i was going to start a short series of posts off by stating that this is going to be an unusual endeavor for me, but a look back through past things i’ve written here revealed that it’s instead something i simply haven’t done in quite a while.
Oddly enough, going back to my very first post at The Long Shot reminded me that one of the core pillars of starting this blog initially was to provide myself a broad canvas to take long looks at different things, including myself. The opening words of that first foray if i’m honest make more sense to me right now than they did four years ago. (wow that was four years ago already?!)
Long Shot: typically shows the entire object or human figure and is usually intended to place it in some relation to its surroundings.
At the time, i had just started back going to college at age 35 with hopes that the piece of paper i’d scoffed at when i quit my college career in the early aughts would one day carry me forward to better things – and better places. Since then, i’ve written on a wide variety of topics both here and (triumphantly!) as a professional writer (i was paid for it) through my first post-graduation job with a Northeast Ohio publication.
In light of that, what i hope to explore in a series of posts is more precisely what i had in mind during that first post: i hope that it shows me as a whole person and where i fit into my surroundings.
The appropriateness of this series stems from the fact that, i am at this very moment just three days into an enormous step forward in life for me: relocating from Cleveland, Ohio to Austin, Texas after being recruited for a position with a growing media company located here. Vastly different surroundings!
In itself that is one of the most exciting things that ever happened to me. The job was not something i applied for; i was contacted by the company recruiter and, after some negotiating, decided to take the chance and go for it. Austin was on my short list of places i’d like to live, and even though it isn’t a ton of money, it is better than i was making with a much greater growth potential. Perhaps it was a hasty decision to jump at the first thing that came along, but i was feeling malcontent to some extent, which had a heavy influence on my thoughts regarding the matter.
After finding a place to live pretty close to the job, and calling ad nauseam to confirm everything (“you’re certain the place will be ready to move in by March 5?”), getting the car fixed up a bit, sharing dinners and coffee talks with family and friends and making check marks on plentiful to-do lists (yes, there was a checklist for the various checklists) the morning had come to hit the pavement.
Brimming with enthusiasm, i’ll admit now that when the 1,388 mile one-way road trip began, there was naturally a part of me that was reluctant to go. But the lion’s share of me did and still does hope to challenge an adage i read about decades ago as a child: that typically, a person will be born, grow up, settle down and die within a 20-mile radius. i don’t recall exactly where i read that, but the notion imprinted itself on my young psyche with something akin to dread.
That very same circumstance was raised just last week by an uncle, offered as an item meant to encourage critical thinking regarding this move to Austin for the job. His perspective in particular addressed lower-income workers, a category i fall into with chagrin. To his point, for those not yet – or perhaps never – to reach higher echelons of income, remaining near your base provides opportunities for support, help and plain security through proximity to family and so on. Taken in that context, i understood the concept more than my younger mind did. On the other hand, sometimes the point of putting yourself into challenging situations is to test your own mettle and do your best to not only persevere but to thrive. That last bit would become more clear by orders of magnitude after arriving at my destination (more on that in another post).
One other beguiling point he made though was to put this question forth: would i take this job and move all that way, if i had a wife and children? That one made me laugh in all honesty because, no, i wouldn’t. But the very fact that i have none of those things is precisely why i feel more able to take this avenue.
At this point, i would like to take a quick break for an ad hoc survey, you can answer in your own head. Especially for any first-timers to The Long Shot: are you picking up on one of the meanings behind the name of the blog? Brevity is not my thing. At the risk of scaring you off right now, i feel like i’m just getting started at this point. Not to worry though! There is some sort of plan for this series, and in just a little bit you’ll find yourself coming to a nice circle kicker, a teaser for the next part and maybe even a call to action.
The road to Austin was kind to me, and it certainly could have began cruelly, being winter in Northeast Ohio and all. No snow was falling, and indeed it wasn’t even very cold, even at 5 a.m. Cleveland rush hour traffic had not yet started when the Terminal Tower was quickly disappearing in my rearview mirror. By the time the sun came up, i was passing by Brunswick and heading into more open highway country. And my traveling companion, the feline familiar Cosby, had only meowed forlornly for about 45 minutes into the ride. The 9-year-old tuxedo has been at my side since i first scooped him from the kitty bin at the pet store when he was a mere 6-weeks-old, and his cat carrier sports a selection of luggage stickers from not only Northeast Ohio (Eastlake x2, Willoughby x2, Lakewood x2, Willowick) but also Pittsburgh, and as of this writing, Austin.
It wasn’t too long before I cruised past Ashland, site of my freshman year of college way back in the glorious ’90s.
