An East Coaster Tries to Make Peace with the South

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How long did it take you to feel at home in a new city?

I’ve been living in Austin, Texas for almost six years after moving here from the East Coast and I still don’t feel at home here.

I have a great guy and it’s true what they say about the amazing weather, the live music, and the killer barbecue. This isn’t a rant telling you not to move to Austin. I’d never tell anyone that. Austin is a great city with a lot to offer people. It’s just never offered me anything.

It’s not for lack of trying. I’ve been to meetup groups to try to make friends, but folks here seem pretty content within their tight-knit cliques. Outsiders may be tolerated, but never fully welcomed. I can accept a certain amount of flakiness and canceled plans — as we get older, we lose energy and the will for socializing after long work days — but when people tell you “I miss hanging out with you, I’d really like to but can’t tonight” for the umpteenth time, it’s hard to keep your spirits up during The Search for Holy Grail of Thirties Friendship.

When people from other parts of the country tell me how great Austin is, I want to feel what they feel. I want to believe.

It doesn’t help that driving gives me major anxiety and despite major strides in public transportation development, Austin still isn’t on the level of Boston, New York, Philadelphia, DC or San Francisco when it comes to their non-motorist options. It’s so much easier to binge watch Jessica Jones than it is to get back into my car after just having sat in post-work traffic for almost an hour.

I’m not convinced every time I see another Keep Austin Weird bumper sticker and I have to keep myself from shouting “You’re not that weird. No city that is actually weird goes around telling people how weird it is, dammit!” And don’t even get me started on what passes for service around here…

And yet, some of my best life lessons have been learned here. I learned how to love someone, really love someone under seemingly insurmountable circumstances. I’m growing a thicker skin when it comes to career rejection and instability. Living next to a park has taught me to stop and appreciate nature. Things run a little smoother and I breath a little easier here. Days aren’t a constant assertion for one’s own space like they are back in the northeast. Money lasts longer here and you get more apartment space with it.

And yet…

I miss my people. I miss having my family a train ride away. I miss riding trains in general. I’ll take the no bullshit-I-don’t-give-a-fuckness of the East Coast (this is what people down here refer to as “rude” and what I refer to as “real”) over the fake politeness and overblown southern hospitality any day of the week. I miss good Italian and great architecture. I miss walking for hours to nowhere in particular to my own iTunes soundtrack.

But this is how it is, no place has everything you want all in one spot. The world would be a pretty boring place if it did.

How long does it take for the constant weighing of regional pros and cons to disappear? I want so badly to feel at home here and maybe that’s the problem. Maybe Austin isn’t supposed to feel like home because home isn’t supposed to be a permanent state. What we call home and where we live don’t necessarily have to be the same place. Our bodies can’t be in two places but that doesn’t mean our hearts can’t.


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