To Birmingham:

Dear Birmingham,

I’ve been studiously ignoring the “write blog post” item on my to-do list for weeks. The idea of trying to put words to what you’ve meant to me over the past 22 years is more than challenging, to put it lightly. When coupled with seemingly endless packing and planning a road trip to find my new home, it feels even heavier.

You’ve been my home since I started third grade. I’ve gotten to watch as you’ve filled your flaws with gold and iron, and it’s been magical to see you grow and mature. All the major milestones in my life have happened here: school, first love, college, first job, adopting my precious angel puppers, first (and second) books, marriage, divorce, and everything else.

You’re the city where I grew up, that taught me what love looks like when it’s healthy — and when it isn’t. You brought me the community that lifts me up when I fall. I learned to bartend here, and have spent hundreds of hours in deep conversation with people from all walks of life over food and drink. A short walk with my dogs can take a long time because sometimes, Birmingham, you just…happen.

You happen because you’re made up of some of the most wonderful humans on Earth. Conversations with them have challenged me to do better, to be better, and to treat other people better. My roots are here, and the community that has grown from them is more beautiful than I could have ever imagined.

But I’ve called you the biggest small town on Earth for a reason. You can feel claustrophobic: I rarely go a week without running into someone who’s known me for more than 15 years. Hell, I never meant to fall for you, but something about seeing the sunset behind your silhouette gets me. You will always be home, but it’s time for me to set out on a new adventure.

This isn’t a final farewell. I’ll be back pretty frequently, especially this year, and can’t wait to see how you’ve done. I will miss you dearly.

Love always,