I’ve been thinking a lot lately. I feel like I’ve changed significantly since I’ve moved from New Jersey to Texas. I really miss the person I was in NJ. That’s not to say that I HATE living in Texas or anything [though I could do without the traffic and the scary hurricanes and the flooded highways], I just wish the person I used to be in NJ would make a reappearance.
The girl who lived in New Jersey had no fear. I mean, I used to drive all over the place and these were in the days before you had google maps on your phone, and had to print actual directions from MapQuest or something. I had friends who lived all over the tri-state area. If I wanted to see Tangled or Tron Legacy with a friend, who lived in southern New Jersey, it wasn’t a problem, I’d just jump into my car, regardless of the time of year [there was one memorable drive back from Southern New Jersey in snow] and not care. I’d drive at all hours. If I wanted to spend a weekend in Philly with other friends [I went to school with people from PA, so I had a lot of PA friends], not an issue, I’d jump in my car and drive straight to Philadelphia, or take New Jersey Transit/Septa to 30th Street Station. If I wanted to drive up to NePA and see friends to go wine-tasting with, I’d just do it… who cares if there’s snow squalls or a reasonably heavy thunderstorm? I knew I could handle it [though thunderstorms in NJ have nothing on storms in Texas]
It wasn’t just driving. I used to be able to do more by myself, and wasn’t as much of a homebody. I remember wanting to go skiing and nobody wanted to go with me, so I said fuck it, and drove myself to Mountain Creek. If I wanted to see the haunted house in upstate NY, not a big deal, I could just go there myself and meet my friends there. If I wanted to go to the shore, I’d call a friend, and drive to Seaside Heights without any issues. If I wanted to see a concert in NYC or a Broadway show, I’d take the bus from downtown and just go do it.
I had absolutely no fears, that’s not to say I was fearless and reckless, I just knew I what I could safely handle and what I couldn’t handle. I could drive from point A to B without a problem because I had been going to places like that for my entire life and everything was familiar to me.
That’s just not the case in Texas.
I’ve been living here for 7 years, almost 8, and I just don’t feel comfortable in my own skin here.
I think things are getting better? But I’m still not where I’d like to be. But there’s so much I feel like I can’t do here that I could do in NJ.
If I want to see a concert, I’d have to either drive an hour to the Woodlands, or deal with downtown, and downtown is forever changing- roads are always closing, there’s always construction, and it feels like the ways I get used to driving aren’t permanent for that reason, and I don’t like sudden changes. And there’s not even a good public transportation system in Houston. I mean yeah downtown as a decent transportation system to get you from point A to point B, but going from the suburbs that are about 25ish minutes from downtown, there really isn’t a good park and ride or anything. In NJ, you have tons of NJ transit buses and trains, and you can basically get almost anywhere from New York City, and I lived maybe a 45 minute bus-ride from New York City, which isn’t too bad, I could take a quicker ferry-ride there [as in 9 minutes once you drive the 20 or so minutes to the ferry], or easily drive into the city because I lived 15 minutes from it, but I sort of like the bus, it’s easy to zone out and listen to music on.
The thunderstorms here give me complete anxiety to the point of almost a panic attack. I’ve taken more sick days for weather days than for actually being sick. My car drowning in 2015 after a sudden burst of really heavy and biding rain, and street flooding didn’t help that. I’ve spoken to my dad about this before and he told me that I never had any problems in extreme weather in NJ. And NJ roads are just different? I mean NJ gets its storms, for sure, but our rains aren’t heavy enough to produce flash-flooding, maybe because Houston is at-sea-level or very slightly above sea level, whereas NJ is about 500 feet above sea level, and we even have basements in NJ. I was very confused when I moved to Texas and found out that not a single house has a basement due to it being basically on sea level and most master bedrooms are on the first floor- not a thing in NJ. Or maybe New Jersey’s roads are just better for drainage.
Also Texas weather is fucking weird. It could be sunny and beautiful where I live, and then we drive downtown, and barely a mile away it could be storming, and then a mile after that it can be beautiful and sunny again. New Jersey weather isn’t quite that random, but at the same time, you can probably fit 8 NJ towns into the one city I live in in Texas.
I hate the Houston traffic. I hate how I live abut twenty miles from where I work in downtown Houston, and it takes me about an hour to go home every day, sometimes more, if there’s car accidents, car fires, or road closures. New Jersey gets really bad traffic, but our roads are able to manage to traffic better for some reason. I hate how crazy Houston drivers are. NJ drives suck too, but at least they use turn signals and don’t purposely roach you or cut you off.
I hate how there aren’t enough dunkin donuts in Houston. In New Jersey, I could drive 10 minutes and get to about 8 different dunkin donuts, or 3 different Starbucks’. Where I live, there are about 7 Starbucks within a 5 minute drive in one freaking town. I MEAN REALLY? THERE CAN’T BE ONE SINGLE DUNKIN DONUTS? The closest DD is about 30 minutes away!
That’s another thing weird about Texas. It’s fucking huge. In NJ, in an hour, I’m practically to Philly if I take the NJ Turnpike. In ten minutes, I can also drive through about 6 different towns in New Jersey. An hour in Texas… Just gets me to more Texas, it doesn’t even get me anyplace big like San Antonio or Dallas or Austin. To plan road trips from my house in Texas, unless I’m going to NOLA, I literally need to give us a day or two just to get out of Texas.
