I have been moving around since I was 18, when I first left Mississippi and went into the world via the Army. After spending months at Fort Benning, Georgia, which is right outside of Columbus, GA, I got sent to a three-year assignment which included a six-month deployment to Egypt. While in Egypt, I got a chance to meet good people, and even got a chance to visit Eilat, Israel. I can’t even begin to tell you the fun I had in Israel. Trust me, I can’t tell you. Let’s just keep it at fun.
But we’re not here to talk about my fuzzy and foggy days and nights. After I left Hawaii, I spent most of my ten-year career on the Eastern side of the US, but my final two years in was at Fort Bliss, TX, a huge Army post in El Paso, TX. After that, I spent four years in Las Cruces, NM, about an hour away from Fort Bliss.
I remember when I was growing up, I always wanted to travel. While I wanted somewhere to call home, I couldn’t see myself just sitting in one spot. My strong desire to travel was one of the driving reasons to why I joined the Army; therefore, it was a key reason for leaving my street corner that I grew up on in Meridian, a place that I lived for all of my life.
The choice to join the Army was easier than some people would’ve probably thought. Shit, I approached the Army recruiters when I was 16, even though I was too young to join. When I was of age, they had no problem seeking me out (my scores were so high, I had every other branch of service, in particularly the Air Force and Marines, trying everything to get me to join). But leaving home wasn’t. I was only 18, and barely graduated from high school. Aside from my mock trial team competitions and JROTC summer camps (yes, I was a militaristic nerd), I was never away from home more than half a day. But there was no turning back once those papers were signed and I did my final swearing-in. I left home two weeks after I graduated, never to return aside from vacations.
In 2005, I started thinking about a life after the Army, and my eyes got set on settling in Atlanta. Atlanta was kind of random; I wasn’t interested in business at that time, and aside from buying my music, I had no interest in the music industry at all. At the time, I haven’t started back writing; that didn’t come along till close to the end of that year. The only real interest I had at the time was being a 20-something-year-old man with a very strong appetite for sexy women, and after seeing some of the women of Atlanta at that time, I wanted to take a bite in order to fulfill that appetite. But what really made me think about Atlanta?
For starters, Meridian is a small city, with a population of around 40,000. When I was growing up, I used to always dream of living in the big city, and being surrounded by the tall skyscrapers. New York was my choice, simply because that was usually all I saw on TV. Something about being in the big city just pulled at me in a way that to this day I still can’t explain. Around 15 or 16, I knew that in order to do that I had to find a way to get away from the confines of Meridian, so I could experience that big city living one day.
Next, when I was living out east, I took the Greyhound bus often. Those were long rides, especially when I was living in upstate New York, near the Canadian border. While extremely annoying, it was also kind of fun, because I got a chance to see places in America that I otherwise wouldn’t have seen; especially small-town America outside of small-town Mississippi. One of the main transfer spots was Atlanta. When we came into Atlanta, I was immediately turned on by the city lights, the skyscrapers, you name it. I noticed that city has a certain orange hue in most spots, and even though I’m not a fan of the color orange, this was beautiful to me.
At the time I realized this, I was stationed in Maryland, halfway between Baltimore and Washington, DC. But those two places weren’t pulling me like that, although I’ve said on a few occasions that if I didn’t live in Atlanta, the Washington, DC metro would’ve been one of my contenders. Whatever the reason Atlanta was pulling me for, I became determined to move here in my future.
Eventually, after living the desert Southwest for a little bit, it all started to come together. For all of the beauty I saw in Atlanta, I knew that it had its flaws. I saw a few of those flaws when I paid a nearly week visit in the summer of 2011. Of course, no place is perfect. But I noticed things that kind of bothered me. But I wasn’t deterred; I was actually even more determined to move here. Also by that point, I was heavily interested in business; I have been a self-publisher for a few years by then, and figured it would be a great spot to launch my writing career. It’s definitely possible, especially with the motion picture industry exploding here. I went from wanting to be in the middle of any big city to wanting to live in the suburbs, because being around too many people triggers my anxiety, sometimes. Indeed, depending on how I’m angled, I can see the Atlanta skyline from miles away; I love seeing that shot when I’m on Interstate 20, coming from Meridian, when I’m passing Douglasville.
In fact, I was supposed to move here shortly after leaving the Army in 2010, but circumstances prevented that from happening. I had to spend four years in New Mexico, which I honestly hated. Despite the fact that I hated it with a passion, I miss it a little now, just like how I miss Fort Drum, NY (when I was near Canada) a little, but not enough to run back to it. However, I now look at my stay in Las Cruces as a way of preparing me for what was next, especially since I ended up getting my associate’s degree there. I have much respect for the City for Crosses, which actually provided me a surprising boost of support for my writing career, before I took my short hiatus. I don’t hate Las Cruces, I just hated the situation I was in. The people there showed me a lot of love, and I really respect and miss that.
It will be three years in September that I moved here, which was like a shocking move for everyone, because no one saw or believed it was coming. I made it a mission to move here before 2014 closed after a January 2014 visit, and by June 2014, I got accepted into Georgia State University. I have since taken a break, but I intend on going back soon. But I realized something when I moved here, but never fully calculated it. I thought about it before, but it never fully came to my mind until I got here. It was the only thing that made sense.
I was ready to come home…
Let’s be clear, that’s not saying I’m moving back to Meridian. Yes, now I live four hours away from there, give or take. I like it that way. It makes it easier for me to go back, but it’s far enough so people can’t pop up on me. But Meridian is in my DNA. My blood is there, my love for writing started there, and my dreams started there. If it wasn’t for that East Central Mississippi town, there would be no JB Burrage. While I always claimed Meridian and Mississippi everywhere I went (I still do here in Atlanta, and will continue to do so no matter how long I will be here), for a long time I tried to suppressed my desire for wanting to be as close to home as possible. I’ve spent my whole life after I was 18 being extremely far from home; being in Atlanta the first time I had an opportunity to be close, while still being in a place that I like or love. So eventually, liking being here was only 50 percent of the reason I moved here.
Will I move back to Meridian? Probably not, at least not anytime in the near future. I’ve never fully ruled it out, but I know that right now isn’t the time. I’m simply not ready to move back. I’m not ready to move back for many reasons. Among them…I’m enjoying my time here, I’m trying to build a business with my base here, and I still like traveling. I don’t live in the heart of Atlanta, and I’m perfectly fine with that. I still take advantage of what the Atlanta metro area has to offer. But that doesn’t mean that my hometown doesn’t pull on my heart-strings sometimes. In fact, it’s a must for me to go back, just so I can rejuvenate, then come back here to go business as usual. No matter what, I will always miss Meridian, no matter how hard I try to put on a front.
No matter where I go, Meridian will always be my home.
I’ll see you in the blogosphere.