridiculous compared to the wages. Before I got my current job, I interviewed 3 times at Express. I decided not to take the job once I realized I’d only be making $7.25 an hour for at least the first year. And when it’s virtually impossible to find a single room in a share house for under $600 a month? Young people cannot live here unless they have help from their families. I definitely do not.

Not saying that Atlanta would be better for me at this time of my life. Maybe if I had stayed, I would have been equally miserable and equally lonely.

Now that I have a full time job and a few art commissions planned, I really want to succeed here. But how can a person find their purpose in life if just existing seems impossible?

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