Last night, Andy and I watched the last episode of The Office. I know, I'm years late to that party, but, to be honest, I haven't wanted to watch the last season at all because I'm a wimp about things ending. I hate saying good-bye. Even to TV characters. But last night seemed like a good night to let it happen.
I knew that part of the plot line for the end of the series involved Jim and Pam's move to Austin. I'd read an article in our local paper about it when the show originally aired on network TV. The piece was about Austin's city-wide curb appeal that draws people by the thousands. Even fictional people can't resist.
As you watch The Office come to a close, you're sort of sad that Jim and Pam won't be showing up at Dunder Mifflin anymore, but you're also happy and excited for them. There's a part of you that's thinking, "Good for them. They're moving up in the world. They're going to a hip city where they're going to have it all." At least, I'm pretty sure that's what the writers were going for.
But, let's talk about what it's actually like to live in Austin. If you make a ton of money, or you're in your early 20's, Austin is literally the coolest. The city is saturated with people doing fun things on a weekly basis. There are tons of festivals and events. You can see live music or drink your choice of fancy cocktails. There are great restaurants and places to go shopping. The city has awesome parks and is kid and dog friendly. You can be hipster, you can be athletic, you can be a cowboy... pretty much anything goes. Austin is, in many ways, weird and wonderful. But it's also really expensive. And getting to any of those cool restaurants, bars, and events requires an intentional commitment of time, energy and money that Andy and I rarely have these days. It's also so transient, which is kind of cool because there are a lot of interesting people from all sorts of backgrounds that you can meet, but also sort of sad because it's like we all got here and are looking around at each other like, "what do we do now?" Relationships cultivated in time are hard to find around here. We're all just "hoping to get together." Or we're striving to "live in community," but the whole thing feels pretty contrived. Much less natural than old, lived-in relationships. And I won't even start on the weather. I haven't got the strength.
Truth told, I love Austin. I am not writing this to dog on the city. It's legitimately a cool place. BUT... real life in and around Austin doesn't play out for the regular folks like the TV show would have you think. Unless Jim's company made tons of money, they wouldn't be able to afford to live in Austin. They'd be out in the suburbs like the rest of us, grumbling about how bad the traffic is. So now I'm getting real... about my own life. I live in a little neighborhood that's getting sandwiched between major traffic arteries and major shopping centers. Seriously, every time I go out, I see new apartments or homes being built. A new Gold's Gym just opened close to our house. It's been open just a few weeks and already you can hardly find a parking space. There are two more Gold's Gyms (not to mention the other gym chains, yoga studios and cross-fit places) within ten miles. It's just that crowded here.
I don't like to complain about where I live. I grew up hearing people complain about my hometown all the time. People really hate Fayetteville. They have to go there because they get stationed at Fort Bragg, and they end up just counting down days until they PCS. You meet these people at church or at work, and they certainly don't spare words when airing their grievances about our little city. You'd think that after a lifetime of hearing people complain about it, you'd become immune to it. But it's like hearing someone complain about your loved one. As a member of the family, you're allowed to gripe about those inner idiosyncrasies, but there is swift and sudden wrath in store for the outsider who feels like they have the right to chime in. It might not be fair, but it's just how these things work. So I try not to grumble too much, at least not to the Texans.
But, lately, as I feel more and more isolated in my little island of suburbia, surrounded by a sea of people in their fast-moving cars, I am struggling as much as ever at calling myself a citizen of this city. I know it's counterintuitive. Everyone is in a hot frenzy to get to Austin and claim a piece, but me? I'd be happy to see it in my rear-view mirror on many days. Like I said, it's nothing to do with the city itself. And if I were from Austin... shoot, if I was just Texan, then I'd be happy enough to make the best of it. But man do I miss that coastal breeze, and those rolling green hills of my home state. And I can smell Appalachia if I just close my eyes. North Carolina calls to me all the time- a calm, cool, green song.
Anyway, to wrap things up, I want to insert the deeper question that I'm asking of the Lord. I read a verse as a part of my BSF lesson that really got me thinking about this. The verse says, "But our citizenship is in heaven, and we eagerly await a Savior from there." Philippians 3:20 I'm asking the Lord about this. Does permanent citizenship in heaven mean that I need not get wrapped up in where I'm living here? I think you can get wrapped up really loving a place that you forget that God desires more for you than comfort. But I also know that you can get really wrapped up disliking where you live to the point that all you can think about is escaping it.
So, I'm asking the Lord to help me understand His will for me. And to sort through my desires with me. And to help me figure out how citizenship is supposed to play out for now and for the future, in light of eternity.