It’s been a long time. I remember driving down I-59 for the first time and suddenly seeing you, lit up, silent and magical in the damp summer heat of 1995. I remember the shock of first encountering the true Southern talk at a McDonald’s drive-through and not being able to comprehend a word — or even make out a syllable. This was a whole different world. This was a whole different time.
Over the next 13 years, I learned lots of things. I learned that driving expensive German cars is not at all what I really want from my life. As a side effect, I learned how to get in debt up to my eyeballs and how to get out of it. I learned that parents will love you no matter what and that their hearts will bleed as they watch you making the stupidest mistakes on your path to comprehension of life.
I also learned that you can’t “fix” people or change them to your liking, no matter how hard you try. I learned that things will happen in most unpredictable ways and a beam of light would shine in the darkest of the night to reveal a new path. I learned what it means to be a family man and exactly how little sleep young fathers and mothers need to keep going.
Along the way, you were there for me. You cheered for my successes. You helped me deal with failures and consequences of poor choices. You taught me about serendipity, resilience, dedication and faith. And most of all, you taught me what it means to truly love someone.
You opened my eyes to the complexity and depth of the racial and cultural divide of this world and gave me hope that this divide can be overcome, even if one person at a time.
Thank you, Birmingham. Thanks for my friends, the opportunities, and the impeccable Southern hospitality. Thank you for your wisdom and willingness to embrace this quirky Russian.
On August 1, we part ways. True to your old-fashioned ways, you stay where you are. But a little part of you will move on with me and my family. Mountain View, here we come. Looking forward to meeting y’all out in California.