I’m finally writing something I’ve been waiting months and months to be able to say, and it’s been coming for such a long time now that it almost feels like old news. But here it is: I am leaving Albuquerque. And I can honestly say that I’m more excited about what’s next than I’m sad about leaving what’s been.
The toughness of writing this goodbye is in thinking I need to say everything at once, so I'll get over that right now. I thought I needed to take on the mind-numbing frustration of being a planner in a city that hates planning. I needed to say how desperately I’ve wanted to scream and vent about local politics and planning issues the last nine months, but how work meant that I had to keep quiet. I needed to take pains to celebrate everything I adore about this community, because there’s more of it than I could ever list. I needed to explain how heavily this choice has been hanging over everything, so that writing about politics or food or community or gender or place or all the other non-Albuquerque topics I usually write about has been next to impossible, given my absolute preoccupation with what I was going to do next.
But now, finally, I know.
I’ve spent five years in Albuquerque learning, listening, connecting, and being part of the uniqueness of this place, and for that I'm deeply honored and grateful. I’ve spent time learning from some of the most insightful, committed faculty members I’ve ever known. I’ve spent time talking with communities about how they might balance their spirit with the crushing growth charging at them from every direction. I’ve made some of the most amazing friends I will ever have, met some of the most incredible, inspiring people I will ever know. There have been amazing highs and heartbreaking lows here, but there has always been connection, and there has always been laughter, and there has always been strength in unexpected places. New Mexico has a part of my heart forever.
Earlier this month, I spent a week of twelve-hour days in Bernalillo, getting to know amazing folks who showed me left and right why being a planner matters, and why it’s about love of place and family and community first, and why it’s an honor when you’re able to do it right, for the right people. I knew that would be my last planning project in New Mexico, and it felt like an appropriate end to my work here, with shared values rising above differences of opinion and turning into something tangible. I wish planning could always be like that.
But meanwhile, home calls me stronger than ever. My family is on the other side of the country, and they’re getting increasingly restless that I’m so far away. I have a niece who’s less than a week old, and I’ll get to meet her next month at the beach. It makes less sense than ever to stay in the desert when little Taylor Rae lives by the Atlantic.
So it’s a pit-stop, then. Halfway between here and there, I’m going to hole up in a city I never, ever thought I’d live in to work on transit-oriented development projects on a scale that neither New Mexico nor North Carolina can offer, a city where conversations about transit and walkability start at square one rather than negative one hundred. Transit and sustainable development are increasingly what matters to me, and what I’m convinced will make or break Albuquerque’s legacy. But that’s not my fight to win or lose; not here, not now. In my next stop, I’ll be a time zone closer to home, a flight closer to Taylor and the rest of the fam, and I'll be able to jump into good projects that are already off the ground.
I’m almost being dishonest not mentioning the rest of it, though. See, one night over a year ago, I found myself in a terrible mood at Anodyne, accusing a charming, imported campaign staffer of representing why we would lose a big election in the fall. Not my best night, trust me. But all this time later (and an election lost through no fault of his own) he continues to be amused (and dare I say equally charmed) by my weird, optimist self, still finding my way between world-changer, connection-maker, word-shaper, and place-lover. He’s waiting in the new city, the one with the kind of TOD projects that are decades away from happening in Albuquerque, with the baseball games, with the halfway-thereness to home, and with that charm of his that even my terrible Anodyne mood and my most obnoxious utopianism somehow aren’t able to dampen. I love that we met each other in this quirky place of anything goes, and even though I’m leaving, it’s a sentiment I hope I’ll carry on with me forever.
So in August, I will leave Albuquerque in the capable hands of Marjorie and Mikaela. With those two in the mix, this town is bound to be charged through and through with the seeds of community-based, transformative change. Lucky for all of us, they'll still be here to talk us through it. I can't wait to see what happens next.
Monday, June 18, 2007