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Evolution and Enchiladas

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“Love cools, friendship falls off, brothers divide.” ~William Shakespeare (King Lear, I, ii)

After Christmas, I made a return trip to my homeland of New Mexico to spend some time with family members at a vacation home in the southern part of the state.  During that time, I also drove up to spend a night in Albuquerque, where I lived for 35 years (wow that makes me feel old) before I moved to Texas.  I ate at some of my favorite restaurants (I’m looking at you Saggio’s and Frontier) and got to see and catch up with a friend I hadn’t seen in over four years.

A collage tribute to one of my favorite places ever: The Frontier in Albuquerque.

A collage tribute to one of my favorite places ever: The Frontier in Albuquerque.

But that excursion left me feeling pretty melancholy.  Something had changed since I’d last visited the Q a little over a year ago.  The city itself felt depressed to me, and the neighborhoods around my childhood home appeared deserted and old and crumbling. There seemed to be barely any traffic on the streets anywhere in the city, especially compared to the ever-constant congestion on Austin’s roadways.  The wintery landscape was bathed in familiar browns and grays, with the ever-present lack of greenery that I remember from living there.  New Mexico has a stark and unique beauty, but I didn’t feel it while in my former city this time.

I had to wonder if it was more me than the locale.  As I drove around old haunts and hangouts, including my home I had for 14 years as an adult, I just felt…sad.  So much has changed in my life recently, that maybe I’m more sensitive to other things that appear to have not changed at all.  And while I have a few friends left in Albuquerque, only one of them was able to get together this time.  The others I saw a year ago weren’t available, which is ok; it was short-notice and the end of the year, and I completely understood.  Last year, Bryan Cranston sat his Hollywood self right next to me at a downtown cafe, but this year I just felt like a lonely loser as I brought my take-out enchiladas back to my hotel room.

I think part of the sadness comes from acceptance of the fact that there are several people and places in Albuquerque that are no longer part of my life, and probably won’t be again.  I should have known better than to go by my old house, the mere sight of which floods me with painful, wonderful, life-changing memories.  For better or worse, that part of my life is over.  And as life stumbles on, we come to realize that certain friendships have also run their course.  Sometimes it isn’t even a fight or one specific event that brings the relationship to a slow close…it’s just the evolution of the history and the fading of the future, and then before you know it, you haven’t spoken for years and instead of feeling wrong, it’s somehow ok.

I think many people force friendships past their evolutionary end out of a feeling of false obligation…but they’re not being honest with either themselves or the other person.  Some things just end.  We all know who our true, lifelong, call-me-no-matter-what-you-need friends are; it doesn’t matter how much time goes by either, you can just pick up where you left off, which often was years and years ago.  But let’s face it – most friendships don’t fall into that category.

For me, they are few and far between.  I’ve been faced with fading friendships over the past few years, and it hasn’t been just a result of changing zip codes.  Letting go of people who have been there during good and bad times and memory-making moments is a strange thing to have to do.  Admitting and accepting that we have little in common anymore or that we don’t agree with each others’ past choices is slightly gut-wrenching, but to me, seems necessary as part of being true to ourselves and choosing to be UNunhappy.

I’ve grieved for fallen friendships and lost love, and if I let myself, it’s easy to trudge back into the trenches of wallowing.  But at some point, it has to just be enough.  Move on.  Move up.  Move into the realm of where you feel you are supposed to be.  Even ‘LOST‘ agreed that you have to hit the reset button sometime.

I feel like I’m where I’m supposed to be, at least for right now (even though I hate being held hostage in my own house over the last few days by the insanely high cedar pollen counts in Austin, it’s ridiculous).  I don’t know if I’ll return to Albuquerque again or when, although the possibility of never going back seems unlikely to me.  Maybe we’ll tow the nephews along to Balloon Fiesta one year soon; I’d love to see the looks on their faces at the wonder that is a thousand balloons launching off the field in simultaneous waves of fire and color.

Source: Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta

(Source: Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta)

By the way: after some searching since I moved here, I did find a pretty good enchilada place in Austin.  It’s not quite the same, but it’s enough.  I’m hitting the enchilada reset button. (And it’s just around the corner, which is either convenient or dangerous, depending on how you look at it…)  I hope that you too are lucky enough to have enticing enchiladas available to you wherever you are.  Because what’s life without the perfect plate of enchiladas every once in a while, right?  (Let’s see how many times I can use the word enchilada in one paragraph.)