Passing by, i thought about the skater punk i was at the time, inspired by a great high school teacher to choose an English major. His name was Mr. Tomba, but we all called him Papa Smurf. Turn his skin blue, slap a red Phrygian cap on him and dude was a spitting image. Ashland really won me over because of their rating for having the best college cafeteria in the country, and it was well-deserved. i fell in love for the first time while there, with a real-life pixie. i also got drunk for the first time, at a party where i then passed out on a bench on the porch, then yakked like a first time drunk will do, at the perfect moment when a girl i liked was walking right past me.
i also befriended the theretofore terrifying ex-marine guy who lived on our floor named Hap. We bonded over mutual taste in American alternative metal band Helmet, started hanging out in his room passing doobies while watching A&E Biography late at night and shared a similar admiration for coffee, stopping daily at Grumpy’s on our way to Death & Dying class together.
But, like any Jim Collins editorial worth it’s salt, i digress.
Despite driving for 10 or so hours, most of it through rain and construction-narrowed lanes surrounded on all sides by massive freight trucks that dwarfed by jam-packed Chevy Aveo hatchback, i made it to my first chosen stop for the night: Jackson, Tennessee. i don’t know how many winds a person can get, but i was on my third or fourth by then. Nevertheless, i was half tempted to press on farther. i did not do so, though, because my thinking since setting out was rigid: i had a plan and i was sticking to it. By the time i unloaded the car, grabbed a bite to eat and cleaned up, i think i watched about one minute of Seinfeld before i was out.
Day Two on the road was much the same, except the rain got traded for warm sunshine, there were no familiar landmarks and towards the end i was alternately worried about either peeing myself or nodding off at the wheel. Seriously – there are very few rest areas in Texas. Between the border and Dallas, i passed just a single one that was, of course, about a mile past where i pulled off to use Burger King’s facilities when i couldn’t wait any longer.
i will say, though, that a sensation washed over me just as i crossed the state line into the Lone Star State. it just felt different. Possibly due to road delirium, or because i knew i was in the state of my destination.
Texas is BIG, that is no lie. The sky stretches out bigger, the speed limits are higher, the number of horses and cows you see are astounding. If you gathered all the horses and cows i’ve ever seen previously in my life, it would be less than the number i saw while zooming down the highway.
Dallas is impressive! The city rises up into that broad sky, and approaching it means crossing Lake Ray Hubbard, a massive fresh water reservoir. i was ignorant of its existence and blown away by its beauty. i can’t tell you what i expected Dallas to look like, but bordered by an enormous body of water was not part of the image.
“Dallas Skyline at Sunrise” – Gleaming like a sparkling gem, the early morning sun envelops the Dallas skyline in incandescent warmth with colors of aureolin, saffron, lavender, wisteria, and marigold. In the foreground, a flooded Trinity River winds past the city, revealing a rarely photographed moment of the beautiful Dallas skyline. (Photo/Stephen A. Masker)
My stay that night was in a much more sketchy motel than the night before. Gang tats, broken motel room windows and that feeling you get when you’re not in the right part of town were part and parcel to an uncomfortable evening. The appearance of a cockroach the size of a Bic lighter scurrying up the wall did little to ease my discomfort, although an excellently-aimed sneaker ended the threat it posed.
Some good news did brighten my spirits though, when i made another call to the apartment complex awaiting me in Austin. i called to check on the status and maybe adjust my motel reservation in Austin; the place was to be ready at the absolute latest by Saturday, possibly Friday. But lo and behold, it was ready for move-in Thursday! All i had to do was show up, sign some papers and get the keys.
i went to sleep happy, not just for myself and the concern over repeated motel stays with everything i owned in the world packed into my car, but also for Cosby, who even though he’d been a real trooper, would doubtless be relieved to stay put in one place for more than a few hours – outside the cat carrier he’d been cooped up in the last two days on the road.
So it was that i would reach my destination, a place that would confront me with very different surroundings and challenge me both externally and internally – much more than i had even anticipated.
In the next part of this series, i’m gonna do my best to show the entire human figure that now resides in Austin. As anyone i’m particularly close to could now tell you, it’s not a rainbow-farting unicorn that arrived here. i’m not exactly sure why i’m sharing these stories. Perhaps you’ll find some lesson or wisdom here, or maybe been in a similar situation and discover some relatability. i’m not going to lie: i’m hoping for those same outcomes for myself.
In another way, there’s a different kind of truthfulness that emerges by putting yourself out there rather than keeping a private log. As a writer, i’m only as good as what i share with the universe, and i feel like holding something back for fear of reactions goes against the whole point of it.
So, for what it’s worth, you can have a nice Long Shot of me. Maybe understand more of who’s behind this screen, while at the same time giving me a better view of the same.
After all, another definition of long shot is “a venture or guess that has only the slightest chance of succeeding or being accurate” and believe me, you’ll read plenty about my feelings on that in the next part.
Have you ever made any big life changes that had a fundamental impact on you? Move to a new city alone? Take a risk that had unexpected results? Wondered if you were doing the right thing, or reached new levels of self-understanding that blew your mind?
Let me know about them in the comments below. i don’t have to be the only one rambling on about themselves around here.