There’s also not much to do here. I mean okay, yeah Houston has museums and parks and things like that. But again, downtown. It’s practically impossible to go downtown and actually find parking that doesn’t cost an arm and a leg. If I want to go to the Museum of National History in NYC, I can just go into the city and take a subway there. And then there’s the weather, I find Houston only livable for maybe half the year? My favorite time of year in Houston is probably from the end of the November until the middle of March, after that we only have hot and hotter. I miss the four seasons we have in New Jersey.
You can’t really do outdoor sports here, and outdoor sports are sort of my thing. It’s too hot to hike, most of the year, though we’re going to start making an effort to check out Texas State Parks during the more pleasant times of the year, in hope of hiking more. And Big Bend National Park isn’t too far from here, and we really loved BBNP, though forget about skiing within Texas, though I will give Texas there, compared to NJ, it’s a hell of a lot easier to drive to a state like Colorado or Wyoming from Texas than from New Jersey even with the ten hours to get out of Texas. And with the pretty much temperate climate in Texas for most of the year, there are a lot more opportunities for swimming, or water parks, for example.
I think a lot of Texas crushing who I am has to do with my experiences in my first 6 years here. I remember moving to Texas and being all excited about being a first year first grade teacher and starting my teaching career and wanting to be the best first year teacher I could and wanting to live up the potential that everyone else seemed to think I had. My dreams got crushed when I wound up with a micro-managing bully as my first principal, who seemed to take pride in making me cry and telling me I should choose a different career path because I’d never be a good teacher. That crushed my self-confidence and my self-image, and being a newbie in Texas, I really didn’t know anyone who I could cry too aside from Justin, so the feelings of hopelessness and self-doubt deeply entwined themselves in my mind. And I think that was the start of my downward spiral. I stayed at that school for four years, not for a lack of trying to get out of it, I tried really hard, but no other school would hire me, I’d do well in the interview but than they’d call my ex principal and he’d tell them how awful I was and that would be a dead end.
I finally did escape the school from hell and wound up in my current school. I wouldn’t say it was much better when I got here. My TA was the sorostituite from hell and cared more about her manicures and how her hair looked, and combined with the teacher next door and her TAS, they were like mean girls as in…
My principal was a slight improvement? He wasn’t exactly a bully, but he was more nonchalant and didn’t really care about anybody but himself, and his personal favorite teachers, but at least he didn’t micromanage or bully. The second year, after I got a different TA, school slightly improved, but instead of being a principal and dealing directly with parent problems and such, he would throw me under the bus when it came to trouble parents because he didn’t want to deal it and/or make himself look good, but still, I never got yelled at it.
Life has improved drastically this year. Like rainbows, kittens, and unicorns.
I got a new principal this year, and she absolutely loves me, as in talks constantly about what an amazing special ed teacher I am and gave me the highest possible ratings I could get, and my ego is back where it’s supposed to be and where I always thought it should be.
I’ve got friends at school. I probably won’t go and hang out with most of them out of school, nothing against them, more like I’m just not a bar-hopping person or a party person, and I don’t live downtown and all of them do, which is why I never join them for happy hour or anything because after school I still need to drive about an hour or so to get home [thanks Houston traffic]. But it’s nice to be able walk down the hallway and know people and be able to have casual conversations with them. It’s nice that people actually know who I am now.
So work life has drastically improved.
I know there are things I can’t change. I can’t control the weather, and I’ll probably never be comfortable with Houston’s deluges and heavy rains, but I’m getting better with driving in lighter to moderate rain. I also will probably never like the heat here, but it’s out of my control, and I just need to find ways of being in the water more [we’re planning on saving to build a pool]. I can’t control the traffic either, but I can be grateful that there are days when there are no traffic accidents, grateful for google maps for days when there are, and grateful for amazon music and an awesome playlist.
I don’t know if I’ll ever not be afraid to drive to places in San Antonio, Dallas, and/or Austin, but at least I can do most of my errands myself now [though I admit, I do enjoy Justin’s company on them, but at least if I want to bake cookies, I can drive to Kroger and buy ingredients]. And hopefully given time and a car I’m comfortable driving in [like my car], I can work up to driving further and farther.
I’m better with being alone now than I used to be. I have Netflix and Hulu, and video-games, so I’ve gotten better with Justin’s later than mine teaching hours and having to be home alone at certain times. Having cats helps. I’m working on the whole making-new-friends thing, that’ll take time, but eventually I’ll get there.
I know I had uterine cancer, and it sucks, and not being able to have kids sucks, and seeing everyone get pregnant and have children sucks even more [especially at a school, where there’s always at least one person pregnant], and let’s be real, I’ll probably NEVER BE OKAY with it, but for the first time in awhile, I think we might actually have a plan for that, so maybe we’ll have a future with that yet.
So maybe I’ve lost my way from the person I used to be in NJ, but for the first time in a long time, I finally feel like I’m on the road to getting her back, and that’s definitely something to be proud of.