Disclaimer: this began as a "Tips and Tricks" type of post but soon became a dramatic chapter from my hypothetical autobiography. The informative post, which has to do with moving, settling in, finding your place, etc. is coming! Let's just pretend this is setting the scene for it.
A little more than six months ago—six months and eight days ago, actually—I loaded up the white Toyota Camry that my mom had graciously gifted me and left California, the place I had called home since immigrating to the states in 1999, indefinitely.
Let me backtrack: three months prior, Lexi and I had entertained the thought of moving to Dallas. This was a city I had no positive preconceived notions of purely because I had never once desired to live in the red, heavily armed state of Texas. Ever.
"We could...do long distance," I joked with her only to be met with an eyeroll followed by an exasperated look. We were a unit now, and, seeing as I didn't have a post-grad job lined up yet, we agreed to go wherever work took us. Both of us. As it happened, Lexi had wrapped up her last summer session at UCSB before me and was in the process of interviewing with her dream company. As the opportunity looked more and more promising, I mentally prepared myself for life in a state that stood to be the poster child for everything wrong with the U.S., at least according to people living outside the states.
"Oh, you're from the U.S!? Not...Texas though, right?" Europeans had asked us this question countless times while we were abroad. I remember basking in the relief that, though I came from the country that elected Trump into office, at least my state didn't. I cherry-picked the parts of the U.S. I wanted to claim and distanced myself from the ugly without realizing how alienated that made Lexi feel. Regardless, being a Texan and having to defend myself wasn't a feeling I wanted to familiarize myself with.
Get in, loser, we're moving
In late July, I was lying on my stomach on my parents' black leather couch perusing Dallas apartments when my phone rang. It was the familiar ringtone that brought me comfort when Lexi and I were in different cities. I had just sent her a link to another apartment I was interested in. Apparently I'd sent it while she was in the middle of a conversation with her future boss. I remember the scene like it was yesterday, with Lexi's face popping up on my iPhone screen, her eyes in tears.
"I got the job!"
My own eyes watered at the phrase because I was so, so proud and I congratulated her, soon gesturing my dad over from the kitchen to translate the news to him.
"Ah, good job, Lexi! I so happy for you!"
That was it, then. We were moving. Ultimately, what made this hard pill easier to swallow was that Lexi and I had discussed this transition as temporary, much like our study abroad experience in Copenhagen. "What I would give to move to that city instead," I thought during my last few days in Santa Barbara. I would only need to stick it out for a year, two at most. We'd return to a coastal city soon, right?
It didn't help that I had felt anxious for months due to not yet having a job secured. Most of all, not knowing where we would ultimately end up exhausted my mental capacity because I spent so much time worrying. For the record, I don't mean "end up for the remainder of eternity," but more so where we would reside for the next chapter of our lives at the very least. Furthermore, not having a new lease secured despite having to leave our Abrego apartment in two months' time was anxiety-inducing. I remember feeling overwhelmed by all the apartment listings we had saved and not knowing if we would be completely happy anywhere. I remember feeling conflicted about my already strained relationships with my loved ones and wondered if the increased distance would only worsen them.
So here I was on an early September morning, driving towards the ambiguity and unknown anyway. I cruised down 101 with the past four years packed into my car and took in the Pacific Ocean blues and Southern California hills one more time. I was en route to San Diego to pick up Eric, one of my more spontaneous and reliable friends, because he had agreed to make the long drive to Texas with me. All 1,547 miles of it. The weight of what I was about to do hadn't truly set in yet. Up until recently, feeling any sort of emotion when it came to serious transitions in my life was a difficult feat. I shrugged this off as a temporary move, which I'm sure was a defense mechanism because Texas!?
Everything's bigger in...
I will never forget how I felt two days later, when I drove into downtown Dallas for the first time. The green outline of the 72-story Bank of America Plaza building and the yellow glow of the ball atop Reunion Tower greeted us as we drove in. My eyes widened and my jaw dropped. Already, the cityscape was so much more exciting than I had anticipated. It defied mine and Eric's expectations of Dallas being a barren wasteland (Yes, our expectations were extreme). However, the gorgeous view definitely came with strings attached because driving in Texas wasn't the easiest adjustment. The state characterized by the famous phrase "Everything's bigger in Texas" unsurprisingly offered what seemed like a thousand different directions you could go, and I immediately got lost after taking a wrong exit. It reminded me of El Paso's Spaghetti Bowl and its series of highway interchanges. I already missed having only one or two freeways to navigate.
When I stepped foot into my new home—mine and Lexi's fourth apartment together—I remember feeling a flurry of things. The first was gratitude, since Lexi had kept the interior a secret to surprise me, and surprised I was. Her decision to withhold pictures from me added a sense of wonder and excitement to the whole process of uprooting my life and moving to a city I'd never visited. It undoubtedly made the move easier. I was also grateful for Lexi's mom and tita because they decorated our home to resemble a Tuscan villa, with warm shades of red, orange, and brown throughout. This proved crucial to helping me settle in because it was the same color scheme that our former apartments in Isla Vista had been.
The second emotion I experienced was relief. That same night, Lexi addressed my worries and assured me that we were in a good place, that she would be more than happy to support our family for the time being, that she didn't want me to just rush into any job, and that the relationships that were meant to remain, would.
Suffice to say, life has been wonderful and I actually found a well-paying job that I'm passionate about two weeks after moving here. Additionally, Lexi and I have managed to craft a place for ourselves in various communities six months in (Filed under: "Perks of Being with a Social Butterfly"). We've both hosted and attended dinner parties; traveled to neighboring states; and consumed many, many plates of BBQ. We also took part in various community activities, such as: attending an interior design showcase + chef's tasting, enrolling in an enneagram class at our church, and spending a nice day at the Texas State Fair. I also didn't anticipate growing closer to my loved ones due to the increased distance, but it happened! And much to the surprise of all my friends and family in California, I love Dallas and have no desire to leave anytime soon.
So, yes, the last half of this year has been wild but it doesn't look like it'll be easing up. Lexi and I get married exactly 6 months from today.
This post wouldn't have flowed as smoothly as it did without the help of my friends. My utmost gratitude to Lexi, Nikhil, Elise, and Mandy for taking their time to proofread this.