After months of wanting to talk about this, of feeling like I was always holding back something I was dying to discuss, I can finally share what’s been so central in my life in the past few months.
I’m moving to Austin, Texas in August to start grad school!
For the last few years, I’ve been making ends meet – relieved to have a job with excellent health insurance, really to have a job at all, but still kind of going through the motions. I think that one of the reasons I haven’t written much here about my trip to Spain in October was because it was a lot more complicated than I had imagined – as two of my best friends met me in Barcelona (and met each other for the first time), both urged me to make my move – literally and figuratively – and open myself up for a new start, the one I had anticipated in 2008 when I moved back from Córdoba, oblivious to the impending economic crash (I refuse to call it a “downturn”) that started just a few weeks after I arrived home. And, even though I totally agreed with them and had been initiating upcoming changes (taking the GRE, researching and deciding on a program of study, applying), it was still hard to hear – like I hadn’t been doing enough, like the boundaries I perceived only existed if I allowed them to be. There were some tears shed on a couple of occasions in Barcelona bars. When, a few months later, another friend gave me practically the same pep talk, I found myself in tears once again, tired of feeling so limited – not helpless, but extremely limited – for so long. I’m aware that these “youth frustrated by the economy” stories are ubiquitous, and so often are viewed with a certain disdain, echoing the sense of entitlement my generation is known for. Every “adult” has some story of a recession they got through – a tough time, sure, but the narrative always concludes with the final unscathed emergence. Back to normal.
I’m not quite there, and the loans I’m looking at taking on are daunting, to be sure, but I also realize a few of the other costs. As my friend, that most recent cheerleader, said to me, “I think we’re all telling you this, unbeknownst to one another, because those who know you see that you’ve been functioning at half speed for a while. Maybe you need a little push.”
I guess I did – a little push, some time, feeling bored enough for long enough to think that most alternatives were pretty good options.
But in the end, I’m lucky. Austin isn’t just a pretty good option. My program is ranked #1 in the nation. During my visit this week, people were universally friendly and down to earth and approachable. Austin is a haven for arts and music and libraries and nightlife. It’s relatively affordable and more diverse than anywhere I’ve ever lived. But it’s also strangely familiar – walking out of the Austin airport on Wednesday, leaving the air-conditioned sameness of every airport for the warmth and humidity of an April evening in Texas, the very first thought that came into my head was “Whoa, it smells like Spain.” As much as the Montanan in me liked seeing all of the cowboy boots and microbrews, and the Missoulian recognized the strange cross-section of generally laid-back hippy/hipster culture and big-time college football, another part of me connected to the Spanish influences in a way I wouldn’t have imagined. Walking down a wide boulevard under dappled light, looking at the tiled roofs and hearing Spanish spoken, it seemed as much like the south of Spain as the American South. It will take some getting used to the heat of Austin, yes (it was 90 degrees there on Thursday. in early April!), but I also lived in a 5th floor apartment with no air conditioning in Córdoba, when the nightly lows were in the 80s and the highs soared well into the triple digits. I’ll learn to make do, and the sunscreen I stocked up on and thought might expire will be put to good use!
Remember how I chose “fresh” as my word of 2012? Well, I’m practically giddy to see some of my wishes and plans coming through – a fresh start in a new city, back to thinking critically and feeling challenged, a new space to settle into and city to explore. And I’m relieved to be getting back into a place in my life where I have lots to write about – where I’m experiencing things with open eyes and a fresh perspective, wanting to capture little bits of it all and post it here.
(photos by me)