By Kessa Baylor
A year and a half ago I awoke to a burning desire to leave the city of brotherly love. Being born and raised in Philadelphia meant that I under appreciated all of its glory. Every sight and sound became an irritating thorn in my flesh, urging me to flee. I didn't start thinking of moving until after the company I worked for downsized. I decided to use my new freedom to practice some organized spontaneity. I did a little online research for a place to live and a few job leads and I packed up my family and our dog and headed to South Carolina. I had enough savings to keep our heads above water for six months, which I thought was a nice head start.
We settled in Rock Hill, about 20 miles from Charlotte, NC. The city was small but beautiful with more trees than I've ever seen in my life. Each block was filled with single family homes and large grassy front lawns and backyards. I even thought I could grow to love living in a one story ranch style home in the country. The busy city streets were replaced with an almost eerie silence. My children took to school and I was able to find work within a few weeks. All seemed well and appeared to be going smoothly. Four weeks into my new job I came into the office to pick up my pay when I noticed the office empty of most of its equipment. My supervisor handed me my pay in cash and stated they couldn't keep the company running. Devastating news when things appeared to be ok the day before.
I drove home thinking about how I needed to make this work not just for me but for my family. The reality of country living soon hit me like a ton of bricks. I interviewed with every job I could find only to see hundreds of other applicants applying as well. With no work, my car was soon repossessed -- and it was the only link to getting a job. I had to think fast or we would all sink even faster. I began writing articles for multiple web companies and it paid my bills but did not leave room to save. The simple task of going to the market became more and more difficult because the nearest grocery store was miles away. There was no public transportation, not even one bus and taking a taxi meant calling ahead two hours. The one-story ranch house soon lost its appeal when I could hear every word of my children's shouting matches.
It was during my lowest point in this beautiful chamber of hell that I began to reflect on my life in Philadelphia. The convenience of buses, trolleys or the EL train within a few feet of any corner was sorely missed. The ease of buying groceries or stopping at a corner store for daily food items plagued me. Living in the country became a chore; nothing could be done without planning ahead. I found myself missing the occasional cheese steak or water ice and soft pretzel -- all unheard of in Rock Hill. I also missed Chinese food and Penn's landing. I missed the noise of new construction and heavy traffic in the early morning hours. I missed being close to my neighbors and seeing people walking and driving at night. I even missed having less competition for job openings. Life in the country was much less like the fantasy I've heard on numerous occasions. It wasn't ideal for a family with kids unless extended family members were nearby. It wasn't until I arrived in the country that I felt the pressure of the recession and a bad economy. It was also there that I saw everyone -- no matter the ethnic background -- suffering from the recession.
Three months ago I ended my year long stay in Rock Hill and did the great escape. I loaded my family into a moving van and came back home. I cried when I saw the sign "Welcome to Pennsylvania." When I parked in front of my parent's home I didn't reflect on everything I had lost but the appreciation I had gained for the city I grew up in. I no longer felt restricted within the confines of the city walls. I felt surprisingly free to move around and happy to call Philadelphia my home. I have been able to gain my life back including a car and a job within three months of being home. When I first left Philadelphia I never thought I would say Philadelphia is the best place for me.