have something to tell you…I’m moving to Virginia!”
Every time I’ve delivered this recent news to my friends, family, and co-workers, their reaction has always been something like, “Whoa! That’s so random! Why Virginia!?”
To which my response has always been something simple like, “Well, you see…a sudden and unexpected death in my family caused me to take a road trip to Virginia to attend a funeral. I spent some time in a town called Blacksburg, where Virginia Tech is located. I fell in love; looked for jobs, found a good opportunity, applied and got the job; and am now moving there!”
But that’s only half the story. I’ve always wanted to tell everyone about all of the unique and serendipitous things that occurred on that trip and why I felt compelled to move to Blacksburg. And now that I’ve written this post I can do that! So without further ado, I present to you my personal story about a road trip that was never supposed to happen but it did, and how that trip change the trajectory of my life for the better.
My strange story begins on the morning of Christmas Eve of last year, Dec. 24, 2021, when I received a Facebook message from my mom informing me that my cousin—that is, my first cousin once removed—had passed away. It was dreadful to hear this news the day before Christmas because it obviously dampened my family’s holiday spirit, but what made it worse is that he was legitimately loved by everyone. My cousin had this funny, down-to-earth personality, and was known as the “grill master” of the family since he used to own a BBQ restaurant. He would be sorely missed, but he lived a long and prosperous life so that gave me comfort and peace of mind.
It was eventually announced that the funeral would take place on the following Thursday and I decided to attend since I hadn’t seen that side of my family in awhile, and I also wanted to surprise my parents (assuming they’d be at the funeral) since I made no plans on traveling home for Christmas, although I had just saw them a few weeks prior for a belated Thanksgiving celebration.
I looked up flights but couldn’t find any flights below $500, and many airline workers were testing positive for COVID and had to take sick leave which resulted in a major staff shortage that forced airliners to cancel lots of flights. So I said, “Eff this!” and decided to drive 1,300 miles (~20 hours) home, probably over the course of 2-3 days, to attend the funeral.
Opening Google Maps on my phone, I plotted a few routes home and immediately decided to take the highways I-81 and I-40 that led through Virginia, Tennessee and Arkansas, since I had never seen that part of the country before. I then looked for an Airbnb about 6-7 hours away from Philly to mark the first leg of my trip, and hovered around the Roanoke, Virginia, area. Then I noticed some cheaper listings in a neighboring town called “Blacksburg,” a place I’d never heard of before and which Google Maps made it look like a sparsely populated, “nothing to do there” sort of town. But I wanted something cheap and had no time to second guess myself so I booked a room there.
I received confirmation about a minute or two later that the room was mine, and I already had the next part of my trip planned out: I’d drive another 6-7 hours the following day to Nashville, Tennessee, where a distant relative and her husband live. I met this couple at a family funeral in Dallas over the summer and we all got along great! So I reached out to her via Facebook Messenger and asked if her family could host me, and if they weren’t able to or if I hear back by the time I got to Blacksburg then I’d just book my own Airbnb in Nashville.
While I waited for her response, I decided to hit the road. I grabbed my backpack and stuffed 2-3 days worth of clothes inside, then I grabbed my black dress shoes, the garment bag that held my black business suit, and threw everything inside my car and took off for Oklahoma. Secretly, I was excited to be going on an adventure, satisfying the wanderlust spirit within me that never stops scratching for the ‘next adventure.’
There I was on the highway, on a late Monday morning, driving with little traffic. Everything was going smoothly until about an hour into my trip, when I was somewhere in Maryland, that it began to snow. I flipped on my windshield wipers and questioned my Weather app because I only saw snow in the forecast for the following week, nothing for this week. Luckily though, the snow only lasted a few minutes, then the sun came up and I instinctively knew that everything would be okay for the rest of the day—and, just maybe, for the rest of my trip.
