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My Ode to Austin

We were together almost six years. March 31, 2020, would’ve been our anniversary, but two months ago, I left you. Packed my bags (and boxes), loaded the car, and made my exit on some unnamed back road until I could no longer see your name on any signs. Though it hurt to go, no tears were shed. No regrets. No attempts to find an excuse to stay longer. Can’t say I overstayed my welcome, nor can I say you ran me away. Our parting was amicable. Simply: the time had come to say goodbye.

You became home on March 31, 2014. Home. A place I’d grown accustomed to not identifying with. Outside of the four walls that enclosed me city after city, state after state, country after country, I’d never called a place home. Never felt I’d be there long enough, so nothing within settled. I always knew it was temporary. But with you, I felt differently. I knew you would be home before I unpacked my boxes and changed my residence. I felt you to be a place I could lay my head and rest, a place I felt settled. A place I could grow roots.

It was kismet. You welcomed me with open arms, embraced me, showed me that you were a place where I’d find peace. And I did, but it didn’t come without my whole world being shaken. My identity—the one security I could always vouch for—torn from the seams that made me, well, me.

The Breaking

Within the first thirty days of our relationship, the ground on which I stood on cracked, and day after day, I slipped deeper and deeper into an abyss. Three situations broke me during the almost six years of being with you: financial, emotional, and physical.

Financial

The first piece that fractured my peace was financial stripping. I’d lost the one form of income that I believed to be my sure thing. In 2006, I had a second job-related back injury that put me out of commission. There were days when I had to walk on my hands and knees because my back could no longer support me. The job put me on medical leave which turned into disability. After almost eight years of disability and an unfortunate course of events, the checks stopped coming and I was required to pay back one year of pay and health care coverage.

Even without a source of income, life kept moving, and I did my best to adjust. I tried working in retail, but prolonged standing and lifting heavy boxes quickly reminded me that my back had not fully recovered from the 8-year injury. From May 2014 to October 2019, I had to rely on my parents to help me financially. Not only did they provide a roof over my head, they paid my car note, put gas in said car, gave me grocery money. Whatever I needed, they were there. They sustained me, sustained my name/credit. My pride may have took a hit, but what they did for me, pride could never compare. I’ll always be grateful to them for that and then some.

Emotional

My emotions were the second to crumble. In April 2014, I met someone who I found myself really interested in. The moment he realized I’d fallen into his web, the real him came out to play. Completely blindsided was I.

He was super charismatic. The charm and flattery sucked me right in. There was an underlying hunger inside me that he fed and it made me feel warm. Wanted. Needed. He pursued me in a way unfamiliar to my history, and because of that, I ignored the subtleties that were alarming. The more time we spent with one another, the more I realized who he presented to the public wasn’t the same as who I saw in private. I’d become aware of the lies, the manipulation, and his insecurities projected upon me. His care towards my wellbeing turned out to be a tactic used to “build me up” so he could have ammunition to shoot me down with. He played into my vulnerabilities, found my soft spots and obliterated them. When I finally saw the writing on the wall and could no longer deny the truth of who and what I was dealing with, every.single.thought he had towards me came out his thumbs in a multitude of blasphemous texts.

It wasn’t his words. It wasn’t all the gaslighting, manipulation, lies and deception, or other women that broke me. It was how he exposed my truth in a way that made me question my own validity. His words ruminated in my head for days, weeks, months. How I allowed his words to reverberate in my soul is what shattered my peace.

But, it didn’t end in darkness. Guess who got a whole degree in psychology out of it?

Physical

Pain. I thought what I experienced with my back injury and in dating the wrong person was painful. Nope. Those moments had nothing on what I encountered in the spring of 2017. Years of stress, frustration, situational depression, disappointment—you name it—had finally taken their toll. It was in the ER where I found out the source of my pain were large growths taking over my abdomen.

