I come from a small city in the southwest area of Georgia known as Albany. It is often promoted as a city crafted with poverty, crime, and health disparities through the media, but I know what lies underneath all of that. There’s a lot of hope, passion, loyalty, straight-forwardness, and history that sweeps throughout MY city, and that’s something the media could never take away from any Albanian born and/or raised. Over the past 3 years, I have spent some time reflecting and analyzing my city and what it has done for me and my people, and I have finally came to a conclusion.
If I had to rename Albany, it would be labeled “The Comfortable City” for so many reasons. Due to its small number of Albanians, land space, and location, Albany makes the perfect hub for the flow of many problems within communities, families, businesses, and organizations. But, it also makes it the perfect place to get some things started for “self” and generations to follow. If I knew what I know now before leaving Albany for college, there would be so many things that I would have done differently to prepare myself for the departure and to also make sure I stayed engaged and participated within the communities around me and not just the one that I was from.
The state of comfortability that sweeps through Albany makes the people of my beloved city forget about the world outside of the Dougherty and surrounding county lines. Meaning, it’s so easy to get caught up and satisfied with being mediocre when your city is so small and still developing in many areas. Since my departure, I have seen many changes occur that have benefited the city appearance wise but the social aspects continue to fluctuate for various reasons. “Comfortability” also keeps people stuck and/or satisfied with the way things have always been, but that’s not a healthy mentality to have in a world that grows daily socially, politically, and economically. In fact, Albany is so comfortable that those who move away sometimes find themselves traveling back on a regular basis and/or especially when things did not go well once they left.
Don’t get me wrong; being “comfortable” isn’t necessarily an all bad thing, but I am saying that it can hold you back by making you forget that there is so much more out there. I remember when I first left for college and the common question I always received when I told people that I was from Albany was “Why didn’t you go to Albany State University?” It confused me, genuinely. My only response was, “I wanted to get away and see different things.” The response I got from these individuals was often “I understand,” since they had also left home. On the other hand, the response I got from my fellow Albanians was in a far more negative light as if it was a crime to make this personal decision. I never took it too personal, but I did analyze how this state of being “comfortable” could not be threaten in any shape or form for some, and if you decided to step outside and go another route people wanted to know why.
Being “comfortable” is crafted within the landscape of Albany as well. It’s not just a mentality. You typically know where everything is located. I can tell you at least 3-4 streets from each side of town, and where various neighborhoods are located. I can also travel throughout the city and tell you the events of the night, what this means, what that means, and why we do things this or that way. In my adult life, these have been the things that I yearn for as I get my life set-up. I’ve become accustomed to my small-city commute that the big-city commute literally stresses me out, but I can thank Albany for teaching me to appreciate its “comfortability”. Moving away isn’t for everybody and that’s fine, but mental, physical, and emotional expansion should be a personal goal for all regardless of how you make that happen.
This piece is about opening the minds of my fellow Albanians who have forgot to think outside of our comfortable environments. Are you being your best self? Is there more that you could be doing? Will your current actions benefit the generations to follow you? We have to be willing to change ourselves and our mindsets if we want crime rates to change, communities to develop, businesses to boom, and positive vibes to sweep throughout the city. The world doesn’t stop so neither should we just because we’ve gotten comfortable. If you want more, you should do more and we deserve it.