Sunday, August 19, 2012

Half-Way Point

I've just come back to Austin from a family semi-reunion at my sister's house with a little bit of time before school starts.

This is familiar.

Two years ago, my parents drove me down to Texas, left some boxes in my apartment, then we had a semi-reunion, after which I bought a car, they bought me some Ikea furniture and took me to Costco and then they drove away. Now, I've been here two years. The big, double-bag box of Quaker Oats my parents bought me is almost empty. Ditto with the enormous bottle of two-in-one shampoo/conditioner. My Ikea bamboo is, miraculously, still alive. (Okay, one stem of it.) I have a different roommate, and a different pet than when I moved here. The first roommate is married and a mother, the bird is dead. I have outlasted a pair of senior Institute missionaries, the grad students in my cohort who just wanted a Masters degree and the departmental secretary.

 I have run a half marathon; gone to Fun, Fun Fun and SXSW festivals; kayaked the lake; served as emergency preparedness leader, RS counselor, RS teacher and activities committee member; cleaned up Bastrop; presented at RSA and CCCC; been president of the UT chapter of RSA; lost weight; gotten published; gotten rejected--several times; gone on more dates in a row than ever; gone on a ghost tour of Austin; created a writing club; never successfully created a book club, but talked about it a lot; got a public library card; bought a bike; sold a bike; bought a bike; had the bike unsold to me; got a smart phone; gone to happy hours with my colleagues; gone swing dancing at the Fed;  met up with old friends in Austin; made new friends who left Austin; studied in the pool; went running outside in January; took a tango class; took a Croatian class; took my last class for a grade EVER; conducted research; participated in research; got my brain scanned for research; left town suddenly under sad circumstances; left town suddenly under happy circumstances; ate at the airport Salt Lick; saw my little newborn niece while she was still newborn; helped my sister move; helped a lot of people move; helped out at the Bishop's Storehouse; house sat for a wealthy family; swam in Barton Springs; spent a Thanksgiving alone; spent a Thanksgiving with my sister; spent a Santa Lucia Day with my sister; gotten a season's pass to Six Flags; taken a real Spring Break (albeit to England, not Cancun); discovered a gourmet popcorn shop; discovered a Bahn Mi shop; learned to tastefully decorate (at least the top of one bookshelf); sung first alto BY MYSELF in a choir;  filled up my walk in closet; cleaned out my walk-in closet; thrown a dozen parties including spinster, Halloween, Olympics, tea, Christmas ghost story, and movie-watching themed ones, all at my apartment, which I kept thinking I'd move out of, but now I think I never will.

I've had some good times here.

When I flew home from the semi-reunion, I knew I had friends here that I would be hanging out with, going to the Texas Rollergirls game, eating pizza at the same place we went to after Austin Comic Con, heading back to the car down Sixth Street, running up the steps to my apartment in a torrential Texas rainstorm. I kind of get this place.

When I moved here, I thought, "what a judgmental, pretentious town! Like high school's pressure to be cool, but constantly." I thought I wasn't on this town's wavelength. My friend Kj Evans has a theory that some cities click and some cities do not, and while I'm always telling this theory to others, I'm not sure I believe it. Maybe I've changed or maybe I've come to know the city better, but I feel like Austin is a part of my life now, and will be forever. When I graduate, for the rest of my academic career, I'll wear burnt orange at graduation. This will define part of me, this time I've spent here.

But it's not over yet. After all, I am only halfway through the enormous Costco bottle of vitamins my parents bought me. Also, my program.

I have no idea what the next two years will hold for me. I know there will be a trip with my sister's family around Thanksgiving, and my prospectus defense, and a couple of conferences I'm committed to. I suspect that I'll write and wrestle over my dissertation and go through that terrifying job-market process. There will be more parties. I'll teach in the spring and AD in earnest at the writing center for the next two years. I'll be running more, maybe even a marathon, but certainly the Run for Your Life zombie run.

But who knows? I certainly had no idea that my first roommate would get married and have a baby (well, in her belly) within a year of moving in with me. I didn't know that one of my friends would drop out of grad school and move to Germany. I didn't know that my sister who lived in San Antonio would be moving to Boston. I'm pretty sure they didn't know that these changes would come to them like this, either.

It's not inconceivable that I could get married, and/or drop out, and/or move far away. This could possibly not even be my half-way point and maybe I'll be here much longer or much shorter than my original freshman/sophomore/junior/senior of grad school plan.

But right now, looking back on these last two years, I like what I've done, and looking at who I am now, I like what I've become. The future, out there measured in dwindling bulk supplies and the rhythm of reunions and partings, leaves me hushed, solemn, awed.

1 comment:

Sara said...

Oh, Mary . . . I have many thoughts about this post, so I'll leave you with only one: Isn't the Austin Public Library card the prettiest you've ever seen?!? I remember when I got mine. It seems so long ago . . .