I soon pulled over at a major rest stop to use the bathroom. I’d been to this rest stop before and knew that it had a large food court surrounded by a dozen fast food restaurants, but only the well-known franchises were still open, the smaller ones had closed down temporarily (hopefully not permanently) due to COVID. After going to the bathroom and relieving myself, I checked my phone to see if there were any updates on my “socials.” There were the usual notifications, like birthdays, friend requests, who posted a new photo (à la selfie), etc., but one notification caught my attention: a new post in my Facebook family page which I assumed to be about the funeral.
I went to the post and read it. Without getting into the details and trying to respect the privacy of the family, there was some new information regarding the transmission of COVID being a small possibility at the funeral, but there were precautions being put in place to limit this risk. Needless to say, after reading this I no longer felt comfortable going, and I thought long and hard about whether I should go or not. I obviously didn’t want to risk anything but I also did put some time and effort into attending, as abrupt as my decision was, and I really wanted to see my family.
Ultimately though…I decided not to go. And I felt sad that I wouldn’t be able to surprise my family, but no one knew I was coming so at least I didn’t have to explain myself. Now I just needed to figure out what to do next: I could either turn around and go back home or I could drive to Blacksburg and use the Airbnb I paid for, something that couldn’t be refunded at this point. Um, there was no question about it—go to Blacksburg!!!
So over the next few hours, I made my way into Virginia and listened to podcasts and music to help pass the time. It was around 5 o’clock; I was about an hour or so from Blacksburg, and I decided to grab dinner now because who knew if Blacksburg had any restaurants in town. I already knew that I wanted Cracker Barrel because 1.) it was guaranteed that I’d find one; 2.) out of all the fast food restaurants available along the highway, they’d have less processed, more “whole” food options available; and 3.) they offer breakfast anytime, which is my favorite meal of the day!
I soon saw signs for a Cracker Barrel coming up, but when it was time to take the exit I was too lazy to get off the highway. Meh. I’d hit another one soon. And I did, about 20-30 minutes later! But it was located right before my exit, on the south side of I-81—and I had to merge north onto a new highway, US Route 460, to get to Blacksburg. “Mmm…F**k it,” I thought. “I’ll just take my chances in Blacksburg.”
So I drove away from Cracker Barrel once again and merged onto US 460, a clean and well-maintained highway; then I saw a signpost for Virginia Tech and some of its upcoming exits, and I grimaced and wondered, “Could Virginia Tech be located in Blacksburg…?”
I stopped the navigation on my Google Maps, which was leading me to my Airbnb, then scrolled up to the Blacksburg area, zoomed in, watched the pixels load…and saw the image of Virginia Tech’s campus located in Blacksburg. “Holy shit!” I said aloud, and I couldn’t help but grin because I randomly chose a place that had an actual civilization—a college town with many restaurants to choose from—which increased the chances of an adventure happening.
I pulled off the highway and into the parking lot of a small shopping center. I did some quick Googling to find a local restaurant that served “fish tacos” since that’s what I was now craving, but the two closest Mexican restaurants on campus weren’t opened for the day. Never mind; I knew a place that served chicken street tacos as an appetizer and had to be on campus: Buffalo Wild Wings. Yep! There was one nearby and I headed straight there.
I arrived at B-Dubs (“Buffalo Wild Wings”) which was located on the second floor of what looked like an office complex.
“Hi, I just have one,” I said to the hostess through my face mask, “but I was just wanting to sit at the bar.”
“Go ahead,” she replied. “It’s open seating.” She gestured towards the bar at the center of the restaurant, and I immediately noticed that no one was sitting on one side of the bar, so that’s where I’d sit.
For a Monday night, this place was full of college students, but it was their Christmas break, after all, so it only made sense that they’d be out and about—drinking some beers, watching sports, etc. Speaking of which, on the TV screens around me I saw the Bulls (Chicago) playing the Hawks (Atlanta).
