We’re coming up on my 8-year anniversary of being a resident of Texas. Every year that passes, I feel surprised that I’m still here. After making the choice to move, I created some vague back-up plans: I could move back to Ohio, I could move in with family in the San Antonio area if San Angelo didn’t work out. I didn’t have a timeline or a solid plan beyond: move to San Angelo, start job, see how it goes. So, I moved to San Angelo, TX, by myself.
In early August 2010, I started my job at the San Angelo State Supported Living Center. This feels like a good time for a flashback:
I finished my MSCJ in 2009. As soon as I had my diploma, I started looking for jobs outside of Ohio. I focused on Virginia/DC area and had some thoughts about Texas. But Virginia – that was IT. I wanted desperately to work for the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. I still do. They have a branch in Austin. I wasn’t good enough for NCMEC in 2009 and have never felt like I am. I check their available positions every once in a while. That’s right, NCMEC! I’m still coming for you!
I hope you enjoyed that nostalgic tangent….
I eventually gave up on Virginia/DC. I went out there one time for a pre-screening exam related to a position for which I applied. They called me to return to interview. I cancelled that. I started looking for work in Texas. I visited family in San Antonio and looked around for places that seemed to fit me, job-wise. It was a wash. Nothing came from that. Back in Ohio, I expanded my search somehow. I have no idea how. I applied for a position for the SSLC in San Angelo. Why not? I have no memory of applying, why it was enticing – nothing. I got a call from a man who worked there. He told me some of the basics about the facility, asked about my interest in working there (they had a sex offender population!) and arranged a telephone interview with the person in charge of hiring staff for a certain department.
I participated in that interview while sitting in my little red Dodge Neon in the Holzer Medical Center parking lot in the dead, humid heat of July in Ohio. I tried to hide the fact that I was sitting in my car. I remember not being able to answer some questions. I remember referring to Tristi and Kristi because I didn’t realize Dr. Dunham had introduced her as Tristi. I remember trying to be casual and joke around a little bit. Worst case scenario: I wouldn’t get hired, but I would still have my job in Ohio. I knew nothing about San Angelo and had zero attachment to the idea of working here. I knew it was Texas, and I wanted to find work in Texas because of the weather (no joke). It was an opportunity to work with sex offenders which, at that time, was just a hope. I hadn’t already worked with that population and didn’t know what I would be getting myself into. I just wanted to try it. I was sure I blew that interview. The heat in my car was sweltering. I couldn’t answer some of their questions. I was nobody.
I have no idea how many days passed before I heard from Dr. Dunham to offer me the job. I don’t remember that conversation, but I think I probably said, “Really?” because that’s who I am, even now.
I called my dad and asked him to stop by my apartment on his way home. He did. We sat on a bench on the sidewalk and I told him I was offered the job in Texas, and I was pretty sure I was going to take it. He was 100% supportive. I think I had decided, before he left, that I would take the job. In a seemingly brief period of time, I decided to move, alone, from my all-too-familiar homeland to an unknown city full of strangers in Texas, about 1,500 miles away. I decided it was time for an adventure. I mean, I wanted to find a job in Texas, right?
Not too long after that, I made a trip to San Angelo to see the new workplace, meet my future co-workers and search for an apartment.
So, I moved to San Angelo. I think we started driving from Ohio on 07/23/10. We spent one night somewhere in Arkansas where there was a shit ton of enormous mosquitos and a restaurant that had killer onion rings. The town name was two words and the second word was “Forest.” That’s all I got.
The next day, we made it to San Angelo, to my first apartment in Texas, located on Sunset Dr. Dad and Charlene helped me unpack, spent one night and drove back to Ohio. Then it was just me with very little furniture in an unfamiliar city. I didn’t have any living room furniture other than a side table and the television on top of it. That apartment was great. There were two big windows in the living room, a pantry, 2 bedrooms, a walk-in closet in the master bedroom. I loved it. After work, almost every day, I would get something to eat, go jog at Kirby Park, go home and watch Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert. I lived there for about 3 months while I waited for something to open at Wellington.
Wellington seemed great. The complex looked nicer and I could have laundry machines inside the apartment. Things went okay there, but the rent went up every year and it was ridiculous. I got engaged while living in that apartment. I got married while I lived in that apartment, and I also separated from that partner while living in that apartment. After close to 4 years of me living there, it was time for a change. Over the next few months I made some serious changes. I moved, and I got divorced. I had that 3rd apartment to myself.
