Image Map

Friday, March 2, 2012


It's official, people. The person who claimed that Houston was akin to America's nether-regions (and not the fun parts) is packing up and moving back. Before you judge the decision and take the same close-minded attitude to my hometown as I have these past 12 years in Austin, give me a moment to explain our justifications and why the idea has us really, really excited.

First, some background. Brian has been working as an Environmental Investigator for the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality since 2007. It was his first job out of college and one he adored until his workload became excessive. Now he's stuck in a position that he idealistically thought would make a difference in Texas' environmental quagmire, only to learn that he has little to no impact on changing things for the better. We know who's running this state, and they don't really care about water quality or suburban sprawl. So when Brian's dad offered him a job in his insurance brokerage firm, he couldn't pass it up. It's much better money with a chance for advancement, but the gig is in Houston because there's not really market for risk management here at home. It was a tough decision, and in the quest for acceptance of our new future, we've had to spend time examining what we want in a city.

So here's our beef with Austin, a lot of which we had to dig for because, let's be honest, this town fucking rocks. But it's definitely not the same place it was when we moved here 12 years ago. First, it's incredibly crowded and growing, but not in the right direction. Condos, rows and rows of hipster bars, and giant Whole Foods' do not a diverse city make. In fact, for a city that touts itself as being liberal and open-minded, the segregation is appalling. I-35 is like a line down the center of town dividing whites from everyone else, and the poor with the wealthy. The traffic is horrendous, the cost of living absurd, and the job market nonexistent. Just comparing teacher salary here to most Houston districts is enough to finalize the decision. But what's really made our lives in Austin more challenging these past few years is the sense of loneliness we have in our current lifestyle. 30-year-olds in Austin are not having kids. They're still drinking late every weekend and sleeping in until noon on Sundays. That was fun for us a few years back, but we love being parents and really wish we knew more of them. Just from gleaning Facebook status updates from the few people I know in Houston, it looks like parenthood is the norm for our age group, and that makes me really, really happy. 

Brian is just dying to get out in the bay again. (photo courtesy of Texas Boat Builders)

And Houston has been growing on us. Just the idea of diversity excites us. Our salaries will finally reflect what we deserve, and we'll be able to live in a hip neighborhood without having to pinch every penny. Atticus can go to a preschool with an actual curriculum that doesn't cost $1200/month and I can take him to museums on the weekends.  Houston has a vibrant culture, whereas in Austin, art and theater consistently take a backseat to the oversaturated music scene. I can go back to school and eventually have more babies, neither of which would be possible on our current budget in Austin. We're also closer to the coast and New Orleans (one of my favorite places ever), and I can even honestly admit that I miss the humidity and rainfall. 

I'm looking forward to our trips to the Science Museum (photo courtesy of Mary Newton)

I know, it sounds like I'm dogging my current city, which is unfair. Austin is where I received my education, started my career, bought my first home, married my husband, and had my son. It is home, and likely always will be. But in our quest to make the perfect life for ourselves, Austin is no longer what we need it to be. While we don't know how Houston will work out, we find ourselves justifying the choice and intend to make the most of our time while we're there.


  1. To be fair, I've never slept till noon despite drinking to late hours. And you are correct in saying that the museums and theater are better established in Houston ( I tend to visit the MFA with nearly every Houston visit ) but its also a city of almost 6 million people. Public spending will be higher and with purses that large, you'll be able to attract higher quality collections.

    But keep in mind that cost of living is a moving target. In order to achieve a true cost of living reduction in housing (which will be your biggest expense), you'll more than likely have to go to a surrounding community which throws out that whole vibrant culture aspect. Not to mention spending much more time in your car.

    I suspect you knew this but neglected to mention it. Nevertheless, we will always make our guest room available to you if you choose to visit Austin again (I don't know if you've heard but we have become quite the destination for music festivals [alas, not yet for theater]).

    1. Actually, we've found rents in the central parts of Houston (the Heights, Montrose) to be significantly cheaper than similar areas of Austin. In fact, the surrounding communities you mention tend to be pricier because the schools there are more desirable and Houston tends to attract an upper-middle class that prefers to live in the suburbs.

      Granted, we will miss Austin like crazy...I'm not saying we won't. I just feel like it's not the city we want it to be anymore and we're trying to see the silver lining on this Houston cloud. And we will definitely take advantage of your guest room. Probably more than you'd like. :)