I just called Austin “home”…something strange is happening.
I spent 9 days around Thanksgiving in San Diego, California and Las Vegas, Nevada. I could give or take Vegas, mostly give it, but San Diego was hard to leave. Returning to Austin meant abandoning falling asleep and waking up to the sounds of the ocean and absolutely perfect weather.
Luckily, I was returning to holiday parties and working on Success Stories which are two of my favorite things to do. I spent three short weeks here, then left to spend another three weeks in North Carolina.
I started planning my three weeks in NC last August. At the time, nothing sounded better. As someone who loves being outside and hates the heat, July and August in Austin are like being in prison. I will reluctantly admit that 2012 ‘wasn’t that bad’ in terms of heat, but it still hurt me to walk outside to my car, much less do something active. So, in the midst of that type of heat, escaping to NC was the light at the end of the tunnel I needed. I could easily imagine, hiking in the Blue Ridge Mountains and sitting on my dad’s porch in perfect 60 degree weather.
I spent about 10 days in Waynesville, NC with my dad. I always enjoy visiting Waynesville and soak up every second I get with my dad, but this year felt different for some reason. I was so cold my bones hurt. I used to think that was a ridiculous expression, but I swear the bones in my hands actually hurt. I have not lived in Waynesville for 14 years, yet in my head it still sounds like home. I expect to feel at ease, know exactly where to go, what to do and recognize most of the faces. This year I felt lost. I didn’t even know where to buy a coffee mug and had no idea how to get to my friend’s parents house which should be old hat. There is nothing worse than someone you should know, introducing themselves with a nickname YOU gave them in high school and still having no CLUE who they are. It’s a lot like standing naked on stage in front of 5,000 people. Driving around town I kept thinking “I can’t believe people actually live here”. The only comforting thing was the water, it tastes perfectly like nothing, comes straight from the ground in the backyard and is naturally ice cold.
Chapel Hill felt the most like home, but in a very foreign way. I kept separating myself thinking if I didn’t have a history in this town, I could fall in love with it. Chapel Hill is actually an amazing place, the college brings in and encourages intelligent, progressive thinkers, it maintains a small town feeling but even the locals are well traveled and overly educated. The weather is divided into four perfect seasons and nothing takes more than 10 minutes to get to. I felt a little nostalgia for my time spent there. I bought a ridiculous amount of Carolina blue things, including a tumbler, which I swore I would never own. Tumblers are for old southern women who drink sweet tea, spiked with bourbon and say ‘bless your heart’ on the regular. However, living in Texas, I finally found a reason to put ice in my water and somehow really wanted a tumbler. All of that aside, Chapel Hill doesn’t feel like home and sometimes I see ghosts if I turn my head too quickly.
I don’t know if it’s my old age or my stubborn independence but not being in my world for what feels like two months was hard. Don’t get me wrong, I am extremely fortunate to be able to travel so much. In addition, I was able to visit with some lifelong friends that I treasure and only see once a year or less. I should never complain about having more than a handful of friends who will offer their coach or spare bedroom at a moment’s notice, just so I can talk their faces off about whatever I am obsessing over at the moment.
Over the last two years, I’ve spent time in Raleigh visiting friends and sniffing out what it might be like to live there. It’s different enough from Chapel Hill that it should be just the right balance of comfort and city. My logical side says that is absolutely true, but my emotional/intuitive side says it’s not quite enough. Raleigh is continuously named one of the top 5 places to live in America. They have several colleges, a booming tech community that brings stable jobs and a steady stream of “outsiders” moving in. I know I could live there, I might before I’m dead. However, there is just something that’s not quite right, it’s not quite enough and it still feels like I’m going to be called a northerner again because I talk fast and don’t have enough southern fluff.
After spending time in Chapel Hill and Raleigh, I started feeling like everyone has their life and I’m still waiting for mine to show up or make sense. Most of my friends have at least one kid and own their home or maybe two homes. Even the friends I always felt were on the same page as me have started suggesting I join Match.com, because it’s just weird that I’m not married or close to it. Since moving to Austin, I kept feeling like one day something will just click and Raleigh or Asheville or Austin will feel right. Right now, I know that moving back to NC will not instantly create that sense of comfort, which leaves a bit of emptiness because I don’t feel like Austin is home…..yet it is at the same time.
The truth is, I spent a week being a total redneck, shooting guns, running in the woods and staring at cows. I also spent a week soaking up what I miss most about RDU and remembering that real friendships don’t require weekly phone calls (and thank goodness because I would have ZERO friends if that were the case). I love North Carolina, I long for it’s four seasons and easy access to the beach and mountains. But for the first time, I am truly, not ready to leave Austin. I’ve been half committed since I moved here, and I can now say, I am in the right place. It’s hot and Texans can be overly confident in the greatness of their state, and I still think basketball is a sport, but Austin’s not half bad. It has so much to offer that I really have not taken advantage of. Instead of being ready to rush out at the first viable opportunity, I am actually excited to be here, to take advantage of being in this amazing city and to accept this as my life!