I’ve lived in Atlanta for 11 years, and that’s at minimum 9 years longer than I ever thought I would. (It’s also the longest I’ve ever lived in one city.)

I arrived here after completing an MFA in Fiction Writing from Penn State because I was broke in bank account and sense of direction, and my parents had moved from PA to Atlanta the year before. Atlanta was supposed to be a rest stop, a pause, a blink between now and a shimmering future on the west coast. With eleven years under my belt, obviously other things have intervened between me and that vision.

If we were a pair of jeans, Atlanta and I are an OK-make-do-for-the-price sort of fit. We aren’t made for each other, though. There isn’t that kind of sympatico, home sweet home, like-a-glove sort of feeling. There’s no blame to pass around here; it’s just that way.

While sometimes I’m flat out fatigued by it, I certainly don’t hate the place. There are many things I like about Atlanta. I love the wooded oasis that is our back yard: you can see the Midtown skyline in the winter, but in other seasons it’s positively pastoral — trees, wildflowers, songbirds, great horned owls, red-tailed hawks, possum, chipmunks, voles, even a fox. It’s fun watching a city design itself. It’s like watching a teenager stumble and bumble their way to maturity. Prior to the 1996 olympics, Atlanta didn’t have much of a skyline. Now there’s a new high-rise of interesting architecture going up every day. New cultural institutions are setting up shop, and decayed neighborhoods are experiencing rebirth. The city park is undergoing some serious expansion and there are plans to create another large city park on the opposite side of the interstate that divides the city into east and west. There’s an air of prosperity and pluck.

All this growth, to no surprise, has some significant downsides. Traffic absolutely rots. Public transportation is absurdly inadequate. Despite all the money floating around, the homeless population gets bigger all the time. Every day an area of trees the size of a football field is cleared for new development. As a result, Atlanta is in jeopardy of losing one of it’s most unique characteristics: it’s canopy of trees. The city has only a few neighborhoods where a historical designation is in place, and that means everywhere else homes of extravagant proportions are thrown up against cute, more modest Craftsman bungalows. Very quickly, some of our most funky neighborhoods are losing their quirk and their character. It really does seem that for every plus there is a minus.

All in all though, what stands out for me that some of the most significant changes — internal and external — have happened while I lived here. For that reason alone, I focus more on what I like about Atlanta, than what I don’t: the movies and improv in the park during the summer, all of the arts festivals, some really good restaurants, the aquarium, its reasonable distance from the beach and the mountains, mild winters, the good friends I’ve made, etc.

In April of next year, I’ll be moving to the south of France (exact location TBD). This very exciting change will unfold during the last year I’m in my thirties. I get to close out one decade and ring in another with all adventure that moving to a place where everything is unfamiliar affords.

I keep pinching myself, asking how did I get so damn lucky with that timing! Dunno. Does it matter?

Melissa, 38, Atlanta, USA

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