I just got back from Mephit Fur Meet! Before I got there I spent a few days in Austin, TX, near where I used to life. It impacted me in a way I wasn’t expecting.
I lived in Austin for four years. I’ve been here in CA for 21 months.
At this point in my life in Austin, I felt much more at home than I do here in CA. I’ve been trying to figure out why this is so.
A few things have come to mind. The main thing is that I live in Alameda. I like the town a whole lot, but leaving via car is difficult. There’s four bridges and one tunnel to get off the island. That’s it. (I take the ferry to work, I don’t drive.) The bridges dump you onto I-880, which is ALWAYS backed up. Even at 3am. And heaven help you if you have to get onto I-80.
The tunnel drops you off into a part of Oakland, where, as a translady, I do not feel safe. I have been harassed and catcalled there more than anywhere else combined. It it just a very toxic place and I don’t like to go there. When I do take the tube I refuse to get out of my car until I get to my destination.
I tend to leave the island via car two or three times a month, at the most. I will go weeks at a time where the only time I leave is via ferry to get to work.
When I do decide to try to leave the island, I have to make sure that I REALLY want it. It’s a big commitment. The level of effort needed to leave the island is huge. I can’t predict how long the trip will be.
When I was in Austin last week I took myself on a tour of some of the old places where I used to go hang out, and it was just kinda refreshing to me that I could just drive places and it was no big deal.
I went into a grocery store, and parking was free and abundant. (Neither of those happen here. Even if parking is free, it’s usually hard to get.) When I got inside it was “just a grocery store.” It wasn’t a place where the products are 100% organic, GMO-free, and they sing songs to the kale twice a day so that it doesn’t feel bad. It was… just a grocery store.
When I went out to lunch with my old team, at the end of the lunch we went to Starbucks in the mall across the street from the office. It was no big deal… we were able to find parking, get out, get our stuff, and get back in a hurry. I’ve tried going to a mall three times since I’ve been here, and only one trip was successful. The other two times I couldn’t find parking, and one of those times people kept honking at me and cutting me off, and I got so stressed out that I broke down and started crying in the parking garage. 😦
(I haven’t even though about going to a mall here since then.)
Two years into my stay in Austin I had way more friends than I have here. It’s not because I don’t know people here – I do – but a lot of them are in the South Bay, and it might as well be China. Getting from the East Bay to the South Bay can, literally, take hours, all because of traffic.
For goodness sakes, I pay $2000/mon in rent, and I’m back to using a laundromat like I did in college. I don’t even have a dishwasher. Sigh.
Then there’s the issue of the constant fear that I may come home some day to a notice on my door that my rent is going up up 30%. That’s happened to a bunch of people in my building… there’s 31 units in this building, and five turned over just last month for this very reason. The uncertainty about where I’ll be living at the end of the year totally sucks. (My lease runs out 12/31.)
So I have been asking myself if the quality of life I have here is better than I had in Austin, and that’s not an easy question to answer.
I love my job. It is the best job I’ve ever had. (Really, that’s what keeps me here! If I didn’t have that, I’d have left a long time ago.) It really makes a lot of it worth it, but is it worth the burden of living here? I don’t know.
But here’s the thing… my job would let me move, if I really wanted to. We have offices in other parts of the country, and some folks work remotely 100% of the time.
Making it even more complex is that I feel somewhat like a failure. I’d wanted to live in the Bay Area for a long time. Now I’m here, and I’m learning that it’s not as cracked up as it seems. I like this part of the country because this is where my industry is located – I work in the Internet industry and most of it happens right here. Sometimes I’ll look at the address of a company when I’m looking at their website, and realize that their office is just a few blocks away from mine… and I think that’s pretty cool.
I made it! I’m where I wanted to be. But now that I’m here… well, it’s hard.
I’m not going to do anything quickly. My lease is up at the end of the year, and if it doesn’t go up by much, I might just stay for at least another year. I don’t know.
I doubt I’d go back to Austin, since Texas’s protections for transgender people is nearly non-existent. But there are other parts of the country that I haven’t seen (and even other parts of the Bay Area), and a lot of those are very welcoming to transgender folks. We’ll see, I guess.