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closing thoughts (Huntsville)

posted 2023-01-31

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i'm back to thinking about moving (and getting very very close to the "actually planning a move to a defined location" step) and getting anxious that i'm making the wrong decision again. the framing i'm finding useful to get over that feeling is this: does huntsville have anything left to teach me, and if so, what? what has it taught me in the last seven years?

an answer, in several parts.

it's taught me everything i know about systems

and i don't mean computer systems, i mean the ones made up of people.

in may 2022 i felt a sudden urge to start attending council and other local government meetings, and i've done so almost religiously. it's been very instructive; i learned that:

even thinking about our five-member city council so much feels predestined (sometimes even to councilmembers themselves). the institution has its own constant goals and rules and values despite its officeholders changing over time. this thinking seems to hold true at a department level too. i feel like this was an important lesson to learn but i'm not sure why yet.

(the real meaning here is probably this: not only does collective action work, but it is the only way to accomplish things at any meaningful institutional scale)

it's taught me not to overcommit

and yet i still do it anyway. i have so many projects on my plate, all the time (and i will get to all of them someday!). i've done work for so many orgs here, some employers, some contract customers, and some community groups – and i have a miles-long todo list including all of them. i don't regret it, but it's a hard situation to get out of (and an easy situation to get into). i'm working on it.

personal relationships, too – my second (and longest, by far, covering roughly 25% of my life) "romantic relationship" started and ended here. again, i don't regret it – it taught me many things, including that i need to be more okay with leaving situations that aren't really positive for me, and i need to be okay confidently acting on that knowledge earlier than i did this time around.

it's taught me that i can find meaning in just about anything

i've found myself in so many places over the last few weekends. land trust-owned hiking trails, tva hydroelectric dams, recreational trails built on sewer lines, small town centers. they all tell some kind of story, and they're all beautiful in their own way, even if maybe not always pleasant on the surface. it's nice to spend time in those sorts of places. lots of self-reflection opportunities and a real sense of familiarity even if i haven't been there before. weird but nice.

it's taught me that good people who care exist everywhere

ccjr, north alabama dsa, love huntsville, the local queer support groups. i didn't make strong connections with all of them but i've seen them all at work, and it's really heartwarming to know they're here. the city would be worse off without them. i am grateful that they exist.

it's taught me that there are no wrong decisions

i am going to at least survive no matter where i go. i have a job that lets me work from anywhere in the US, i have a strong support network online, and i have the means to move anywhere and do just about anything at least for a little while.

but also, there are environments where i do better than others. here i've learned that i really need to be around people to thrive – it's really lovely just sitting at a park downtown, or eating a meal at waffle house (really!), or hanging out with friends in silence. just knowing that other folks exist near me and are having a nice time, or going through similar struggles, or whatever, is nice.

it's taught me everything i know about myself, in a sense

i couldn't have written any of this seven years ago. my ability to introspect has greatly improved. i came out as a trans woman (to myself and to everyone else - it rules btw, strongly recommend checking it out if you're even slightly interested).

but i would've learned that faster literally anywhere else

that's all... despite living here, not because of it. this is not an especially nice place to be myself, it just finally got hard enough to not do that, that i had to.

and i'm worried about what the city will teach me next

oh boy, time to go to alison dot legislature dot state dot al dot us and see what fresh hell awaits me today on the "regular session 2023 prefiled bills" page.

seriously, this is going to be my life every day probably until i move. watching tennessee and west virginia (and probably other states that i'm forgetting) introduce more attempts to legislate trans people out of existence is absolutely terrifying, because i know alabama tries not to be outdone with this sort of thing.

there is a good chance that i haven't learned everything this city has taught me – but every day the chance increases that the next lesson will be "you should've left earlier."

so, what am i going to do about it?

i'm probably going to move somewhere on the northeast corridor, and i'm not going to put a whole lot of thought into where exactly, because i know i'll be fine wherever it is, and i'll be happier than where i am now. but i'll miss this place (and the people in it – actually, mostly that) dearly.