"Wishing for something better is a pretty exhausting way to live, because you are never living in the moment."
This weekend I stood at an overlook on the Blue Ridge Parkway, watching the sun setting in the distance. I have seen plenty of beautiful sunsets in my life, but watching the pinks and oranges melt together over the mountain backdrop is something special. And it’s something that I can do anytime I want now that I call Asheville home.
There has never been a moment where I’ve thought my husband and I made a mistake by moving out of New York City. In fact, when I think about what I would do differently about this move, it’s hard to come up with anything. Moving was expensive and stressful – an experience I would like to put off going through again for as long as possible – but moving here was worth it.
Here’s a list of what I think that we did right with this move:
1. We moved into an apartment that made us happy from the jump.
My old apartment in Brooklyn will always hold a special place in my heart as the first place my husband and I lived together. Yet after spending seven months staying at home during the pandemic, I was grateful to leave. By the time we moved out in fall 2020, I had come to resent everything about our apartment there: the noise, the roaches, the mice, the exorbitant rent.
COVID-19 changed the housing market by the time we moved to Asheville, so we weren’t able to find a house here that was in our budget. We ended up renting a two-bedroom apartment instead, and I’m so glad that we did. It’s a really nice apartment. In New York City, realtors would try to pass it off as “luxuryâ€ and try to rent it for, like, a zillion dollars a month?!? But here in Asheville, it’s just a normal, new-build apartment. It’s much more spacious than anywhere I ever lived and it has a dishwasher, washer/dryer and an absurd amount of closet space. There’s nothing that I don’t like about it.
During the nearly 20 years that I had lived in New York City, I got into the habit of always thinking my next home would be better. Maybe the next apartment would have a tiny bit more storage space! Maybe the next apartment would have more windows! But wishing for something better is a pretty exhausting way to live, because you are never living in the moment. (Sorry, you weren’t expecting me to get all deep here, were you?)
I don’t feel like I’m biding time in my apartment in Asheville and waiting for the next best thing. It’s a huge relief to just feel happy about my living situation, and I’m sure that has made my transition to living in a new place much easier.
2. We stayed on budget.
I couldn’t really save any money when I lived in New York City, because the rent is too damn high. My husband and I decided to rent an apartment in Asheville that cost $1,500 or less and save (or attempt to save!) more. We split it 50/50 and as a freelancer, cobbling together $750 per month feels doable. Still a lot of money, to be sure, but doable! Among the many aspects of my life in Asheville that are less stressful, not worrying about making the rent each month is a big one.
3. I pared down my book collection.
I used to have hundreds of books on account of being an incorrigible bookworm and, in recent times, a book reviewer. I purchase a lot of books, I pick them up for free, and I also get soon-to-be-published books (called advanced reader copies or ARCs) mailed to me. Throughout my life, I’ve had piles of books everywhere. Whether I read them or not, I moved all my books from apartment to apartment where they took up space and gathered dust. The summer before we moved to Asheville, my husband and I dropped off many, many large blue IKEA bags filled with books at a Goodwill in Connecticut. Now, I have a beautiful, edited collection of only the books I love on my bookshelves in my new home. The bibliophile in me hates to admit this, but purging all those books before the move made me feel so much lighter.
4. I found a therapist in Asheville before I moved.
I’m a big believer in psychotherapy. Talk therapy helps me manage my depression and generalized anxiety disorder and, well, basically keeps me a functioning human being. I stumbled upon my new therapist in Asheville by accident; she was referenced in a newsletter that I read every day. I called her while I was still living in Brooklyn and we did an introductory session over the phone. I liked her so much that I set up a weekly appointment with her once I moved to North Carolina. They’re all virtual, of course, because of COVID-19, but they have provided some much-needed consistency in this very strange time. Having a therapist in Asheville has really helped me with the transition.
There’s only one thing that I would have differently with this move, if I could do it all over again:
I wish I’d gotten my driver’s license before moving to North Carolina.
I let my driver’s license expire in 2012, because I am a ding dong. I was pretty broke at the time and I let my license expire instead of scraping together the money for the renewal fee. That easily tops the list of biggest mistakes of my life.
Not having a driver’s license in New York City didn’t matter; lots of people don’t. The public transportation was excellent and I could walk to grocery stores and pharmacies. But Asheville is not very walkable – more bikeable than walkable, I’d say – and has limited public transportation. Being dependent on my husband to drive me places has really hampered my freedom and ability to explore the city. When I finally get a North Carolina driver’s license (fingers crossed) in April, I’ll be thrilled. Thrilled.