I removed my mask as I took the seat at the far end of the bar. The bartender arrived and slid me a menu but I told him I knew what I wanted: a glass of Cabernet Sauvignon + street tacos. He poured me a glass of red. I took a swallow…it hit the spot, just what I needed after a day of impromptu and crazy-shenanigans traveling. And the street tacos also hit the spot. Extra icing on the cake.
I ordered my second and last glass of wine for the night, when a young man sat two seats down from me: Caucasian, thin round glasses, short brown hair covered by a ball cap.
“Here,” I said sliding my menu over. “I’m done with my menu if you need one.”
“Oh, thanks,” he said in a sort of nerdy tone. I wasn’t looking for a conversation but we naturally hit it off based on our IT backgrounds.
His name is John and he created his own blockchain company, utilizing his background in accounting. After telling him that I work in IT Tech Support, I somehow got us on a conversation about “big data” and how scary it is that Big Tech companies are collecting SO MUCH data from us, most of which we’re unaware of, and how they’re using this data to influence our behavior and the things we buy. He agreed with my thoughts and is the exact reason why he stays off most social media sites.
We also talked what the future of tech could look like, how it’ll only be more complex and overwhelming, not more simple, and how scary it can be if we’re not careful about what we create (think nanotech). I enjoyed our nerdy conversation but was ready to get to my Airbnb, so I bid John a good night, drove away from Virginia Tech and into a more remote area, where I traveled up a dark hill looking for a two-story house hidden somewhere amongst a forest of pine trees and sycamores…I found the house and grinned from ear to ear when I saw how wide the street was and the amount of parking available—something you never see in my city, Philadelphia.
My Airbnb host “Le” graciously welcomed me inside his warm and spacious home. He showed me upstairs to my room and we talked for awhile about various things (our backgrounds, coffee shops and restaurants I should check out, etc.), then he needed to finish some work on his laptop and I was ready to pass the f**k out. So I quickly brushed my teeth, left my contacts in, then collapsed on my bed and slept for a good, solid 8 hours—getting some of the best sleep of my life!
I awoke the next morning beaming with energy, excited to check out Blacksburg. The first thing on my agenda was to get coffee, of course; so I did a quick Google search and found a coffee shop on campus called “Coffeeholics.” Loving that name, I made that my first adventure for the day.
I swapped my gym shorts for a pair of Levi’s, threw on my lightweight puffer jacket, then headed out the front door, and as soon as I stepped outside I whipped my head back—“Whoa! Shit,” I muttered under my breath, feeling a burst of hot and humid air. I glanced at my phone for the temperature and was surprised to see that it was almost 50 degrees, a major contrast from the freezing temperature the day before. “Damn,” I said to myself, “with weather this nice, I can definitely go exploring today.” And I grinned, once again, from ear to ear.
Virginia Tech was a ghost town, due to the winter break, which was good for me because I did some sightseeing and took my time cruising around without having to worry about traffic.
The street that I needed to get on, Draper Road, where Coffeeholics is located, was blocked off and filled with lots of outdoor seating, expanding capacity for restaurants in the area. I circled around the block and parking adjacently on College Ave., then walked through a maze of wooden tables and benches to get to my destination.
The inside of Coffeeholics was quite large and had this DIY “boujee-rustic” style to it. There was nobody in the café except for the barista, a young brunette woman, who was sliding a rectangular coffee pot into a large brewer. I ordered a small House Roast coffee and mentioned that I was passing through town, coming from Philly. She’s from Jersey. Her family and friends hate the Eagles but she’s a fan.
I told her about the funeral that didn’t happen for me. Yada yada yada, we talked about random stuff…Then I asked if there were any good hiking trails in the area. “Oh! If you like hiking then you should check out Cascades Falls, it’s this really cool waterfall.”
Hmm…I was definitely intrigued. I raised my coffee cup to her and said I’d make that my next destination.
I took a long walk around campus then stopped by the University Bookstore to see what kind of school apparel they had. I became awash with school spirit and bought a “VT” athletic shirt which made me feel like a Hokie (their school mascot; and a turkey)!
