As the hipster cyclist in the Chicago Bulls hat handed me a Pabst Blue Ribbon I sat there absorbing my surroundings. I was sitting in my backyard on a typical sultry summer night in Austin. Not much much different than most other nights. My roommate and his goofy friends were there celebrating his girlfriend's 30th birthday. The atmosphere was light, almost too relaxed. It was a far cry from all the craziness, not to mention -10 bone chilling cold on the streets of Chicago nineteen months earlier. I remembered when I gathered with my friends and family downtown to celebrate my 30th birthday. I had come such a long way in such a short amount of time. All the sudden the lyrics to the Talking Heads song Same as it Ever Was streamed through my brain. "How did I get here?"
A year and half later I still haven't been able to answer that question and I don't think it matters. When I gathered my friends and family at the Rocket Bar that cold night I knew there was no looking back. Sure, I was scared of the unknown future ahead of me. But I was even more frightened by thought of not trying. Leaving Chicago was the hardest decision I ever made. But I knew in this life you might not get a second chance. So a mere five weeks later I said my goodbyes, packed my bags hit the highway. As I pulled onto the I-55 ramp south towards St. Louis, the snow flurries melted away into the background. I was headed towards a new but very uncertain future.
Today marks the eighteen month mark of my move to Austin. Not really a significant anniversary but a good benchmark to reflect on where I'm at. The last year and half have been a amazing journey for me. It's full of highs and lows, thrills and anxieties, love and loneliness. But through and through it all everything has felt so much more real here. My relationships here in Austin and with my friends and family back home. Everything that I once took for granted in life, I now appreciate in profound new way. Every time I go home to see love ones it feels like a holiday. Meanwhile here in Austin, every relationship I've made feels more significant too. In a sense I've never felt more alive. I've had my share of rough patches here. I've lived through disappointment and self-doubt. There has been several times where I was almost ready to give up. Times where I lost faith in myself and thought this was too hard to achieve. Every time things felt bleak though, somebody new would walk into my life. Somebody to show all this town has to offer. I may had be ready to give up on this town but Austin had a way of always pulling me back in. By the spring of 2012 some of those doubts still lingered. But I was determined to stick it out for better or worse. Then one night, while I was at your typical hipster Austin coffee shop, two amazing people walked into my life. Things have not been quite the same ever since. Austin still wasn't done with me just yet.
My experience in Austin may still be a work in progress. But now I face it with new sense of optimism that I didn't have before. While there is still much work to be done, I do feel a real sense of purpose here. People were right, it does take time to adjust and become part of the community. For the longest time my experience here felt like one long, strange vacation. Now though, it's beginning to feel like home.