My journey to Portland.
Two years ago today, I arrived to Portland after a week-long trek from the east coast with Matt and Nessa. It had always been a dream of mine to drive with Nessa cross-country in a Winnebago from east to west down into Mexico, Central, and South America. It ended up being a super-packed Honda CR-V and we didn't quite go south of Oregon, but I still consider that item crossed off the bucket list. Well, maybe. It would still be kind of cool to do the whole Winnebago thing.
The journey leading up to that day two years ago was a somewhat difficult one, emotionally. There was a lot of tension within my family about me leaving that wasn't necessarily spoken, but felt. At the time, I assumed that my family did not trust my judgement or the decision I made, and that really hurt, and made me react defensively to just about any question they asked me, which would just spiral into an argument or a lack of a desire to communicate at all. In retrospect, I understand where my family was coming from - at the time of our announcement, neither Matt nor I had a job offer in this new city we wanted to move to. I was leaving my family, my niece and nephew, my friends, and this east coast life that is all I really have known in my adult life. We had no family or friends in the state of Oregon and it probably just seemed... random. And maybe it was, a little. But "random" has pretty much been my middle name. In fact, when I was an orientation aide back in college, my nickname printed on the back of my orientation t-shirt was "Random Double D." I'm not saying they should have seen it coming, but they probably shouldn't have been that surprised considering I was planning to move to a whole other country a few years prior.
Anyway, I knew I had to address the tension I felt before I left my parent's house in Jersey City, NJ. I knew that tension, especially in our family, is never just about one thing and I was nervous to confront it, not exactly knowing what was going to come up, even for myself. I invited my sister to dinner and spent a whole evening with her, having small talk over pasta and walking home together, and just as she was about to leave, I stopped her and just spit it out. I'm not sure exactly what I spit out, but I just said something to start a conversation, and it was hard. But it was like what I was writing about yesterday - it's really uncomfortable to put yourself out there and be vulnerable but it almost always leads to a stronger connection, or at least a better understanding. What I realized in that conversation was that we probably should have just had a real conversation sooner, like when we first felt the tension. I also realized that the doubts, the questioning, and what felt like extreme judgement from my family, was all out of love. It's because they loved me, and they cared about me. And yeah, it probably would have been easier and way more awesome if they just said that, but I get it.
But... for future reference, something like: "I love you so much and I'm going to miss you a ton, and I wish more than anything that you would stay close to us. But I know that you have always wanted to move somewhere else and I'm excited for you. I'd just love for you to go over your plan with me, to make me feel comfortable about this whole move." would have probably worked better for me. To be fair, I could have also been proactive about the whole thing saying something like: "I know this seems random, to move across the country and not know exactly what work we'll be doing. But, know that I'm on it - I'm exploring my options with a few different leads for jobs and it's a priority for me to figure that out and I'll share updates with you along the way. I'm going to miss you all so much, but you know I've always wanted to experience living somewhere out of this area, and this is the time to do it." If I could turn back time, I would have certainly approached it in that way.
All this confirms for me that you can't actually sweep an issue or tension under the rug without it affecting you and your relationship to that person, moving forward. I've seen it happen so often and been guilty of it myself. You are upset at a person about something that they don't even really know they did (but you think they do or at least, should) and they come in the room and ask a simple question, "What are you doing?" and you explode, or you just respond in the most snarky way possible. And then two things can happen usually - they either pick up on your energy and call you out, potentially starting a real conversation about the issue(s) and usually resolving it or they pick up on your energy, and mirror it, which then creates tension that they may have not even had in the first place towards you, and it continues... and continues... and can continue for so long that you don't even remember what initially created the tension because more and more issues pile on top of that initial one you never talked about. I have to say, I don't even think I knew Option A was possible until my relationship with Matt. He was so great at calling me out when I would respond in a snarky way or worse yet, not respond at all. Who knew you could actually talk things through instead of running away from a potentially difficult conversation? It's so hard to admit you're wrong or hurt sometimes, but it's a greater tragedy to not have those tough conversations in relationships, especially with family. When you let those opportunities to have a real conversation go, the tension can get so deep that it seems impossible to dig down and get to the truth of it all.
But back to my 2nd year anniversary in Portland :)
It wasn't an easy decision to move 3,000 miles away from my family and closest friends. There was this brief moment when Matt and I, sad about being so far away, thought it would be ideal for us to figure out a way to live six months in Portland, and six months in NYC. But just three months into living here, as we were sitting in our neighborhood corner bar, The Richmond, we looked at each other and agreed, "Portland feels like home. We don't need want to live on the east coast again, not for a while." There was no real reason. Sure, there's the food, the spirit of collaboration among small businesses, the unique and beautiful treeline, seeing Mt. Hood on a clear day, the slower and friendlier pace, the coffee, the coast, the wine, the craft beer, the sunshine without humidity, the winters that don't require wearing gloves... but really, it was more of just a feeling. It was like when you have a crush on a guy that for every practical reason, would make no sense as a life partner. But that gut feeling you have just have being with the person (or in this case, just being in this city) is so undeniably strong that you just know. You just know that this is the place you are meant to be in right now.
One of the first questions I heard from my family and friends when I shared the news that Matt and I were splitting up was, "So, are you going to move back home?" Matt and I had discussed this as one of the many topics on the road to ending our relationship, and we both felt the same. We love this place. It's become home and it may have taken us to have each other to get here, but independently, we have found that Portland is the place we each need to be at this point in our lives. And for me, it may not be forever, but I know in my heart, this is where I need to be right now. This doesn't change the fact that I often wish I could take a train into the city to meet my friends for brunch on the weekend, or tapas and drinks after work and more than anything, I wish I could teleport to one of Emma's soccer games or just to my sister's living room, where I could watch Graham put together a masterpiece made of LEGO's.
But again, sometimes you can't explain why you feel what you feel, or why you do what you do. You just know. I don't know much about where I want my career to go and haven't even begun to do the math on whether I will actually have time to meet someone else, fall in love, potentially get married and potentially have kids (okay, maybe I have... but we're not discussing that now), but I do know one thing. I know that I'm supposed to be here. It's been a long journey even before I arrived but today I celebrate you, Portland. To the start of our third year together....