Goodbye SF, Hello Texas, and Reflections of COVID-19

I moved to San Francisco in 2008, shortly after my 23rd birthday. I only visited once and decided then and there I was moving, and three months later I arrived. I had only intended on living in the Bay for 2 years. I assumed I would have my fun (with a time limit) and then come back to Austin. Boy, was I way wrong!

In California I really came into my own. The longer time went on, the more extroverted I became. The more I found myself confident in my opinions, speaking up when I could. My style was OFF THE HOOK (I take pride in this!!). I made the best friends! Ones I know that I will be in touch with forever. I developed amazing skills and tried new hobbies – hello DJ world, improv performing community, hiking and watercolor times! I fell in LOVE. I found myself. So why decide to leave?

Truth by told, as much as I love San Francisco and cherished my time in the Bay, I had been feeling for a few years that I was ready for a new adventure somewhere else. John and I had been talking about trying something new together for a while and couldn’t ever really decide. When I started working in marketing for the Curran theater, I knew that I would be tied to SF as long as I had this job. I grew my skill-set so much! I planned so many amazing parties, red carpet events, after parties and beyond. I was an avid part of the VIBE of the city. (I want to address my career separately, so am only touching on it here). But when COVID first came around I lost my job pretty immediately, and all of entertainment went cold, I felt the time came to make a big change.

I know I am a super intuitive person. I was the first person in our group of family and friends that realized, very early on, how big of a deal COVID would be. I envisioned losing my job immediately, industries shutting down, flocks of people moving out of cities – things closing for months on end. Despite feeling this way, I persevered. Everyone was let go, letting go of more people, and places were on hiring freezes. Businesses were closing left and right. It felt hopeless. I tried everything I could everyday to get a new job. I brushed up on my skills and got 3 additional marketing certifications. I didn’t feel confident that the job market had my back in SF, with remote work blooming everywhere and everything described above. John’s work was always remote, so we decided it was time. From a career perspective, Austin felt right because I knew companies would be moving work with all of the tax breaks and cheaper cost of living, so all of the opportunities I once had in SF were now relocated as well.

I ended up going back to work for a previous employer, remotely, and an old amazing (and very chill) boss who confirmed I could move anywhere I wanted. This was so exciting because I knew what I was getting into when all of the rest of the world felt scary. I was going to have a reliable source of income with great work-life balance, and could live anywhere I wanted…

You see, John wants to go to grad school….in Edinburgh! He likes the program at the university and has connections through his work. It would be a 1 year plan and we intend to go in a year from now, when vaccines are administered to everyone and travel is opened up. So in the meantime, we decided, it was the time to be closer to my family. Hence, preparations for Texas were en route.

The weekend we decided to move we were in Carmel.
My California man, taking a risk to become a Texan temporarily and live in a *gasp* RED STATE!

Telling our family and friends was the hardest part, but for the most part everyone was pretty supportive and excited for us. Austin is a really rad town, it was where I went to college 15 years ago and the first city I fell in love with. I was excited and nervous at the same time. I spent the last 12 years building myself up to be this person, a West Coast performer who loves nature and the great outdoors – how could this person exist in Texas? Where it’s HOT and the views don’t always align with my own?

I grieved. A LOT. I cried. EVEN MORE. But after everything is said and done, I knew deep down this was what we were supposed to do. My parents are in their 70s and I’ve been gone a long time. If anything, COVID has taught us that we are not promised tomorrow. So make memories while you can, NOW.

Our socially distant, Alamo Square park goodbye shindig.

I loved my apartment on Alamo Square so much. I lived there for 10 years, and the park was on my front doorstep! It did me well, and later on, John moved in and it did him well too 🙂 . I am forever grateful for the memories we created with our friends and families who visited us and spent time in our home. The backyard BBQs, charades, dance parties to records in the living room, Tuesday Night Dinner club, and more! While I knew I could stay there as long as I wanted, I was ready to grow and that entailed being uncomfortable.

We packed our belongings, sent them off to Texas, and said our final goodbyes with tears in our eyes. It was very painful leaving, one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. I feel so connected to California. We want to move back and settle down when we are ready to do so – but we have more adventures ahead (in Texas and Edinburgh and maybe somewhere else along the way).

The last sunset in our neighborhood we experienced, before moving the next morning.

We drove across country with Beatrix in tow and stopped at some unique places along the way (I’ll write about that as a separate post). After navigating Las Vegas, Moab Utah, Denver Colorado, Amarillo and New Mexico, we eventually made our way to our new home in Austin. We have been here a few short months and it finally feels like we’ve settled into our new surroundings. And merging old Texas Emily with current California Emily is a lot easier than I thought. I am the best version of me yet! I am so excited for what is in store this coming year – I feel very grounded and have had lots of time to reflect and plan goals.

