Ah, Texas. Where do I even begin? First, there is my own history in both Austin and Houston. To make a long story short, I adored Austin and hated Houston. Go figure. My Texan friends tried to warn me. Either way, I spent just under a year and a half in the lone star state, and everything that happened during those times (Austin and Houston) still shape who I am today.
First, there was Austin. In 2002, I worked at Applied Materials as a co-op from June to December. I hated it at first, but soon, it became all I wanted after graduation from MSU: good job, good friends, and good music – maybe love. It really was as simple as that. As much as I enjoyed all the wonderful times I had there, the near catastrophes are what really stick in my mind.
On July 24th, 2002, I survived a major car accident: a moving truck turned in front me of while I had a green light. While I walked away from the accident with a broken big toe and metatarsal (that is how hard I braked), along with a few minor scrapes and bruises, any passenger probably would have been killed. Considering that I used to haul my brother around in my 1989 Grand Prix all the time, that shook me. What if he had been with me?
The accident itself took place out on 290 just before Applied Materials. I’d been on my way to work, and I later found out that my boss witnessed my crash. Somehow, I had many people looking out for me that day. One witness to the accident happened to be a nurse, and she stayed with me until the ambulance arrived. While I have almost no memory of anything until the hospital – probably due to shock – the Texas State Trooper who came to interview me about the crash couldn’t have been nicer. Then again, the accident clearly wasn’t my fault.
My mom, of course, was on the next flight out. When she arrived, she helped me manage buying a new car and finding a lawyer. We did both in style, and somehow, I negotiated my three-story walk-up sublet apartment in a splint up to my thigh. Mom, forced to drive in a completely unfamiliar city in an era before ubiquitous turn by turn navigation, marveled at how I already knew the streets and layout of Austin in such a short period of time. I still have fond memories of the few days Mom and I spent together in Austin.
Then, approximately a month or so after my accident, still in a walking cast and attending physical therapy, I found out that I could only sublet my apartment until the end of August, not the six months I had been promised and needed. I needed a new place to live yesterday. I panicked for a hot minute – and then rose to the occasion. Fortunately for me, Applied Materials had an internal classified section on their intranet. I started there. In the end, I found a wonderful roommate – a single mom who had worked at Applied for nearly a decade at that point – who owned a beautiful home minutes from work. I am still in touch with Karen today.
I could write almost endlessly about the time I spent with friends, including attending the first Austin City Limits Festival (now an institution), meeting Cheryl, the party we threw for Andy, and so, so much more. As I’ve said before, leaving Austin on a rainy, icy December morning, my heart shattered. Not so much with Houston.
So many friends tried to warn me about Houston. I wouldn’t be happy there. It started off well enough. My senior year at Michigan State, I intended to end up in Texas in any way possible. I made it to second round interviews with Applied Materials. Ultimately, they only took half of the engineers and supply chain people they interviewed. It did not help that my manager left before he could even evaluate me. In the end, I had no one on the inside fighting for me. I also ended up going through second round interviews at Dell. Less than a week after graduation, I ended up at FMC Energy Systems in Houston purchasing parts for wellheads. Frankly, it was a great first job – until it wasn’t. When I initially interviewed, I interviewed with five people in our department. By the time I left less than a year later, only two were still there – one on long-term medical leave. I won’t go on and on about Houston. There isn’t that much to tell: Wrong job, wrong city, wrong time, and wrong man. I think that about sums it up. We headed back to Michigan exhausted and broken.
I intended to write a post discussing my family’s history in Texas, which will now be part two; instead, it became a post describing my personal history in Texas. Looking back, I truly became an adult in Texas. I had some wonderful times, along with my share of disappointments. As much as I loved Austin, there is a reason none of it worked out. If Houston hadn’t ended in disaster and I hadn’t ended up back in Michigan, I wouldn’t have known my Grandpa Buttrick nearly as well. I belong in Michigan, even if a little piece of my heart will always be in Texas.
I didn’t know it at the time, but by running off to Texas, I was participating in a well-established family tradition going back generations.
Stay tuned for part two …