Confession: I Don’t Miss Austin


Yesterday's Sweet Leaf Tea lid perfectly sums up my life right now. Who needs fortune cookies anymore?

I’m a lucky one. Part of the privileged few. A golden child. You guessed it—I’m a native Austinite.

Not only a native Austinite, but a South Austinite. Even more authentic!

My youth was filled with trips to Barton Springs and Fiesta, when it was still called Fiesta and held on Laguna Gloria’s storybook grounds. During the summers, I learned snorkeling and repelling at the Austin Nature Center day camp. My parents had season tickets for UT baseball and Lady Longhorn basketball games, so by the time I entered UT as a freshman, I had spent countless hours on campus.

I dined on Milto’s, Dan’s Hamburgers, Eastside Cafe and Nuevo Leon. I developed an alarmingly high tolerance for spicy foods. I partook of Austin City Limits and KGSR against my will, before I realized how cool they are.

I wondered about mythical places like The Arboretum and Pflugerville, and dreaded the intersection of South Lamar and Oltorf, the scene of a creepy mural on the side of a taxidermy shop. You know the one!

As I grew older, attended college, desperately searched for employment, got married, bought a house (in South Austin, natch) and adopted a dog, Austin remained home. It was a large and vital part of my identity, of how I saw myself. Austin and I were inextricably connected. It was my city. Austin was easy and charming and cool and perfect. It was the envy of all other cities! I never wanted to leave. Who leaves an oasis?

Then, after 28 years of blissful companionship, I got out. Packed up and left.

My husband was accepted to the master’s of landscape architecture program at the University of Arizona in Tucson, and we decided he needed to pursue that path. It was an agonizing decision because it meant leaving everything and everyone both of us knew and loved. But it was an easy one in that we felt 100 percent conviction that it was the right thing to do.

We’ve been in Tucson just over two months now and have been delightfully surprised by so many things: The striking friendliness of nearly everyone we meet; the glory of a sun-washed mountain and wide-open sky; the sheer abundance of locally owned pizza shops.

But the biggest surprise, the thing I truly never expected was this: I don’t miss Austin.

Don’t get me wrong—I very much miss my friends and family. And when I think about our lovely little house, which we still own, or missing the birth of my best friend’s baby, my heart aches. But I’m not longing for the city itself.

It hit me when I traveled there last month for work. (I’ve kept my job with UT’s business school and work from home in Tucson.) I couldn’t wait to get back to my city, hit the regular stops and spend time with my friends and family.

But from the moment my plane landed, I felt off, somehow. I wasn’t overwhelmed with kiss-the-ground gratitude at being back in the world’s greatest hometown. Suddenly I felt like an outsider, an out-of-town visitor passing through.

I spent 28 years cultivating and clinging to my citizenship, and it took less than six weeks for it to disintegrate.

And you know what? It’s kind of a relief. I don’t think I could survive three years in Tucson if Austin still had its hooks in me. I’m thankful that my new city is one that’s easy for me to like, and I’m excited about coming to feel more at home here in Tucson than I already do. I don’t want to live my life just filling time until I can get back to Austin.

Austin is a special place and I love it dearly. It is so much a part of who I am. But I’ve realized I’m in a season of my life when I get to allow another place to become a part of me and shape who I become.

I’m a lucky one, indeed.

8 Responses to “Confession: I Don’t Miss Austin”

  1. elizs Says:

    Excellent stuff, Tracy. When I lived in MN for a year, I was crazy homesick as much for Texas as I was for Austin (family, friends, etc). Now that I’ve been back in Austin since 2001, I wonder if the pull might be a little less strong if I had to move away again.

  2. @joeyTWOwheels Says:

    The mountains will do that to you. Tucson is a great city, especially for riding and nature and spring-time baseball (to name a few).

    Good luck, ex-pat.

  3. tracy Says:

    @elizs – Missing something does seem to be sort of a knee-jerk reaction, doesn’t it? Before we got here, I just assumed I’d be overwhelmed by missing Austin! I just *expected* it. I felt weird when I didn’t. Telling myself that it’s ok. 🙂

    @joey – did you used to live in Tucson? Or just a regular visitor? Oh and sadly, spring-time baseball is in danger. Teams are pulling out of Spring Training. Minor League teams leaving too. I’m *not* happy!

  4. Brady Holt Says:

    Tracy–I am very happy that you are able to move on from Austin and not constantly wish you were back there. I’m sure it was really tough to leave. You know, it probably helps that Tucson is an up and coming Austin (of sorts, and in its own non-hippy way). We had some friends that lived there for a couple of years and absolutely loved it. We went and visited and were very surprised at how much we enjoyed the place. So, enjoy Tucson! In a way, I am kind of jealous because I DO miss Austin and have missed it for 6 years. In my case, it probably doesn’t help that I moved to Houston. 🙂 Hope you Travis are doing well.

  5. j Says:

    Very happy to hear.

  6. tracy Says:

    Thanks, Brady. And don’t worry – Tucson has plenty of hippies.

    I’ve only been gone 3 months, so we’ll see how long this feeling lasts!

  7. 5 Signs You’re at Home in a New City Says:

    […] would feel like. And while I felt like a stranger here for a couple of weeks, I settled in much more quickly than I expected. Having never lived outside of Austin until five months ago, I started wondering what it is that […]

  8. Ryan Says:

    oh you’ll see eventually. i did the same thing at 31. 5 years of chicago and denver. the newness will wear off.
    now that i’m back i see how special Austin really is, stuff i took for granted. i was so lucky to be a native austinite with family/friends/connections in the cooldes place in the US, i should have just stayed and reaped its benefits to the max.

    PS – the ‘creepy’ mural is dead now. twas my favorite piece of art in town. now its liquor ads.

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