24 years ago today, I made the most momentous decision in my life to date.

24 years ago, after getting into an argument with my bellicose, domineering, and often times abusive father (that’s a whole different post.  Someday perhaps.) that ended with my packing up everything I owned into the space of a 1991 Chevrolet Beretta GT and moving, on literally a moment’s notice, to Raleigh, North Carolina.  The story behind the move is one of betrayal and deception worthy of a television of the week drama, one of love of a good woman, and one of a young man who’d become enamored with a new area and looked at it as a chance to start his life over, from scratch.

At this hour on this night 24 years ago, I was driving, in a rain, traveling somewhere in central to western Virginia.  Having made the drive from my small Pennsylvania town to Raleigh precisely once before, I had mistaken one interstate number for another, and the end result put me not in Raleigh, but Charlotte – not an auspicious beginning in my new home state.  But I continued on, driving the distance before reaching my destination sometime around 3:30 on the morning of the 12th.

Within 24 hours, I thought I had made the catastrophic decision of my life.  I’d given up my home, my job, my friends, every source of income I could tap, and every connection I had which could readily land me work somewhere.  I didn’t have a phone.  I didn’t have a home address, crashing on my future sister-in-law’s couch at a time when I was suffering the worst depression of my entire life.  I had no idea what I had done, no idea what my long term plans were; hell, I had no idea how I was going to pay for my next meal.

With two dozen years’ hindsight however, that turned out to be the best decision I ever made.  Here I would marry the mother of my two, beautiful daughters.  Here I would see them develop and grow in a city that’s developing and growing at almost a similar, awestriking manner.  I released myself from a life which, while providing me with a good measure of financial stability, was rooted in a place I had absolutely hated since moved there (forcibly) by my parents at the age of 12.  I came to a city that didn’t know who I was everywhere I went; that didn’t know me or judge me based on my family’s members or actions; that took me at face value, and allowed me to prove myself, to chart my path.

I struggled mightly during the first two years here in Raleigh.  More than one time I considered packing the car up a second time and going west to Nevada, Arizona or California.  Something stopped me each time, and I’m glad it did.  I didn’t find my first home here, but in Raleigh I’ve found what I hope is my last one.  I love this city, its vibe and its people; and I hope someday to help contribute to the city some small measure of what I feel it has given me.

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