Tuesday, May 19, 2009

A Whole Year in Asheville

Today marks our one-year anniversary in Asheville. When we left Los Angeles last year, friends assured us that a year would fly by, and it has. We had a long list of trips, adventures and goals on our agenda when we started, and we've done a pretty good job of getting through them. Going in, I thought we'd do everything we wanted to do within the first couple of months, then be bored for the rest of the year. What I didn't expect was how completely the people here would accept us and integrate us into their lives.

I've learned a lot about myself over the past year, some good and some bad. I've always been an outsider and an observer. Part of that comes from being a writer and part of it is a protection device. Michael is the kind of person who jumps into any situation, eyes wide open, arms outstretched. I tend to hang back, watch for a while, figure out who the players are, what dangers are in store, then slowly ease into the situation. This fundamental difference has always been there, but didn't become so obvious and so, well, problematic, until every situation we were in was brand new.

I have made an effort over the past year to be less reserved and more open in new situations. But I know I'll never be the sort of person who just vomits myself all over new people, and I've come to forgive myself for that and own it. If it takes you a year to get to know me, that's fine with me. If you give up an hour or so into it, that's fine, too. I understand.

The people we have met here, those who have befriended us, have been incredible. While I always view new people with suspicion, the people of Asheville embraced us right away and welcomed us into their homes, their families and their lives. While our novelty as the new guys in town has worn off, their friendship has remained, and I am humbled by that and grateful. It makes me wonder how I would even begin to do the same for someone new to Los Angeles. We would get new neighbors from time to time back in L.A., and I realize now that the most I ever did was nod to them on my way to and from work.

When we were back in L.A. recently, a friend stood us up for dinner and wasn't answering his phone. We sat in the restaurant, trying to figure out what to do. A year ago, I'm sure I would have just shrugged and ordered without him. After months in Asheville, though, where neighbors check on each other and bring over cake, I decided we needed to go to his house and check on him, to make sure he wasn't hurt. It was an unexpected practical application of what I've learned here, in the land where hearts are on sleeves most of the time.

(But just a word about the cake. The first time a neighbor brought over baked goods, we couldn't bring ourselves to eat it, convinced a stranger bringing us something must have some sinister intention. "Clearly, she wants to poison us, so some nice heterosexual family will move in when we're gone." We got over that quickly, though, because, you know, it's cake.)

One thing I didn't learn here, because I knew it all along, is that I'm not the outdoorsy type. The scenery here is gorgeous, and I love looking at it...from a distance or from the car. I don't want to be in the scenery. I don't want to camp or hike or splash in waterfalls or swimmin' holes. A lot of people move to Asheville to do all that stuff. I did not. I've given all these things a try since being here, and I didn't experience any sort of epiphany, except the confirmation that, no, I'm not the outdoorsy type. I know it's like moving to L.A. and proclaiming you don't like sunshine. But that's the way it is. Plus, my misery makes everyone else miserable, and that's no fun. The big drawback to my refusal to be in the great outdoors is that there's no one to look out for Michael and to tell him not to jump off cliffs or pick up rattlesnakes. So, he's on his own. I will make sure his insurance card is tacked to his shirt before he goes out, though.

Right now, the immediate future is clear. We're staying in Asheville a while longer. The non-immediate future is less clear. A year ago, that would have bothered me more than it does now. Whenever people ask me why we moved, I always say we wanted to have an adventure. How many people get to just take off and try something so completely different and new? It sounds grand. But what do you do after the adventure? Go back home? Go somewhere else? Stay where you are? What happens next? I guess that's the next adventure.


jennifer said...

hello! randomly found your blog and enjoyed this post - my little family is hoping to get to asheville ourselves, however we're trying to wrap up a 5 year "adventure" in austin tx and not quite sure how to go about it:) nice thoughts you have here, have a good one!

DeAnn said...

You always restore my faith in Asheville.. As a former Ashevillian that moved to Orange Co. I struggle with moving home everyday. I can totally relate to everything you write. We do wear our hearts on our sleeves..us southerners.. however.. I have learned.. that dosent work out here in California. I do hope that one day I can meet you in person.. because you are amazing and an amazing writer. I feel like copying this entry on my blog so people would better understand me and where I stand.

Jeremy said...

Happy anniversary a couple of days late! I've enjoyed getting to know you and Michael over the past year and cherish your friendship. Asheville is definitely a better place because you're here!

tony said...

i can't believe your friend stood you up. that's so rude. people from LA can be so inconsiderate.

Molly said...

Chance, since you have moved to Asheville, I have gotten to know you so much better by reading your blog. I truly appreciate everything about you. You and my brother compliment each other. I think you are amazing and I look forward to spending time with you when you come to Los Angeles. I know for sure I won't stand you up.