Thursday, August 18, 2016

An Outsider Adjusting

To recap: Back in March, Sam was hired on as a SpEd teacher at a charter school up in Bluffdale (Utah).  He was supposed to start in August, and was still working at Heritage.  In April, we started looking in earnest at buying a house up in that area.  We looked and looked and made an offer on two different places, and though we had loads of help from my aunt (a stellar realtor) and my old boss (the best loan guy), things just kept on not working out.  I started to worry (ok actually no, I've been worrying about this for eons) that even though we had trimmed our budget and reworked and reallocated over and over we would never truly be comfortable because we simply did not make enough money.  Sam's salary at the job he was starting in the fall was only a weensy bit more than his salary at Heritage, and I was working part time again for my old boss as a property manager for his rentals.  It felt a whole heck of a lot like "What more can we do??" It was quite frustrating.  Anyway, in the midst of all this turmoil, we had to prepare for the family wedding in Houston. 

Something happened on that trip that softened me to the idea that we could possibly live in Houston if we had to.  And then the idea of getting a job here NOW was planted.
Back in Utah, we still couldn't find a place to live.  Renting was looking impossible too.  Desperation.

And then, lo, one afternoon Sam got an email inviting him to the HISD job fair, and I knew it was his golden ticket.  So we slapped that puppy on a credit card and he flew down for the fair. 

Days of being so anxious we were all sick to our stomachs. Yay, life.  The second the job fair was over, Sam called me and announced he had a soft offer.

A few days later, it hardened like a Metapod and we were, in total disbelief, planning our move to Houston.  And as soon as we did that, EVERYTHING fell into place. Housing? Perfect. Salary? Way more. Moving truck? A miraculous deal.  Honestly, it could not have been more clear we were on the right path.  

So, here we are, in our (spacious!) 3 bedroom apartment.  We have floor-to-ceiling windows and a pool out our front door.  I'm sitting on our bed and I can hear the wind blowing our neighbor's wind chimes and the rain on the banana trees and palms.  But.  The whole time, up until this storm started a few days ago, it's been a heat index of 111 and it is intensely humid and I hate it.  The cicadas are a little creepy.  But we saw fireflies and a gecko and maybe an armadillo. This feels like an adventure...but is it sustainable for a new life?  This area is a totally new climate and a totally new culture for me.  I lived in Fallbrook for 18 years, Long Beach for 2 years, and Utah for 7 years. I've never known anything like Houston.  I never even visited until the wedding in May.  We came all of a sudden, and though I know we're supposed to be here, I'm still kind of in shock.

I am still a little heartsick and homesick for Southern California.  I know we will never live there (mostly because it's expensive and Sam dislikes California unnecessarily).  But in some ways, Houston seems like it might be a decent replacement. I just need time.

Here are some things I'm noticing:

 -Houston is not at all the stereotype of Texas, but that stereotype is hiding in there and resurfaces sometimes (Sam says it will get worse in February with the Rodeo).  Like the boots and cowboy hats thing.  Kind of sparse.  Houston is very ethnically diverse and seems a bit "young" demographically.

-The roads are a bit confusing.  We live in sort of a suburb but it's still the city, so you get everywhere by frontage roads mostly.  I'm learning it though, especially our neighborhood.

-There are some different street signs.  The "Hurricane Evacuation Route" one and the Flood Gauge ones freak me out a little.  Drowning is kind of my nightmare so all related natural disasters are also.

-People are friendly and welcoming and I like them, but there seems to be this underlying pride (I'm not talking about the freaky weird Texas pride everyone knows about) that it's kind of assumed that if you live here you love it.  It seems like you are required to forsake your past and your identity and become a Texan.  You guys, I will always feel more like a Californian.  I'm sorry.  It's my home and my dream to return.  But when I talk to people here they make it sound like now I need to forget that and be a Texan, and I just can't do that.  I don't want my kids growing up saying "y'all" and it feels so unnatural in my own mouth.  I am so so very glad to finally be out of Utah (7 years was longer than I intended), but I'm feeling a bit displaced.  Like an imposter.  Like I'm on vacation.  Like everyone else is a Texan but I'm just a homeless ex-Californian being carried around in my husband's suitcase.  I don't know, it's hard to describe.  I feel even more homeless because we came from Utah, but I'm not from there, and people assume I am, which is a little frustrating.  I usually try to word it so that they know we were only living there for a time.

-I can grow palm trees here!!  In fact I went out and bought three the first week we were here in the clearance plant section at Lowe's.  Let's see if I have the knack like my dear old dad.  Probably not, since I've always been better with animals than plants.

I feel bad trying to explain my situation to people. I like Houston, I really do. There are so many things I get excited about doing and trying and seeing and eating and sharing with my kids. I'm so happy we don't have to deal with winters of negative temperatures and ice buildup on our house windows and two feet of snow and everything else.  But it's going to take me time to adjust.  Like I said before, the culture and the climate and the weather are all completely new to me.  There is new terminology, new laws, new businesses, new brands in the store (they don't have C&H sugar here, but then, why would they?).  Everything is new.  The only people I know from before are Rachel and Josh and we don't see them much because we all have busy lives.  We have one car that Sam and I share during the week, so I don't get out much.  And when I want to do things that were routine before (going for walks, etc), we can't really because it's either too hot or too wet.  I'm greatly looking forward to when things become more normal for me and I stop feeling sad.  I know I'll get there. I already feel a bit better than I did a few weeks ago.  It helps to talk about it.  It helps to have alone time without the kids.  It helps to do normal things.  It helps to find ways to make me feel peaceful and normal and happy.  So I'm getting there.  And Sam is really loving his new job, and that makes me very happy.  So.  Welcome to Houston, Shannon.

PS Now taking bets on how long it will be before I say "y'all" without realizing it-- as long as I get to keep all the winnings.

Oh, and here are a bunch of pictures of new to me/funny Texas/Houston things I've been collecting for fun:
Marked evacuation routes.  Ah!
This is a sign outside the door to Sam's school.  Mostly I thought it was interesting to see the demographic of the area.
When we went to visit Sam's school
Our anole!  This guy actually hangs out on our balcony a lot.  He makes it feel very tropical
Texas-shaped everything

We should get these for our car so we don't blister on the steering wheel
This is why we blister on the steering wheel and can never go anywhere outside ever
I saw one as high as thirteen feet once.  Augh.
Just diversity things
"Bridge may ice in cold weather" Cute.
Road humps??!


Kaitlin Fannin said...

No C&H sugar? I always assumed that brand was everywhere. That is so weird!

michaela said...

the texas cheese! there ought to be a singles pack for sandwiches

LP said...

Don't ever be ashamed of being from California. (I know you won't.) I try to bring up the fact that I'm from California wherever I go.

Megan says she's sorry you feel sad, but she thinks it's pretty common when you move just to have that adjustment period. Um, um, um, um, um, anole, cannoli, she doesn't know. She's glad you have palm trees. (So am I.) She misses you. (So do I.) She says she wrote you a letter a couple of weeks ago but forgot to send it, so she needs to send it and write another one and send that, too. That is all.

LP said...

PS Megan says you don't ever need to be ashamed of being sad, either.