After my admittedly scathing previous post, I wanted to come back and list some positives about Austin. They are largely intangible, of course, because each person develops their own life and community that has to outweigh the tangible facts of life, like morale-crushing traffic and heat.
I think this group was a cornerstone of my life here long before I realized just how much it meant to me. It is the closest I will ever get to "swimming in college" and the only team atmosphere I have been in since college, and the only really emotionally/socially-engaged team atmosphere since high school. Again, as before and always, getting up early and suffering with a group of people (and then sometimes gathering for breakfast after) coalesces those people unlike nearly anything else. I'm sure the Marines would disagree, but the little smile on Whitney's face before she unleashes a particularly fearsome set rivals the sick enjoyment shown by any drill sergeant.
Harvard Club of Austin
In October 2011 nine people stood up in a meeting room full of people and collectively said they would be responsible for rebuilding the Club from the ashes of dormancy. I stood because I realized that the farther in time I got away from Harvard, the more connected I wanted to feel to it. At first I was the person who filled the gaps, connecting with grads fresh from Cambridge and wielding my Costco card with aplomb. Eventually I got to take notes and spend money. I joke that one of the reasons I have to leave Austin is because I am next in line to be President, except that no one on the Board laughs when I make that joke.
I'm offering this as a group, but there is really just one. I met hunters-who-are-vegan, good-ol'-boys-who-set-the-standard-in-their-field-of-engineering, men-who-wear-suits-and-drive-dualies and more 'Horns than I can count, and they all helped ease the stereotypes of "Texas" most people from "The Northern 49" hold. Yet only one of them really helped define my time here, and unfortunately it was closer to the end than to the beginning, for both of us actually. Still, you can be from Texas no matter where you live and sometimes an end can be a beginning.
The Not Texans
Austin is nothing if not a magnet for awesome people, and I met many here from all over the country and world. Some organized Wisconsin Badger and Green Bay Packer viewing parties. Some answered inane questions with me several times a week and found my movie and TV trivia knowledge impressive instead of nerdy. Some formed my Austin branch of "where the bodies are buried." Some let me vent, and vented in return, about triathlon and life. Some of them no longer live in Texas, simply passing through like I am ultimately doing. But for a short time, we all gathered far away from our places of origin and meant a lot to each other.
I might never eat tacos, TexMex or Mexican food again. BBQ might also need to go. Texas is the only place where I had to make my meal plans based on how much food the restaurant had available that day, rather than the other way around. Because here, when a BBQ place runs out of food shortly after opening for business, that's a sign the food is really rather good. Avocados and fresh corn tortillas literally changed the way I eat. On top of that, nearly every other type of cuisine is represented. I survived the Austin ramen explosion, taste-tested ices and gelatos, and developed a sophisticated palette for breakfast tacos. The only two things I never found in decent enough quality were pizza and empanadas. Oh well, I can forgive them, the closest Lou Malnati's and Julia's Empanadas are 1,000+ miles away.
So, I'm a crier. I know that I will spend most of my last week here tearing up at random and inopportune moments, and my plan is simply to hide behind sunglasses the entire time. Please don't be offended. If I'm wearing sunglasses and saying goodbye to you, it is because I like you so much.