I headed back to my Airbnb to check out and grab my belongings. Right before I stepped back into my car, I glanced at my new VT shirt and decided now was the perfect time to wear it. I tore the tags from my VT shirt—“T’sch!”—then removed my jacket and T-shirt; put on my athletic lightweight shirt, feeling like a whole new person; then drove off.
My destination, Jefferson National Forest—part of the Blue Ridge mountains, was located half an hour away from Blacksburg. As I drove closer towards the mountains, the region became more rocky and so my highway began to snake up and down. There came a point where I drove uphill for a really long time, just going up and up…Finally, I reached the top and saw a wide and vast mountain range before me, that I outright shouted “OH MY GOD!” because it was so unbelievably beautiful out here.
I descended downhill until everything leveled off. I eventually broke off the highway and drove onto a small country road, driving through open fields and passing old, well-kept country houses...I entered a forest then soon came across a medium-sized parking lot and arrived at my destination, the trailhead for Cascades Falls.
I chose not to look at the wooden panel that contained a map of the area, so I didn’t know how long my hike would be or where exactly I was going, but I trusted my intuition and would turn around if I didn’t reach the waterfall within an hour/an hour and a half at the latest.
I began walking on a dirt trail which led me along a stream, which was soothing to hear water trickling along rocks…I was out here all alone in nature, and I did the only thing one can do in my situation: collect my thoughts and do some self-reflection.
I wasn’t happy with my life lately because I felt stuck in my job…I had no motivation or inspiration to write…I wasn’t dating anyone at this time, save for a recent date…The cold weather and Omicron were pushing people indoors, making everything feel more isolating…Overall, I just didn’t feel like my true self.
So, to combat the loneliness, I began going out to bars after work, and what started out as a once or twice a week thing quickly turned into a nightly thing. I used “watching sports” as my excuse to drink, always sticking to wine and beer, never doing any hard liquor. And my “two-drink” limit easily became a four-drink limit, then six…
Fortunately, I was smart enough on most nights to leave the bar by 10 pm but sometimes I’d stay out till midnight—sometimes later. I learned that I could function just fine at work if I got 5-6 hours of sleep, and if I took a dose of vitamins, supplements, and probiotics first thing in the morning. But even when I was at work, my mind was always on the bar. I’d Google a new bar to check out, look at their menu and pick out wines and beers that looked interesting, then eagerly anticipate my next drink.
I began to dip into my savings to fuel my addiction, and that’s when I knew that what I was doing wasn’t sustainable. I had to stop but didn’t know how. Actually, I did know how but was ignoring the answers, which this place was clearly showing me right now:
I needed to change my environment.
I needed to change my mindset.
I needed to find my purpose and passion again if I was to take control of my life.
I continued hiking for the next 2 miles uphill…Subtly, I began to hear the sound of water pouring over rocks, and the sound grew louder as I walked along a damp and rocky trail…Then I saw it, a magnificent and beholding sight—Cascades Falls, that it brought an immense amount of joy and love inside my heart.
I walked around the waterfall and went up a series of stairs carved in the rocks that led to the side of the waterfall.
But the trail ended here and I wanted to go higher. So I hopped over the rail guard and continued hiking up the side of the mountain till I arrived at a small grass clearing, where I stood tall and caught my breath as I gazed out at the beautiful Blue Ridge mountains.
“God,” I thought, grinning and shaking my head. “If I lived here I’d go hiking every weekend.”
“Huh,” I chuckled, my face grimacing. “That’s an interesting thought, ‘If I lived here’…” The last time I said that was three and a half years ago when I came to Philadelphia for a friend’s wedding. Everything about that trip was so unique and special—“phenomenal,” really—that I HAD to move there, and I did whatever it took to make that possible. Now, I was beginning to feel the same way again…
As I hiked back down to my car, I let that thought stew around in my head. “If I lived here…” I quietly said to myself.
