An Open Letter to Atlanta: The Road Between Two Cities

My Dearest Atlanta,

You weren’t my first city, but you’re the city in which I reside at this very moment. I think I’m writing this letter because soon I’ll have to part with you, and when that happens, the road on which I’ve been walking for the past 18 years will stop abruptly, and pick up in the suburbs of Chicago.

In my earliest years, you were foreign to me, a place to which I traveled often, though I still felt like merely a visitor.

I was a peasant, living off to the side in your suburbs, where my first indentation in the ground was a tiny pair of footprints, 3 inches long, and 1 inch wide.

But my cousins! They lived in the big city. Whenever we’d visit, I would drive down the same highway, past the same billboards, landmarks, shopping centers, and flashing lights. Over the months and the years this path became very familiar to me, and the path that my footprints left went back and forth between the suburbs and the city, though the destination itself still did not feel familiar.

When I started going to school in your Buckhead vicinity, I felt more like an outcast than ever before. Because where else is there such an obvious contrast between those who were ITP and OTP? You could detect who was what by the stores they referenced, the streets they walked.

But over the years, I drifted from the suburb life and assimilated into your culture. I don’t know when exactly it happened. All I know is that one day, someone asked where I was from and I told them Atlanta instead of Alpharetta, my home, my beloved suburb.

Apartment life was shabby, and my quarters were awfully quaint, but hey! I was finally in Atlanta. Slowly becoming a citizen of this region, I started to adopt your customs. I learned your street names, the concert venues, and soon I felt like a local.

It wasn’t until I drove to and from my beloved suburb alone one evening that I recalled the drive from suburb to city, the same billboards and shopping centers that had faded into near non-existence over the years.

Except from now on, it will have to be city-to-suburb, the other way around.

And now I am here, living in a house much less suburban because it’s smaller and more compact; property here is more valuable. Gas is more expensive, and parking spaces are rarer.

My big city persona has pushed out much of my suburban identity.

I am nearly you, Atlanta.

All my love,

Catherine

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