My history with my hometown of Salt Lake City is storied and less than rosy. I won’t bore you with that right now, but when I left—for a second time—even my mother, who clings to hope of the return to anything and everything in past tense, felt it was appropriate and fitting that I leave town. She called Seattle my destiny. It was beckoning, and for nearly 8 years, I proudly called it my home.
Life doesn’t always afford you the pleasantries you expect, and as much as I loved the place—I’d married and had my first kid there, after all—I found myself questioning when I would leave. As a tech youngling, abandoning most connections and uprooting had been largely easy1. As a married father, one with mounting medical bills and related concerns, the spiraling cost of living (outpacing my earning potential as a passable UX designer) began to butt heads with the realization that my family might actually need some extended family around. Utah was not an option, for personal and health reasons, so we would talk about that eventual move to Texas, where most of my wife’s family lived. Austin was a given: she’d gone to UT, regaling me with stories of all the great shows and the time she gave the dude from Butthole Surfers a VIP pass at South-by; I’d felt reasonably comfortable with the place every time I’d visited, in that it had tasty food, record shops, and I didn’t feel like I’d be shot for being a non-believer (Texans can tell). Austin seemed like the natural progression for us.
It always seemed like one of those “hey, in a few years, maybe we’ll talk about it, and I’ll get some amazing job, and it will feel natural” events. Then the freight train of nearly dying while losing my job hit. We had no safety net, and lucked out when short-term disability and Medicaid helped us limp along for a few months as I regained my health. But any support from family was difficult (you can only ask people to fly out and watch your kid for so long) and while we knew a lot of great people in Seattle, we really didn’t have any close friends. As I began looking for work, I spoke to maybe three groups in Seattle before I realized it was probably time to move on.
I lucked out and got a pretty decent job in Austin, with higher pay and relocation. We’d be golden, right? Well, the relocation package didn’t cover the cost of a full service mover, let alone cars, pets and airlines, so we went traditional: cramming all our shit into shipping containers, then cramming ourselves into a car for weeks of hotels and couch-surfing. With a toddler. And two cats. Oh, and the relocation wasn’t a handy check, but the wink and nod of “keep your receipts and you’ll be reimbursed!” I was (mostly), but what cash unemployment and health problems hadn’t devoured was quickly siphoned and I found myself turning to my last resort / sign of great privilege to make it happen… I sold stock.
How white male techy can this tale of woe get, amrite? Everything’s horrible! Holy shit, he tapped into a magical well of highly valuable BigCo stock! Don’t you know that could be worth way more in X days/months/years?!
Shut up. I know I got really lucky with this, but it doesn’t negate that it lessened my flexibility in future fiscal challenges, which with me are inevitable. But we made it, we got a rental house nearly 1000 sq ft larger than our last place, and eventually even my wife got a job with perks and opportunities for learning and advancement. I also got in a car crash, my wife had extensive oral work and surgery on her wrist, and my daughter stuffed a series of rocks up her nose at daycare. Don’t laugh… you’re nearly $300 out of pocket each time to get those out.
So I should be really very happy about the move. But my feelings are mixed.
I can’t help but wonder if Austin will ever fill me with the wonder Seattle did (despite my eventually growing tired of its people)? Maybe I should be happy if it provides my family with some happiness and stability—though the jury is still out on that one.