Posted by: Sue D. Gelber | April 6, 2010

Living Large in the Lone Star State

I am willing to concede that perhaps I sign up for too many sports-related events because my friends assume every time I leave town I am doing a run, ride, etc. Just to prove that I am not completely unbalanced, I’d like the record to show that I am in Texas simply visiting a friend. No marathon, no century ride, no crazy overnight relay. It is just a plain ol’ getaway, like a normal person might take. Yes, I went for a run, but normal people do that, right?

So I am not here doing some daunting activity that challenges me and makes me wonder if I have briefly taken leave of the little good sense I have left. But I find myself wondering if simply going to Texas constitutes stepping outside the comfort zone. As with most things in life, the answer is a resounding “It depends.”

Texas is the land of cowboys, and as a part time Montanan, I feel well-versed in cowboy culture. I know what PRCA stands for. And no, not because I Googled it, but because I have actually been to the rodeo. Several times, in fact. I like to think I have cowboy street cred. But I doubt cowboys use the term ‘street cred.’  Okay, let’s face it, I am a born and bred New Englander, as East Coast as they come. The only cowboy boots I own are a pair of Joan and Davids circa 1995. While they were quite a bargain and very stylish back in the day, they have never been anywhere near a rodeo, or even a farm. The closest they have gotten to livestock would have been in a horse-drawn carriage ride around Back Bay. So while Texas may not be completely out of my comfort zone, it is certainly not familiar territory. I don’t even like barbeque.

But generally speaking, going to Texas isn’t exactly stepping into a different culture. Yes, they sell sparkly pink cowboy hats that are, like everything else here, oversized and hard to miss. But they also have a Starbucks on every corner. What puts it outside the comfort zone is when you think of it not as a vacation spot but as your new home. That is exactly what my friend Beth is grappling with, and yes, she is living outside the comfort zone. She has moved to San Antonio. Home of the Alamo, hot summers and mosquitos the size of small birds. Where the men are men and the wildlife on certain designated hunting ranches are nervous. And did I mention the hot summers?

Truthfully, though, I think Beth will be fine. She is off to a great start, and San Antonio is a wonderful city. But moving someplace new and starting over is hard. It’s not easy to extract yourself from the life you know, the friends you have, the daily routine that soothes you like an old soft blanket.  Or to put it in the modern vernacular, it is hard to go someplace new because familiarity is the Snuggie of life.

When I moved from Boston to Chicago, I was surprised at how much I missed the small, everyday things. I missed running into someone at the grocery store. I missed knowing my way around. I missed Chet and Nat on the evening news (yeah, I know they split up, but I missed them anyway). I missed driving to my brother’s house for holiday dinners with my family. I missed knowing the stories and histories of the sports teams and the politicians. Reading the morning newspaper just wasn’t, and still isn’t, the same. I felt completely unsettled, surrounded by strangeness, stripped of my blanket.

That is not to say I didn’t love Chicago, I did most of the time, but there were times when I wasn’t sure it was worth the upheaval.  If familiarity is the Snuggie of life, moving is the ShamWow: sometimes you think it’s the best thing that ever happened, and sometimes you think you got short-changed. Sometimes you have both thoughts at the same time.

Finding your way around, turning strangers into friends, and exploring new places require effort and can make you feel unstable.  To borrow from Stegner, all of us are seeking that angle of repose, that sweet spot where we no longer feel like we are rolling out of control. No one wants to live an interim life, and moving certainly feels like one.  But like anything that pushes you out of the comfort zone, creating a home in a new place, carving out a life in unfamiliar territory, is rewarding, even more rewarding than running a marathon.  And, of course, it helps if you have a Snuggie to keep you warm and a ShamWow to keep things shiny clean. Turns out you can find all that in Chicago, and in Texas, too. It just takes time.


  1. Loved the article, made me cry and remember how finding the right fitting Snuggie in my new life was such a wonderful, yet at times, unsettling journey.
    Thank you to Stegner and Gelber for putting it all so eloquently!

    Beth….we miss you!!!!!

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