Based in Birmingham, AL

Moving to Alabama: The First Month

Photography, Adventures, Field NotesKait MauroComment

July 2016

We left Saint Louis on the 4th of July, a little later in the day than we'd planned because the last bit of packing and loading the cars took longer than expected. We set off fireworks the night before in the streets behind our apartment building and had a few drinks with friends. We went to a diner with John, our good friend and roommate for our last months in Saint Louis. The delivery truck hadn't gotten to the diner so they were out of almost everything and I just ate buttery grits in a nod to my new Southern life to come. John is wonderful, he's one of my oldest friends and is actually how Edward and I met all of those years ago. Saying goodbye to him was hard. We hugged and he kissed my forehead like he does before we got into our cars and drove off, waving and honking our horns in farewell.

We made it just past Nashville that first day. I am not the best driver to begin with and driving in the rain/dark after so many hours in the car by myself was making my driving extra scary for poor Edward who was following my car with his, watching me swerve around from behind, so we stopped at an inn for the night with Lena. I had so many boxes and plants stuffed in my car that the only place for poor Lena to sit was on my lap. I listened to Harry Potter audiobooks while I drove. I used to be able to do 12 hour days driving by myself no problem when I would go back to Pennsylvania during college or when I moved to Washington state briefly and drove alone for days on end but now I am used to having Edward for company in the car so driving alone is a lot less fun and more tiring than it used to be.

We drank champagne in the hotel room and ordered a big cheesy pizza at midnight because we both got hungry. We didn't get a great nights sleep and I got a little bit sick in the morning before we started driving again. Finally arriving in Birmingham felt a little bit magical. I loved seeing the cityscape in the afternoon sun, and it was all prettier than I remembered. I'd only ever visited in the winter before. We got to Edward's mom's house, where we'd be staying until we got an apartment officially lined up. We'd been trying to find a place since shortly after getting back from Iceland a few weeks before but had no luck. We kept finding places we liked but by the time we'd get the paperwork all in someone else would have gotten the place. It was a really hard cycle for me - hope, disappointment, hope, disappointment, hope, disappointment again. Because Edward was still working 9-5 I had been appointed to do most of the long distance apartment hunting legwork.

Because I have been homeless before I get very antsy when my housing situations are anything but incredibly secure and official. I used to be more go with the flow but as I've gotten older, I need more security. Edward's mother's house is beautiful and she's a great host but I don't like staying in other people's homes, not even my own mom's. I need my own space. Edward and I jumped through more rental hoops and signed a lease on a place after staying at his mom's for a few days. We were so excited to have our own place again. Living with so many roommates in Saint Louis during our last few months there had been great in some ways, I loved having people around while Edward was at work, but now we would only have to clean up after ourselves and we could nest together. When Edward and I first got together I moved into his place on South Spring Ave, then we lived in one room in a shared apartment (5 guys, 2 dogs and me lol) on Washington Blvd so having a place that was new to both of us and equally ours was an exciting new experience. I couldn't wait to decorate and unpack and settle in together. Luckily we had a few weeks before Edward would start medical school so we had time to get ourselves settled.

We bought stuff we needed for our apartment - we got a couch at the Salvation Army, a coffee table from Edward's dad's attic, a desk for Edward from Target. My orchids didn't survive the move very well, they got too hot and too much sun and many of their leaves got bleached and dried up like leather. Some of them even fell off, so we bought two new orchids. I'm still trying to nurse my old collection back to health. It makes me sad but I try to remind myself that they are replaceable and were just a small casualty of changing times and growth.

I had so much anxiety during the weeks leading up to this move. I lived in Saint Louis for the better part of six years, it was were I had spent almost all of my adult life, and going to a new place where I didn't really know anyone was intimidating. I knew Edward would be busy with medical school and was afraid I wouldn't be able to fill my days and they would be long and lonely. The future scares me. On good days, I felt fifty percent fear and fifty percent excitement. On the rest of the days I was one hundred percent anxiety. I felt angry at myself for my anxiety, resented myself for resenting Edward a little for making us move (especially ridiculous since I didn't even really want to stay in Saint Louis, I was bored with it) and judged myself against the impossible standards of the people I look up to and how they present themselves, thinking they would handle the unknown so much better than I was, thinking they would be able to see it completely as an adventure, feeling like a coward.

Edward and I went on some adventures in between settling in and medical school starting. He took me to Oak Mountain State Park, which I loved and was very impressed by. Castlewood State Park near Saint Louis was one of my favorite places to go and I was glad to have a replacement for it. We went on a day-trip to Atlanta on his last day before beginning orientation to go to the Georgia Aquarium. It was glorious but very crowded. I loved the beluga whales the best. They were my favorite when we went to Shedd Aquarium in Chicago too. I love their big, pale, doughy bodies. I love their big, stupid, happy faces.

Our newest adventure is Sam. We got a second dog and named him Samson but call him Sam for short. He's a great dane puppy, almost 7 weeks old. The first couple of nights with him were very trying because he cried a lot before we gave in and let him sleep in the bed with us. Lena always sleeps with us but we didn't want to teach Sam to because soon he won't fit. Oh vay. He's the most loving little guy though, and he's understanding that he's not supposed to pee in the apartment a lot quicker than I expected, so I think he's going to be a smart dog. I've always wanted a great dane. I like extremes, moderately sized dogs bore me. So now I have Lena (8.5 lbs) and Sam (going to be >120 lbs). He was the runt of his litter but is growing quickly. It rains almost every afternoon here in Birmingham for at least a little while and he loves when sticks get blown onto our balcony in the storms and he can chew on them. I want to pencil mark his growth on one of our door frames like my mom did with us kids while we were growing up.

I've been reading Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert and love it. I wrote a new article for the International Bipolar Foundation about being diagnosed with bipolar and borderline and the stigma that goes with both. You can find the article here if you are interested.