Whenever I tell people that I live in Asheville, NC, there are one of two responses: “Wait, where is that?” or “Oh my God, I LOVE it there.” It is the only place I have ever lived that is simultaneously adored and unknown. It is like a secret city that only the privileged, the cool, and the earthy know about. Admired for its fine and varied cuisine, beautiful landscape, and beer-accessible goodness, I actually grew up 30 minutes away from this marvelous place.

Growing up in a small, bible-thumping, blue collar town can be many things. I am still friends with people I have known since I was in elementary school, I enjoy bluegrass and being barefoot on porches, and I grew up with a set of manners and sweetness that can come only from growing up in a small town in the South. However, as you could have guessed, growing up in such a town can be very damning–I felt trapped in a town full of people that used religion as a weapon, that had no goals outside of marriage and babies, and didn’t even LIKE the music I liked (high school was tough, ok?). I was fortunate enough to get along with most of my classmates, and even more fortunate to form tight-knit bonds with a select few that just seemed to get me. And as soon as we got our licenses, our weekends were spent somewhere that wasn’t our suffocating little town. A city that boasted fine arts theaters, Asian restaurants with foods we had never dreamed of, and artsy boys in dirty cars. A city called Asheville.

We would pile into one of my best friend’s cars and jet off to coffee shops, sitting in their comfy chairs and talking or eavesdropping. We would parade downtown with goofy smiles, Converse sneakers, and vintage t-shirts plastering our bodies. We would whisper about our futures–we wanted out of our crummy town, we wanted penthouse apartments and cosmopolitan agendas. We listened to indie music in hip record stores and talked about how the other kids at school just didn’t get it–and they probably never would. Asheville provided an escape for my friends and I–it was dangerous, yet close by. It felt miles away from the bratty girls who thought wearing flip flops with jeans was a fashion statement. It seemed decades ahead of a town whose hottest hang out spot was the Wal-Mart parking lot. It was like our secret. Anyone could visit Asheville, but so few people knew how to LIVE in Asheville.

Fast-forward to the present. We are merely days away from being in 2013, which means I have been out of high school for almost 7 years. In the past 7 years I have graduated from college (in another sleepy mountain town, albeit way more interesting, diverse, and fun than my hometown) and spent a year living in our nation’s capital. I have traveled to many cities, I have heard about all my friend’s adventures, and I have thought about where I want to be in the next 5 years. When it all comes down to it, I’m right where I want to be in this moment:

In Asheville, NC.

I have a great job working with wonderful kids in this amazing city. I have an incredible partner who is funny, sweet, and dang handsome. My sister also lives in Asheville, and our family is still 30 minutes away. I have a great network of friends who enjoy so many of the same things I do. There are opportunities for graduate schools, volunteering, and happy hours all over this city, and I don’t plan on leaving it any time soon.

So, I’m inviting you to explore this city–and my life–with me. I’ll be writing reviews of restaurants, bars, festivals, whatever. I’ll be sharing with you what it’s like to work, live, and play when you have the Blue Ridge Mountains as your back yard. In my heart, I’m still that excited 17-year old that’s excited for what this place has to offer. I hope you’ll escape with me.

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