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Sweet Home Alabama

Guest Column

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Alabama has been my home my whole life. I lived in Gadsden until I was 18 years old, and then I moved to Tuscaloosa.

For 22 years, I have walked on this ground and eaten this food and loved these people. I have felt happy. I have felt tired. I have felt rapture, I have felt brokenness, and I have felt calm. I have enjoyed afternoons on porches with friends that turned into nights no one can quite remember, and I have left a class wondering if I should tell my parents I was failing. I have laughed until I cried on the beach somewhere, and I have cried until I laughed on a friend’s couch. I have wondered if God was real and have seen Him all over this city, too.

I’ve asked for help more than I needed it and given it less than I should have, and I have tried to be a good friend, but never could be as true as others were to me. I have won awards and stood on the Mound, and I have done things I regret and tried to move on. I have fought for this campus and I have – and I know this – gained something. I have watched you, Alabama, as a proud parent from the sidelines as you got knocked down and did all you could to get back up. I have seen you become better because of the people that love you, and that has made me smile.

All of these things, I’ve done. All of these people, I’ve been. When they ask us to write these columns, it’s done so under the assumption that we have something inspiring to say, but I don’t. I have talked a lot over the past 22 years, and I find myself tired. I no longer have the desire to share with you some sentiment about this university or state that I’m sure you’ve already heard.

Yet, I can share this with you: I have felt sorrow for leaving this place. I have felt joy for where I’ll go. I have felt love for you, Alabama. Though you have shown me what it feels like to know true heartbreak, I will miss you. Though you have told me time and time again that I am not good enough for you, I will miss you. Though you have left me wanting after every explanation of some headlining blunder, I will miss you. Though you have been so beautiful and so ugly at the same time, I will miss you. And though you have tried to remain as you are, unyielding to good, I will miss you.

I will leave you feeling a great weight lifted off my shoulders, but a pit in my stomach whose only cure is the sun that only shines on the Quad. I will leave you and know we are meant for more than you ask of us, so I’ll try to be better. I will leave you and take with me the love I’ve found somewhere between Andalusia and Gadsden all these years. I will miss you and know that, in spite of it all, you made me who I am. I love you for that.

I will leave you, Alabama, but you will not leave me. We all know that.

Kirkland Back was the recipient of the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award. She served as a campus leader in many organizations.

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