Betting on Love, Leveling Up and Leaving Atlanta

by Amanda Tomas

When Adam and I began dating two years ago, we were each already planning to leave Atlanta. I wanted to teach English abroad after I graduated, and he wanted to move back to New York City, where he’d lived for a handful of years in his early twenties. After a summer of dating, late in August, he asked me to change my plans. We had spontaneously decided to drive four hours down to Savannah for the weekend, and on Sunday we drove out to Tybee Island to watch the dolphins and ride bikes on the beach. Afterward we sat in a divey restaurant overlooking the ocean, exhausted in a nice way, drinking icy cold beers and squeezing lemons over the crab we’d ordered, griping about how we both hated living in Georgia, the franchised sprawl, the politics, and the limited opportunities were getting to us.

“I swear I can’t take it much longer!” I said something along those lines, cracking open a crab leg with frustration. Adam contemplated me in silence while I worked on extracting the meat.

“I was thinking,” he said after a while, trying to look casual, “maybe when I go back to New York… you could come with me?”

I stopped what I was doing, looking up and gauging his face for how serious he was. He was very serious.

“…When?” I asked. I swallowed a gulp of beer to hide the sudden nervous pang in my stomach.

“As soon we can. Come on, let’s go! This fall or this spring! You can finish school over there!”

The salty air stuck to my sunburn and the beer burned its way through my veins, and a carefree glee overtook me. New York in the fall, snowy winters in Brooklyn, working to make it in the hustle of the city — the idea seduced me, and so did Adam’s sweet, serious brown eyes.

“Okay — let’s go.”

Excitement bubbled up inside me. New York was a tough city, and moving there with Adam would make us or break us. I wanted to face that challenge.

Two years later, we are still in Atlanta.

Despite our heady intentions, moving hasn’t been an option. Finishing school, delays in finding full-time work, underemployment, a car accident that drained my savings account, impulsive spending, and generally choosing the easiest path forward have eaten up two whole years of our lives.

We are both unhappy to still be here, and unhappy with our jobs that require zero skill and zero degrees. We live in a nice part of the city, in a pretty great apartment, and make enough between the both of us to live fairly comfortably. We do not receive any support from our parents and are 100% financially independent. I’m grateful for being able to do okay, but we have dragged ourselves through the past two years lethargically, with frequent bouts of depression and self-destructive behavior.

But enough is enough. It’s time to do something about it. It’s time to stop passively letting life float by and finally chase our dreams and ambitions; namely, the dream and ambition of leaving Atlanta.

This is how I plan to do it.

I make enough money (around $35,000/year before taxes) to barely support us both on my own. Adam currently makes about two-thirds of what I make (around $25,000/year). Beginning this month, September, we have agreed that we will put 100% of Adam’s biweekly paycheck into a savings account and live exclusively on my income alone.

If we stick to this plan without messing up too much, it should yield a minimum of $10,000 in savings by May, when our lease ends.

We will have to cut back our lifestyle a bit, not that we have been living very extravagantly to begin with. Our fixed expenses (rent, utilities, insurance, phones, gas, etc.) will use up the majority of my income. Our new food budget is $20 a day, which means more cost-effective groceries and eating out less. Our new “optional expenses” budget is $300 a month, with means cutting down on household goods and buying cheaper clothing. I will also be driving extremely carefully, since my accident demolished my previous $3,000 of savings.

If my plan works, and I am absolutely determined that it will work, in May we will cash out our sweet ten grand and move anywhere we want. That cushion of cash will mean we don’t have to arrange a job and apartment ahead of time, which seems like way too much effort when you’re dejectedly trudging through life. Instead, we can move just as soon as our lease ends and have savings to live on while we hunt for work. This seems like a foolproof plot.

Ever since I proposed the plan, Adam and I have been counting imaginary bank notes and thinking about where we want to go: NYC, Montreal, Toronto, Seattle, Vancouver, San Francisco, Australia… the possibilities are endless. Maybe if we save enough, we can take a month-or-two-long trip to Europe or South America in the transition period between cities. If things somehow magically align in a stroke of good fortune, grad school will be next on the horizon. We can’t do any of this yet, but with enough drive, determination, and a dash of gutsy risk-taking at the end, we will get there. We have to.

Amanda Tomas hopes to keep you posted as her plan is put into action.

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