When I first moved to Charleston a year and a half ago, I really lucked out. I had never set foot in the city before showing up with a loaded-down U-Haul truck, so how I managed to find a suitable home in this city, I’ll never know. My husband and I found our rental house among dozens of Craigslist ads, back when I didn’t know the difference between Sullivan’s Island and Goose Creek. After a real-life version of House Hunters, in which we had one Saturday to see houses and decide where to live, we ended up renting on James Island.
This was a happy happenstance. All the new friends we made in Charleston coincidentally lived on JI, as well. We’ve enjoyed the close proximity to Folly Beach and downtown and, for the most part, traffic has been reasonable (besides that damn left turn light at Folly and the connector!).
Our personalities seemed to mesh with the James Island vibe, too. We’re low-key and laid back, but not too hippie (we don’t live on Folly, after all). We’re not super rich and we don't own bicycles (downtown living), and we don't need access to Whole Foods and shopping centers or have children who need a good school district (Mount Pleasant). For the past year and a half, I’ve been happy to call myself a James Islander, though I never actually committed by putting a JI sticker on my car.
I guess the lack of a sticker jinxed me, because I’m starting 2013 by moving. I’ll be leaving James Island behind and heading to Byrnes Down in West Ashley. I like to think of this area of West Ashley, including Windermere and Avondale, as North James Island. I love the area, and to me, it has the same sort of vibe. But undoubtedly when people ask me where I live, I’m going to have to say “West Ashley.”
In Charleston, I feel like these few words of where you live can hold a lot of weight, and dare I say judgments and stereotypes? Once while dining at Fat Hen, I overheard a man at the table next to me refer to James Island as Charleston’s red-headed step child. I immediately felt embarrassed and ashamed. But why should I let this stranger’s views cast judgment on me? We’ve all heard the joking labels—Mount Plastic, West Trashly, etc. The stereotypes are out there, but that doesn’t mean we have to let them define us.
As for me, I’ll be moving to West Ashley with pride (even though I’ve never even seen a West Ashley sticker). After all, happiness isn’t always easy to find in this world, and if I find a piece of it in West Ashley, then so be it. It may not be as close to the beach or a Trader Joe’s as some other Charleston locales, but you better believe I’ll be walking to Three Little Birds for brunch and buying bulk supplies at Costco. Win for me!