My sister and I are spending our Wednesday afternoon watching Toddlers and Tiaras (her choice, not mine). A Route 66 sign popped up, because of course that shit is in the Midwest. I asked my sister–who misses Tulsa, loves Tulsa, wishes a little bit that we had never left Tulsa–whether she plans to move back to the Midwest when she finishes school.
“No,” she said, rolling her eyes in the way she does that implies that I’m challenged. “I want to move up north.” I asked her whether she wanted east coast or west–she was pretty certain that she wanted east.
It’s strange to me that the South–where we’ve lived for nearly seven years, now–is not a place that anyone I know wants to stay. It’s not like we live in the middle of nowhere; we’re in Atlanta, with five million people and good food and all the culture we could want coupled with decent schools. In Tulsa, my friends and I wanted to leave even in elementary school–but that was because Tulsa is little and we knew that our thoughts were unusual there. Not so in Atlanta, a beacon of liberality in the midst of the entire rest of the state.
And yet, my little sister, who I think all our family thinks is more of a homebody than I am, wants to leave this land of macaroni and cheese and Civil War remembrances. And I, who everyone knew even from a young age was going to leave for the big city, am torn about whether or not to stay. I can imagine a life in Atlanta, in some back part of my lizard brain. It’s a nice city, the horrible heat aside.
I know, objectively, that I will be happier if I don’t stay within five miles of where I went to high school for the rest of my life–but it scares me that I can see it happening. I think more than anything that that’s why I’ve had such trouble letting of high school in college; I have no reason to, because I’m going to spend junior and senior year of college quite literally less than a mile from my high school. I know I need to say “fuck it” and move to San Francisco and rent a house with my best friend like we’ve been joking about for years. But I can’t imagine being away from good macaroni and cheese; I can’t imagine not being somewhere where it is always sunny the way that it is here.
I will miss it, when I leave for DC or San Fran or Chicago like I’ve been dreaming of since I was 10. And I don’t know if I’m strong enough to stay away. After all, my family all moved back to Arkansas even after they moved far afield in their 20s, my parents excepted. It worries me that I’ll be one of those people, and I’ll send my kids to Druid Hills and the rest of it the way that happened with more than one person that I know.
The South imprints on people in ways that are strange as we grow–especially to those of us who couldn’t get out for college. Who knows if this would be an issue if I’d gone to Northwestern like I wanted to? Would I feel like I missed the South and its food and its weather and its weird creativity if I was in a real city? Who knows. But I know that I do, the longer I stay here.
Hopefully I’ll figure it out before I have to look for jobs.