Our next installment in the Why I Chose Memphis series comes from one of the most awesome women I've ever met, Petya Kirilova-Grady. Petya (pronounced "PET-ee-ya" and not "pet-CHA," as I constantly must remind myself) is a native of Sofia, Bulgaria. She is a graduate of Sewanee (aka, The University of the South), and the brains and personality behind the cross-cultural-relationships blog How To Marry A Bulgarian and the progressive-political blog (in Bulgarian) Openly Feminist. She's currently the volunteer coordinator for the Memphis Crisis Center, where the importance of her service to our fair city cannot be underestimated. I've known Petya for more than a decade now, having met her when we were both graduate students at Penn State, and having maintained what has been-- for me, anyway-- an inestimably important, and amazingly steady, friendship even despite our geographical distance over the years that she's been globetrotting . Through a serendipitous series of events, we have now ended up again in the same city, after Petya and her husband moved here two years ago. A telling anecdote: when Petya and her husband moved to Memphis, they had been here less than a month when they decided to host a birthday party for me. Almost everyone I knew showed up and had an amazingly great time, myself included, and it speaks to the truly "Memphian" personality of them both that they were able to integrate themselves, so readily and so easily, into the life of this place. According to our official State categories, Petya is a "resident alien" here in Memphis, though anyone who knows her would find that hard to believe. I, for one, am glad she chose Memphis, because there's no question in my mind that Memphis has definitely chosen her. From Petya:
"I didn't choose Memphis but I LOVE Memphis. I came here a little over a year ago when my husband took a job at Rhodes. When we arrived, we had a carload of belongings and one friend. What we have now is a buttload of friends, a beautiful home, careers... we have a LIFE. The city and its people really embraced us, it's been amazing. Memphis feels a lot like Eastern Europe to me: rough around the edges but bursting with possibility. It doesn't have the offerings of major cosmopolitan cities but it gives everyone a chance. Anything it doesn't have is there for you to make happen. There is so much that yet needs to come about that the opportunities for growth, visibility and success are endless. If you have ideas and you want to do good, you can count on Memphians to cheer you on and support you in any way they can. It's such a great time to be here and watch all these new programs, businesses, and venues open up. People do awesome work and EVERYONE hears about it. It's so exciting to be a witness to it all but also, it's truly inspiring. I have never felt more connected to a city and I have never felt so invested in making my city better. P.S. Our mayor is AWESOME."