Everything went well. All the growths were removed. The surgeon even found more than the scans showed. He removed those as well. All the pain and the reason for the pain was a huge wake-up call to let stuff go. I held onto what hurt me, what broke me, what put me in the situation I was in (in any given season). I held on to everything and let those things marinate in my spirit, reside in my mind, and choke my soul.

That woke me up. I lived through it and came out on the other side healed. Happy. Whole. A year older, a few experiences the wiser.

Lessons On Blessings On Lessons

Now that I’ve shared my highs and lows living with you, let me share what I loved the most. From the lessons to the blessings to more lessons, everything taught me so much about me. Living with you taught me that. I learned and grew on so many levels, Austin. Possibly, they could’ve been lessons learned somewhere else at some other time, but that’s not the way the story unfolded. Here’s what I learned:

Intuition is everything.

Those little inklings—those pricks on the back of my neck—weren’t figments of my imagination. I knew something wasn’t right, I felt in my soul, but I was misguided by what I thought my path was supposed to look like that I let blind detours lead me in the wrong direction. Every prick unveiled the truth, the real reason for my soul being disturbed. And because of those moments, I learned to follow the disturbance. To trust it. It wasn’t insecurity or other people feeding me their version of truth. Thankfully, now I know, and any time I feel that drop in my gut, I pay attention and move forward accordingly.

I can do it.

For the longest, I avoided going back to college. I’d done a semester here and there along the years but never felt I needed a degree. There were many reasons as to why I felt that way, but the biggest truth is I simply didn’t feel I could. Parts of me didn’t believe I had the smarts or tenacity to see it all the way through, so I came up with excuses. When challenged and propositioned, I accepted, and enrolled in community college.

From the summer of ’16 to fall of ’17, I attended Austin Community College. The plan was to at least get an associates. Started with two classes over the summer, then moved to four in the fall. It was during a philosophy class where I heard “Dr. Blues” and decided to apply to a four-year university. I applied. I was accepted. I attended. Two years from my start, I received my degree on May 11, 2018.

I was smarter than I’d ever given myself credit for. I could do it. I did it!

Settling ain’t in the cards.

The prompting came shortly after five years with you. It’s time to plant elsewhere kept ringing in my head. But I loved you, Austin. From day zero. Then came an internship with a literary agency. Relocating to New York looked real promising. No offers came, but I had already made the decision to stay with you. To stay at my job. My brother and I found a place and were to be roommates, just me and him. A week later, the job was gone. I’d been released.

It was not meant for me to settle. The job wasn’t my favorite, but it was paying the bills and stabling me. I only chose to stay for safety, though I didn’t feel safe in that environment. I was settling. When the I felt deep down in my soul that it was time for me to go, the job did what I couldn’t. It closed the door on me so I could go somewhere else.

Just as the job let me go, I knew you were letting me go too. You knew it was time for me to move on, to experience something different.

You knew I’d reached my capacity of potential with you, and that I had enough to make it elsewhere.

I knew I’d grown so much. Learned so much. Gained so much. I knew it was time to take the new tools I’d obtained and build the life I dreamed somewhere else.

So, thank you!

Thank you for allowing me to see my worth.

Thank you for helping me understand that everything I want or need is already in me.

Thank you for showing me that through people, circumstances, and situations I would arise stronger, wiser, better.

Thank you for teaching me that through disappointment, frustration, and angst I would find those things weren’t really what I wanted—I just needed them to get me to what I actually needed. And what I needed turned out to be better than what I wanted to begin with.

Thank you for allowing me to see my brokenness through broken people. In those instances, I saw my leaky faucets and cracked pipes. I saw the cracked foundation and the moldy sheet rock and insulation. I saw the holes, the infestation; I saw everything. I saw where I needed repairs.

Thank you for all the lessons, the blessings, and the blessings disguised as lessons.

Thank you for letting me be me and helping me come out a better version of me.

Thank you for my truth, the experiences, and the stories.

Thank you, Austin, TX, for everything!

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