I cannot imagine living in any other city, but I didn’t always feel that way. For the better part of my youth and young adulthood, I couldn’t wait to move away from here. Orange was not a color in my wardrobe, and Rocky Top Tennessee didn’t feel like home sweet home to me. Knoxville was boring, too small town, lacking diversity, and too conservative for my tastes. The vast majority of colleges I applied to were out of state, and I had no intention of coming back.
Fate had other plans.
I met my husband (who was originally from Atlanta) in college, and after a series of both fortunate and unfortunate events, we ended up back in Knoxville together twelve years ago. He also had very lackluster feelings about this city, but even he knew there was something to be said for a twenty-minute commute versus an hour-long commute.
I’m not sure what the turning point was, but at some point, Knoxville became a cool and hip community. Renowned chefs from Blackberry Farms started opening up their own restaurants downtown. Breweries started popping up on every corner. Murals became a Market Square staple. A food truck park opened, and then another. We became home to the “Nicest Place in America” (thanks Yassin!). We went paddleboarding in the Ijams quarry for the first time, and that was that. I fell in love with my hometown, and so did my husband.
Even though I’ve gotten to travel more as an adult, I struggle to think of a better place to raise a family than this amazing city.
I may lament the fact that we don’t have an incredible children’s museum, but we have the astonishing Great Smoky Mountains. We may not have a very walkable and public transportation-friendly city, but my ten-minute commute to and from the office is a thing of envy for working moms in metro areas. Childcare may seem expensive, but I pay for two children what parents in other cities pay for one (if even that)!
Even though I’ve been drinking the Knoxville Kool-Aid for a couple of years now, I recently had the opportunity to go through a leadership class that made me love this city even more (if that was possible). I had the privilege of touring Fulton High School and hearing from a panel of local school principals. I visited the Knoxville Entrepreneur Center and learned about some incredible local businesses you probably never knew existed. I saw the world’s fastest supercomputer in action at Oak Ridge National Laboratory and even posed in front of a 3D printed Shelby Cobra. I was able to get connected to a volunteer opportunity through Volunteer East Tennessee, and I explored the grounds of Ijams Nature Center, while getting to learn about the newest developments of Knoxville Urban Wilderness. Did you know we are one of the very few cities where you can hike, bike, climb, or paddle all within the heart of the city?