There were fireworks on the day I decided to leave.
So, I've decided to leave Austin. I've decided to leave Texas.
I haven't really caught up with my decision yet. Every time I try to really think about it, I just get...ellipses. A blank space filled with something uncertain. A shade of disbelief.
Who am I without Austin? On one hand that is an easy question to answer. Wendy, Wendy, in love with eternity, in love with mystery, in love with the unknown. On the other hand, my whole adult life has been in Austin. I wandered in as an insecure 19 year old and turned into...exactly who I want to be when I grow up. The process has been unexpected, miraculous, heart-breaking, boring, lonely, beautiful, amazing. It has been full of laughter, full of play, full of beautiful humans, full of shit, full of disappointment, full of music, full of magic, full of dancing, full of intoxicants, full of hundreds of broken expectations, full of lanterns, full of crystals. And full of God. Most definitely full of God.
A part of me wants to separate out my experiences from Austin. There was my first love, a crippling depression, some bad decisions about men, groups of friends coalescing and dispersing, countless drunken shenanigans, a handful of miraculous Flipsides, the revelation of God, the discovery of what I want to do with my life. And it all happened here. Austin.
There is no way to separate it out. Austin was the background.
In a way, that is what Austin does. Every year it takes in thousands of young folks and watches them while they wander around having fun, bruising their knees and hearts, until they finally stumble upon the truth of who they are. It somehow keeps them safe, ever watchful but gentle, never too heavy-handed. People float in, thinking they will only be here for a short while and then years pass and they realize they don't really want to leave. Austin was only supposed to be a temporary stop, until I got my degree and moved on. Which is, basically, what happened, just fourteen years and three degrees later.
I don't think Austin lets you leave until you are ready.
And I am writing this at Spider House on Independence Day. Outside on the patio, under the Christmas lights, drinking sangria and smoking while I write, write, write. Spider House and Austin, sitting in a tree, K-I-S-S-I-N-G. I almost can't think of one without the other. How much time have I spent at Spider House writing? How much time have I spent at Spider House in general? When I first came to Spider House I used to write in my thick black journal about how fucked up I was, how ugly, how no one would ever love me. I wrote most of my papers as an undergraduate here. I remember staying up late into the night, writing a paper here about Kabir and sound. We came here on my 21st birthday, and I ordered a Shiner an hour before I was officially 21. I still remember the bartender looking at my ID and hesitating before she gave me the drink. I also remember getting overstimulated and climbing under the table that night. Natalie and I came here the Monday after our first Flipside. We sat in silence, holding hands and crying. There was this. And this. An evil, narcisstic ex-boyfriend used to come here every day and ruined Spider House for me for a couple of years. But I came back.
And now I am here, thinking about leaving.
One of the things I have learned in Austin is that I am not good at good-byes. I used to think that leaving was easy, that I could walk away from that apartment, that job, that lover, that friend without a backward glance, without a pause, without feeling a thing. Only to find myself astonished a few days later when I couldn't stop crying. Now I know that I have to honor all the endings in my life. I know I have to process leaving and that I am going to cry and feel like my heart is breaking and that this is completely okay.
So, in the next six weeks I'm going to go to all the places where my heart has broken and stare at them. I'm going to go to all the places where my heart grew and transformed and take it all in. Many of these are the same places, so that should save some time. I already cried today thinking about Sculpture Falls, breakfast tacos, and the Texas sky in the summer. My friend Laura said that I shouldn't let my grief convince me to stay. It is an adventure.
But how am I going to live without the giant-ass Texas sky in the summer? Especially when it was full of fireworks on the day I decided to leave.