I currently reside in one of those cliché small towns with the quirky street names and the local diner. Lake Jackson, Texas has a population of about 28,000 citizens all grocery shopping at the same superstores, eating at the same restaurants and jogging at the same parks. There are four high schools in the surrounding area, each pumping out graduates to work at the local chemical plants and offices. The people here are accepting, polite and have a great variety of personalities but most are ready to live out their lives doing the same things with the same people every day — something that I wish I wanted sometimes.
The southern coast of Texas is full of small towns with big hearts. In those small towns are citizens from all walks of life including country folk, small business owners, blue-collar workers and many others content staying where they are. Yet living and working alongside these people are others who yearn for more. The younger generation of Lake Jackson finds the big city exciting and full of adventures, while the elder half of town believe it’s hazardous and wasteful. These are the typical small town opinions, like in basically every Sandra Bullock film. Some prefer this type of life, but it’s not for me. I have a passion for the big city that often distracts me from the happenings in my small town. The food, the people and the lifestyle have attracted me all of my life.
About an hour north of Lake Jackson is Houston, the fourth largest city in the nation. The drive up is filled with country views and antique shops until finally downtown Houston appears in all of its glory. The skyline represents exactly what Houston is famous for, a balance of old and new. Vintage buildings along with modern skyscrapers make for a handsome view.
Straight out of high school, I began my film degree at the Art Institute of Houston. For my first year-and-a-half as a student I continued to live in Lake Jackson and commuted to class three times a week. As you can imagine, the drive became tiring and made lining up video shoots more difficult. When the opportunity to relocate to the big city presented itself, I knew I had to go for it.
To pay for rent and daily needs I worked at a used DVD store, then a major chain department store and after that a health food store specifically for pets. Sure, none of those jobs quite worked out, but that was simply a testament to Houston’s various opportunities spanning all fields of work and play. With new places and faces to see from one day to the next, Houston couldn’t differ any more from my hometown. The city was my playground, and I liked it that way. I had my taste of Houston — city lights outside my window and major highways next door, ready to take me wherever I wanted to go — and have longed for more ever since.
While living in Houston I experienced many different neighborhoods collected inside of the city limits, from the Asian area of town where so many great cafes are located, to the Galleria area where I could walk amongst the high society types. My friends and I had favorite places to eat that quickly seemed to belong to us, at least in our minds — similar to your favorite diner in a small town but on a much grander stage. Staking claim on particular spots in town seemed like a very big city activity and I just loved bringing friends to that favorite Vietnamese place off of Milam. After living in Houston for six months, I learned exactly why people flock to big cities to find themselves. Every day you can be someone different.
Six months flew by quickly, though, and my funds went from thin to eventually non-existent. Big cities have a way of draining you of your hard-earned money. I was forced to leave school, work and Houston to return home and start all over.
I moved back to Lake Jackson four months ago and have experienced ups and downs adjusting to my return. My parents are selling their house and moving apart, while I’ve moved into my aunt’s spare bedroom. I see my family more often and am bringing in more money than I ever did in Houston. My dog has a yard to run around in and everything seems to cost less. It’s been hard for me, though, to come back and readjust. When your life changes so drastically and you get a taste of what you’ve been yearning for, how do you go back to how you lived before? I feel like a different person here with less pride and confidence in myself. There are no museums here to feel educated and grand in while browsing their collection, no trendy java café to catch a glimpse of the next up-and-coming artist in.
The cinema where I work is the only movie theater in a 20-mile radius. I was originally employed there at 16, worked until my move to Houston and have now returned as a veteran employee. Since most of my old friends have moved along, I’m now left to find new ways to keep my head above water here. It’s a simple job performing simple tasks, but with a smile and a good attitude. Unfortunately, receiving minimum wage without any room for career building isn’t quite what I need anymore. I’ve worked as a social media intern for three different websites and have begun writing on a daily basis. My dreams don’t end with being a box office cashier.
I’m currently studying at our local community college where I’ll be graduating with an associate’s degree this December. It’s not the film degree I’d always dreamed of, but I’ll be writing and interning as much as possible to create some sort of life for myself in the media world.
Until then, Houston will be waiting for me to return. I’ll visit as often as possible and the big city will keep convincing me that my hard work will pay off. One day I’ll have that beautiful house just outside of the hustle and bustle, with that dream job writing for online publications. I’ll have those three dogs and my perfect home office. I’ll be able to visit my favorite Vietnamese place off Milam whenever I’d like. I won’t just be the girl selling movie tickets in a small town, but the successful businesswoman I so desire to become. That’s the life I’m working for, and I know that Houston will be there with open arms and plentiful opportunities when I’m ready.