John Alan Turner

Speaker, Author, Mentor, Coach, Facilitator

Atlanta In The Rearview Mirror

I can remember, when I was a kid, my grandparents lived in Atlanta, and I lived in West Monroe, Louisiana. Coming to Atlanta was like coming into the City of Oz -- giant buildings glimmering in the sunlight. We had to drive past Six Flags to get there, and that only added to the fun and anticipation of what might lie ahead. We'd see that golden dome of the Capital Building. We'd eat at The Varsity. It was so not West Monroe. And I loved it here.

Of course, we were always coming to visit around holiday seasons, so that sense of wonder was always hanging in the air. Thanksgiving. Christmas. Fourth of July. There would be food and fireworks. Georgia football. Or Braves games.

Man, I remember going out to the old Fulton County Stadium and sitting in the bleacher seats to cheer on a team that was just terrible. But I didn't care. It was part of being a little boy in a big city.

And I dreamed of one day living here.

Then when I was in fourth grade we moved to California -- the opposite side of the world. I remember going to Dodger games when the Braves were in town. I felt like that guy in the old School House Rock cartoon: "Hooray! I'm for the other team!"

Oddly enough, my family eventually moved to Atlanta -- Stone Mountain to be precise. We moved at the beginning of summer in between my freshman and sophomore years in high school.

And I hated it here.

It rained all the time -- seems odd to say that given the past few years of drought, but the summer of 1985 was wet here in the south. I'd absorbed enough west coast snobbery to really live with a chip on my shoulder out here. I wasn't very pleasant to be around, and I let people know at every opportunity that I was only here because my parents wanted to move here.

The first chance I got (high school graduation), I drove straight to the Pacific Ocean and lived there -- Malibu to be precise. But life is funny sometimes. I married a woman who wanted to work at the Olympics more than anything else she could think of. So, in 1994 we moved right back here to Atlanta.

We've left a couple of times in the 14 years since then, but we always seem drawn back here -- the last time was nearly six years ago. Maybe it's the charm of the new south. Maybe it's the climate. Maybe the affordable housing. Maybe the Braves.

It's probably the people.

We have more friends here than I could name. Dane & Christy. Steven & Angelique. David & Pam. Michael & Dawn. Danny & Tammy. Bob & Jenn. Chuck & Laura. Hal & Jenny. Phil & Holly. Yuriy & Nadia. Jeff & Elizabeth. Ken. Mark. Greg. Leigha.

I could go on and on.

We've been to weddings and baby showers and funerals. Late night hospital trips. Emergency rooms. After church lunches. Small group dinners. Cookouts. Movies. Concerts. Midnight phone calls. Back porch conversations about marriage and kids and dreams and fears and hurts and love.

We've done life together.

A couple of years ago I said that God himself would have to show up and pry us out of Atlanta. Who knew he'd actually take us up on that offer? That is precisely what we feel has happened. God is calling us to this new venture back in southern California. Being the type of people who long ago determined to respond to such promptings, we are eager to obey. But we are so, so incredibly sad to go. I cannot remember feeling such a complex swirl of emotions as I feel tonight.

In a matter of hours, I'll say goodbye to this beautiful city where so much of who I am was forged. Where so much of what I know was learned. Where so much of my heart will stay. Sometime tomorrow -- perhaps as you are reading this -- I'll drive past the golden buildings shimmering in the summer sun. I'll drive out past Six Flags, and I'll look back at Atlanta in the rearview mirror.

And I will miss it here so much.

Farewell, Atlanta. And farewell all you fair Atlantans who have meant so much to us over the years. We love you more than we can say. And we will most likely be back sometime.