Nomad. Vagabond. Departer. Drifter. Emigrant. Migrator. Mover. Transient. Wanderer.
Throw in “expatriate” and “gypsy” (if only because I believe that Van Morrison was singing directly to me in “Into The Mystic” when he described my ‘gypsy soul’,) and it’s me in a nutshell. Prone to the “Grass is Always Greener” syndrome, I find myself longing – and looking – for more, never really settling into where am nor what I’m doing. Weary of mind, weary of spirit, I find myself constantly looking ahead. Until now, when – while both weary in mind and spirit, believe you me – I’m looking back.
I moved to Atlanta on a whim. One day, planning my strategic route to the grocery store and growing fatigued at the requisite “Who do you work for” question that comes inherent with living in DC got to be too much. I wanted to drive my (then) new car around town without nearly getting blindsided by four errant cabs and hitting a self-aggrandized congressman who was too busy picking lint off of his Brooks Brothers suit to watch the traffic signals. I wanted to trade in the old, the charming, the historic for the New South, the glitz and glamour that surely Atlanta offered. And one trip down here was all it took.
I came to visit my two college friends and a weekend of debauchery ensued. I don’t know if it was my smittenness with the night scene, the electricity that then-Buckhead offered, or the bevy of attractive guys with voices so sugary and Southern that their vernacular dripped like honey, warmed by the sun of an Indian Summer afternoon, but whatever it was, I was captivated.
I applied for jobs immediately upon return, and given that it was still the Internet boom, got a few responses in not days, but hours. Within 6 weeks, I was bidding DC goodbye with nary a tear nor a look back. I was ready.
Since then, Atlanta has been much to me. A home base when I traveled, a true home when less transient, a source of pride, even, when catching up with High School friends who never strayed far from the metropolis that is Westlake, Ohio. I can feign the cosmopolitan facade all I want, playing up how WARM and how WONDERFUL this town is, yet, at the end of the day, the facade often crumbles.
Atlanta itself is a mishmash town, stuck smack dab in northwestern Georgia, with nary a true body of water within at least three hours. (And no, Lake Lanier does NOT count.) Post-Civil War Atlanta became known as the center of the Southern restoration and has had its fair share of history, not the least of which being the birthplace of both Martin Luther King and Margaret Mitchell. Yet it’s a nomad’s dream, as very few of its over 4.5 million residents are actually from here. It’s lost a true, unified culture, and the personality is flailing, at best. As such, I find its charm a bit weary and often find myself longing for more.
It’s ironic – the very things that made me leave DC are the things that make me long for a different city than the one in which I currently reside. While I don’t miss the political infiltration that can smother you come campaign-time, I miss the accessibility of DC, the charm, the history. I miss the intimacy. For all that Atlanta is and all that it offers, it falls short in the areas that it needs most – charm. Somewhere between the influx of people and the urban expansion, we’ve lost the around-the-corner coffee shops bearing names other than the neon glow of Starbucks, we’ve lost our Mom & Pop diners, and we’ve lost the hustle and bustle of a city on the go. Attribute it to the Southern Way if you must, but in many ways, Atlanta has lost its lustre.
Maybe it’s because I’m getting older, though I doubt it, but I’m finding myself tired of the routine. I know where most people will be on any given night, and though I do love the music scene and do love the weather and do love the Peachtree Road Race and do love my house and do love my friends, I long for the the water. I crave that sleepy, lackadaisical feel that towns like Savannah and Charleston provide in bulk. I yearn for streetlamps and Spanish moss and unpretension and even miss the sandwiches at Booey’s in DC. I’m happy here – I love my job, love my house & friends – but there’s the part of me that feels like I’m being somehow a fraud.
We have free will, and all, and I suppose I could again heed the call of the nomad, the song of mystery and opportunity and excitement that blows though my trees every so often, but I feel stuck. Stagnant. There’s nothing keeping me here (besides the job, that is), but nothing taking me away. I’m untethered yet bound by convenience.