You don’t have to know me very well, or for very long, to know that I have a love-hate relationship with Atlanta. In fact, it may be the most complicated relationship I’ve ever been in, and that’s saying quite a bit. When things are good, they are very, very good. When things are bad, I want nothing more than to start a brand-new life anywhere that isn’t here.
When I moved here, the transition wasn’t easy. I didn’t expect Atlanta to be like New York, or Philly, or London. Yet, I didn’t expect it to be like L.A. or Miami, either. I’m not sure what I expected, except a place where people walked around after dark without getting mugged or harassed, a place where chivalry was still alive and well, and a world that was a little slower and kinder and gentler than the one I was used to. I thought of it almost as a trip to 1950′s suburbia. “Hey everyone, guess what? I’m moving to the South to live with a guy who’s smart, adorable, loving, and works hard. OK, so we don’t know each other that well, and I’ve never been to Georgia, but I’m sure it’ll all work out and everyone will love me!” .
Obviously, it didn’t, and the fact that things ended as they did may have kind of left a sour feeling towards Atlanta in my heart, one that always reminds me “I allowed myself to fall in love, take a huge chance, change my life because I’m stupid enough to believe in following your heart, and it really fucking hurt…so maybe that’s not a thing I should be doing anymore.”
Yet, I did stay, and I built a life for myself. Three times, it came crashing down around me in a dramatic fashion that involved immense feelings of betrayal at the hands of someone I either trusted, loved, or believed in…or all three. I won’t even claim my own choices had nothing to do with how those situations worked out, because of course they did, but on the karma scale balance of things, what I suffered far outweighed the transgressions I committed. I came to a point where I finally believed karma and I could call it even, I was going to put the past behind me, and move on.
When I put my mind to something, that’s typically what I do. When my intuition tells me I should take an opportunity, head in a certain direction,or take a chance on a relationship or a friendship that doesn’t seem to be the easiest or most rational choice, I listen. This is largely because I’ve learned the hard way. When I don’t listen, when I do what I think is what I should do rather than what that thing inside my gut is telling me to do, I run into obstacle after obstacle. Everything I do fails; every new endeavour is fraught with challenges and difficulties. When I don’t listen to that voice somewhere deep inside me that tells me my instincts *know* things, I end up feeling like the car trying to prove it’s stronger than the brick wall.
A few times, that voice that says “Atlanta is not your home; you don’t fit here, you don’t belong here, you’re not loved or wanted here, and it is nothing like you.” got insistent enough that I almost listened to it. Yet, every time I packed my bags or started making plans, something else, something that seemed like an opportunity I shouldn’t ignore came into my life. Of course, I took it as a sign…and I’m still here. Somewhere, in the core of my being, I know I am meant to be here for now, and it is not forever, but there is a reason I am supposed to be here right now, despite all this city has put me through and how incompatible it is with my lifestyle. Maybe it’s related to a relationship, to friendships that are like family to me. Maybe it’s related to me finding a career, a purpose, a calling. Maybe it’s just because I’m supposed to be in this place at this time, and one day, it’ll all make sense. I have this sense that when the time comes for me to leave, I won’t put it off, weigh the options, have doubts. I’ll know, and I’ll make a huge move in my life’s direction, just as I did in coming here.
Nevertheless, there are some things about Atlanta I don’t quite like. As a non-driver who isn’t a big fan of all things corporate, living in a city where people work in huge office buildings and everything is sponsored by some major corporate entity and spend 2 hours a day driving through a metro area the size of a small state isn’t necessarily a “go” for me. As a person who believes in real, emotionally connected relationships and soulmates and all that—despite my commitment-phobia and my pretty solid belief that we’re all meant to have more than one of the above in our lives—living in a city where 75% of single people say they wish to remain single, and dating means getting drunk, going to a club, hooking up, and moving on to the next option has never really been for me. Not that I didn’t do it, of course, but it taught me it isn’t who I am or how I am. As an uber-liberal, don’t-judge-me-and-I’ll-live-my-life kind of person, the conservative politics, the tendency to judge everyone and everything, and the fact that if you say something negative directly to someone, you’re “confrontational”—but if you smile and talk behind everyone’s back, the prevailing wisdom is “She’s so sweet!”—it just doesn’t gel with me. I was never a rude, obnoxious, weird, gold-digging whore in other places I’ve lived. Here, I’ve been labeled all those things, and much worse. It’s tough on a sensitive person, and maybe that’s the lesson Atlanta is meant to teach me.
If you’ve followed my blog for any length of time, you’ve read about all my exploits with dating people who turned out to be amusing anecdotes, friendships that went awry, douchebag people I shouldn’t have devoted blog space to, but did, and the dislike of certain types of individuals I’ve encountered in this city. You may have even heard my story of a fling with “The Worst Guy In Atlanta” turned into spoken word entertainment. For the first half of my stay in Atlanta, it seemed I was meeting all the wrong people. Since then, I’ve been fortunate enough to make some of the best friends and most stable relationships of my life, but for a long time, I was really convinced that giving up on the people of Atlanta was the way to go.
You see, more than anything else, I was meeting the people of Atlanta who didn’t make me feel secure. They didn’t let me be myself. They judged, and judged some more. I was meeting people who reminded me on a daily basis that nobody would ever love me because I was too weird, too odd, not pretty enough, not ambitious enough, not smart enough. Now that I am older and wiser, I see that’s just the vibe of how things go around here…a trip to the ladies’ room at the Buckhead club will convince anyone to get plastic surgery and develop an eating disorder, and that if you’re not married by 31, you might as well become a lesbian.
Yet, now I have vindication. It isn’t just me. A recent magazine article pegged Atlanta as America’s “Third Vainest City” (cities number one and two being in Florida and Texas, also Southern states known for urban sprawl, beauty pageant contestants, and driving your car around town to show off how awesome it is just because you can.)
Not that this is exactly the most scientific study out there, mind you, but if you disagree with me…I dare you to come live here, and when you leave, tell me how positively you feel about yourself, and how much you still like other people.
Sorry, Atlanta. We’ve always known this wasn’t going to work out, and one day, whatever we have is going to come to a timely end. It’s not going to be that painful for either of us, I suspect. However, when that day comes, I now have some proof to back up my assertions of why, exactly, it wasn’t meant to be.
You made me feel crappy about myself a lot, but it’s because you’re kind of an insecure jerk hung up on looks and money and power-tripping and name-dropping, and you’re really kind of mean and two-faced. You’re intimidated by things and people you don’t understand, so you judge them, which makes me realise I may be way too smart for you. You have a lot of nice people living in your space, but almost all of them have come from elsewhere to take advantage of your reasonable rents, bigger apartments, and greater chances of getting a job. Those who haven’t will likely catch on to the fact that you’re just not that nice, and end up moving somewhere else.
It always takes me a long time, after realising something isn’t right for me, to finally have that catalyst come along, smack me in the face, and tell me it’s time to make a change. I don’t know when that will happen. So, until then, we’ll stay together and I’ll tolerate your bullshit. I’ll make it work, even when it’s in the form of passive-aggressively raising the temperature to 106 degrees when my AC doesn’t work.
But, secretly, I know the truth. It’s not me, it’s you.
And since I’ve been likened to Casey Anthony in the past year, that’s got to be saying something.