A Yankee in Texas
Updated: May 18
I left the Southern Tier in 2010 because I had been laid off, during the Great Recession, and I hadn’t been able to find a steady job in the Twin Tiers that compensated enough to pay my bills and support myself.
On one hand, my heart was broken because, I had spent the previous eight years as part of a close-knit, dysfunctional, weird, wonderful family as a Features reporter at the Star-Gazette, my hometown newspaper. I had gained an even greater appreciation for the history and natural beauty of the Twin Tiers region in the time I had covered the arts, culture, history, events and people of the Twin Tiers and Finger Lakes region. However, I did find living in the same town I grew up in to be limiting. So many people have a hard time letting go of their perception of the version of you they grew up with. The opportunity to leave the comfort and security of “home” and the familiar was tempting.
I moved, with my sister and nephew, to Austin, TX in 2010, after visiting a college friend. Austin has a small-town vibe with big city benefits. Known as the “Live Music Capitol of the World,” before the pandemic, ATX was a fun, influential city where one had a wide selection of live musical genres to choose from on any given night of the week. As the state Capitol, it’s the seat of political power and theater. There were also more job opportunities.
Another consideration for my move south was weather. The milder temperatures– and, infinitely more sunshine, were big factors for the move to Texas.
In some ways, Austin is similar to western New York State. There’s lots of love for, and emphasis on, nature and outdoor activity. Austin has Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, Zilker Botanical Garden, and innumerable opportunities for outdoor enthusiasts.
There’s also an appreciation for good food - an array of cultural cuisine that celebrates traditional dishes as well as futuristic fusions of regional ingredients. Breakfast tacos replaced breakfast pizza, and bountiful Tex-Mex restaurants have replaced the Italian-American eateries we frequented in western New York.
Texans are also very proud of their state, just like New Yorkers. Though, the pride that Texans have (and display) for their state is impressive. Everybody knows what the Texas state flag looks like – it, literally, adorns the front porch/yard of 90% of ATX homes. Any idea (without looking it up) what the New York State flag looks like? Unless you work somewhere that you see it every day, or your in 4th grade, probably not.
Politically, I found myself in bizarro world. To use Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s analogy – As Austin is considered the “blueberry in Texas’ tomato soup” … the Twin Tiers would be considered the “tomato in a chilled New York blueberry gazpacho”. I traded living in a conservative rural region of a liberal state to a progressive, urban region of a conservative state. So, different, but the same.
Since it IS the Texas Capitol, the conservative viewpoint is well-represented in Austin. So is the weird, wonderful progressive side. Austin’s unofficial saint is a homeless crossdresser who ran for Mayor three times and whose activist spirit is still celebrated by Austinites.
I miss my hometown and have a deep appreciation for having grown up in a place with such deep, historical and cultural significance. I credit my passion and perseverance to growing up in the scenic small-town-centric Twin Tiers. My appreciation and respect for nature and wildlife also comes from my hometown.
I do appreciate the freedom gained by moving someplace new, learning new customs and community celebrations, having more job opportunities and, of course, a much shorter winter season.
After 10 years, I’m finally starting to feel a little more Texan. Though, I still don’t have a flag so, maybe my heart still belongs to New York.