And on my drive back home, I knew without a doubt that I was GOING TO move to Blacksburg, Virginia.
The moment I arrived home I immediately began looking for a job in Blacksburg, specifically at Virginia Tech since I worked at the University of Pennsylvania and could use this to my advantage compared to someone applying from outside of higher education. I searched Virginia Tech’s career website for Tech Support jobs and found eleven postings that matched my criteria; I then printed out each job description and carefully read over the responsibilities of each job. I discarded the jobs that required 10+ years of experience or were too entry-level for me, and my search was narrowed down to three jobs that I was interested in and qualified for: two Tech Support jobs located off campus at the School of Medicine and one job located on campus in the Finance IT department. The last job was the one I wanted most and where I concentrated all of my “manifestation energy” into.
I also wrote a cover letter that highlighted my technical “hard skills” while also selling my robust people “soft skills” to distinguish myself as the best candidate for the job. I submitted my cover letter and resume to all three positions and while I waited to hear back from Virginia Tech, I began preparing as if I already had an interview lined up—specifically an interview lined up for the Finance IT position since that’s the job I wanted most.
It’s hard to explain why I felt this way, why I believed in something that wasn’t guaranteed, but deep down, I just felt like this was meant to happen, and I couldn’t help myself from writing this feeling down on a Post-it note (or perhaps my “Higher Self” came back through infinite time to write this down):
“I’m moving to Blacksburg, VA. I already have and am just working hard at the next phase of my life.”
Then two weeks later, I received an email from the Finance IT department at Virginia Tech stating they’d like to meet me for a virtual interview over Zoom. I gasped loudly and thought, “Holy shit! This is ACTUALLY happening!” The email directed me to a website to choose a time slot for my interview, where I then chose the last interview slot available, on a Friday afternoon, to give myself as much time as possible to prepare.
Over the next few days, I rehearsed every question they could possibly ask me. I rehearsed my past experiences and how my work benefited previous organizations. I thought about nothing but this interview—I ate and breathe it! Then, before I knew it, Friday afternoon finally arrived.
I sat in front of my laptop waiting for the interview to start, nervous as hell, still rehearsing everything in my head. I had two rounds of interviews to go through: For the first interview, I’d meet with four department heads that this role would be closing interacting with, and for the second interview, I’d meet with the hiring manager and the Director of Finance IT, only the most important person in the department. (Flicks wrist and wafts hand) No pressure.
The four people for my first interview appeared on my Zoom screen and the calm, collected and well-prepared version of myself quickly emerged. I spoke with such ease and got along great with everyone from the get-go. For the next hour and a half I answered all types of questions, and if I didn’t have an answer or couldn’t think of one on the spot then I emphasized my past projects and experiences where I took the initiative and thought outside of the box to solve a problem. I was confident during my entire interview and by the time it was over I felt that the job was mine.
A few days later, on a late Wednesday afternoon, I received a phone call from the hiring manager with an offer for the job. After some back and forth, I happily accepted his offer. And that’s how I got here today, how I was able to manifest all of this and turn my dream into a reality.
I want to close out my blog post with a picture I took the morning I drove out to Virginia.
I had just walked out of the gym when I saw this glowing sunrise, a dazzling “fireball” sunrise. I don’t know about you but I’m a very spiritual person, and so I like to think this was a sign of things to come. Maybe it wasn’t a sign of anything at all and was just a beautiful yet meaningless sunrise. Either way, my life changed forever that day and I’m more than grateful for everything that happened the way it did. It was all…serendipitous.
Anyways, by the time I post this blog I’ll be moving to Virginia tomorrow. Yes, you read that right: tomorrow. And to be honest, I’m kind of scared and nervous about the move since I’m going into the unknown, but I’m also fucking excited and can’t wait to move!
And so my dear friends, this is where you and I part ways. But I won’t say “goodbye” since this isn’t the end, rather instead, I’ll simply say, “Till I see you again…”