By Chandra Chakravarthi
I’ve always called Birmingham, Alabama my home. It’s the only one I’ve ever known. I didn’t realize how easy it was to get “stuck” in your hometown until I had graduated college. The longer that I had been out of school, the more I felt stuck here and at times stifled. I had always wanted to have that experience of living somewhere different – someplace where I could be exposed to different types of people, a different environment, different lifestyle, maybe even form a new identity or simply be a more authentic version of myself. But I wondered if it was even possible. Could I really commit to moving? It doesn’t sound like a life-changing decision, but let me tell you when you come from my hometown, it’s really surprising how many people choose to remain here and are totally content with not ever leaving. And going to a nearby university in a college town doesn’t really count.
I don’t know what it is about this place that keeps people from wanting to leave. Maybe it’s the fact that everyone seems to settle down at a young age, and naturally you want to be near your loved ones and peers who will be getting married and having kids right alongside with you. You want to go through those significant milestones with those who play an important role in your life. Maybe it’s the comfort of knowing that you’ll always guaranteed to see someone you know whether it’s at the park, coffee shop, bar, or church. Maybe it’s because people here prefer feeling like big fish in a small pond. Or perhaps it’s simply that there’s a level of comfort and familiarity that you can’t find anywhere else because it’s something that only comes with time and if you grew up there, and who wants to put that much effort when you already have it. That’s not to say the majority of people fit into these categories of course, but it is a somewhat accurate representation of Birmingham (or perhaps any city really).
As a person on the cusp of entering her late twenties, now is as good a timing as any to venture out of Alabama and experience living somewhere completely different. Earlier this year, I started looking for another job because I was ready to move on professionally, but also, I saw this as my ticket to leave Birmingham. Now I wasn’t leaving just to leave, but I wanted to leave on my own terms with a security blanket under me. About a month ago, a promising opportunity came my way, and now I am actually leaving before the end of the year. I’ll be moving to Chicago in less than a week, and I’m still trying to wrap my head around it. It’s a great many changes happening all at once which is exhilarating, terrifying, nerve-wracking, overwhelming, and empowering.
This is just a small list of what is currently making my head spin:
- I’m moving away from my one and only home.
- I’m starting a new job.
- I don’t know a single person in this new city.
- I’m going to learn how to rely on public transportation because I won’t be driving there. I’ve never driven in snow, and I really don’t plan on learning while I’m up there.
- How will I do my grocery shopping? Do people really walk seven blocks with milk and other stuff? And what happens when it’s snowing?
- How much layering do I have to do to stay warm? How do even you dress for single and negative degree temperatures?
I think my questions and concerns are completely valid, and I’m okay with seeming a little neurotic.
There’s a part of me that will always love Birmingham for its familiarity, and knowing that it’s flourishing into this ultra hip city that people are beginning to flock to. Seriously, it’s an underrated city, and I totally believe it! It’s not perfect, but hey what city is? Chicago has its own shit that I’m sure I’ll realize once I get settled. However, at this point, Birmingham is still moving a bit too slow for me, and I need a change of pace. I feel restless and stifled in a place where I’m surrounded by like-minded people who I don’t necessarily relate to. I’m not saying that I won’t come back because you can’t help but find yourself returning to your hometown. After all, they say “home is the where the heart is.” However, until those feelings resurface, I need to step outside my comfort zone and make this change. I’m not going to limit myself especially now when I’m still young and single. I want to make new beginnings, cherish my times in Alabama, and I don’t want other people’s opinions about leaving Alabama to hold me back. I’ve had people tell me I’m crazy and ask me why with a slightly confused expression. And I feel sorry for those who choose to remain within their own comfort zone. That’s really doing an injustice to yourself. Why limit yourself to one experience or perspective? This isn’t to say that your hometown isn’t ultimately where you belong, but how will you truly know unless you leave and see it as an outsider. Often times, the only way you can really see the charm and beauty of a place is when you look at it from a different perspective and with a fresh set of eyes.
Moving to Chicago will make me appreciate my hometown more. It will make me realize how much easier life is down here and how I’ve taken some things for granted. I’m sure I’ll even miss the sweltering Alabama summers after enduring wintertime up there. I’ll recognize the beauty in a place that you won’t find anywhere else. Then again, it might convince me never to return. Who really knows? I think moving away will help me realize where I really belong…whether it’s one day returning here or continuing to experience living in different cities until I find one that I can call home. I do have some trepidation of the unknown and all the changes that are about to take place, but I’m aware that’s perfectly normal. It’s mainly this undeniable feeling of excitement though. I refuse to let my new fear control my life. I want to go to Chicago with an open heart and an open mind. I want to experience as much as possible although that will happen more after the winter months as I’ll probably be a hermit for my first few months up there. This move isn’t permanent but it needs to be done while I’m still open and willing to do this. I want to appreciate my new life up there, but I also want to wistfully watch Birmingham come into its own.
Chandra is southern born, hailing from the underrated city that is Birmingham, Alabama. Now she’s calling Chicago her new home to explore. She might be guilty of using the word “y’all” too often and appreciates the awesomeness that is grits. She likes to work out, but only because it allows her to eat pizza and chocolate guilt-free. She is always willing to marathon the Harry Potter movies or watch a classic film and hopes to travel more in the future so she can continue to add to her postcard collection.
Photo Courtesy of Aidan Meyer/Unsplash