Seeing it emerge, sometimes out from underneath fog, sometimes as it creeps into view as we come up the mouth of the tunnel, always sends shivers down my spine. When I was little, I’d strain my neck, gluing my forehead to the window of the car or bus, waiting for it to appear. I knew we’d turn a corner and I’d see it – the massive silver skyscrapers, the invisible streets that wound around those tall buildings, where thousands of beautiful people were walking around, doing interesting things.
It didn’t matter what city it was. New York, Boston, Chicago, Philadelphia—the moment that skyline appeared, I felt like I could do anything, be anything. I desperately wanted to be a part of that city, to fit in, to not be mistaken for a tourist.
Now, everywhere I go, I see the Austin skyline and I think, that’s my city.
It might be cheesy and a little ignorant, but I don’t care. Seeing that skyline every day makes up for the fact that it’s only my second weekend in the city, and my bike has already been stolen. It makes up for the horrible traffic that I thought everyone was exaggerating about. It makes up for the fact that while I was apartment hunting and driving an hour each way into the city, a cloud of rain followed me, leaving me with the sad impression that I would never see the sun in Austin.
Apartment hunting in Austin is overwhelming. Fellow invisible apartment hunters are hovering around you, threatening to take that really cute unit with the window in the kitchen and the (fake) hardwood floors from underneath you. Everywhere is 99 percent full. “Several people have already put in an application,” they tell me. The apartment locator, though a wonderful tour guide, tends to make you forget your priorities, especially when all of the apartments she suggests are outside your budget. Studios are more expensive than one bedrooms apartments (depending on the location) and you can forget about being able to afford a place within 2 miles of downtown.
For me, location was everything. I wanted to be as close to downtown without paying downtown prices, and that meant South Austin. I didn’t have a lot of time, so at the end of two very long, very rainy days, I decided on an apartment on South 1st Street. It was a “fuck it, I don’t even care anymore” decision, but it was a good apartment.
It’s too much space for me—I’m still trying to acquire the “stuff” to fill it, and each time I enter my credit card number into Amazon, I wonder if I’ll be happy with the “stuff.”
I’ve stopped having “Holy shit, what am I doing in Texas?” moments, for the most part. I’ve settled into a sort of non-routine, where I remember Austin is my oyster and I can do whatever the hell I want, which, most of the time, is sitting at home with a good book or a map and a cup of hot tea.
I recently asked a friend of mine who lives in New York City and attends grad school at Columbia whether she feels guilty when she doesn’t use the city to her full advantage. When she stays home instead of exploring the endless possibilities that is Manhattan.
Because sometimes, that’s how I feel about Austin. I love this city, or at least what I’ve seen of it so far (yes, even the evil, bike-stealing land that is downtown), but I also like the comforts of home. I feel guilty, staying home on a Friday night, when I’m in Austin. I should be taking shots from strangers on 6th Street, or whatever it is you do on the Dirty Sixth. I should be making friends at Zilker Park, going swimming in Barton Springs, getting up at 7 a.m. to have hangover breakfast tacos. I should be able to rattle off a list of cool spots I've hit up when people ask me "What have you done in Austin so far?"
But that’s not my style, I remind myself. I’m more the coffee shop-frequenting, trail walking, yoga-practicing, go-to-bed-by-10-p.m. kind of gal, and that’s okay. I’ll still get to know the city intimately and it doesn’t have to be the way I think everyone else is doing it. It can be on my terms.
I have to keep reminding myself that Austin isn’t going anywhere. So what if I stay in one weekend? So what if I don’t try something new for a while? So what if I haven’t found my ultimate group of friends yet? I’ll get there, or I won’t, and that’s fine. The point is, I don’t have a flight to catch. I can take my time.