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Friends,

I’ll just put the lead at the front, so if you read no further, you’ll know this much:

At the end of the month, I will move to Seattle, Washington.

Today is my 25th birthday, and it is bittersweet. I’m a bit overwhelmed, but in a very good way after a whirlwind week in the Pacific Northwest.

The Seattle Post-Intelligencer, the oldest daily newspaper in that city, flew me to town to interview for a business reporting position.

I left Mobile last Saturday with a packed suitcase and a head full of story ideas for those editors. I returned today with a job offer, a signed lease on a Seattle apartment and no liquids in my carry-on.

Before the interview, the paper put me up in a $300 per night Marriott hotel on Lake Union, gave me a rental car and said, “explore.”

I did.

My Medill friend Chuck Chiang, who works for a newspaper in Oregon, drove six hours to the city to share the joy. He brought his guitar. What a happy reunion!

We ate at the Pink Door in Post Alley. Rode to the top of the Space Needle. Strolled around neighborhoods. Watched men toss fish at Pike Place Market.

I marveled at the prospect of moving back to a big city after 17 months of living in Alabama.

The night before the interview I jogged to calm my nerves. I trotted past the Seattle P-I building — which is a part of the Seattle skyline, right on Puget Sound with an enormous rotating globe. The globe has the words, “It’s in the P-I.” (Reminds me of the Daily Planet from Superman!)

The interview was intense. I met with 10 managers and editors and five reporters. But I was so impressed with the dedication and talent of people in that newsroom. I can’t wait to work with all of them.

On Tuesday, I took a vehicle ferry to stay with my American University professor, Rob Wells, who first planted the seed that I could maybe make it in this business. He lives in a small shore town called Gig Harbor, on a peninsula about an hour from the city.

He and his wife let me stay in their gorgeous guest room right on Puget Sound! Their home became my staging ground for the rest of the week.

On Friday, I returned to the P-I to sign their offer letter and make plans for my move across the country (which they will pay for, entirely, thank God!)

Then I met with a property manager to sign a lease and pay September’s rent on my new apartment — a cute bungalow in a neighborhood called Greenlake. It is just five miles north of the Space Needle and the Seattle P-I. It is one block from the lake and next door to an outdoor grill, a public library and a Starbucks. (Of course.)

In the weeks ahead I’m looking at lots of goodbyes. Hugs and tears. And excitement over the newest adventure.

(Miss Carol from church called me while I was in Seattle. “Come on back to us baby ‘soon as you can. It was lonely in the front pew without you darlin.”)

In many ways, moving to the South was like coming home. The South to me feels as real as any other place I’ve lived. It is here. I am here, in the South, right now. Surrounded by heat, palm trees, bugs & critters.

Oh, I will miss the South. Alabama. The Gulf Coast. Mobile.

I will miss the grey-haired ladies at my church, their big hats and spindly hugs.

I will miss ice cold sweet tea on heavy hot days.

I will miss being baby and darlin’ and honey.

I will miss the enormous fuzzy live oaks.

I will miss knowing all the shop keepers, walking down the street and saying hi to everyone.

I will miss my antebellum apartment, with high ceilings and mahogany floors.

And mostly, I will miss my awesome Mobile Press-Register colleagues and friends. My fellow “expats.”

I am leaving all that, and them, to go back to metropolis. Faster pace. Diversity! Coffee shops. Recycling!

Good bye dive bars and watering holes, with your beer-stained floors and neon Bud signs. Hello martini glasses and plush couches and $9 froo-froo drinks.

Goodbye bright sun and beach on Saturday and skin browner than I thought possible. Hello to grey winters and skiing on Saturday and my naturally pale self.

Goodbye to the County Commissioner who grunts “Git ‘r done” at board meetings. Hello to professionals in business suits who make deals without twang.

Goodbye hurricanes swirling. Goodbye slow talkers. Goodbye $450 per month rent. Goodbye Confederate flags. Goodbye dusty front porch.

Goodbye lizard skeleton.

What am I doing with my life? All this moving! Searching, writing, reporting, seeking, learning.

They say that journalism comes with many sacrifices. You spend a good part of your 20s moving from place to place, working hard. Crying over goodbyes and shouting with joy over triumphs.

I wouldn’t trade this career, or the past 17 months in the Deep South, for anything. It’s been such a lesson! On politeness, on the other America, on a place that is constantly struggling and striving. It is very special, I’m glad to have known it.

But now I’m ready for a bigger challenge. What an adventure.

Yawn. I’ll start with a nap.