I realized yesterday that last week on July 27th (or somewhere thereabouts), my life in Austin is four years old. I wish I would’ve thought to look into it on the day of the anniversary instead of yesterday. But the fact that I remembered counts for something, yeah?
Wow. Four years. This is getting close to challenging my record time living in a town that’s not Texarkana. I spent 5 1/2 years in Arkadelphia, Arkansas during my time in school. Contrast this with the eight straight years living in Texarkana from the summer after 3rd grade to the summer after my senior year in 1990. My time in North Carolina, though it burned brightly, angrily, quietly and blessedly, was a mere 15 months. A small portion of my time in Austin. And to this day, I still draw parallels between my time in Greensboro, NC, and my time here. I still take lessons from that first post-college foray into big-life. I still tell stories.
So, yeah, it’s been a long trip, and I’m still on it. Austin. I’m at a fragile spot wherein I’m having to balance the fact that Texarkana is my home town, and thanks to my family and few remaining friends, I still hold some odd sort of allegiance to the place, and the fact that Austin is my home. I live here. This is my home. For good or ill, it’s my home.
I think every time I visit Texarkana, I come away with a small piece of knowledge that I could never live there again. The town has potential, yes, sure, it’s growing, of course, but I could never live there again. It’s too small. For me, it is too small. The people there are too small. The vast swaths of empty and decaying brick architecture versus the burgeoning masses of steel-beam and siding buildings. The sign companies that use the same 10 fonts. The lack of good bars. The plethora of shit-kicking “cowboys”. I just don’t fit there. Once I left that town to go to college, I no longer fit. I saw too much of the world at large, met too many varied people. It’s too small. Too simple.
And no visit was as illuminating of this fact more than the last time I went for a few days around July 4th. I spent only three days, but on that monday morning I was itching to return to Austin. That weekend, man. I don’t want to offend my friends who still live there, nor my family, but it’s just, bleh. Things are going wrong. It’s not visible to those who see the changes as they happen; it’s only when you look after a span of time, you see the changes, the railroading, the herding. As I drove around, I saw more instances where the people of Texarkana are being offered a seemingly larger but actually smaller number of choices on where to eat, where to shop, where to bank, where to worship, and so on. It’s just, I dunno, wrong.
If I left Austin and came back after some time, sure I’d see changes. The thing is that I see the changes — and I haven’t left. Acknowledgably, things are not at all what they had potential to be back in 2000 when I moved here. I’m nowhere near my dream tech job. Things aren’t the utopia that was envisioned. The money isn’t flowing, the bars and restaurants aren’t buzzing with ideas and activities. It’s just not what we had imagined. The changes didn’t meet expectations, but they’re still livable. The town actually is a city, and not the converse. Things are still happening here, there are still choices.
Over these four years, I’ve come to several realizations, many crossroads. I’ve come to understand a lot of things about life, change, growing older, moving on. I may not be the guy I was in 2000, but I’m still me. My health has downgraded somewhat, but I’m still alive. I’ve managed to make small changes towards my future; I quit smoking in February (a big change, actually), I bought a bicycle, I pay more attention to my diet and activity, I’ve left the daily grind behind in the push to shake up my habits, disrupt them so I could get some lifestyle agility back. Small changes, small life, big town.
So, yeah, it’s been a hell of a ride. I plan on living here for a long time. I know my family misses me. I miss my family. I wish I could bring them all down here. But they won’t fit. This isn’t their place. This is my place. I hate thinking about the whole “prodigal son” symbolism, but it’s there. I can’t deny it. But this is my home.
Four years. Damn.