(Source: TripAdvisor)

(Source: TripAdvisor)

À la prochaine!

Ant Kristi

Lost in Austin (But Finding My Way)

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“Come, thou shalt go home, and we’ll have flesh for holidays, fish for fasting-days, and moreo’er puddings and flap-jacks, and thou shalt be welcome.” ~William Shakespeare (Pericles, II, i)

As I sit in front of a warm fireplace on a cold, rainy November night, I’m reflecting on the fact that it was four years ago this week, the day before Thanksgiving 2009, that I moved from Albuquerque NM to Austin.  The day I arrived was also cold and rainy, and we unloaded much of the moving van in a drizzly haze.  My Dad and I had caravaned in my car and the moving van over two days time to break up the trip.

It was not the best time for me, which had precipitated much of my decision to move.  I was still heartbroken and reeling from a recent divorce, and had decided to leave my anxiety-ridden job of 7 years at a disease management company that was itself crumbling.  It was not an easy decision to leave the city in which I’d spent most of my life, but it seemed a logical one.  My family had been in Austin for almost twenty years by that point; it had taken me two decades to finally follow them.

On that rainy night of my arrival, I moved into a depressing duplex on a dismal street filled with struggling families and broken down cars.  But my family did their best to dress it up and give me the warmest welcome possible.  I was grateful to finally just be here, among them, no matter what the circumstances.  Moving is a big risk at any time, for anyone.  I didn’t exactly outrun my depressing circumstances, and it was quite a struggle to find a decent job in the middle of the worst economic recession in modern history, but I was here, and that was the goal.

A lot has happened in those four years since.  Births and deaths, finding jobs and quitting jobs, leaving that depressing duplex for a new home, stress and setbacks, risk and realizations.  I’ve been privileged to travel during that time to see sights I’d always wanted to see.  I’ve been lucky to make one or two new friends in four years, which may not seem like a lot, but one of the facts I’ve come to realize (and accept) about myself is that I’m not one that makes friends (real friends) easily.  So I’m grateful for that too.

Four years still doesn’t seem like enough time to consider myself an Austinite though.  I still get lost all the time; if it weren’t for my iPhone, I’d have no idea where I’m going in the hilly streets of this city (with no reference points to guide me).  And whether you’re lost or not, Austin’s traffic woes will drive you mad.  The extreme heat and the humidity and the ever-present mosquitoes have been hard to get used to (I’m not sure I ever will) and make outside activities pretty undesirable for me.  I miss the perfect weather and seasons of Albuquerque and the striking beauty of New Mexico landscapes and sunsets.  In four years, I haven’t been able to find a decent Sunday morning breakfast spot like I had in Albuquerque.  The cost of living here in Austin is about double what it was in NM, and I still have to remind myself to call them breakfast tacos instead of breakfast burritos.

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The pink Sandia Mountains lit by an Albuquerque sunset.
I miss you Q.

But there’s one overriding factor that validates all those drawbacks (which are relatively minor), and it’s a pretty powerful one: family.  Every time over the past four years that I’ve been asked why I moved to Austin, I’ve always responded with the same answer: it’s where my family was.  It may not sound like much, but it’s pretty much everything.  It’s hard to beat being near your family.  It hasn’t been perfect, and there have been ups and downs, but we’re here if we need each other, and I’m thankful for that.

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So during this week of Thanksgiving, I’m thinking of how grateful I am for each one of my family members: their love, their health, their support, their proximity, and their help.  Thank you for bringing me here.  Thank you for putting up with my mood swings and fluctuating aspirations.  Thank you for all the car battery jump starts, free handyman repairs, midnight urgent care trips, family dinners and home-cooked meals, babysitting advice, leanable shoulders and listening ears.  I don’t say it enough, but I love you all and appreciate each one of you.  And – you’re lucky you live in Austin, because it’s the only city in Texas I would’ve moved to (it is pretty cool here, in a hot, humid, Austin-weird way).  Thank you for helping me find my way (whatever that may turn out to be).

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Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours.

À la prochaine!

Ant Kristi

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