Like Wanzer, Erin Shaw left Oklahoma City in 1994, and even when she returned in 2008, she never intended to stay.
Erin Shaw, 36, had just graduated Deer Creek High School when she chose to attend college in Texas. Armed with a college degree, she set out to start her life as an adult in Houston.
“It's a huge city with a ton to offer people — anything on the spectrum,” Erin Shaw said. “It was my first experience with a large city. In Houston you could find anything you want — a thriving art scene, cultural activities, there's a lot of diversity, and anything interesting happening in the nation was going to come through Houston.”
While in Texas, her relationship grew with future husband Jim, 37. Together they chose to start their careers and family in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
“We loved being there,” Erin Shaw said.
“It was again a large city with a lot of quality of life to offer in terms of what you want to do. You had dance, theater, art — and sports.
It was in Florida we became connected to a team together — with the Heat.”
The couple became major league city residents, staying up late during Heat playoff games and showing up late for work the next morning — along with every other Heat fan.
“Just being part of that culture was huge for us,” Jim Shaw said.
Their son Samuel was born in 2006, Jim Shaw was working in commercial real estate and all went well until the collapse of the national economy in 2008-09.
The availability of grandparents for baby-sitting prompted the Shaws to move back to Oklahoma City, where Jim Shaw's visits had consisted largely of travels in far north Oklahoma City but never in the urban core.
“We looked at this being a stopping point for us,” Erin Shaw said. “In south Florida, we didn't know anyone not affected by the downturn in the economy. It made us regroup.”
Putting down roots
Jim Shaw chose to switch careers and enrolled in the Oklahoma City University Law School, which prompted them to live in nearby Midtown.
“We braced ourselves, thought we'd grind through it,” Erin Shaw said. “But it didn't take us long to realize there were some really interesting things going on. And it didn't take us long to begin talking about this being a good place to stay. There's a feeling of being a part of an excitement about something good going on.”
The couple now are committed to staying in Oklahoma City. Jim Shaw is an attorney, Erin Shaw is an artist who teaches at the University of Central Oklahoma and operates a working studio in Paseo.
The creative environment is something people aren't totally aware of here. We have amazing artists and a great support system. They are now Thunder fans, having caught four games during the team's last home stretch.
“I really do wonder what would have happened to my art career if we hadn't moved back to Oklahoma,” Erin Shaw said. “The artistic community and creative class here are amazing. You don't always know in the present what the long-term effect of your decisions will be. I know without a doubt, the state of the city today is what kept us here. And I think that's the case for countless other people.”