Camouflage Crocs, a hound dog, paintings of South Texas wildlife, eating my own venison. How did this happen to me? You see, before I moved to Texas, I could have been easily characterized, or caricatured, as some kind of liberal, East Coast-educated media elite. I’m from a New Jersey suburb, went to a small private college in Virginia, and rode mass transit with the best of the urban cockroaches of Manhattan (that’s a compliment to those urbane warriors). I knew nothing of the Texas Gulf Coast waters, Buccees, kolaches, duck hunting in Katy, backing in a pickup truck, kayaking with alligators, breakfast tacos, let alone breakfast tacos with desebrada.
How did all this come to pass? By moving to Texas, I learned it is possible to change. To truly change. And just how fantastically liberating that can be. I’ve been here since 2006 and still don’t feel that I’ve fully realized the opportunities here.
Granted, changing yourself is possible anywhere, at any time. It just might have been easier to do so by making a gigantic geographic departure to shed some of my old identity. That is not to say I don’t retain my personal history and attributes, but I don’t let my past constrain me anymore either. When I first got here, the sky seemed bigger. It sounds so clichéd, I know. The first rain storm dropped huge torrents on my windshield. I couldn’t see and was scared. You see, I’ve been afraid of a lot of things as I tend to get anxious. If my mother asked me, “oh, what’s the worst thing that can happen?,” I would engage in a risk analysis about the very worst thing that could possibly happen. As one friend said, that’s no way to live.
But, I had lived that way for a long time. Until recent years and, hey, even recent weeks and days. This risk aversion has always driven me to cover all the bases, run all the traps and prepare for any eventuality. It is also exhausting and often useless in the face of all of life’s unanticipated hurdles. How did I make this philosophical change?
For the longest time, I have taken the approach of powering through challenges. I’d pride myself on my grit. And enjoyed it. This came from childhood sports. As an adult, I’d swim laps after work and ride my bike on weekends on the trails in and around DC. Along the Mall, along the Potomac, up the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal. The sights were amazing. The scents of flower and fauna wonderful and relaxing. And, some of those hills in Rock Creek Park required powering through. The bike rides relaxed me and inspired me.
Then, a job transfer took me to Houston and I moved to the Galleria. I had no idea where to ride my bicycle. I did not like Memorial Park for bike riding, though I came to enjoy jogging there. A colleague told me about an outdoors club that includes group bike rides. This led to a lot of bike rides and new friendships. A couple of years later, a new guy showed up at one of our outings. I could not help but notice he was handsome, sweet and intelligent. I tried to ignore all that as I was purposely avoiding dating at that time. Once we started talking about bike rides, my intent to ignore him was doomed.
He had done the MS 150 several times and I’d been interested in the Houston-Austin route as a can’t-miss Texas experience. Six months later, he and I embarked on the MS150 training season. This guy also convinced me to get on the back of his motorcycle. Me, the girl with anxieties. Well, yeah, now I have a motorcycle license. This guy also suggested I take a day off and go hog hunting with him. I viewed this as a cultural curiosity I should explore and went. Yeah, well now I am an experienced deer, hog and duck hunter.
Growing up, swimming was always a part of life. Yet, I had no exposure to scuba. Once again, the handsome guy suggested it as well as a friend from work. Sea Sports Scuba on Westheimer – check it out. Now, this was an utterly different activity. It is dangerous, it requires skills and strength, but the old powering through approach would exhaust and potentially kill a diver. Scuba is methodical. It is careful. It is immensely relaxing. During class, it became apparent that the most efficient breathing is just like yoga breathing. Slow. Relaxed. If a situation arises with equipment or your environs, you think first, then try one thing or the other, following a set of trained procedures.
You just stay relaxed and mindful. I’ve been coming around to learn that I cannot power through challenges or any activities. That I should instead take it all in as well as solve problems mindfully.
My decision to move to Houston set off a chain of personal decisions I made to force myself expand my horizons and enrich my life. Maybe Texas did not change me. But moving here did provide the impetus for me to change myself.