Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Goodbye New York, Hello Houston

I left New York City for Houston, Texas. It is a move based on what is best for my career, not some untold desire to be a Texan.

It is a move meant to be temporary, one that will (hopefully) open doors that would otherwise (likely) remain closed.

It is an opportunity to explore a new city, new part of the country, new part of the world, to which I have not previously come.

For those reasons, I’m excited to be in Houston and to see what the next six months (well, now closer to five) bring.

But I do and will miss my experience of the last (almost) year of my life. I drank the Kool-Aid and now believe that everyone should live in New York once, even if only for a short while. I know, I know – I should be struck down by the Houston METRO train for such talk.

Looking back, it is an ideal city for when you’re in your 20s. All that talk about it being a place like no other, well, to my dismay, it proved true – for better and worse. Prior to living in NY, I never had a desire to move there. I’d visited once, seen some of the sights, even saw Columbia. I knew the reputation of the grad program for journalism and I knew what everyone said about New York, but I always figured it wasn’t for me. I was a surfer. I liked to drive. I liked having a front yard. I liked being around nature. My friends and (most of my) family were in CA. And I couldn’t imagine spending $8 on a Corona.

Then the unexpected happened: I was accepted to Columbia. Soon enough, spending some time in New York didn't seem quite so bad. Sure, I was apprehensive. But it was an opportunity that I felt I couldn't pass on. So I went.

I arrived and instantly felt out of my element. I sweat more than I ever had, and fire hydrants spewed water into the streets. But I began to like that there was so much to do – bars were open later, there were always bands in town, and odd, but interesting happenings went down daily. Then I began to hate feeling constantly claustrophobic, always spending money, and the homeless people always asking me for money … and those damn $8 Coronas.

Over time, I began to find my stride. I started to find my way. I settled into big city living. I could hop on the subway without looking at the maps. At Jschool, I liked that I was surrounded by people with a shared interest in a profession I was passionate about. New York was full of odd stories and strange people, ripe for accumulating a few student clips. (It did prove trying being part of the 10,000th class of Columbia Jchool’rs roaming the streets of NY, looking for those unique stories, facing frustration and rolling eyes from store owners and policeman who’d endured the same questions year after year.)

All those things I initially hated about the city – even all the rats scurrying about, though the one in my apartment was unwelcome – they just became part of the character. Just imperfections that added to the charm, like on an antique piece of furniture.

Now I’m in Houston. Texas, like New York, was never on my list of places to live. But I’m here. And just like in those early days in NY, I fluctuate between enjoying and regretting my time here. But I plan to be patient (I don’t really have a choice, I’m committed to a six month fellowship) and letting the city unveil itself to me.

Houston is no New York, and New York is no California. But that’s what I love about them, and why I’m content to accept these days as they come. And I’ll enjoy the $2.50 Lone Stars in the process.

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