Big news this week. We’re moving to Austin, Texas at the end of July! The decision’s been a long time in the making, but the plans only just became final; I got a job there (Aaron’s work is portable), and now we’re running around packing and putting the other pieces into place, from finding a place to live to evaluating childcare options. I’m filled with a huge mix of emotions around this move. I’m sure it’s a positive one, and I’m so excited (this was, I should mention, my idea), but we’ll be leaving our friends and changing some of the basic structures of our lives, so it’s also…complicated.
At a standup comedy show that we attended some months ago (a super unique New York experience in itself— I totally recommend this to you Big Apple readers), one of the comics looked out at the audience and asked, “How many of you are originally from New York City?” There were probably two hundred people in the room, and only two or three raised their hands. “Okay. For the rest of you: How many of you came to New York because you thought you were the coolest person in your town?” There was a moment of hesitation/self-reflection, and then, slowly, everyone in the room raised their hands, looked around, and burst out laughing.
When I finished school, I didn’t know what I wanted to do. I only knew that I wanted to be in New York (and yeah, I thought I was pretty cool). I love New York’s diversity. I love its energy, and its ambition. I love its history. This city has always been what it is today: a larger than life, make-it-or-break-it melting pot of commerce, creativity, growth, competition and change. Once people are here, the connections that happen all happen quickly, and in surprising, interesting ways. It's so tightly packed, and so full of obscenely motivated people, that changes take place rapidly, too. But you can't cling too tightly to a specific idea or vision about exactly how it will all unfold. It's like life in general, just… amplified. And that’s awesome.
So here I am, just over three years later, with a completely different life than the one I arrived with, albeit one that’s evolved naturally. I have a job and professional expertise, I have amazing friends, I have a husband, I have a baby. I’m astounded! As proud as I am, too, of all I’ve accomplished— with completing a pregnancy here (which I managed by giving myself daily pep-talks before wedging my belly onto the crowded subway cars) at the top of the list— raising a child in New York City is just not something I want to do.
I tilt my hat and give huge props to the people who do it, but I don’t want to. I don’t want to apply for preschools like they’re colleges (anyone seen Nursery University? That’s no joke), spend thousands of dollars on birthday parties (or explain to Kaspar why Jimmy’s party featured Justin Timberlake while his own just featured his dad in a clown suit), or, more importantly and most fundamentally, raise my kid in the concrete jungle. I want him to be able play outside unsupervised (not yet, obviously), and to grow up at his own pace. I want him to see, in me, a model of happiness. And while I don’t want to move to Stepford or anything, life in New York—especially with a kid—is more stressful than life needs to be. So I want to ease off of the gas a little bit. Make a couple of changes. Maybe buy a house someday, or at least, you know, have a dishwasher.
I’ve been researching various cities for about a year. I spoke to friends all over the country, and also hit up my alma mater’s alumnae database. Portland was a heavy contender, but is ultimately a little too small. Santa Fe interested me, but everyone I spoke to there gave it some kind of disclaimer. Then there’s Austin. Aaron’s originally from Austin, actually, and has fond memories of his childhood there. It’s affordable, it’s urban, it has a huge live music scene, advertising and tech industries, and has been voted, time and again, one of the best cities in America in which to start a business… which I think speaks to its creative vibe and solid community structures. It’s also weathered the recession remarkably well. I spoke to a number of people there, people of different ages and who’ve been there for anywhere from one to ten years. All of them love it. No disclaimers. I’ve networked from afar (this has been something of an obsession), and everyone’s been open, welcoming, and helpful. I know there will be drawbacks (um, it’s in the middle of Texas), and I expect challenges, but so far the crucial components are looking really good.
I got a part time job, which is what I wanted, so I can focus more on being a mom, and less on looking at screens. I’ll definitely utilize the professional skills I have now, and I’m also planning to get certified in massage therapy over the next couple of years—I’d like to eventually specialize in prenatal and infant massage. I want to work with my hands, make the world a better place in a tangible way. I plan to continue writing.
I’m taking a huge pay cut, obviously, and stepping out of a solid career track that’s taken some time to cultivate. While I know, and keep reminding myself, that we’re doing this responsibly rather than recklessly, change can be scary, and I am staving off fears that it’ll all fall apart, that I’m making a huge mistake. That said, I know deep down that my gut is not mistaken, that I trust myself, my life, my husband… And if I don’t do this now, I might never do it at all.
Have you moved from one city to another, or voluntarily made any big life changes since having kids? Any Austinites in the audience (you’re turning up all over for me these days)? Any tips on moving with a baby, getting settled in a new place, or swallowing fear in favor of positive action? I’m looking forward to your thoughts, and to sharing this adventure with you.