Last fall marked 10 years that we have lived in Austin. Ten. Years. That’s longer than I’ve lived anywhere else in my life. If you had told me in high school that I would end up in Texas I would have laughed. A lot.
We rolled into town for the first time on November 1st, 2001, the day after a tornado struck south Austin. That didn’t bother us much. We had just flown into New York after three years in Korea. August 23th, 2001. A couple weeks later everything changed. The United States was oddly foreign and the world seemed fragile, waiting for the next disaster, man-made or not. So Austin seemed as good a place as any. There was music and warm weather and all of our belongings still fit into the back of our station wagon, a green Ford called Nok-cha.
Before long we were doing the jobs-marriage-house routine. I was particularly interested in having a yard. Living in apartments for 9 years had given me a craving to dig around in dirt and grow things. So there we were, working, diy-ing, mowing, growing babies, playing music, making friends. Life stuff.
And still, after 10 years I can’t get it out of my head that this place is temporary. I always feel a vague disbelief that I don’t see mountains on the horizon; that the highest point for hundreds of miles is a skyscraper; that all the plants and animals are pointy and/or poison; that strip-malls block the scenery; that everything looks the same; that the thought of summer brings dread instead of excitement. Right now the mountain laurels and wildflowers are blooming. I admire them with a sense of panic at the impending crush of heat, just as I anxiously enjoyed the fall colors before being buried in snow when I lived in upstate New York. After last summer, the feeling that Austin is just a phase in my life has been more urgent.
I guess there are always trade-offs. I’ve been talking to a recent California transplant. The weather there is perfect. The scenery is beautiful. But the word she uses to describe California is “competitive”. Competitive for money, land, schools, jobs, the right clothes, the right look, the right kid activities, the right people. In Austin, she feels a vague disbelief that she can take her kids to swim for free; that such a variety of people mingle so easily; that she can leave the house without make-up. Another friend of mine from Brooklyn is equally amazed that she can wear flip-flops to Fashion Week; that no one bats an eye at her filthy batman-costume-wearing kid; that people are truly friendly and helpful.
Austin somehow feels like a small town with big city stuff to do. Sure the traffic sucks, the rest of the state doesn’t think too much of us, and the kids say the Texas pledge every morning at school. Weird. But I like this kind of weird. Rob loves his job, the kids love their school, the cost of living could be so much worse. And the weather? Well, every place has its pros and cons. Maybe Austin is a phase, but it could be a long one. And most of the time I’m enjoying it.
Just ask me again in September.