Austin, Schmaustin…

By Ashley Bean Thornton

We had a terrific day in the Act Locally Waco tent at the Waco Downtown Farmer’s Market yesterday. The music was especially good. My friend MG was volunteering in the tent with me, and she and I couldn’t help dancing around a little bit in between visiting with friends, eating breakfast burritos, laughing at dogs and babies – and of course spreading the word about ALW.

nick and eloisa at farmers marketIt was an altogether pleasant way to get the weekend started. In the midst of all the fun, however, there was just one thing that kept bugging me – I got tired of hearing people talk about Austin. Here are the kinds of things I got tired of hearing: “I love this place. I feel like I can come down here and get my two hours of Austin.” Or, “Can you believe this is Waco? I feel like I’m in Austin!” These were enthusiastic comments, meant as compliments, but by the time I heard “Austin, Austin, Austin” about a dozen times, I confess I began to think grumpy thoughts, “Austin, Schmaustin — I am sick of hearing about Austin.”

It’s not that I don’t like Austin. I like Austin. My husband and I spent a weekend in Austin for our anniversary this year. Austin is a fine place. There are lots of things about Austin that I would love to see come to Waco in some form or fashion.

So why did these comments annoy me so? It took me awhile to figure it out, and it turns out it doesn’t have that much to do with Austin.  When I hear those kinds of comments I feel like we – the people who live in Waco – are the very ones who have the most limiting image of Waco. The story we tell ourselves about Waco does not include things like a bustling farmer’s market. We believe that other places, like Austin, are “that kind of place;” we don’t quite believe we are “that kind of place.” But we are. We are exactly “that kind of place.”

I am impatient for the story we are telling each other to catch up with our potential. I am impatient for us to believe more of ourselves.

We are the kind of place that attracts and grows new businesses. We are the kind of place that builds a great school system. We are the kind of place that college students want to stay in after they have graduated. We are the kind of place people want to move to with their families. We are the kind of place that great people come from.  We are the kind of place where new things are invented. We are the kind of place where people decide what kind of city they want to live in and then make it happen. It’s time we believed these things about ourselves. We are exactly “that kind of place.”

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