When I was in high school, I said “Howdy” a lot. I used it as my default AOL instant messenger greeting (these were pre-texting days). I wrote it on my notebook. Howdy was part of a horse lover, upbeat, awkward identity my adolescent self was struggling to find.
Because of my howdy’s, my friends would joke with me that I belonged in Texas. Back then, fourteen-year-old Lauren would never have guessed that she’d end up living in the Lone Star state — let alone for seven years.
I’ve spent most of my adulthood in Texas. It feels more like home to me than North Carolina does, and even though I love my family and NC friends… I’ve found my own tribe here. After Tim died, I realized how far away I was from my blood relatives and oldest friends. It would have been easy to crawl back home, but I never seriously considered the option because of the people here I’ve been so lucky to meet.
To simply say that I love my Texas friends feels like a flat statement. When I think about all the times someone joined me for dinner to throw carbs at our feelings, the cheering sections I had at horse shows, ridiculous conversations on my back porch and late nights out doing god knows what… my heart swells five times its size. In my darkest, loneliest days the people in Austin have never let me feel alone. They’ve pulled me up again and again. I’ll never be able to return the favor.
Like me, many of my friends here moved to Austin from other places but there’s something about Texas itself that grows a kind of person I enjoy. It’s a tough place. The heat kicks your ass in the summer. The dry, rocky soil doesn’t want to offer up much to its settlers. The political climate is ridiculous. Texas tough isn’t just a saying, it’s a way of life.
Something about that toughness creates a tenacity in the people who live here. If you are a victim type and think the world is a thing that happens to you, Texas is probably not a great spot to land in. It has grit. There are scorpions, poisonous creatures, cacti, days hot enough to melt tar on the sidewalk, terrible drivers and an overall wide assortment of things that want to harm you at any given point of time. This is a place for warriors, for tough people. You spit back. You yell a little. You persevere.
Texas has made me tougher. It’s made me hungrier for the world, even when I know the odds are stacked against me.
My family who visits from the east coast always comments on the trees here, saying we don’t really have trees… just large shrubs. They’re not wrong. The famous wide Texas sky is the culmination of our short foliage and flat topography. I don’t focus on the lack of trees though, but instead the expansive sky. When I travel back east to the land of tall trees, the sky seems so small to me. It’s almost stifling.
Here, the horizon stretches out like open arms. As far as I can see, clouds and blue spread out to the edges of my line of sight. When I drive in the flatter parts of Texas on a sunny day, it feels like I can’t catch the entire sky. My eyes can’t reach that far in both directions, but I keep trying. I keep trying to catch as much of that blue as I can, because it feels like opportunity.
When I chatted with my friend the other day about my move next week, she said she was glad to hear I was sad about leaving. If I wasn’t sad, it would seem like I was running from something.
I am sad, but I think I’m running towards something instead of away from Texas. To be honest, I would have preferred to go to grad school as close to Austin as I could. I don’t want to leave this place, but the program options weren’t ideal for me here and I also recognize that Austin is comfortable for me. Sometimes you don’t know what you can achieve until you get out of your comfort zone. California is beyond mine… by about 1,300 miles.
It’s too early to tell if I’ll come back here after school. I decided to rent versus sell my house so I had the option to return, but the reality is that I have no idea where I’m heading after this degree. I don’t even know what I’ll do for work, or what opportunities I may or may not have post school. It’s all up to chance — sort of like when I first moved here to begin with.
Tim and I moved to Austin with no jobs, no family nearby and a few friends. He pushed the change, because I was afraid. Beside marrying him, moving here was the best thing I’ve ever done.
I’m afraid to leave, but this time I’m pushing myself. Tim was right about Austin. Maybe I’ll be right about California. If I’m not, I’ll return here or find myself somewhere else that I adore as much as I love this wild, larger than life state.
Until then, I’ll miss the rocky dirt. Miss the cows on the side of the road. Miss the bluebonnets in Spring, and the yellow esperanzas and sunflowers in the summer. Miss the two stepping I was always bad at. Miss the rodeo. Miss the hipsters and the UT bros making fun of each other across the bar. Miss the queso, but not the BBQ because I’ll always be a NC BBQ girl at heart.
I’ll miss my house. My hangout spots. My barn. Even this weird job I’ve had for so long. But most of all, I’ll miss my friends. I’ll miss them, but hang on fiercely to the memories of everything that’s happened under this big, Texas sky.