On To Adventure

Adventures in Magical Lands: City Magic

It wasn’t the familiar sights or the Spanish moss dangling from the live oaks that had my heart racing as I revisited the streets of Savannah; although, their mysterious beauty always had a way of doing that. Savannah had been my home, not for long, two years, but a home is still a home. Now, strolling down the streets I’d come to know, after spending two years away from the Hostess City of the South in The Big Apple, Savannah felt the same; the way a memory of past love does. I still felt the city magic.

Savannah was just as lovely as I remembered. She still took my breath away. It was the combination of her beauty, mystery, and past that swayed me like a lullaby. Savannah had once been a Pirate town; of course, I was drawn to her! Since I’d seen her last, Savannah remained untouched by father time. The same trolleys still circled the same squares. The same cobblestone still laid beneath our feet. And those same steam boats still made their way up and down the river. As I strolled the streets of my sweet southern city, I realized she hadn’t changed, but I had. That realization is what had my heart racing.

My time living in Savannah was special, powerful, and inspiring. I spent a year studying a subject that I loved without caring whether it was lucrative. I went to Savannah to spoil myself with fruitless knowledge. Thank God I did. That decision rearranged my entire future. Savannah saved my life in that special way lovers do.

Savannah nurtured me when Kentucky no longer could. She led me to myself and guided me toward amazing memories each step of the way. I made two friends that will be with me for the rest of my life. I gained tales of sunrises on the beach; many early, early morning writing sessions; endless late night research; countless movies; stimulating conversations; vibratious laughter; and sometimes strident tears, all into the repertoire of my memory. My time in Savannah was short but extraordinary.

Yet as good as the good times were Savannah just wasn’t enough for me. She could keep me happy for a while, but she would never satisfy my soul. By the end of my time in Savannah, I was desperate to leave; I was desperate to move on. I’d taken all Savannah had to offer me. I still loved her. I would always love her. I was just no longer in love with her.

By the end, I was unhappy. Not just that, I no longer felt free in Savannah. Sure, one could argue, “That’s what happens when the romance wears off. It’s natural,” and maybe so, but I felt lonely and out of place in a city, I needed two years earlier that felt unnatural. I’d finished what I’d come to do and now it was time to move on. And I did. I came to New York.

I fell in love with New York immediately. Part of me had always loved her or at least the idea of her, but really being there, existing inside of her that was a special feeling. For the first time in my twenty-seven years, I felt complete.

New York did exactly what I expected, it expanded my horizons. It led me to places I didn’t even know existed. Every day in New York was a brand new adventure. It still is. That’s what I love about it. Which is why after a mere two years, I couldn’t comprehend the thought of leaving. There’s still so much to see. Most importantly I’m still madly in love with New York.

New York does drive me mad. The city ignites a fire within me. It’s a burning passion. That buzz brings out the very best in me as well as the very worst. But as the quote goes: “Without the bitter, the sweet just isn’t as sweet.” And New York is both bitter and sweet in the most poetic of ways; it’s what makes her so beautiful.

New York is filled with beauty. It’s also filled with magic. It lives in the air, the food, the culture, it hides behind every corner and it oozes out of the concrete. This magic possesses the atmosphere. This magic is called possibility.

I love the fact that I’m now twenty-nine and I still believe that anything in the world is possible. I know with all the certainty my soul has to offer that I will one day be a pirate. I believe I’ll win an Oscar. I still believe that I can be whatever I want and I’m a grown up.  Some say I’m naïve, but that’s not it; I’ve witnessed possibility. I know what perseverance and hope can do for someone – when combined – they create magic.

Savannah was magical, too. It was this southern magic, that special Savannah Sauce that shaped the woman I’ve become. Savannah is a part of me just as Kentucky is. Both are places I once called home. Both taught me secrets about myself.

What struck me the most about returning to Savannah was the realization of how different my life is. I’m not the girl from Kentucky or the mock-adult from Savannah; I’m now the woman version. New York has made me a woman. I moved down to Savannah a confused creative trying to find my footing in what seemed like an ever-expanding world; however, returning to Savannah I’m a successful New York career woman who wears confidence like a favorite fragrance.

I never had any intention of staying in Savannah; I knew she was just my beginning. Savannah educated me. It prepared me for what lies ahead. That didn’t mean I loved Savannah any less. Savannah was good to me and nurtured me. It was what I needed before New York. I loved Savannah knowing that I’d never get to keep her and that’s a powerful kind of love. I have fond memories, but it just wasn’t enough to satisfy my desires. My greatest desire in this world is to adventure. Savannah made me happy, but I knew there was something more waiting out there for me. Two years later, I’m amid it.

I have a career I’m passionate about. I’ve retained my past friendships and continued to build new ones. I’ve laughed, cried, adventured, felt overwhelmed, angry, disgusted, I’ve had my breath taken away for various reasons, I’ve felt inspired, embarrassed, scared, uncertain, and free, sometimes all in one day. I’ve brushed the edges of every emotion and been introduced to new ones.

I find joy in the simplest of things: a walk in the park with my dogs, cooking myself dinner, a boozy brunch with my new friends, a phone call or visit from an old one. My life is not filled with extravagant things, but everything about my life feels extravagant.

I work hard. I play harder. I’ve learned to love myself in every aspect. I have a confidence that I’ve never known. And I credit New York for this. Love can be inspiring.

I’ve always seen the glass half-full, but in New York, my mornings seem a little brighter and when stormy weather approaches, I may get irrational, but I always manage to coast my way through the storm like a good pirate would.

I’m happy and sometimes I feel guilty about that, but I’ve gone through a lot to get here. I recently spoke to a friend and they discussed feeling lost and uncertain about the direction of life. They suggested I had it all figured out and it was kind of getting annoying. But I reminded them how bad things had gotten before I reached this point. I reminded them, “That the night is always darkest before the dawn.”

Happiness isn’t something handed to us, it’s something you earn. Happiness is about confronting all of the things that hold you back and learning to take away their power.

Because my creative side hasn’t shined as brightly since I’ve been in New York I felt like I’d lost touch with a piece of myself, but really, it was just about allowing the other sides of me to blossom. It was about learning to stand up and say what I want and be confident enough to expect it. It’s about knowing your worth. These things always lived inside me I just didn’t learn to use their powers until I got to New York.

A lot of it has been based on the people I’ve come to know, my role models, teachers, colleagues, and friends. The people I’ve surrounded myself with are each extraordinary just as all my friends are. It takes a certain type of person to live in New York, just as it takes a certain type of person to live anywhere. There’s nothing better or worse about these different breeds they’re just simply different. The important part is finding the place where you belong.

I’ve spent my entire life idolizing Holly Golightly and her mantra that she doesn’t want to belong to anyone, but like Holly, I do belong. I belong to New York and it took returning to Savannah to realize how much New York and I belong together. Stepping back I was able to see how much New York has helped me develop as a person.

I’m happy that I can reflect back on each place I’ve called home and no longer hold grudges for what those places couldn’t offer me, but be thankful that they couldn’t offer me those things because it inevitably led me to New York.

But my lord, no matter how old I get or how long I’m away, those live oaks covered in Spanish moss will always make my heart race, my face flushed and the sweetest memories will come to mind.

Following a five-year stint in New York City, Ashley is now a Los Angeles transplant. Having grown up in rural Kentucky, Ashley is passionate to share self-care techniques used around the world and hopes to make them accessible to folks in rural communities. Ashley believes in gratitude, personal legends, and doing good. Aside from being a business leader in her professional life, Ashley is a novelist and freelance writer.

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