The Goodbye is an occasional series about women leaving a place behind. Are you moving and feeling nostalgic? Fill out this form, and you could be part of the series.
By the end of my third year as a Peace Corps volunteer in Tanzania, I was 25 and coming to the realization that I couldn’t be a health education volunteer forever. I didn’t have the energy to stay, but I couldn’t imagine leaving the paradoxical life that defines most Peace Corps experiences. Simple tasks had surprising complexity. From fetching and filtering water to picking rocks from the rice and firing up a charcoal stove, mundane chores such as cooking dinner could consume most of the day.
From my bustling bungalow in East Africa, I started to think about what life would look like after Tanzania. My boyfriend, a fellow volunteer, had already completed his service and left our Peace Corps bubble. He moved back home to Louisville, Ky., and I decided to join him there to try out life as a couple in America.
He was the only person I’d ever met from Kentucky, and the lack of context for what I was getting into was strangely familiar. After years abroad, I was used to everything feeling foreign at first.
We managed to settle into the life we thought we were supposed to live together in the United States, but as it turned out, date nights and playing house weren’t exactly what we dreamt it would be. We split up, and I decided to stay in Louisville to forge my own path. The thought of moving to my parents’ house in Minneapolis was enough motivation for me to stick it out in the South. I thrived at my job as a program manager in a residential treatment facility for youth who had experienced abuse and neglect. After our breakup, my mom suggested I take no more than 30 days to binge watch Netflix, consume copious amounts of wine and ramen before getting outside to “find my people.”
Luckily, it wasn’t hard to find the spots I needed to call Louisville my home.
Local shows, festivals, meeting new friends and a yoga teacher training program kept me grounded yet busy as I learned more about who I had become and what I wanted from life. As I began rediscovering myself, my former boyfriend was doing the same. I heard from a mutual friend that he was buying a house in the Highlands, mere blocks from my apartment. I insisted on meeting up to avoid an accidental run-in at the grocery store. He agreed to see me, and it turned out that year apart was all we needed to realize we were each other’s missing piece.
Five years later, I’m married to that handsome guy who first introduced me to life in Louisville. We’re preparing to have our first baby by packing up and following our hearts west to Washington state, where my family has relocated with plans to live together.
I’ll never forget how I lost and found myself in Louisville, a town that healed me in more ways than one.
You were my first stop in finding my own way in Louisville, and the source of meeting the people who kept me grounded, laughing, crying, moving and breathing again. Thanks for taking me in as I fumbled through teaching some of my first studio classes, and for always having my favorite spot saved next to the biggest, greenest plants I’ve had the privilege to practice next to.
Our work here with youth was rarely easy, but you taught me how important it is to make sure we do everything in our power to fight for the bravest survivors and to always have a bag of candy stashed in my desk for coworkers to nibble on when they needed to take a deep breath.
I never imagined myself as one of those coffee shop regulars, but you quickly learned my name and order. Hidden in the Highlands, you are a haven for those seeking progressive and like-minded company, Louisville’s tastiest allergen-friendly desserts and drinks and fantastic seasonal decorations.
I’ll miss setting up my slackline, acroyoga gatherings, long dog walks and stopping at “dog hill” for Goose to find that perfect playmate.
Not only was your patio our first date spot upon landing in Louisville, I was lucky enough to work within your walls serving incredible fare. I will never forget the perfect combination of relaxing on the patio table with wine, ceviche and bread pudding. Who knew I could love a lima bean so much? Thanks for showing me how good life can be when food and family come together.
I’ll miss late nights and falling in love with live music all over again every time I stepped through your doors. Thank you for seducing some incredible talent to stop in our city, and for never allowing me to have a bad spot for a show in five years.
After a year on our own, each finding our way back to the other, my delightfully estranged reason for being in Louisville bought his first house mere blocks from my apartment. It wasn’t long until we made it our home together and enjoyed the close-knit community of neighbors and the occasional fox in our front yard.
Visiting Louisville? Find Alli’s recommendations mapped out here.
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