Maybe some of you are wondering what has happened now that we’ve landed on American soil. I miss talking to you about our experience, even though now our experience is over. But another experience is beginning. A new life in a familiar place.
It’s very strange being back. It’s so very familiar here. I feel like I’ve had the very best dream ever and I’ve awaken, confused about where I am. Am I still dreaming? It all seemed so real. Was it a dream? If it was, can I go back to sleep and pick back up where I left off? But you can’t. All you can do is lie there and relive it in your mind. And it makes you so happy because it was such a good dream. That’s what it’s like right now. I look around, and it’s like I never left. I know the quickest way to the grocery store, which street to avoid because of the horrendous Atlanta traffic, how to work around construction or backups. It’s like I never left. But there’s something a little different and then I realize it’s me.
I love Atlanta. I’ve lived within 45 miles of Five Points my entire life. When I was a child, my mother would take us downtown to shop for back-to-school clothes. We would always have lunch either in the Magnolia Room at Rich’s or at the S&W cafeteria on Peachtree across from Davison’s (you might know it as Macy’s). My mother and father both lived in Atlanta in the ’40s and that’s where they met. Mother always felt comfortable being in Atlanta and knew her way around pretty well. It was all very glamorous to me and I used to dream about living there one day. Then one day I did. I went to college in Atlanta and have never lived anywhere else since then. We won’t talk about how long ago that was; let’s just say if it were a child it would be married and have a couple of kids by now. My point is, this is where I’ve always felt comfortable and happy. I’ve never thought of living anywhere else. Until now.
My absence has made me see things a little differently. I still love this city – but it’s more from a sentimental standpoint. When we arrived from Rome and our dear friend David was driving us to his home from the airport, we saw the wonderful view of the skyline heading north on 75-85. I felt a little tug at my heart when I saw that again after six months. It’s beautiful, especially when the setting sun makes the entire city glow in an ethereal way. It makes you think anything is possible. It makes you remember things you’ve done in you life and career that helped contribute to this city’s success. That makes you feel proud. I remember countless times when I was driving back home from visiting my family and I crested that hill and saw the amazing view of the skyline and I felt a peace and happiness that made me feel like I was finally back where I belonged. I always smiled when I saw it and relaxed a little into my seat. It was a true sight of joy for me. It was my city. It was still a great sight to see after six months, but it didn’t feel quite the same. It felt like someone else’s city. There was still a connection for me, but not as personal as before. This city, the city where my parents met and where I met my husband, will always hold a special place in my heart. I’ve just now realized that this special place is not necessarily the number one place. And I always thought it would be.
Life holds many changes for us every day. It challenges us to question our beliefs and what we’re comfortable with. That’s what I love about travel. If you travel as a visitor and not a tourist, you learn so much about people and about how everything fits together. It exposes you to the world – to different viewpoints, to different perspectives. If you travel as a tourist, you stay within your own comfort zone, in hotels that are familiar to you, around people you relate to. You don’t relish the little differences that makes us all special and unique. Those are the things that make us respect one another. You see that some opinions make you comfortable and other make you squirm. Squirm a little and see if it makes you challenge your own beliefs. It’s when we press ourselves to look at things differently that we really come to value the world. So many different people, cultures, beliefs, rituals, feelings. attitudes. All on one little planet. It’s all out there – just open your arms and your mind and you’ll be so glad you did.
We’re back now. Seems very odd to us and we’re not quite sure what that means. It may take us a while to figure things out. But while we’re figuring them out, we’ll remember with great fondness our experience in Italy. It wasn’t perfect – but our memory of it is darn near perfect. Maybe we’re different now. Only time will tell us where we need to be.