A Love Letter from Julia Deckman

Julia:

I wasn’t born in the Lowcountry, but I found my home here in Charleston. When I reflect on the past 5 years, I realize I owe so much to this amazing city. Charleston is the place where my soul feels at peace and my mind is awakened.

Prior to my time here in Charleston, I had spent my life with my head down and blinders on. I was going through the motions of someone I thought I was “supposed” to be, checking “accomplishments” off my to-do list:

  • Be a good student

  • Don’t cause trouble

  • Go to college and graduate with honors

  • Move back home to be close to family

  • Find a “real job”

  • Bide my time until it’s time to start a family

Without realizing it, my life was passing by and I never took the time to get to know my true self and what I really wanted; I was unknowingly a stranger to myself. The older I got the more anxious and unsettled I felt, but I ignored my anxiety and my subconscious. I assumed all would be well when I was finished with my “to-do” list.

Then, five years ago, I moved to Charleston and I woke up in the middle of a life I didn’t recognize. It’s as if I was asleep for my entire adult life; the path I had been headed down had nothing to do with ME. But I found that the more time I spent in this beautiful city, the more alive and peaceful I felt. I found the courage to make some incredibly difficult decisions and make major changes. I finally started to be present and live on my terms. Charleston gently woke me up and offered the perfect environment to begin living my true life and to be true to myself.

I believe that Charleston is my perfect oasis. It has so much to offer, whether it be the beautiful architecture, the amazing food, the art and culture, or its rich history. Charleston is diverse enough to keep you on your toes, yet inviting enough to make you feel safe and comfortable. The sense of community here is powerful, and I am so happy to recognize faces almost everywhere I go.

Follow Julia on Instagram @byjdeckman

Charleston has also provided me the opportunity to pursue my dreams. After moving here, I quickly realized I would never be happy unless I made my passion a priority. So two years ago I started my art business, and this city has helped support me every step of the way. I scrapped my old “to-do” list and came up with another:

  • Start creating art again

  • Set up a professional business

  • Push myself out of my comfort zone and network

  • Collaborate with other local creatives

  • Become a resident artist at Redux Contemporary Art Center

I am excited to say I have accomplished all those original goals, but the list continues to grow. While I have so much I still want to achieve, I feel fulfilled, happy, and very fortunate. I don’t believe I could have made this life change or become the person I am today without the support of Charleston and its amazing community.

Thank you, Charleston, I will love you forever.

ps. to get a unique perspective on my professional journey, follow along with my blog byjdeckman.com/blog. I actually like to reflect on my initial posts whenever I'm feeling in a rut. It makes me realize how far I have truly come: early days post, year one reflection, year two reflection

As a note of Interest: Angela recently commissioned Julia to paint a portrait of her beloved Tater. We think that it turned out just perfect!

A Love Letter from Mackenzie Foster

Mackenzie:

“Why would anyone want to leave this wonderful city?” is a question I hear frequently from visiting friends and family.  They are always in awe of the warm sunshine, the diverse restaurant scene, and the abundance of things to do. While I don’t have good answer to their question, I can say that I was one of the ones who left. After four years at the College of Charleston, studying for midterms, lying on the grass at Marion Square, countless hours at the beach, and playing Ultimate Frisbee outdoors all year round, I graduated, packed up, and moved to Chicago. Cold, snowy, eight-months-of-winter, Chicago. My five years in the Windy City were filled new experiences, lots of fun, and many lessons learned, but I do have to admit that moving back to Charleston was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. Luckily, the Lowcountry welcomed me back with open arms. My departure and return enabled me to see the Lowcountry in a whole new “rose colored glasses” kind of light. While sitting down to write this post I made a list of all the things that I love about the Lowcountry and what makes it unique (it was a little extensive…). There were many topics that have already been mentioned on Lowcountry Love Letters (including some of my faves- the beauty of brunch, the growing craft brewery scene, and of course the beach) so I narrowed my list to three.

1) People

There is nothing comparable to the people you meet in the Lowcountry. South Carolina’s “Smiling Faces, Beautiful Places” motto is spot on. Upon my return, I immediately appreciated the warm feeling of walking down the street and having complete strangers smile and say hello. While the rest of the country sometimes thinks this is strange, here Southern kindness reigns. I was very impressed by my neighbors who are always willing to lend a helping hand, my coworkers who understand that family comes first, and my friends who are always there when I need them. I get laughed at from my Chicago friends when I tell them I am baking a pie or a casserole to bring to a friend or that a friend is cooking me dinner, but this is just the way people in the Lowcountry treat each other.

Our annual Charleston family Easter took place yesterday, where of course, Mackenzie brought two grits dishes.

2) Pace

When I first moved to Chicago, I worked with a group of individuals from New York who were opening a Broadway musical in the Windy City. I was in the throws of learning the lifestyle differences between what I have always known and what I would need to quickly pick up. One instance stuck out in particular; while driving with a coworker, I was informed that my driving style could be described as “moseying” (he was a little terrified of the defensive drivers). While at the time I was extremely offended, I have now learned to appreciate the notion of “stopping to smell the roses”. Most of those that I have met upon my return to the Lowcountry have perfected the art of a work-life balance. They understand the beauty of sitting on the porch with a cold beverage, watching the world go by, or taking a long slow stroll down the beach while catching up with a friend.  In a city filled with such beauty, it seems as though the inhabitants ensure that they take in and appreciate all that the Lowcountry has to offer.

3) Culture
As someone who has a background in theatre and the arts, I understand the South is sometimes perceived as having limited options when it comes to the world of art. Luckily, Charleston does not follow suit. We have Spoleto Festival USA, (which is coming up quickly!) offering seventeen days of world-renowned artists who come in from all over the globe to present dance, theatre, opera, and music.  We have the French Quarter Art Walk happening four times a year, touring Broadway shows coming through the North Charleston Performing Arts Center (Phantom of the Opera going on now!), contemporary art centers like Redux and The Halsey Institute, Reggae Nights Summer concerts, improv at Theatre 99, dance projects like DanceFX, concerts at the Charleston Music Hall or the Music Farm and the list continues. There is always something new and fun to experience.

Bio (by Emily):
Mackenzie lives in Mt. Pleasant with her diva cat, Lucille. She spends her days running the world of set design and production for various projects that include Spoleto, President Obama's visit last year, Darius Rucker's surprise CMT concert on the Isle of Palms and more. Her evenings and weekends are filled with outdoor adventures, glorious first sips of champagne, and bad television with her best girlfriends.