(or very nearly so)
My first you-are-so-an-Austinite-now moment: SXSW kicked off last week, and as I headed through town on Friday I was more than a little tempted to grouse and grumble about the traffic that it created.
But then I stopped myself, and really considered the fact that I live in a city where people really want to be. Like, really REALLY want to be…and that’s kind of awesome.
Sometimes all you need is a little re-framing.
I was driving through town to hang out with a friend who’s both a fellow ex-pat from the Northeast and a transplanted veteran of nearly three years, and we’ll both be headed home for visits this summer. “I’m going to the beach every morning,” I said. “And one morning I’m going to get up early enough to watch the sunrise.”
Which led, of course, to talking of home and reminiscing on our peaceful, quiet, middle-of-nowhere childhoods.
Do you remember what it’s like to sit in your backyard and not hear a sound except for bugs?
Do you remember what it was like when nighttime was actually dark?
For all of the cultural clashes that have come – and there have been many – the biggest hurdle to transitioning to life here in Austin has not been that I’m a Mainer living in Texas but that I’m a country girl living in the big city, and I’m re-framing a lot of things these days.
SXSW is like ten days of San Diego Comic Con for people who are into tech, movies, music, and gaming. It’s incredible, interactive, and much of it is entirely free. This year SXSW will host 30,000 paying attendees, not to mention the thousands more who will attend the free shows and events. Famous people, famous bands, tons of partying.
Meanwhile I’m boggling because that’s over six times the population of my entire hometown.
I miss it sometimes. A lot. I miss the quiet and the green. I miss the way that grass feels cold and soft on your toes. I miss the ocean. I miss the stillness.
I could never ever move back there and be as happy as I am here. For one, summer is just not long enough. And Austin is vibrant in all the ways that New England isn’t – on the whole, what it offers far outweighs what it lacks.
But I do miss it sometimes: being a country girl. I am happiest exploring the city when it’s calm and everyone else is busy working. I am happiest when I go to events with a minimum of at least two feet of space between each person. I am happiest staying in at night.
I cannot pinpoint this need to justify my choices, but just as I was several months ago, I find myself once again wrestling with ideas of what it means to be here and what life in Austin “should” involve. Maybe I need to stop listening to my delightfully extroverted coworkers who thrive on the action and pay attention instead to what nurtures me.
So for this year, at least, this will be my SXSW experience: quiet and rest.
Lent is coming up next week, a time as blessed as it is physically and spiritually demanding. More church services mean things get just a little busier, and the delightfully warm weather is pushing us all outside. So while the rest of Austin parties I’ll be taking a pause, clearing my head, and enjoying the silence.