I’m not sure where to start so I just will. It’s currently 9:50 pm and I’m sitting in my hotel room, without pants on, drinking the tequila my uncle got my sister and I for graduation, watching The Office. I move to California the day after tomorrow, and after saying bye to one of my closest friends my heart hurts. A lot.I moved around a lot as a kid, and I’ve gotten okay at saying goodbye. I know the people who are meant to be in my life will stick around. But this time, moving is different. For the first time it marks the end of a really huge chapter. It hurts. I came to Columbia, South Carolina as a fresh little 18-year-old. I was an upcoming freshman at The University of South Carolina and I didn’t know what to anticipate. What I got was a city that challenged me, thicker skin and friends who I can’t imagine life without. Columbia itself- as a city- is okay. There are some amazing spots that all the weirdos congregate to- hello Drip and NBT- and they’ve helped me when I’ve felt like my head’s going to explode. I always say Columbia isn’t a city and it’s not a town- it’s somewhere in between. The nightlife is okay, my favorite is a literal underground bar called The Whig, but what I like is the fact that it sort of just exists. You can drive 30 minutes to somewhere that feels like Mars, 2 hours to Charleston or 10 minutes to a beautiful cemetery- it has the charm of a little town and the perks of a (small) city. Columbia is it’s own kinda thing. It just does what it does and it’s kind of great.
It takes time to recognize how a place has shaped you. I’m not sure I can even put into words the past four years but I’ll try. Columbia isn’t easy to live in if you’re not the status quo. It’s not. I’ve been getting the side eye from old Republicans for practically every day the past four years. I made a decision my freshman year to pretend that I was living in NYC and to wear whatever I want which is probably why I get all the side eyes. But here’s the thing!! Being true to who you are and shining your light means other people recognize that. In a city where weirdos are just that, you recognize the other weirdos. You gotta stick together. Going into a vintage//costume shop (Hip Wa Zee) to apply for a job my sophomore year led to meeting one of my best friends and having one of the coolest jobs of my life. Sitting at my favorite coffee shop everyday and writing meant that I met some of my favorite people. Being the over the top, not chill human I am led me to some of the best memories of my life. College was cool but what Columbia taught me was that honoring who you are, no matter how hard it is, is worth every single side eye and judgmental look.
My room in Columbia was the first time that I found sanctuary. It was the first time I found my escape, the one place I could go to sit and reflect and listen to all the little things I’d been ignoring for too long. Columbia was the city where I grew up, where I had my heart broken, where I chased my dreams and explored and where I manifested my deepest desires. When my parents moved from Atlanta back to San Diego last July, Columbia became my home and safe haven. It became the city that understood what I felt and how I didn’t belong. Columbia has been MY first home- not my family’s- and I love it for that.
It’s strange reflecting on my time here because it’s only been four years. But I’ve graduated and this marks the end of the biggest chapter of my life and that’s damn hard. I’ve never felt settled anywhere and it’s not something that I’ve always been able to deal with. This city has been comfortable but it’s stretched me and shaped me and it’s helped me accomplish some of my wildest dreams. I’ve met some of my best friends here, I’ve started my career here. I’ve found m sanctuary here. And for that- I say thank you.
Here’s to the future.