Wednesday, September 23, 2009

The Austin Chronicles: No Need to Worry

I am a worrier. I can worry and fret about things like nobody's business - regardless if the worry is logical, or even something I have control over.

Did I leave my purse at the bar or restaurant? I've shot out of bed and raced around the house looking for it, even though I would have needed my keys to get in the door, and my keys would have been in my purse...which is sitting on the floor by the couch.

Did I make sure to pack absolutely every toiletry and over-the-counter medicine and extra pair of socks I would need every time I traveled outside of the country? Well, I had a three page supply list that I checked off when I organized what I would be taking, and again when I packed my suitcase, and again when I repacked my suitcase because I was convinced that I might have checked something off that wasn't actually in the bag. Nevermind that the places I have traveled to include Mexico, France, Italy, Ireland and England - you know, places that don't have aspirin or socks.

Did I use the wrong tense in the second clause of the third sentence of my answer to question 17 of 23 in the University half of my grad school application? Probably not, since I had re-read it twelve times and had it spell-checked by the five smartest people I know. Oh, and my department, who would actually be making the decision regarding my admission, wouldn't look at that section of the application anyway.

I can keep myself awake and give myself an upset stomach until the cows come home. I'm an expert at it. However, after I survived the process that may have given me an ulcer from worry (yeah I worried about that too), and was accepted to UT, after that...well, I didn't really worry about much.

Paying for school? Filled out a FAFSA, got a moderately sized unsubsidized loan. Check.

Finding a place to live? An email came through the department listserv. Check.

Finding roommates? The current occupants said they would help find the additional roommates that I'd never met. Check.

Moving farther away than I ever had for more than a month? I left the big items with Adam, packed my car with what would fit, shipped the light stuff, and bought a bed, table, and kitchen supplies from the previous tenants when I got there. Check.

Driving my ten year old sedan that had been recalled five times across the southwest in the middle of August? I got a tune up, new tires, cobbled together directions from Google and AAA, stocked up on water and snacks, and hit the road.

I don't know if it was just my excitement about finally starting graduate school (because I am a giant nerd) or that I had spent so much time worrying about being unemployed, finding a direction in life, and trying to change the world that any definitive plan for two years gave me enough direction to take a breath; but the things that I would have worried about at any other point in my life weren't that big a deal. I didn't worry about excelling in school or even liking my classes, because it was school - it would be awesome. I didn't stress about making new friends, because I would be surrounded by intelligent exciting people - which I was. I didn't even worry enough about getting myself to Austin to actually map a route to my house. I had directions from Oakland to Austin - that's it. No addresses. Luckily, my house was on a numbered street, and some of the exit signs had numbers, too.

I didn't even worry about the fact that my unsubsidized loan was only enough to pay for my tuition and rent. Books? Food? I figured that finding a job that provided enough income to support what seemed to me a ridiculously low cost of living compared to the Bay Area wouldn't be too hard.

I spent nearly seven months in the ranks of the San Francisco unemployed in 2002 and 2003. I have no less than 147 unrequited coverletters to prove it - and it wasn't just because I was picky. Sure, there are a lot of them addressed to organizations that I admired, but there are also a lot of less formal email drafts to retail shops, coffeehouses and even the I-hope-this-isn't-a-thinly-veiled-porno inquiries about one-off jobs in Craigslist's ETC section. But, between 2003 and 2005, I managed to put some odd jobs, a stint in highish-end retail, and an attempt at changing the direction of the country (and its administration), on my resume.

Luckily, I was right. It seemed there just weren't as many folks inundating every Craigslist posting in Austin, and the mention of "graduate student" in a town flooded with tens of thousands of undergraduates gave me a little leverage. Which is why the day after I answered my first Craigslist posting, I had an ill-fitting tuxedo shirt, bow tie and a catering job.

To be continued...

If you want to read more about a California gal living in Texas during the Bush Administration, here are the complete Austin Chronicles


  1. I just moved from the Bay Area to Austin a few months ago! Very much looking forward to reading the rest of your Austin Chronicles, coz, damn, it seems like we've had some very similar experiences.

  2. Thanks Lauren O! I bet your insights to the bay would be a great read, we might not have giant bugs, but we've certainly got our eccentricities...


be nice.


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