In our new home in Austin.

Throughout everything, John and I are lucky and happy to have each other in this crazy time. We both have steady remote jobs that allow us the flexibility to explore our surroundings. We have our cute cat who snuggles us everyday. We have close friends down the street, who also moved from SF just 6 months prior to us! My family is only a 2 hour drive away. And we frequently zoom and facetime with his family and our friends back home. Who knows where our future will take us, but for now – we are taking it one step at a time.

Happy 2021, may it bring you health, wealth, and happiness!

Austintacious

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Austin is hands down my favorite part of Texas. I cherish the time in my life when I went to UT and lived in Austin, I never thought I would leave. I felt very connected to the city because of the unique culture and being the LIVE MUSIC CAPITAL of the country! Being part of the music scene shaped my individuality and made me more confident in myself and how I expressed myself to the outside world. Austin truly is a special place, and while I don’t always get to visit when I am back in Texas as my family resides in Katy/Houston, the times where I get to experience ATX brings me right back to my happy place. 🙂

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We decided to surprise my parents for Thanksgiving this year because they have been through so much with Hurricane Harvey (you can read more about it on my sister’s blog as she documents the process of them rebuilding their home). But before we made our way to Katy, we wanted a night of debauchery all to ourselves in my old stomping ground!

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We stayed off of Town Lake, close to Rainey Street where all the old Victorian homes are converted into bars. It wasn’t John’s first time to Austin, but he loved it more than the previous visit due to the fact that we had moderate temperatures rather than triple digit heat. We had a lovely stroll around Town Lake, made our way to Congress for some delish BBQ, and bar hopped from Dirty 6th over to the East side.

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Dirty 6th is where I used to go out back in my early college days. They call it Dirty 6th because it’s like a smaller version of Bourbon street and can get pretty wild on the weekends full of underage drinkers with fake IDs who can’t handle alcohol, various  bachelorette and bachelor parties from all over, blended in with college students and tourists. It’s a mix of people with cheap drinks and shots with not a lot of rules (i.e. it’s not uncommon to see people casually vomiting and having sex in parking lots. TRUE STORY I SAW THIS ONCE). FUN TIMES! hahahahaha. This is why you have to hangout when it’s not crowded, i.e. during the middle of a Tuesday before a holiday when all of the students are gone.

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Me, chillin’ on the rooftop of one of my favorite spots when I was 21, Maggie Mae’s.

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This might be the cutest dive bar sign I’ve ever seen!

I love vintage inspired neon signs SO MUCH. Since I’ve moved away Austin has definitely stepped up their neon sign game, it’s almost as strong as Portland – which is the King of neon signs. This bar was kinda weird but had a cute sign so I’ll give them that 🙂

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We always walk pretty much everywhere when we are on vacation. We enjoy exploring neighborhoods, stopping for a drink or two along the way, and exploring things you might miss out on if you just took a car. People also don’t walk in Texas so we def got a lot of looks – but I NEED TO HIT MY STEPS, dammit!

Shangri-La is my favorite bar and I HAVE to go every time I’m in the city. I love the hodgepodge of furniture, beautiful light fixtures, and quirky patio and vibe (I swear I would live on the East side if I was still there). I will never get over how cheap it is to drink in Austin compared to SF – let’s just say happy hour in Austin is around $3-4 a drink while in SF it can be $5-7 ($7 for HH WTF?!). Also – NEVER FORGET to photodocument your memories when a photo booth pops up.

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Later on in the night we met up with my niece (who is pre-med at St. Edward’s) and had a BOMB DOT COM Mexican feast at El Borrego. I normally frequent Polvo’s when I’m in town, but the wait was just insane and I honestly think the food at ELB was better (while the ambiance at Polvo’s is nicer, so depending on what you are going for it’s a toss up).

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After dinner we made our way to Rainey street for some delicious local beers and donuts, before calling it a night. We opted for breakfast tacos from Juan in a Million in the morning prior to our journey to Houston, which was so effing delish OMGEEE. I always talk up breakfast tacos so much to John, and as a California dude he has never understood the hype, always preferring burritos. This time he ate his words (literally) and agreed that breakfast tacos are where it’s at, and we need them STAT in SF (howww do we not already?!).

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You’re Juan in a millionnnnnnnn! (I always hear that song from Miss Congeniality when I see this sign).

Austin, it was a blast like always! I will always love you, my first love ❤ but there was a Thanksgiving feast waiting for us in Houston so we had to say goodbye. Don’t hate us, k??

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