One year ago I, along with my young daughter, moved from New York, a city whose skyline adorned the walls of my childhood bedroom and whose scenes filled my dreams and veins for decades, for Dallas, a city I considered at best utterly foreign, and at worst nothing more than a collection of red state stereotypes best only considered at 30,000 feet when traveling between coasts.
Years before I would ever even consider living in Texas, shortly after my 30th birthday, I made the decision to live a more deliberate life in reaction to the realization that my life was on a counterproductive path of passivity. I had wasted so much time letting the proverbial chips fall where they may. On the theme of "excellence is not an act but a habit," I knew I had to make some major life changes, and as I did my tastes and goals became clearer. With each new choice that I made, it became not only easier, but also more rewarding and more thrilling. What else could I do? What else could I learn? I started to realize for the first time the power within me, and that I had a responsibility to use it.
With a new long-distance relationship to a Texan becoming a larger factor, my determination to make positive conscious choices for us became stronger. And when the further development of that relationship eventually required a cross-country move, I knew I had to fully embrace my decision in order to avoid later misplaced resentment. Like everything else I learned that starting over in a new city is what you decide to make of it. People loved Dallas, and I was determined to find out why and experience it myself.
Circumstances were not perfect. As I prepared for my move, life-threatening illnesses affected family on both sides. My first three months as a Texan were spent traveling for work and for family, including a week spent in Boston to donate stem cells. But with each struggle and deterrent that I encountered, I became even more determined to push past it and live a fuller life.
As a teenage exchange student in Greece, I learned to step outside of my own culture in order to understand and accept a new one, and I applied this practice to my new adventure as a Dallasite. I threw myself into the culture, pushing aside comforts of the familiar and trying as many new things as I could. Challenging myself at every venture, questioning old habits and tastes, I opened myself to new experiences, people, and ideas daily.
At first in the chaos I simply opened my heart to the people and activities that were automatically part of my new life. Some have stayed because I chose to keep them. Some I knew would never fit, and they dropped out organically as I expected they would. New people came into the picture, welcoming me with true southern hospitality and inviting me to join them in new experiences. It was a shock to my New Yorker sensibilities, but I grew to appreciate them exponentially.
Physically I have changed. Of course I am most definitely wearing brighter colors, more make-up, longer and, yes, bigger hair, and higher heels than I ever thought I would or could -- at times a conscious choice in a "if you can't beat 'em... " mindset, and sometimes I even surprise myself. I was requested to gain weight for the transplant, and it wasn't hard when adapting to the cuisine and car culture of Texas. The difficult part was losing it afterwards, so I made some new healthy choices, starting yoga and running my first and second 5K races. The results have been more strength, flexibility, and energy than ever before, despite not ever being able to shed those "Texan ten."
When my daughter wanted to take ballet, I signed up for whatever adult class was happening at the same time. When the studio later started offering Bollywood class, I couldn't resist. I ice-skated for the first time, and that same evening walked to the middle of the rink and sang the National Anthem before a minor league hockey game. I was probably expected to back out from nerves, having not done it since high school. But I didn't, and it was another successful attempt at something new.
I started seeking out more new opportunities. I did my first pub crawl, which included my first ride on a mechanical bull. I got my first pair of cowboy boots and actually wore them with a cocktail dress at a fundraising event with the cast of Dallas. I attended my first professional football games and fashion shows. I traveled to New Orleans, Berlin, Krakow, Beijing, Cancun, and Shanghai. I spent hours in Dallas pubs and coffee shops with a Mandarin tutor to facilitate my travels to China.
Spicy food no longer scares me and football no longer bores me. My new circle of friends is beautifully varied, full of fascinating people that I chose to be there and feel honored to have in my life. People from my old life that once held me back are no longer prominent, a choice that was difficult but with the help of loved ones and professionals became all too clear.
Arriving in Texas one year ago, exhausted from moving and goodbye celebrations, I was greeted with a bouquet of yellow roses and treated to a classic barbeque lunch. I knew if I was going to do this, I was going to do it all the way and I welcomed the challenges ahead. I know now that the things I've learned, the experiences I've had, and the love I've felt since opening my heart and mind and purposely living outside of my comfort zone are irreplaceable. I know that I never would have felt the joy that I do now had I not chosen to live this deliberate life, and I'm proud to have done it here in Dallas.