I’m Here, Now What?

Newly-rooted Southern transplant reflects on her new life in the city…

When I turned twenty-two last year, I realized that I had grown weary of the monotony of my day-to-day life, socializing with the same group of people I’d known for years, living in the same home for almost my whole life and doing the same things day in and day out with little to no variations. I decided that I would find ways to challenge myself in every aspect of my life, to become a more robust version of myself.

I jumped at the chance to leave my safety net in Atlanta and move to the City of Brotherly Love. To me, this was the perfect opportunity to push myself out of my comfort zone and learn more about who I am as an individual. Who knew how difficult it would be, relinquishing my support systems to “find myself” in unfamiliar town?

The first thing that struck me about Philly was how culturally diverse it is. So many different experiences and ideologies coming together to create something unique that I found truly appealing. But how to begin to even scratch the surface here? Seems I’m so unaccustomed to all this diversity, I’m too overwhelmed to really engage. I’m beginning to realize that exploring a new city on your own is more daunting of a task than I thought.

Who knew it’d be so hard to meet new people, and make new friends in your 20’s? Previously, I’d met all of my friends in classes or extracurricular activities but now that I’m out of school, I have no idea how you’re supposed to make new connections. I mean, are you just supposed to walk up to complete strangers and strike up a conversation? And if so, what are you supposed to say in order to not come off as just some weirdo? The thought of it alone is terrifying.

Especially as a young Black woman in a new city, in today’s political climate. There are no handbooks on how to navigate this social landscape. I want to push myself to try new things, of course, but it’s hard to push past not just my personal anxieties but also the very real risk I’m taking whenever I open myself up to strangers. It’s incredibly stressful! It’s been a process for me, learning to be more patient with myself, and enjoy as much “alone time” I need to adjust to all the newness in my life now.

I can’t wait to start exploring Philadelphia this spring. I’m challenging myself to go to one new place every week, and find out more about all the city has to offer. With every beautiful landmark, museum and monument I discover, the more these historic streets will feel like home.

Adjusting to so much change is never easy! Instead of fighting my homesickness, I’m calling it out here so you can feel me.


The Hospitality  That ability that seemingly all southerners have to just instantly make you feel at home and loved — whether they love you or hate you.

The Space   Everyone and everything is so close to each other here. It’ll definitely take some time to get used to hearing your neighbors having casual conversations at one in the morning.

The Culture   Life in Atlanta moves at a much slower pace than here. People down south might take a leisurely stroll to enjoy the weather, but everyone here seems to move with much more urgency. It’s nice when I’m in a rush, but I sometimes miss that more laidback approach to life.

The Food   Philadelphia has the most diverse food choices of anywhere I’ve been — you can’t walk through most areas of town without running into at least three different restaurants, each with a different cuisine. Still, nothing tastes like home. I’ve spent the last two weeks searching for a decent fried chicken sandwich and I swear each one disappoints me more than the last!

The Comfort   With any new place, it can take time to gain a true level of comfort. I’m hopeful that I’ll grow to accept, and maybe even love, some of the things that feel foreign to me now. For now, I’m still searching for that sense of belonging you can only get when a new place feels like your own.

What’s Good Philly?

Please join me as I share my experiences – and reach out with your suggestions for cool places I should visit this year. Email me at akilahdillon.ad@gmail.com.

Akilah is a 22-year-old aspiring journalist new to the Philadelphia area in search of new beginnings. Though she’s been here since February, she hasn’t seen many attractions in the area and is always looking for suggestions on new places. Her interests include food, arts, pop culture and shopping. Follow her on Instagram @kilawithoutthebee.

All photos in this post by the author. 

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