I really enjoyed my time at the 3rd apartment. I was there for 2-3 years. I even had some friends over. Once. I grew a lot while I lived there. I started taking better care of myself. I started to really be myself while I lived there. I even had some adventures, outside of the divorce, although that one was a highlight. I took a selfie the day I went to the hearing with Judge Gossett to get everything finalized. He said, “You’re ready to be done with this, aren’t you?” YES, SIR. Fun fact: I started my job with probation while still living in the 3rd apartment. Judge Gossett swore me in. That’s some full circle business, folks. As a side note, while I grew to loathe the first job I had in San Angelo, it was an excellent stepping stone and if I had not had that job, I would not have my current job.
After that, I had a very brief stint in a charming, one-bedroom apartment behind an office on Concho Ave. I loved it. I could get on the roof and though it wasn’t high, it was a great view. Since it wasn’t an apartment complex, it was always so quiet and relaxing. That apartment was a sweet blessing. Also, built-in book shelves. That apartment was a blessing at the best time. I miss it sometimes.
If you’re playing along at home, you may already know I live in Todd’s house. I have been here over 2 years…. I think? My math skills aren’t great (if you’re checking my math in this, please stop. You’re missing the point of this entry). I like to tease Todd about my lack of my own space here (I do have space, but I also lack space). This is Todd’s house. He lived here for years before we ever met. It’s a truly great house. For a while, we talked about moving and even looked at a few houses with the intention of moving. However, at the end of the day, this is a great house. If we moved, I’d be pissed off about someone else living here. We’re going to add on a little bit. It’s going to work great. I want to hire someone to paint a portrait of a serial killer for my room, because that’s much kinder than posting a GTFO sign. An added bonus about Todd’s house: I’m not sure if there’s a library inside this house or if we live inside a library.
I have been in Texas for 8 years. I’ve gotten engaged, married, divorced and engaged again. I’ve had 2 jobs. I’ve started working on another master’s degree. I’ve made friends, lost friends. I’ve run 2 half-marathons and one 5k. I did Crossfit for a couple years and quit doing it. For the past 2 years, I’ve been a member of a gym that is an absolute fucking dream – enough of a dream that I willingly go to class at 5:30am. That gym is working for me in so many ways. I’ve seen all kinds of different places. I went to SXSW. I’ve been to Marfa Myths twice. I’ve gotten two new piercings. I hiked at Big Bend State Park and Big Bend National Park. I’ve visited Galveston. I’ve seen scorpions, armadillos, tarantulas and Javelina, and I never get tired of chasing lizards I will never catch (I just want to be friends!).
Regardless of how cheesy this sounds, it is absolutely true: I found my voice in Texas. I don’t think I can articulate just how much I’ve grown since moving here. I have no problem telling anyone that when I was still living in Ohio, I felt terrified that someday I would commit suicide. My family is there, and I have friends there, but in some way there was nothing there for me. I don’t believe I would have ever flourished there the way I have here. Could I have found my voice just anywhere? Possibly. I can tell you that it happened here, but maybe it would have happened in Virginia or Pennsylvania or Indiana or even Columbus, Ohio. Maybe. But none of that matters now.
I understand that San Angelo is not a huge, glamorous city. I understand I do not live in Austin or Dallas. I know there are other places that are, in some ways, better. When anyone talks about how terrible San Angelo is, how small it is, how there’s nothing here, I think about my homeland: an entire county with a population of 23,257 in 2015. While San Angelo isn’t San Antonio, it is something to someone like me.
Before anyone thinks I’m getting too down on my homeland where I still have family and friends, people can flourish there. The people I know there have flourished and continue to do so. My point is, that I wasn’t flourishing there and don’t believe I ever would have. I never regret moving. I do feel homesick sometimes, especially when I know I’m missing something important like my nieces going to prom and my nephew playing little league baseball. I am missing all of it. That’s the price I pay for not being able to make it work in my homeland. I experience an element of envy for people who could make it work, because they get to keep their front row seat with their families. I get pictures on my phone, text messages, pictures and messages via social media. I’m not complaining. Imagine how disconnected I’d feel without all this technology. But it’s not the same as being in the front row. My Cool Aunt status has suffered.
The temperature reached 111* in San Angelo today. Getting into my car around 1pm felt awful. This heat happens every summer, and every summer I wonder, “Was it this bad last summer?” We’re always in danger of running out of water. We have an atrocious meth problem (I think the heroin is coming slowly but surely) and nearly 400 registered sex offenders in this county alone. The traffic is ridiculous around 8am, 12pm, 1pm and 5pm, M-F, but nothing like Austin – just ridiculous for a city this size. When it rains, the water just stands in the road creating hazards because this city on the fringe of the desert just cannot deal. I have lost my skills for driving in rain. The people who have grown up here never had those skills. San Angelo has it downsides, just like anywhere, but looking at the past 8 years of my life, being able to live here has done so much more for me than I ever hoped or imagined.
Life is good.