Sister Sarah: "It is clear that you love Sacramento."
Lady Bird: "I mean, I guess I pay attention."
Sister Sarah: "Aren't they the same thing? Love and attention?"
-Lady Bird (2017)
Whenever someone in Los Angeles asks me where I'm from, I default to "Atlanta, Georgia." What I usually neglect to specify is that I grew up in a suburb of Atlanta called Snellville. While I only grew up half an hour outside the city, I feel that saying Atlanta makes me appear urban rather than obsolete. While I lived in more urban areas before starting school and made countless weekend outings to the city growing up, I didn't have an Atlanta city zip code. The truth is this: the Friday night lights, strip malls, and impossible left turns of Snellville, Georgia have shaped me just as much as the the abundant hip-hop, art, and traffic of Atlanta. Having now looked at these two areas from afar, I've realized that they are both diverse, supportive, and beautiful in their own right. In other words, my hometown is far from the remote and provincial place I have internalized it as.
In high school, I would never say that I loved where I went to high school in "Snellvegas." But every time I've driven while home for summer, I've paid careful attention to every long road lined with trees, every church-service induced traffic jam, every runner stifling in the humidity, and every interaction I've shared with a long lost classmate or teacher. I know now that I grew up paying almost the same degree of attention to my hometown, hearing fireworks from Stone Mountain in the distance night after night. I cringed at our tacky slogan-- "Where Everybody's a Somebody"-- but I remembered it just the same.
Wanting to break free of the constraints of my suburb made me part of a larger statistic. That is, the multitude of teenage girls (like Lady bird) who feel entitled to a big city lifestyle. I was merely one contributor to a larger archetype. And while I'm happy to now live in Los Angeles, it doesn't come at the expense of respect for where I grew up. Transitioning from childhood to adulthood (or, semi-adulthood) has meant experiencing a new kind of salience of myself. When everything seems at odds, going to Georgia once in a while makes things clearer. It allows me to pay more attention to the people who remain in my corner here-- my family, family friends, former teachers, and, of course, my closest childhood friends. More people supported me than I thought, and that is what I will always acknowledge and love. And for that reason, I will always love the overcrowded, tree-lined roads of my hometown.