Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Why we left Austin

Fall. Not something we had in ATX.
Austin was a wonderful first home for our family. Our situation there was good--no, great. Neil had a job doing meaningful, challenging work that made the world a better place. He liked his coworkers and his boss. He had an amazingly flexible schedule and six weeks paid parental leave! I had a great community of friends--other moms, people involved in the local food movement, a book club, neighbors. Through my work on the board of Yard to Market Cooperative and at the farmstand I was able to continue to pursue my pre-kid interests. We were finally feeling settled.

So, that begs the question: why did we leave?

I believe that I can be happy anywhere. I think there are places that are easier to be happier than others, but I do not think my location determines my happiness. I was happy in Austin. Very happy, in fact. But when Neil and I discussed where we wanted to be in five or ten years, it wasn't Austin.

Austin felt too big, too expensive, and too hot. Even so, I was willing to consider staying in Austin long term. It takes a long time and a lot of effort to find your "people" in any given place. Once I had found mine, I was loathe to give it up on the chance that we might prefer aspects of other locations better than Austin. But then Neil said, "Every day I bike home over the South Congress bridge and I think: What are we doing raising our children here?" The size, congestion, and pollution all come into sharp relief during rush hour as thousands of cars crawl along I-35.

Now, to all the lovely, wonderful Austinites out there, please do not take offense. It's not Austin, it's us. Really.

I knew Neil didn't want to stay in Austin forever, but sometimes I would joke with him that we were never going to leave. The longer you are in a place, the harder it is to uproot; it was easy to imagine a future as permanent Austin residents. I was coming around, but Neil bristled at the idea. He said he didn't want to wake up in the future wondering why we were still there. If we didn't want to be in Austin in five or ten years, then we needed to do something about it now.

Once we made the decision, we started looking for opportunities elsewhere. If Austin wasn't our forever place, I wanted to find that place and put down roots while the kids were still young. Leaving good people and making new friends as an adult is not easy. I had a "rip off the bandaid approach" and figured it was going to be hard no matter when it happened, so we should just get on with it.

I grew up in a college town and have always been partial to the idea of raising my family in one. They are generally progressive for cities of their size and offer many of the amenities of a larger city in a smaller package. When a job opportunity came available in Bloomington, I was hopeful that it could be our forever place. It had so many of the things we were looking for: smaller, bike-friendly, great schools, beautiful nature, and lower cost of living. In a word: perfect.

And I have to say, so far, Bloomington has not disappointed. Almost every day I let go a deep sigh of relief and think: We made the right choice. Beautiful parks, bike trails, a thriving farmers' market, a wonderful library... I could go on and on. Every day it feels more like "home."

I am apprehensive about facing our first real winter in years, but over the moon excited about experiencing Autumn. Sweaters! Fall colors! Chilly mornings! Bring it on.

We could have stayed in Austin and been perfectly happy. We were perfectly happy. But I am glad we decided to find a place that is a better fit for our family.

Austin, you were good to us. Thank you for a memorable four years. Bloomington, we look forward to getting to know you better.


  1. I love hearing insight into this! It's funny because Austin is my hometown and I feel a lot of pull from the city but it has become so big, so full of traffic and so expensive, as you mention, that I'm becoming less drawn to moving back. It's perfect to be able to visit. What about being near family? Was that part of your decision? We've decided that Gilbert is the place for us for now, and maybe for the long-term although it's not without sacrifice. We don't like the weather or the natural environment (I miss tall trees SO MUCH) but we have great cost of living, great jobs, great community plus we are near Chris's family and my family is just a two hour plane ride away. So we keep coming back to the fact that all things considered we have it really good and likely no place will be perfect. But sometimes I wonder. I wish we could try living somewhere with seasons and in a more liberal area for about a year and be able to go right back to our life now if we didn't like it. It feels like we'd have so much to give up just to try something out. Anyway, thanks for sharing this, so glad you guys are so happy in your new home and town!

    1. One of my closest friends from college grew up in Austin and we have had lots of discussions about how much it has changed since she left home. She still loves it, but in her head it is a much smaller place than it is in reality (if that makes sense).

      Moving close to family was a definite draw to Bloomington. We are about the same distance from my in-laws (approximately 8 hours), but much closer to my family in Missouri. I've already been back once, my parents are coming this weekend while Neil's out of town (back to Austin for work!), and we are contemplating another trip there for Thanksgiving. It is so nice to be able to rent a car and head over instead of dealing with the cost and hassle of air travel. As the kids get older I can see my parents driving over to see them in a play or at a sports competition--something that wouldn't have been as easy in Austin.

      We went back and forth so much on whether leaving Austin was the right choice. We were leaving behind so much good in the hope for something better. I complete agree with you--no place is perfect and it doesn't make sense to move from place to place in the hope of finding the ideal that likely doesn't exist. What makes the place is the people. I know that is the opposite of some what I am saying in the post, but I think there's just a balance. Of course the community and people are what brings us joy and happiness, but there is no denying the effect of our surroundings.

      So far, it feels like we made the right choice. It has been such a relief to feel like we are in a spot where we want to put down roots. I hear you on wanting to try something out. Maybe an extended stay somewhere when Chris is on sabbatical? Or over the summer once you've paid off your house and are living the dream working for yourself on your creative projects?