So the word is out. The Hansens are midwest bound. I, Matthew, have been here for 21 years. Sarah has known Austin as home for 15 and Austin is all our kids have known as home. Not only that, Austin, as many of you know is constantly rated as one of the top cities in the US to live. Which is probably why so many people from the Midwest stop us in mid-conversation and in complete confusion and unbelief ask, “um...are you really doing this...are you really leaving Austin to come here?” And somewhere between uncertainty and excitement we respond with, “yes. We are….for now...” [insert long awkward and confused pause]
"Why are we leaving?" is the question that keeps surfacing, obviously. First, Austin and I have had a love hate relationship for a long time. More love than hate...a lot more love than hate. She has been a great home and has been a great place for our family to grow for the past 15 years. But it seems that, as my friend Spencer Jones best summed up, that while this great city adds amazing benefits to one’s life, there is also a sort of residual stress that accompanies city life as well...and one could say, we are now dealing with residual stress.
We had hoped that we would return from our long road-trip focused, centered, and ready to go. I had a friend tell me before we left, “you can’t plan to be ‘un-burned out’. It may take you a week, it may take you longer, but if you really want to reverse the burn out, allow that to dictate next moves.” Be it our naivete or ignorance, we really thought a couple months in wide open spaces would heal it all. We really believed that we could come back and simply be more deliberate about making space from the city. But that wasn’t the case. In fact, when we came back from our West Tour, I was laying in bed one night and was hauntingly conscious of the fact that I was surrounded by noise and busyness. This was very unsettling and unnerving for me. I wasn’t ready for that again, and wouldn’t be for a while. In fact, it was pretty telling of the direction we needed to take the following year...
I think the easy thing would have been to stay. We know Austin. We have some great networks. We are part of some unbelievable communities, and we have even more amazing friends. Stay - Figure it out - that makes most sense. I had a colleague tell me one time, “Matthew, you never toe the party line...”. He didn’t mean it as a compliment, but I took it as one. That’s me. I see every side to everything, and when there are only two-sides, I can’t rest until I find or create a third. I’m typically the 10th man. Not only is this true about me, but it is literally embedded into my personality according to Myers-Briggs and a coach and spiritual director I have recently worked with. When it comes to being an adult, the party line is “stay with what you know, stay with what seems more secure, be responsible and cling to the familiar.” Those who know me, know that’s not how I do things, and when I submit too long to the party line, I feel stuck, especially if the other options haven't been explored and embraced deep enough. So on one hand, while this personality of mine may have brought me to the brink of burnout by continually trying to plow against the party line of accepted normality, it is also part of the impetus that is allowing us to leave what we know for a world that seems to make less sense when it comes to the rules of sensibility.
We don’t know what the next year will bring. We don’t know where we will end up calling home, but what we know is that in this place of liminality we are committed to living ordinary well!
A new friend of ours told us that when she thinks of us leaving, and what she knows about us as a family, the Walt Whitman poem, 'Song of the Open Road' seems appropriate. And so in an extremely generous gesture she dedicated it to us. Here's a portion:
"A foot and light-hearted I take to the open road, Healthy, free, the world before me, The long brown path before me leading wherever I choose.
Henceforth I ask not good-fortune, I myself am good-fortune, Henceforth I whimper no more, postpone no more, need nothing. Done with indoor complaints, libraries, querulous criticisms, Strong and content I travel the open road."