My first day in Austin, Texas was a dreary, cold, and windy day. Waking up from a nice, relaxing sleep, and feeling thankful for an extra hour, I was ready to take on this city and explore. I wanted to do my morning practice of yoga and meditation but after checking the weather, I realized that it was expected to rain most of the day. That led me to the decision to explore earlier than planned, at 8 a.m., in hopes to get in some photos before the storms.
It’s funny because on the flight from Charlotte, North Carolina to Austin, a five-year-old was talking to other passengers and told them that “it almost never really rains in Austin” and I remember feeling so excited and happy to experience warm, sunny weather.
I opened the door, stepping onto the deck of my apartment, located on the east side of the city, and immediately felt a blast of cold air hit my face. As I walked down the block and towards 6th Street, I had a skip in my step, regardless of the weather; I was here, in Austin.
I walked past construction workers talking while working on some newly developed apartment complexes. I knew Austin was booming, and that their new slogan was “Welcome to Austin, Don’t Move Here!” so I had assumed that there would be lots of development but I didn’t realize how much that will change the landscape of the city. As I walked around and greeted the workers, I realized that this has to be a great place for business. It started to get me thinking on how could I build a business and live here, even if it’s a few months out of the year, preferably warmer months!
I walked about two miles, which took me to the center of the city, and then I decided it was time to turn back, right at that moment, I found an improv coffee shop/bakery that peaked my interest, so I walked in and grabbed a coffee and my first breakfast taco in Austin.
As I walked back, not one drop fell, and I was happy that the rain had held off for me because I had arrived in Texas with three pairs of shorts, two pairs of sandals, a pair of sneakers, and one thin jacket, but no boots, or heavy rain jacket.
After getting in my morning yoga and journaling a bit, I decided to head out again and this time, I decided to get over the art museum because they had free admission on Thursdays.
Upon arriving at the Blanton Museum of Art, I discovered the “Making Africa” exhibit, which focuses on a generation of entrepreneurs, thinkers, and designers from and within Africa who address a global audience and provide the world with a new vantage point on their continent. Ranging from playful to provocative to political, their work often breaks conventional barriers between disciplines and expands the potential of design in the twenty-first century.
Most interesting to me was the concept of identity and how this nation portrays itself to the world, and in turn that made me think of how I portray myself to the world, in contrast to what others see.
“In the world through which I travel, I am endlessly creating myself.”
– Frantz Fanon, Black Skin, White Masks, 1952
The topic of identity had come up just this week with a girlfriend who was talking about this to me the other evening. Over the past 10 years, I’ve had to reinvent myself, from a writer and journalist to an artist, to business owner, to portrait photographer, to commercial photographer, to waitress, to a salesperson, to a travel writer and wellness advocate, yes, all of the descriptions I’ve identified with at some point and currently do identify. I could also identify myself as a woman, as single, as alone, as scared, as afraid, as strong, as smart, as white, as sexy, as wise, as kind, as fit, as healthy. The point to me is that it’s up to me to decide how to present myself to the world. I can choose to be strong, and smart, and kind, and tell the world that I’m on a mission to make it a better place, full of compassion and understanding, without judgment, maybe the world will see me that way.
Deciding that I wanted to be someone who is strong and independent, I ventured out again onto the streets of Austin that evening in confidence that the rain would continue to hold out, and boldly wore a new outfit I’d picked up at the thrift store, with my sandals, and headed to catch live music.
After another two-mile walk, I arrived in downtown and it began to rain. As I popped into places, I was feeling tired, and after several attempts to find a place to sit and relax, I found a seat at the Elephant Room, which was perfect for live jazz music, my favorite. I had a drink and sat and listened to the smooth jazz sounds and met a guy who was from Maine I believe, he told me he was here for a conference and this was his first night in the city as well. It was getting late and knowing I had a two-mile walk home, I ventured onto the city streets, now covered in water.
I had a choice, I could call an Uber, or I could keep walking. I felt like I could do the walk and it would be a reminder that I can do things that are hard or uncomfortable. I started to get small pebbles in my sandals, and it was starting to pick up with more rain. I realized that I could get back to the apartment and be thankful for a warm bed, warm socks, and planned to put every piece of clothing on, to go to sleep. But I could be thankful that I had an apartment to go home to, a bed to snuggle into, and I could sleep in if I wanted to, because I’m on vacation, what a dream! After all that, a few pebbles and raindrops are not so bad.
As I write this it is the day before Thanksgiving, and a time when gratitude is sitting at a table and eating with family or friends. I’m going to be working on Thanksgiving, as a server, and thankful to be helping others have a nice dinner as well as make some extra money to put aside for my bills. I’m able and willing to be thankful for everything and everyone in my life. Each experience really does have a purpose, and sometimes, it’s a rock in my shoe, to remind me of how lucky I am to be creating a life I’m proud of for myself.