This past August marked the end of my third year of living in Richmond. By this point I consider myself a full Richmond resident. I mean, I even run an Instagram account devoted to Richmond.
Having lived here this long I am often asked whether I like it here and, better yet, do I plan to settle down here. And I do like it here, and I'll tell you that, but no, I won't be staying.
But what about after I abscond and do whatever it is the hell I want to do? That's the next question. Sure, I can leave for a spell, but do I want to come back to Richmond?
I've known that answer almost since day one. I don't want to stay here.
This is also when I begin to get defensive: I might not love Richmond, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't. Richmond is an awesome city. I think a lot of people could, and should, fall in love with her.
I'll tell you why you should love her: Richmond is an actual city. That's her first win. Of course, she's no New York or LA, but she is also not just a point on a map. She has a real downtown - one with towers and food carts and a skyline. She has a beach in the middle of the city. There are distinct neighborhoods and there is culture and personality. We have a festival every weekend (usually more than one!). We have history - we oversaw the Civil War in case you forgot. We have seasons. Have you seen fall in the Fan?! The foliage is enough to make you fall in love. And, in terms of location, we're two hours from the best of everything else - mountains to the west, an ocean to the east, metropolitan DC to the north, and another state to the south.
Tell me what you want, and I'll show you that Richmond has it. Big name artists come here. We have one of the best art museums in the country. We have America's first outdoor shopping mall. We might not have the exact brand you're looking for, but we definitely have an off brand. And there’s always Amazon Prime. We have Saks on Fifth avenue, state parks, a holiday parade, rooftop and dive bars, our own magazines, theatre and monuments, and city pride. People love Richmond. People don’t leave Richmond.
What else do you want? I'll give it to you. We aren't even small. We have our own airport. We have a foodie scene. I mean, let's talk about brunch. And famous people are from here. What do you mean you don’t love Richmond?
But still, it's not enough. I want to love her. I maybe should love her. But I decided from day one to not love to her. I knew I would leave. I imagine I’ll reflect on this blog post in a couple of years when I do actually leave and remind myself why I should love her, why she’s maybe the one I’m meant to be with, but I’m going to keep moving.
I pick out her flaws. There are only two: lack of public transportation and size. I am a walker. I walk most places here. But it’s not always practical. If there was a light rail or super speedy bus line, then maybe I would stay. Or maybe if she was bigger. I want a city that dwarfs me. I want to feel lost in a downtown, that options are endless and there’s always some new venue to discover or a network untapped. Richmond, at its heart, is a small town in a big city. Which is why you should love her.
I should love you. I almost do love you. Thank God everyone else loves you.