Moving home in a pandemic. Why I chose to come back to Alabama

alabama sign
It’s good to be back. Photo via Claire Hancock for Bham Now

Moving is a tricky situation in the best of times. Now try doing it in the middle of a pandemic. But that’s exactly what I did, moving home from Tennessee to my beloved Alabama.

So this piece is going to be a little different. Instead of adding in whatever anecdote about my life that suits the subject of my story, this story is just about anecdotes from my life. And more specifically, the “how’s” and “why’s” that led me home to Birmingham.

A mid-pandemic move

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I spent most of my quarantine hiking at Cahaba River Park in Helena. Photo via Claire Hancock for Bham Now

People move for a myriad of reasons. Last year, roughly 14,000 people moved to Alabama, and I guess I was one of them.

I grew up in Scottsboro, Alabama (read more about that over on The Bama Buzz), and left to attend Rhodes College in Memphis, Tennessee. After college, I took my shiny new degree to Nashville, Tennessee where I stayed until the coronavirus shut everything down. Despite having an apartment there at the time, I made the decision to move home to Alabama while working remotely.

I think I can speak for almost everyone that the global shift to working from home was an interesting adjustment. I loved being home, despite the wonkinesss of working for a company three hours away (see how other Birminghamians do it in this recent Bham Now article). Moving to the Birmingham area was one of the best decisions I made.

My family already moved here a few months earlier, so I had the benefit of being a little familiar with the area. But what really started to win me over was the friendliness of the people and the proximity to all the places I loved visiting (even if they were currently closed).

Moving to a new city, even one you know somewhat well, during a time when everything is closed or running on limited hours, is tough. It takes a lot of hope to stick it out, putting your faith in the knowledge that things will eventually reopen and you can enjoy it as it was meant to be.

Until things are safe to go back to normal, I can still find ways to have fun here and see my favorite things, like getting takeout from Golden Rule BBQ and exploring Cahaba River Park.

Decisions, decisions, decisions

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Eye spy: if you squint, you can see Vulcan from here. Photo via Claire Hancock for Bham Now

Choosing to stay in Birmingham wasn’t exactly a hard decision. I mean, I already lived here. But a few things really cemented my decision, from the city itself to the culture to the community.

The City

Maybe I’m a little biased, but I think Birmingham is a brilliant city. It’s the perfect atmosphere for me: both parts polished and gritty, art and business, natural and developed. When I lived in Scottsboro, I hadn’t given much thought to the vibe of Birmingham; I just knew it as the cool place we went to sometimes and the home of the Crossplex.

Living here full-time since March has certainly given me a chance to get more acquainted with the city, and all it has to offer. Birmingham is always surprising me (the benefit of being new, I guess), and very rarely am I disappointed. Birmingham brings a unique passion to everything it does, from cultivating gorgeous outdoor spaces to crafting out-of-this-world cuisine.

The Culture

One thing I love about Birmingham is that there is always something to do in the arts and culture world, from (currently virtual) poetry readings through Magic City Poetry Festival to art exhibits with the Birmingham Museum of Art to taking in local history at the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute.

One thing I know everyone is looking forward to after the pandemic is the return of Birmingham’s vibrant performing arts scene. I’m eager to see the day the Lyric and Alabama can reopen their doors, along with tons of music venues in the area like Iron City.

The Community

One of the bigger reasons I had to move to Birmingham is to become a caregiver for a loved one with a physical impairment. Through this process, I have seen what I consider the defining attribute of Birmingham: kindness. People have brought food, watched our dogs, and even helped us navigate a wheelchair through some interesting terrain. Most recently our neighbors leaped into action to build a ramp and extend our sidewalk to make our house more accessible.

Near strangers have given their time and work without blinking an eye or even being asked. Their generosity and kindness continue to floor me. I’ve met a lot of excellent people from all over, but I’ve noticed there’s a pretty high concentration of them in Birmingham.

Committing to the bit

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It’s nice to be in Birmingham too. Photo via Bham Now

There’s talking about a thing, and doing it. After living here for 10 months, I really decided to stay. I knew long before that Birmingham is the place, but in January I shed what was left of my Nashville life by resigning from my previous workplace and accepting a position at Bham Now. My family bought a house and I gave up my apartment in Tennessee. Within the span of two weeks, everything fell into place to really make Birmingham my permanent home.

Now, as the vaccine rollout continues and things slowly reopen, a tangible excitement for the future is in the air. I know I’m adding to that; there are so many things I’m looking forward to once we can get COVID out of the way. But more than just looking towards the future, I’m quite content with the present in Birmingham.

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Claire Hancock
Claire Hancock
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