Goodbye H-Town

“I’m not walking away from here with a bunch of things I still need to declare…” -Bane

On Saturday, I will depart Houston to pursue a new teaching position in South Lake Tahoe, California.  Yes, I’m moving to the Sierra Nevada Mountains!  While I lived in between three mountain ranges during my stint in Arizona, I have never lived in them or at 6237 feet above sea level.  I’m ecstatic about this opportunity for both professional and personal reasons.  First, it will afford me the ability to grow as an educator.  Secondly, I will be able to return to some of the outdoor activities I enjoy.  Over the last few weeks, I’ve been making arrangements, packing boxes, and saying goodbye to the people I care about.  There have been some sad moments.  In addition, I’ve been reflecting on my experiences in H-Town because my time here has made me a stronger, and better, person.

How did I spend the last five years of my life?  Moving.  Planning lessons.  Teaching students.  Collaborating with my colleagues. Questioning ideas and policies.  Challenging myself and others.  Grading papers.  Evaluating instructors.  Contemplating options.  Exploring my immediate surroundings.  Volunteering with local nonprofit groups.  Advocating.  Protesting.  Blogging.  Playing rhythm and lead guitar in a band.  Recording songs.  Remembering.  Self-examining.  Changing my perspective.  Loving my partner.  Visiting museums and parks.  Buying albums.  Buying a new car.  Walking the asphalt paths around lakes.  Observing turtles, snakes, and alligators.  Visiting the amazing oak tree at Glenwood Cemetery.  Escaping the summer heat.  Hiking.  Dating.  Perusing the shelves of book stores.  Listening to punk rock and hardcore.  Listening to Houston Public Media.  Paying tolls.  Skateboarding.  Reading books.  Writing articles.  Talking to people on the patios of independent coffee shops.  Driving to Austin for, among other things, vegan food.  Attending shows at different venues…

“There’s something good waiting down this road…”

Let’s address the negative.  What won’t I miss?  Allergies and regular sinus infections.  Traffic.  Construction.  Miles of banal suburban housing developments that all look the same.  Flooding.  Hurricanes.  Silt laden beaches that people drive their cars across.  Oil refineries.  Tanker spills.  Chemical companies.  Humidity.  Right wing conspiracy theories like Jade Helm 15.  Laws that undermine a woman’s right to obtain an abortion.  State efforts to militarize the U.S.-Mexico border.  Offensive rhetoric and legislation that targets transgender people.  Laws that target immigrants.  Political arguments about the content of textbooks and titles of courses.  Political opposition to the fracking ban in Denton and the plastic bag ban in Laredo.  The inconsistency of state officials who complain about intervention from Washington, D.C., while meddling in local affairs.

So, what am I going to miss?  A handful of my colleagues and students at the college.  Chai lattes with soy milk in the side yard at Antidote.  Vinal Edge.  The deep concrete bowls and snake run at the North Houston Skatepark.  Discussions about teaching methods with Esther and Kim.  Serving as the board secretary of the Texas Wildlife Rehabilitation Coalition.  Hermann Park.  My sessions with Roberta.  Arranging songs at the practice space on the Eastside.  Montrose Boulevard.  Buffalo Bayou Park.  Tea and conversation with Mayia.  Driving through downtown on I-45 at night.  Teaching my themed Honors Texas Government class.  Alligators sleeping alongside the paths at Brazos Bend State Park.  Museum of Fine Arts, Houston.  Continuing education classes at Rice University.  The feeling I get when I browse the shelves at Brazos Bookstore.  Dusti Rhodes emceeing The Moth.  Films at the River Oaks Theater.

“A wasted life is worse than death.  It’s up to you to figure out the rest…”

Dating in Houston has taught me more than I ever imagined it would.  My experiences have engendered a shift in the way I think about relationships.  As a person in his mid 40s who has chosen a nontraditional path, it’s challenging to find someone that you really connect with.  I have internalized important lessons that now inform my thinking when it comes to interpersonal communication.  For example, I need to be more delicate in how I approach certain subjects if I would like to express my concern(s) without upsetting my partner.  Sensitivity and patience are imperative.  Furthermore, you cannot ignore ‘red flags’ such as unhealthy family dynamics, perpetual monologues, victim narratives, and empty rationalizations for poor life choices.  Trust your gut when you know a situation isn’t right.  On a positive note, I’ve spent a bit of time with a variety of highly intelligent, professional women from other countries like Vietnam, Iran, Sweden, and Colombia.  Through some lengthy conversations, I learned a little about each of their respective lives and cultures.  I’m glad we had the chance to meet even if a committed relationship didn’t evolve.

This past academic year at the college turned out to be both productive and rewarding.  I feel thankful that my dean entrusted me with the role of department chair because it allowed me to continue building a solid foundation of administrative skills that started with my civic engagement work.  While I had served on hiring committees in the past, I had never been the person in charge before.  To me, choosing your colleagues is one of the most important responsibilities that you can have beside teaching.  We hired some great people who really fit into the institution.  The members of the committee and my lead faculty made this possible.  I will always be grateful to them for their assistance.  Moreover, I’m glad that I took the time to get to know my colleague, Mayia.  She and I completed a ten week “article marathon” (her term, not mine) in the fall and became friends in the process.  We talked about so much – from pedagogy to social issues.  I’m going to miss her along with others that I respect.  When I drove out of the parking lot this afternoon, I felt satisfied with the contribution that I made to the school in the short period of time that I worked there.

I believe in conscious choices.  We each have agency, and, with that, a responsibility to push ourselves.  Make changes, not excuses.  The next chapter is waiting for us, so it’s time to turn the page to see what unfolds.  We should be looking forward with great anticipation because our stories are far from over.

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