Part 1 of a 5-part series on leaving behind the Bayou City after losing your job in oil and gas.
I've left Houston before. I left for short stints, though; months at a time to visit other countries or for work, back when I was still working. This is the first time since moving here eight years ago that I'll be leaving town for good, with no plans of coming back. It's bittersweet. I've watched this city grow and I grew along with it.
I've had great moments here—meeting amazing people and getting to discover a new city —and some not so great moments, including the one that brought me to where I today. With oil prices continuing to fall and redundancies all around, being an oil and gas professional has been stressful in the last couple of years; my own layoff finally came in mid-January. I can't say it was a huge surprise. I was barely billable at my energy consulting firm in the last year, and it came as a relief to be let go and have the freedom to pursue something else.
I suppose could stay in Houston. I could stick around, use up my savings and severance package, living off unemployment benefits in my beautiful Heights apartment until oil prices pick up again and I could find another job. But the last six months of my life have forced me to rethink my priorities. My mother passed away in August and ever since that devastating event I've felt that it was time to leave Houston and move back to the Detroit area to be closer to my family. So here I am, packing up eight years' worth of experiences and moving on to the next adventure.
It's hard to say good-bye to the Bayou City, especially to all the wonderful people I've met in my time here. Houston is special because it's rich in remarkable people, people whom I've been able to count for so much. One of those remarkable people has been my faux-lder sister Jody. We met at an Ethiopian restaurant not long after I moved to Houston and we instantly bonded over our shared love of New Order and doro wat. Since that day, we've been there for each, for the good and the bad. As our last Houston hurrah, she suggested we hit up The Pass for a fancy-lady-date before I left town.
The Pass is where Jody took me two years ago the last time I left town for more than a vacation, when I was headed to live in Norway for work, two days before I'd be gone for three months. Jody was excited to tell me about living in Scandinavia, sharing her own stories about being stationed in the Air Force in Iceland during Desert Storm. She told me to make sure I saw the Northern Lights, so moving they made grown men cry. She told me about partying with Bjork in Reykjavik. She told me to keep warm; Scandinavian winters were no joke. Jody always has great stories to share and I consider myself lucky to be part of her audience.
This time around was sadder. I was leaving and not coming back. Knowing this was a "good-bye" dinner, the host gave us the best seat in the house: facing the kitchen, in the middle of the room. It was a weeknight, so the dining room was quiet; only four other tables shared it with us. While The Pass offers a more affordable Preview Menu with four courses for only $55, we decided we wanted to go all out. How else do you do a going-away dinner? The waiter let us know it would take about two hours for the full nine courses.
A lot of people would chafe at the idea of sitting through a long tasting menu at an upscale restaurant. Maybe they feel it's too stuffy or too expensive. But I love to indulge in this kind of experience every once in a while. I love to get dressed up. I love the opportunity to try something new and different and to do it at a leisurely pace with good company in a beautiful space.
Despite our closeness, it was the first time Jody and I had hung out in a while; it was so refreshing to catch up on our lives, discuss the future, reminisce about the past. I feel like this is an experience special to Houston: showing up to a fancy restaurant to find a relaxed environment where you can shoot the shit over Champagne and caviar. This is one of the things I'll miss most about Houston, but one that I'll hopefully be able to find again in my next life.