Growing Pains

Anneke Paterson

2018 - Ongoing

Austin, Texas, United States

I have spent the past year or so addressing my coming of age. This work reflects my personal narrative of this life stage, as well as the changes in Austin that I see. I confronts the precipice of adulthood, the fallacy of the American Dream, most especially addressing that fallacy as it's experienced in my city, and confronting what we keep and what we leave when we eventually 'grow up'.

These are the things I wish to keep, though I know I can’t. My generation is saying goodbye to its favorite places, the cultural significance and histories of entire neighborhoods; the remnants of our childhoods and the social and physical scapes of the city our parents' generations are an Austin that seems too far gone. Some say that these changes which are overtaking our city, though they harm some, will benefit many. We're not so sure: the changes are certainly capturing us all, though not equally. This trajectory is comparable to my own entry into adulthood, which just as unsettled and dubious, unrelentingly pushing forward. The boom is stretching us thin and wedging and an even deeper divide in a city whose infrastructures are deeply rooted in segregation; the city itself was designed for those who wished for it to be divided: us apart from them. Now, in In my mid-twenties, I am witnessing the effects of Austin’s historical segregation as the historically Black and Latino neighborhoods are being stripped of their cultural identities and values, just as I’m parting ways with my adolescence, watching their physical spaces replaced with novelty. As a native Austinite, I was naive to believe in the myth of the exceptionality of my hometown, a facade which has lent to the extreme popularity of the city: The Live Music Capital of the World, the place built on creatives and music and small-town sentiments. This identity and its catch phrase does not speak for us all, as it is exclusionary of the lived experiences of the majority of its population. Austin must confront its changing identity just as I must confront mine; it must acknowledge who and what it is consciously leaving behind as it grows. The ways in which I understood myself, my friends, Austin, no longer holds true, for better and for worse. We are increasingly separate among the social and physical margins of Austin. This work has been a reflexive exercise, a way for me to understand my own perceptions of myself and the changing scapes around, before I work to research the experiences, needs, and lives of the marginalized peoples of Austin.

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  • A poster advertising new development in downtown Austin has been torn down its middle, an act representative of the resistance to the change and development in the city. The tears also trace the dividing lines of Austin, whose infrastructure was designed for segregation. 2018.

  • Empty spaces are where potential and freedom meets fear. We know in order to grow we must hurt a little and part with what's familiar and comfortable. Megan embraces a sunset and a former home met its end. Now the lot sits like the awkward space after loosing a tooth. 2018.

  • A home’s unwilling transition into ribbons of metal and piles of wood on my walk to class. By my walk back from class, the lot was void, an uncomfortable space now, between two homes - like a missing tooth in a row of others whose fate may soon be the same. Friends lay in the evening heat where we grew up playing. 2018.

  • Two scenes of East Austin. The first lot was a filled with flowers and untouched for a long time, though soon it will be filled with a new house, which will be made in a modern style and expensive, increasing the cost of living for the houses next door that have been there since the 50's. The bottom lot just was cleared of a house that had been there since the 50's, too, and will face a similar fate. 2018.

  • East Austin: the site of a future house, also the site of a home lost to growth, and with it, its family and memories. There's potential here but something significant was lost to make room. West Austin: we watch the buzz of our city and are filled with cheap beer and a similar potential. 2018 / 2016.

  • I35 runs through historically white, west Austin and historically black and Latino east Austin. The changes are gripping us all, and those that benefit from the changes say they are good but imperfect, acknowledging but not really weighing what is being lost and stolen to make room, and maybe not even caring to. This I feel in my life as I stumble into adulthood, as I watch what's familiar and deeply tied to my childhood become wiped clean and replaced. 2018.

  • Summer days set on the Barton Springs runoff, where for generations every kind of Austinite has shared a beer, a BBQ, and cool water with each other and their dogs. Sometimes we opt to cool off here because it's less crowded than Barton Springs Pool and it's free. In high school we would skip class to come here to remedy our boredom and life problems and just to chase some sunshine. We would cry and swim and laugh. We’re 24 now and to us the world has never had such extremity. What can we do but allow for a moment in an uncomplicated space and time to release us from the uncertainty... here is where we did it then and do it now. 2018.

  • Barton Springs: the soul of Austin. The cold water sustains us through the heat. Here I see more people different from me than any other part of Austin. It's a meeting place and a refuge from the buzz of the city, where we all meet and the things that are pushing us apart and wearing us thin are less important than finding refuge from the heat.

  • We blinked and another piece of the city is gone, and so nothing seems permanent or promised like it did before. However, the boys and their Riverview house are steadfast, they will not bend for any amount of money, not willing to say goodbye to their childhood home and what it provides for them now. 2018.

  • An empty lot in Austin's East Side. Next door, out of the frame, are houses that are as old as East Austin and carry the weight of their history and culture. When Austin was expanding in the early 1900's, a boom similar to now, a city plan was set to segregate Austin's white residents from its residents of color. Black and Latino residents moved to East Austin and the city has been divided ever since, holding important history here. With these developments come rising costs of living and a destruction of the cultural significance of East Austin. This lot will be filled soon with a house that will probably look like the one seen in the background: stylized, expensive, and trendy. Pushing the community to its limits. What was once the 'hood' is now the place to be. David, in the foreground, grew up close to this lot, and I on the other side of town. 2018.

  • At the Riverview House, where the boys fix their bikes, workout, and sometimes crash for the night, depending on the mosquitos. Developers are relentless, every week offering obscene amounts of money to Kevin and Matthew, who own the house and share the space with five other guys, but they refuse to sell. The ties are stronger than friendship: they're family, and won't part with their home for any amount of money. 2018.

  • Orion on is sister India's bike, a closest friend, in front of their former house. We stayed out all night, not deterred by skinned knees or curfews at our parent's houses, riding by street light. 2015.

  • Ben in the yard of his parent's house in Tarrytown, an affluent neighborhood whose median home price is 1.1million. Ben lives with his parents. 2018.

  • We drink on the roof and marvel at the city below, feeling the way young people do when the world seems to meet at the possible and impossible. 2016.

  • Childhood friends on a rooftop. 2018.

  • The trajectory of growth I see in Austin I see in my friends and myself. Sometimes we feel stuck between thinking forward and looking backward. We're in our twenties but still children. The city is fluid and adaptive, it transitions and alters itself every day just as we do, though this progression is not without loss. 2018.

  • A friend walks under Interstate 35, which divides Austin into unequal halves of east and west. An ex-lover rests in park grasses. These things I wish to remain the same, though I know they can't.