The end of summer was the start of a new chapter in my life taking place in Charlotte, North Carolina.
My parents and friends thought I was crazy to accept a job across the country in a city and state I'd never been to. But I was excited to say goodbye to the California world of eternal sunshine I had grown up in and give it a go somewhere barbecue reigned king and people sit on their porches drinking sweet tea.
At least, that was my audacious expectation. And while some of my presumptuous beliefs held true, like my eternal longing of the beach, here's a few things that have caught me by surprise within the first two months of calling Charlotte home.
1. Panthers are royalty.
My very first NFL game! NC sure does love their Panthers pic.twitter.com/8Xb8ACnxkV— Andie Judson (@andiejudsonnews) November 11, 2016
Yes, yes I know. I should have expected this, especially as the beloved team is coming off a trip to the super bowl. But from someone whose sport strategy solely relies on applauding awkwardly when everyone else in the bar cheers, I'm a little out of my element on game day.
I should have realized this before and studied up on my football facts. I'm still surprised they didn't fire me on the spot at work when I asked who Cam Newton was, but the first time I grasped an understanding of Charlotte's love of their team was September 18. The first home game.
During a morning walk to my local Harris Teeter (not Tweeter, I was corrected many times) my neighborhood had transformed into a blue and black party. Beers were cracked and hot dogs on the grill before I had even managed to have my morning caffeine.
The atmosphere was full of Panther pride, but my biggest takeaway was the hospitality offered to this football dud. A casual stroll to the grocery turned into an invitation to join the Panther party. I was immediately welcomed into the community.
I can now say I am a Panther fan because of the passion, community and acceptable excuse to eat a hotdog before 9 a.m.
In elementary school, our state history lesson consisted of a brief overview of America calling dibs on the golden state followed by a week-long construction of a cardboard replication of the mission we were assigned (mine was Santa Barbara and I used marshmallows for the walls).
I'm not trying to bash my home state's history. We have a rich historical text consisting of Native American, European, Spanish and Mexican reign. But California became a U.S. state in 1850. North Carolina's history contrasts in comparison. The Tarheel state was one of the original 13 colonies. Close to when California was joining the party, North Carolina was one of the 11 states seceding, sparking the American Civil War.
Just outside my apartment complex lies a cemetery (it's not as creepy as it sounds) with a sectioned off area where confederate soldiers lie.
For someone who thinks Blockbuster video is historic, it's incredible to think of those who contributed to the shaping and forming of not only the Queen City, but the entirety of the south.
3. A lot of Charlotteans aren't from Charlotte.
I have had a handful of Uber drivers say they've moved here from New York and proceed to give advice on best pizza in Charlotte and frankly, I trust any east coasters pizza knowledge. But whether it's the best pizza, brunch, brewery or hiking trail, it feels that most people give me suggestions because they've been right there with me, new to the Queen City and still trying to figure it all out.
Even if you're not as fresh of a newbie as I am, or you're thoroughbred North Carolinian, stick with me as I take on the beautiful city of Charlotte and great state of North Carolina.
I'll be writing a weekly story about my take on Charlotte and I want to hear from you. Let me know your must-dos, don't-dos, go-to's and survival tips.
Follow Andie on Twitter @andiejudsonnews or email firstname.lastname@example.org