This week marks four years since I first visited Texas. Four-years- minus-two-weeks since I decided to move to Texas, so maybe it’s subconscious or maybe it’s coincidence that this would be the week I chose to reflect on and write about my trip home.
Each time I leave Austin to re-visit New England, I inevitably re-visit the reasons why I left in the first place, even as those reasons grow fuzzier with time. I tell myself, and I mostly believe, that this is a side- effect of settling: I no longer need to convince myself why it was good that I left. I tell myself that I’ll simply grow comfortable with the ambiguity.
It would be easier if I had left New England because I disliked New England.
I dislike how isolated I felt. I dislike my brain chemistry which makes long winters nearly unendurable. I dislike how faintly I saw what longterm shift work was doing to warp my perception of…everything.
In that way it was good that I left, because I needed to find a way out of the fog. I needed sleep and I needed sunshine, and I needed a chance to start from scratch on some things. I needed to see where I had settled because that was ME and where I had settled just because settling was the easy thing to do. Moving from rural Maine to urban Texas was like hitting a big damn ‘reset’ button, and yes I still believe that it was good.
But I love New England.
Most of my vacation mornings were spent like this: breakfast time with the cats, the house to myself, brewing a fresh cup of coffee, and settling in for a few hours with a book.
This was my first real vacation back home, a chance to be on my own time with my own itinerary. Vacation time is like a bubble that does not so much exist in ‘real life’ but allows you to step outside of real life for a moment and reflect upon it.
It’s not so much a reset button as it is a reminder. What have you left behind?
What have I left behind?
I’ve left behind stillness and quiet. I’ve accepted busyness. I’ve settled into a cycle of draining my energy and replenishing it in bursts, and it is wearing me down bit by bit. Since I’ve been back in Austin I’ve been “hermiting” (as one friend described it), while still being relatively social and occupied, I’ve set much firmer boundaries on my schedule and I’m the most clear-headed, well-rested, and spiritually-centered that I’ve been all year. This is not saying much, believe me – I have so much further to go. But it’s a start, isn’t it?
This was the last trip I took home while still in my twenties. I have no angst about turning thirty – I think it’s a pretty cool milestone – but I find it takes weight in my thoughts despite my lack of strong feelings, and on my last night home (in my childhood home. in my twenties.) I stood and stared in the bathroom mirror and thought that I might come to some big revelation about myself or adulthood or something.
In reality the revelation took its time to settle into place, like a puzzle piece that hasn’t quite found the right edge. Like my decision to move to Texas in the first place.
What have you left behind?
Here’s what I dislike: I dislike the city. I dislike urban life. I dislike packed social calendars and I dislike packed crowds and packed parking lots everywhere all the time, and I especially dislike the phrase “You haven’t done _____ yet?” (Funny, I know, given my very own 30 by 30 is half a list of things that ‘Must Be’ seen in Austin. This is the tension that I find myself balancing: am I doing it because I honestly want to do it, or am I doing it just to say that I’ve done it? Because I’m growing less comfortable with the latter.)
Here’s what I dislike: I dislike having to look past buildings to see the sunrise.
This is not a post about leaving Austin.
This is not a post about being homesick.
This is a post about my vacation: going back to a place that I deeply love and doing my best to embrace the uncertainty. I did not leave because I disliked it, I know that now.
I did not move to Austin because I loved everything about it. I know that now, too.
I left because I needed to, and while that part of the path has been clear, the rest is yet to be illuminated. Our lives are a series of seasons, after all, and this is just one of them.
For the past four years I have wrestled, often very verbosely (and repetitively) on this blog, about my “acceptance” of life in Austin. I have articulated the culture shock and welcomed the change in lifestyle pace, and I’ve even spammed my Facebook wall with all the reasons that Austin is ‘awesome’. For the past two-and-a-half years I have tried to make that puzzle piece (“Why I Moved to Texas”) find just the right edge, because if I could only settle in the right way then yes, of course, it would be clear why – of all places – I landed HERE. Of course I was honest in my reflections at the time. I always try to be honest in my writing. But omniscient I am not, so here is my current and honest reflection: I’m starting to think all that time was spent chasing the wrong goal. I’m no longer hung up on naming Austin as my home.
Austin is awesome. New England is awesome. Lots of places are awesome.
What have you left behind?
Nothing that I can’t take with me. I have left behind people and I have left behind places: I have accepted that as a reality of moving. But I did not leave behind my need to be a person of stillness and quiet in a relatively nonbusy life. I’ve been back barely a month and it’s been surprisingly difficult. I have to say ‘no’ to things. I have to find and set my boundaries. I have learned to simply say (most often to myself) “That’s not for me.” Maybe this is all about turning thirty and finding the right way to settle – not into a place, but into myself as God has made me. I am, by His grace, a work in progress. So while I still push myself to Go Out and Do, more often now I push myself to stop and reflect: are you doing this because you honestly want to, or are you doing it just to say that you’ve done it?
Because if I don’t ask myself that question, what I’m leaving behind is ME.
You can never go home again, but the truth is you can never leave home, so it’s all right. ~ Maya Angelou