For the last 9 months, Renee and I were working on a plan to move from Raleigh to Jackson, MS. Really, it started a couple of years before that – you can read the whole story here.
One of the hardest parts of this process has been not being able to talk about it. It has largely been responsible for my relative light blogging schedule this year: The most important thing going on in my life was now off the table for discussion.
But now we can talk about it, and I thought I would share some things about why we picked Jackson. There were lots of reasons, but here are some of the major ones.
This may seem a weird place to start, but my single strongest cultural allegiance is to this region of the country. I am not an American who lives in the South, but a Southerner who lives in America.
I was born here, grew up here, was educated here, got married here, and will have my ashes scattered in the ocean here. I don’t make sense in any other region of the country. These are my people, and I am of them, and for them. Not because they are without flaws, currently and historically, but because they are my people. We knew that wherever we would live, it would be in the historic South.
There is much to be said for rural life, especially if you have economic means. But if you don’t, survival there can be exhausting. Urban living is cheaper, more sustainable for the average person, and quite frankly, more common, with more than 50% of the country now living in cities.
I grew up on the remnants of a farm, but have lived “in town” since 1991. It would be hard to go back. I remember living 27 miles from a gallon of milk after 8 PM, and it was not the paradise it is often painted to be.
Additionally, I want cultural stimulation: Libraries, theaters, baseball, movies, bookstores, arboretums. All of that is in the city. And the work I do – fighting poverty, homelessness, and racism via community building – is urban-centered.
I miss my family. Renee misses hers. Family is important to both of us, and while we recognize that not everyone belongs to loving families they want to be around, that isn’t our story.
Additionally, we are planning on signing up to be adoptive parents once we get there, so we want to be near our birth families while raising our family. Jackson is only three to four hours away from the majority of both of our families.
People think we are crazy from moving to a city everyone is moving away from, and moving from a city everyone is moving to, but all that incoming population comes with a cost. It has gotten incredibly expensive to live here in Raleigh. I know lots of people who make 40,000 a year that cannot afford to live in the city, and I know tons more who make far less than that.
We bought a fixer-upper 1,000 square foot house in Raleigh in a depressed neighborhood five years ago that we could barely afford – now we couldn’t afford a shack in that same neighborhood.
In Jackson, we can buy a move-in ready 2,000 square foot ranch house on a quarter acre lot for what we paid five years ago for the tiny fixer-upper here. For example, here are 3 bedroom 2 bath homes under $150,000 in Jackson. That search yields 56 results.
The same search in Raleigh yields 7.
Doing the work I do is hard, exhausting, and it is not financially rewarding. To be able to live in a comfortable house, where my family feels safe in the yard and where I don’t have to be “on” 24 hours a day? Priceless.
Jackson is not a paradise.
It is economically depressed. Its infrastructure is crumbling. The schools are a mess. There aren’t enough jobs. The racial history of the state and the stupidity of the current state administration are infuriating.
And yet they are not without hope. The current mayor of Jackson is amazing. I would move there just to be able to be a part of whatever he is doing.
And he is just the public face of a decades-long resistance movement that seeks to bring power and self-determination to the people of Jackson. I want to be part of that.
The church I will be working with? They personify hope. The things they want to do for their neighborhood and their city inspire me, and fill me with the belief that the world can be better.
Jackson feels alive, and there is a movement of people there who want to move it forward. And they want us to be a part of it.
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There are lots of other reasons, but those are the big ones. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that it is near the Gulf, or near New Orleans, or that it has a vibrant art and music scene, or a ton of fun things to do, or any number of other quality of life issues.
We are excited, and looking forward to living there, and being useful there. And we are planning on a house with a guest room, so you can come visit us.