I’ve taken an informal poll of a certain group of long-time Austinites, and 4 out of 5 surveyed desperately want to leave Austin .. before September 2011. Who are these crazies? High school seniors who are born and raised in Austin.
My own kid is one of them. Born at Brackenridge hospital, schooled for eight years at the Austin Waldorf School, and now a soon-to-be graduate of Westlake High. She’s an Austin native through and through. But she and her Austin-native friends can’t wait to get out of here.
As she puts it, “it will be lame if I go to UT and, when I finish college, I will have only ever lived in Austin”. Doesn’t sound “lame” to me, but what the heck, I’m just the Dad paying for all this.
OK, I do get the point. The grass is greener and all that. Birds flying the nest, coming of age, exploring the world, being independent. Getting away from the “parental units”. I get it. But this is Austin. I could see aching to get away from Bismark, or Tulsa or Abilene. But Austin? Everybody else is trying to get here!
And where is the grass greener? Waco. Go figure. Yep, Baylor University is a fine institution and I have to admit I was impressed with the visitor tour. But Waco? That’s the big escape from Austin? Yes, because it’s the “perfect” distance away.
If you have a high school senior, you know what I’m talking about, and the mindset of a Senior. We’re right in the mix of college visits, applications, etc.
Maybe she does have a point though. Many UT grads never make it out of Austin. Those who do can’t wait to get back. Austin does that to people. Maybe college is the best and only time to fly the coup for those who are born and raised here. But they’ll be back.
More than one buyer has told me me, “I attended UT and have always wanted to come back to Austin”. I’m sure people fall in love with other places, but Austin has a seductive power that really puts the mojo on people. Some people get it real bad. One visit and they’re sold. That’s what happened to me. One visit and I gave my two week notice and headed here with no job at the ripe age of 22. That was 1985. I graduated UT Austin and didn’t think twice about limiting my career options to things that kept me in Austin.
Others wait until the time is right, but the yearning is still there. We’ve sold plenty of investment property to baby-boomer buyers who are staking a claim as much as investing. Buying a place they hope to someday call their permanent home. Having an excuse to come visit once a year, or more.
But what is it about Austin? What is the secret sauce? I mean, it’s certainly not the only cool place to live. All I can say is it’s just a certain blend of something. The right combination of people, vibe, amenities, activities, music, mystique, history, affordability, politics, festivals, food, recreation and lifestyle. It’s laid back but not lazy. Weird and quirky, but productive. Imperfect but in a lovable way.
At an economic update I attended a few years ago, the economist said, in describing Austin’s powerful lure to business and employees, that if “Austin” was a “brand name” its “positive” rating and name recognition would be the envy of any retailer. We experience this when we travel and people ask where we’re from. “Austin”. And the response is always a happy “Oh, cool”. Sylvia and I plan to (not) grow old here. I can’t imagine a better place to be.
Why do you love Austin? If you’re here, why do you stay? If you hoping to come here, what draws you?