I wanted to get out of my hometown throughout all of my life. I remember frequent high school conversations with my friends about how we couldn’t wait to leave for college to finally experience the oh-so coveted “real” world. I also remember watching Greta Gerwig’s Ladybird and commiserating with Saoirse Ronan’s character when she complained about her hometown of Sacramento, except I grew up in San Antonio, Texas. We all thought that our hometown was boring. We envisioned that, once we left, we would finally meet people that were interesting and worldly instead of socializing with the same people day in and day out. We didn’t realize at the time that the city happened to be the seventh biggest city in the country, so if we were having trouble meeting interesting people there, then the blame probably landed squarely on our shoulders. Nevertheless, we dreamed of the world outside our bubble.
I simultaneously embody the stereotypes of a Texan with a strange amount of pride for their state and the restless teen who couldn’t wait to leave. I thought San Antonio was boring, the people were lame, and that it had nothing to offer beyond being a place to live. It was the sort of relationship you have with a sibling: it’s OK for you to make fun of them and point out their flaws, but the moment someone else does, it’s off-limits. Still, I decided it was time to move on to what I thought would be greener pastures.
So, I left.
I went to a college 1500 miles away and didn’t plan on looking back. Although I knew I would visit for breaks here and there, I never planned on coming back permanently.
I showed up at Michigan not knowing a single soul. No one from my high school had gone to the U of M in 7 years, and I didn’t know anyone who knew people in Ann Arbor. It truly was a fresh start. I am quite lucky that I quickly got accustomed to the community. I joined clubs and met new friends soon after arriving, making me feel like I had found my place. I know that this process of integration can take a lot of time and effort for many people, so I am grateful to have had a swift adjustment. My first semester went by faster than I could have imagined, and after its conclusion, I found my way back to my boring hometown in Central Texas for a few weeks.
When I arrived at the airport and got in my mom’s car, something unexpected happened. I felt a comforting sensation of warmth rush through my body — and no, not the usual kind of warmth you feel in Texas. I saw the buildings go by in the car window that I had been seeing on every drive throughout my life. I saw the big oak trees and the even bigger pick-up trucks on the highway alongside me. Even little things like the license plates with the Texas Flag on them made me feel comfortable. But most of all it was the sky — it doesn’t make any sense, but the sky actually seems bigger in Texas. I can’t exactly explain it, but if you have the chance to visit this great state after everything goes back to normal, you’ll get it too.
After a few minutes of gazing out the window like a child on a road trip, we pulled into my favorite barbecue place (shoutout Barbecue Station) and I smelled the food I had loved my entire life for the first time in months. A wave of realized nostalgia and belonging hit me quickly. I didn’t expect to miss everything as much as I had, and I didn’t even realize I had been missing it until I saw it all again. It’s as if I was experiencing a perfect mixture of the pain of homesickness and the relief of coming home all at once.
As aforementioned, I had been going to this restaurant my entire life. Actually, I had technically been going there since before I was born, as my mom started going into labor with me while she was having lunch with my dad at Barbecue Station. So, when I walked in, Jay, the familiar man at the counter gave a friendly, “long time no see partner” (excuse the use of partner in real-life speech, we are in Texas after all). This small yet meaningful interaction summarized everything I have come to realize about my hometown. Not only did I miss the familiarity that San Antonio, and much of Texas in general, had to offer, but I also missed the camaraderie.
During the rest of that winter break, I came to appreciate San Antonio like I never had before in my life. It is a city full of history, culture, and beauty that I was utterly blind to while growing up. From the restaurants at the Pearl Brewery to the shops in El Mercado of Market Square, this city has something to offer anyone and everyone. San Antonio has been consistently ranked in the top ten travel destinations in the country – something I never could understand while living there – and I could finally see why. But more than all of the attractions this city had to offer, I quickly realized that the thing I loved most was the people.
With a blend of southern and Hispanic hospitality, the people of San Antonio are generally incredible. It is a resilient community that prides itself on being hardworking and welcoming to all, even those like me who couldn’t see it for what it was while they were there. All it took for me to realize this was being gone. This isn’t to say that I would trade Michigan for anything in the world, as it has quickly become my second home, but being away from Texas only made me realize how much I truly loved it.
My home state is, however, full of flaws and backward ways that deserve and require criticism. I believe the best way to show your love for something is to try and make it the best it can be. With that being said, I have no plans to abandon Texas, even if I don’t agree with many of my fellow Texans’ politics. The age-old saying tells that if you love something you have to let it go, and if it comes back it was meant to be. Though cliche, this sentiment perfectly embodies my relationship with my hometown. It let me go, and I found my way back.
This love has only been exacerbated over the course of quarantine. I have come to even further appreciate the people of my city and have felt pain as I watched the virus tear through our population. I take solace in knowing that if there is any group of people on earth that will come out of this stronger than ever, it’s the great people of San Antonio.
I am convinced that my experience is not unique, and I am sure it is not limited to Texans. Everyone goes through this process. For some, it doesn’t end up with them falling back in love with the place they grew up, and that’s fine too. Regardless, the feeling of home is incomparable to any other feeling on earth. It is a feeling of comfort and warmth that can’t be matched. You can have one place that makes you feel this way your whole life, it can change over time, or it can be multiple places at once, but regardless, you’ll know when you’re there.
I don’t think I want to necessarily move back to SA as soon as I can, but eventually, I think I will find myself back in the Lonestar State. In the words of the great George Strait in his masterpiece work Take Me To Texas, “The Rio Grande is in my veins / it’s heaven there and so my prayer / is that you’ll take me anywhere in Texas.”