I moved to Atlanta one year ago to study for my master’s in history. I packed my dresses, crammed my cat into a kennel, and as soon as I squirreled as many books as possible into every nook and cranny of the car, my Pa and I headed east on the I-10 for 2000 miles and never looked back. We traveled across the country and saw some of the best roadkill this beautiful nation has to offer, and when we arrived in Atlanta, I found the most perfect apartment with the most affordable rent with the most glorious view of the most beautiful city.
Well, at least this is how I wish it had went. While the roadkill was very diverse and of the utmost quality, I looked back over my shoulder where I imagined my southwestern home might be. When we arrived in Atlanta, I picked the second apartment complex that we visited because it was too hot and humid for me to care to look anywhere else. The rent was affordable, but the neuron that was meant to fire signals about getting exactly what you pay for must have died from heat stroke or dehydration. And it turns out that Atlanta is neither the most glorious or the most beautiful city. When people ask me why I chose Atlanta over the other schools that accepted me, I tell them “because I’m too poor for anything better.”
Then people ask me how I like Atlanta, and I never know how to answer. I live in the middle of Atlanta proper, which I imagine is a great place for the young, club-seeking, drinking divas that HBO and magazines tell me that I should be loving. I’m not that diva, though. I go to sleep at 11.00 so I can get up at 6.00 in order to be ready for my day by 8.00. Initially, I told people, “I’m not here to have fun, I’m here to get my degree.” I started hating Atlanta about a month into my program for that attitude. I hated the smells and sights of the city. I hated the selfish, urban dwelling people. I started to hate my apartment and how small and lonely it was. Worst of all, I started to hate what I was studying. I just hated everything about everything and nothing could make me feel good.
I’m in Phoenix right now for my three weeks of summer break, and I’ve had an epiphany about my dislike for that ugly, nasty, wet, smelly city: I am, probably, severely over reacting. Once this thought crossed my mind, I felt very silly immediately. The image of a three-year-old with my face, sitting at the kitchen table screaming “I HATE VEGETABLES!” flashed through my mind. Of course you can’t hate every vegetable. Maybe a few are very icky, and maybe some others taste a little better than others, but for the most part every single vegetable tastes great in a big, fat, greasy pot of stir fry. I’ve been fighting Atlanta, fiercely and with the whole of my self, determined not to find anything to love in that city. There’s absolutely no reason for it, especially when I have a lot of opportunities to take advantage of. I can volunteer at any number of the non-profits around me, or pick up a hobby at one of the hundreds of clubs at one of the hundreds of cafes, or combine the two and achieve a life-long goal of volunteering at the Humane Shelter, collect all the cats I want, and create a club called “Cat Ladies UNITE.” I’ve seen enough cat-carriages go around the block to know that there is a crazy cat interest and need.
I never want to find myself in any one place of my life for a single reason alone, existing for one purpose, striving for one goal alone. It sounds very one dimensional and close-minded, doesn’t it? I want to make sure that I am always in motion, and not only propelling forward, but stretching out in all directions, like the noodles and vegetables in a big, greasy pot of stir fry. No one can hate a good batch of stir fry. And while I still feel anxious when people ask how I like Atlanta or why I picked the capital of the South as my new stomping grounds, I’ve decided that it’s alright not to know and it’s alright to go on an Appalachia adventure finding my answers.