This past month I officially relocated back to the South! As most of you know, I wrote the first draft of Waiting at Hayden’s in Charleston, South Carolina during a gap year in college and moved here solely because I was a diehard Nicholas Sparks’ fan. (If you haven’t checked out how being a diehard fan landed me in the hospital be sure to read that entertaining story here.)
After that year, I went back and finished school at Santa Clara and have lived in California ever since.
I’m a big believer in the power of visualization. Every morning, all those years I was in California, I started most days by writing down my dream day and imagining myself living it. This exercise was what led me to come up with shopfiction, and helped me get Waiting at Hayden’s out into the world. Ironically, when I rehearsed my dream day it always started like this: “I’m so excited because I wake up in my North Carolina house.”
I don’t know why it took till I turned twenty-nine for me to ask myself this question: if my dream day always starts in North Carolina, what am I still doing living in California?
The logical answer to that of course is that I had great friends in California, and teaching jobs I liked, and family, and (the list goes on and on).
But there was little tug in my gut that said go back to the South. And it got louder and louder. And eventually, I couldn’t ignore it anymore.
I think gut feelings are so fascinating because most of the time they’re completely illogical. It would have been easier for me to imagine a dream life in Orange County, for instance, since I was already rooted there, or to move back to Oregon where I’m from. It would have also been easier for me to choose any career other than a novelist ten years ago, because it’s cut-throat and so few make it, and it often makes me want to pull out my hair.
And yet for some reason, I felt I had to write books and relocating to the South this past month has felt so right to me. The second I got off the plane I let out a giant exhale, which must mean something.
I don’t know how this chapter of my life will go. Although it’s off to a wonderful start. I’ve made a couple of great friends already, I’m dating a guy I really like, and a fully furnished, month-to-month rental opened up the day I needed a place to call home with a gym that was just opening its doors right around the corner so I have a place to teach. (I talk in this blog post here about doors opening quickly when you decide to do something and go all in.)
But I do think that the magic in life is in the unknown and that a big part of what we’re all doing here is finding ways to live out the fullest expression of ourselves. That uncomfortable feeling we get in our stomach, or the reason we don’t feel good during a particular phase, is usually because we aren’t moving in the direction of our authentic power. When we do step into it, that’s when we’re a light for other people and when we have more to give the world.
I hope to give you all two more love stories in these next two years. And I’m excited to be continuing working on them in my new Southern home!
Joanne milani says
You go after it Riley. Good luck❤️👏Aunt Joanne