Yes, the Digital Atlanta Conference has been filled with learning awesome things about the tech and digital world from interesting people in cool jobs. But there’s also just a lot of ATL Love… folks who love their city and want to see it succeed, prosper, and define what’s on the horizon for technology, creativity, and well, living well. 

I was a little afraid all this ATL Love Talk was going to make me want to move to Atlanta (which has long been my nagging, irrational fear.) And while I do LOVE the people and the food and the creativity that makes up that city… I’m not yet convinced it’s the place for me. In a way, it made me more passionate about living in Athens. 

Athens, if you’ve ever been here you’ll know, is this wonderful little micro-city that breathes and synthesizes a unique culture flavor. It’s at one moment this robust, yuppy, scholastic enclave and the next it’s a teeming, swirling hotbed of music, art, and entertainment.  The food, outstanding. The people, so strange and smart. The architecture, southern hospitality and walkable streets make it a beauty to behold. 

Despite all that, Athens lacks a lot of what could make it into a world-class city where people want to live forever and not just an amazing college town where people stay for a few years before moving on to something more permanent. 

Athens is a transient place. As a permanent resident, this is something that aches my heart continually. I meet new people often knowing that they are only here for a season… mostly because of being in school or the lack of diverse career options. Athens is a training ground because of the University… and one that often feeds our talented residents to the nearest Big City when the pickin’s get slim. 

Don’t get me wrong: people love Athens. Anyone who has ever lived here will forever save a small part of their heart that is the shape of The Classic City.  But how do we build a community here that people want to invest in before they leave for something Bigger and Greater just down the road? I don’t have the answers but I’m excited to think about them and what it could mean for my beloved Pretty Little City. 

After living here for 8 years, I definitely have a long and thorough list of “The Best Things About Athens.” The short list would just be one line that reads “Everything." 

Two of the things that grace that list occurred this weekend and I’m always captivated, year after year, by how much I love them.

First, the lights downtown. Years ago, while still magical and whimsical in their own right, the lights only lined the downtown street of Clayton. Recently, all of downtown is decked. The large, real Christmas tree on display out in front of City Hall is now flanked by thousands of the twinkling tree lights, a luminescent homage to the beautiful season of Good Tidings and Great Joy. 

The second thing is Lessons and Carols at Redeemer. A traditional Christmas service that’s been performed since the 1800s, the nine lessons and carols detailing the birth of Christ is truly an experience that words can’t do justice. Since it happened last night… mark your calendars for next year. For reals.