Vermont has been everything that I dreamed it would be. But I am not destined to spend the rest of my life here.
I’m going to start with the positives. Vermont has brought me out of my comfort zone, and opened my mind to new ways of looking at life. I came here claiming it’s the “Wisconsin of the north east” and while I still believe that, there are a ton of differences here that I never envisioned. The hospitality and warmth of the people here is just as much as that famous “Midwestern hospitality” that I grew up with. I’ve met some great folks who have taken me under their wings and shown me some beautiful things about this state.
Vermont’s beauty truly rivals the beauty that I loved so dearly of central Wisconsin. Everything that I thought I would experience as a resident of Waupaca I feel as though I have experienced here. Vermont ended up satisfying the “countyside” in me so much that I’ve started to yearn for a bigger city.
I managed to finally achieve something higher than my high school diploma. CCV was a wonderful experience, and while I didn’t “Bianca Del Rio” it, I came fairly close.
UVM would have been wonderful. But unfortunately things didn’t work out. Two different departments advised me that the only way to get in-state tuition at UVM was if I submitted a birth certificate from Vermont, a marriage license from Vermont, or a property deed from Vermont. Because I didn’t have any of those, tuition would have been $19,000 per semester for me. I applied for private loans, knowing the big hole that would put me in (roughly $82,000 for two years worth of school!) and in the end I was denied. What I take away from the experience was that I was still accepted to UVM, so a public ivy league was willing to give me a chance. For the longest time I never believed I was capable of anything big, at it was a nice glimmer of hope. It gave me a renewed sense to try again.
The gay community here is so much smaller than Milwaukee. It’s also much closer knit than Milwaukee or even Chicago’s was. I can definitely appreciate that everyone knows each other but at the same time, it’s hard to break into that circle. I was also a little disappointed to find that the annual Pridefest in a state that has practically led the nation in LGBT equality was only a single Sunday afternoon, compared to the whole three-day weekend that Milwaukee throws each year. Again, I would imagine that it has more to do with the smaller community than anything else.
So what’s next?
For the longest time I was looking at Portland, Oregon. I made several references to moving there and was following some local news. It seemed like the perfect fit. What killed my interest in it however, were the riots that broke out there after the 2016 election. The fact that so many people would cause so much ruckus and harm over Trump, while they admitted they didn’t vote in the election just left a sour taste in my mouth. The other piece that Portland was missing was the concept of me finishing a bachelor’s degree.
When I came to Vermont, I wasn’t honestly sure how my education was going to play out. I knew that CCV was my first stop no matter what because of my record at Parkside, but I honestly didn’t have a plan for what to do when I got to UVM. Finding out that Business required Calculus just to qualify for the major, I panicked and tried to come up with plan B. Luckily, I really started to enjoy my time at my first hotel, and started to wonder if there was something more too it. When I got to really taste the hospitality industry at the Hilton level, I really started to believe more and more that this could be the kind of career advancement I have been searching for.
I just wanted to quickly add: when I lost my spot at UVM, I definitely had a good long thought about even trying to finish my bachelors. I have been disappointed in myself for not finishing in 4 years, although I’m comforted to know that it’s becoming the national average for 20-year-olds to spend more than 4 years working on their degree. What changed my mind about it was actually a book I read in my final year at Parkside, titled What Is The Purpose Of A Banana? It’s written by a man who went for his doctorate degree, just to prove he could do it. Obviously a bachelor’s degree would open up so many doors for me, but I’ve reached the point in my life where I want to prove to myself that I can finish my bachelor’s more than what the degree can do for me.
All my hotels had planted the idea in my head of going for a bachelor’s in hospitality management. UVM didn’t offer that program, and the closest they could come would have been Parks, Rec, & Tourism. Not a bad program, but considering the price tag it wasn’t going to be worth it. I found out that both of the hotels closest to my heart had founders with colleges named after them. Days Inn, started by Cecil B Day is reflected in the Cecil B Day School of Hospitality Administration at Georgia State University, and Conrad Hilton is honored in the Conrad Hilton School Of Hospitality Management at the University of Houston.
Now, both of these colleges are located in the South. Everyone who has met me knows how important having four seasons is a year is to me, and going to either of these colleges would break a 28+ year mental tradition. While I have absolutely enjoyed my experience with Days Inn, I am more attracted to the luxury of the Hilton brand. Houston is a far bigger city compared to Atlanta. Tuition for the Hilton College of Management is actually thousands of dollars less expensive than the Cecil B Day College. Hilton offers so much more to it’s own employees as well. There’s a reason they have consistently won the Fortune 100 Best Companies To Work For award. I keep telling anyone who asks that my experience at Hilton Garden Inn is “my Drag Race” and “this is my going on TV to compete for $100,000.” I think that getting the Hilton College stamp of approval & bachelor’s degree would be me “winning” my “Drag Race.”
From this, I’ve been doing a scan of the Houston area. I’ve been asking the exact same questions I asked myself 4 years ago about Vermont: Can I live here? Would I be happy here? What does this area have that I don’t have here? What is the purpose in moving there? And so on, and so on. No matter what, I know that when I leave Vermont I want it to be a completely new-to-me area of the country. I want to go through the experience of starting at square one and building myself up again. It’s a challenge that I think has really shaped my ability to be an adult, and I want to grow like that again. I can already tell you which places I’d like to work at in Houston, I have three different apartment finding apps giving me a general feel for the cost of rent, and I’m looking into daily life like grocery stores and gas stations I’d be frequenting. I’m also watching the weather forecasts there regularly enough to get a feel of what it’s really like.
Being Houston, the events I’d want to see would all likely be making a stop there – The Welcome To Nightvale live shows, HUMP & Savage Love Live by Dan Savage, and live performances by more of the queens of RuPaul’s Drag Race. All of these big shows that feel so out of reach to me in Vermont would become accessible again. I’ve even peeked in at the Houston UU church to get an idea of what being a regular member there would be like.
Furthermore, with my own political views shifting (note that I consider Milo Yiannopulous to be an icon of mine), Houston would be an ideal spot to grow on that more. Not that Vermont political parties aren’t active, but I feel like I’d have a more involved learning experience in volunteering for the Harris County parties. There’s also much more selection for community theaters in Houston as well, plus a wider range of professional theaters to enjoy. I’ve been patiently keeping my stage management days on hiatus, but I’d like to go back to them someday. Being in a hotel where I’d have a set schedule (of sorts) I also feel like I’m in the right industry to go back into community theater again. I still stand by that it’s a great hobby to stage manage, since it wasn’t going to be a career for me.
In an ideal world, I’d like to celebrate my 30th birthday at the start of my post-Vermont life. Since 30 opens the door to a new decade, I’d like that decade to start in a new location for me.
And that’s where I currently stand on my future.