On September 1st, 2007 I got on an airplane in El Paso, TX and flew all the way to Portland, OR. I was leaving my home, to make a new one in a new place knowing only one person. I had never really left my hometown of Las Cruces, NM besides going on trips to see my grandfather in California, taking some road trips with friends, or a few trips to Tennessee to see *NSYNC and hang with my friends. So, packing up my entire life and leaving my family and my friends wasn’t an easy decision, but it also wasn’t a hard one either. I celebrated my 10-year anniversary of living in Portland as well as my 10-year anniversary at the same job , so it’s got me feeling a bit nostalgic and thinking about these last ten years. Did I make the right decision? Have I become someone I truly like? Have I made good on the promises I made to myself?
When the idea was planted in my head that I should move, it didn’t take a lot of convincing. However, it happened rapidly and on Father’s Day, as my dad, sister and stepmother combined forces to talk to me about figuring out my life. I don’t think it was planned, but it worked, somehow. They wanted me to see more outside of New Mexico, and I was so angry and was having a hard time at my job, and I knew I would never be more than what I was while I was there. My family basically said: hey, you know one person in Portland, why don’t you go up there and see if you can’t make it too? I told them they were crazy, and I couldn’t possibly leave Las Cruces, but they kept telling me I could. So, I made up my mind, and plans began to form. It all happened so fast. By mid-July, I had put in my notice at work, by the middle of August, I was packing up my home, and began saying goodbye to so many people. Goodbyes are the worst, and saying goodbye to the people who I grew up with, who helped shape me, my family, was really hard. But, I did it. My dad likes to tell the story of how I left them at the airport and didn’t even look back as I went up the escalator. I was ready.
I wish I could say that the move was smooth sailing and I handled it all like a pro, but the truth is, I didn’t. I crashed with my best friend for a month, and I felt so weird the whole time. It was like I had lost limbs, and couldn’t remember what I had done with them. I missed my parents and my sister so much it physically hurt. And, I can’t even talk about missing my friends because that was, really, awful. But, within the first two weeks of moving, I’d attained a job that paid more than I had ever made in Las Cruces, and I got my own apartment down the street from my best friend. I had never lived on my own, and that was, actually, pretty fantastic. Unfortunately, the apartment had two windows that faced a brick wall, so I got no natural light therefore darkening my life even more than going outside to face yet another rainy and cloudy day.
Trust me, I thought I loved rain, and then I moved to Portland where all it does is rain, and I got over that real quick.
That first year was really hard. The job I had was demanding, and I worked really long hours. I was working in a field I had no knowledge about, and working with people that I couldn’t understand. I used to have a mouth on me, and I would mouth off a lot if people made me mad, and I couldn’t do that at my new job. It’s called being professional, and I had to learn how to do that. My apartment was pretty gross, and my neighbors were awful.
Also, I spent a great deal of time alone, and roaming the streets of Portland, and drinking a lot of beer. But, I think, looking back on that now, I see there were some really great things about that first year too: I gained an independence I didn’t even know I could have. I learned how to date myself, and do things I really want to do without having to wait on people. I learned how to use the transportation in the city, and I was learning to enjoy the little things like having my own coffee maker (RIP COFFEE—we will meet again someday!) and watching all the DVD’s the Hollywood Video across the street had to offer. There were also really fun nights with my best friend, which led to regrettable mornings afterwards and the taste of the previous nights bad decisions in my mouth. So, as sad as I was, and I really was sad, I can see the good things peeking through too.
I was learning to enjoy the little things like having my own coffee maker...
I ended up moving in with my best friend in an amazing apartment in the Northeast part of Portland, and I still live in the area. Those three years we spent in that apartment were hard, but also, there was a lot of fun being had. However, my depression really took hold there, and I became pretty needy. Also, that job I had was still really stressful, so that was difficult. But, the people I worked with were incredible, and I felt very taken care of. I guess when you work with doctors, it’s probably good to feel taken care of, right? I wish I could say that I became even more independent during this time, and I think on some levels I was, but overall, I was just sad a lot. I was going through a lot physically (cue eating disorder and over-exercise) and mentally, it was all very taxing. But, again, there were some amazing things that began happening too: I found my people.
Making friends as you get older is extremely difficult. If you’re not in school, whom do you talk to? How do you make friends? It started with my job, really. I say this often, but all it takes is one person to become your friend to get the ball rolling. I had never really had to make friends before because I’d lived in Las Cruces for so long, it just sort of seemed natural to flow in and out of friends groups. But, living in Portland really forced me to try, which was really hard. Inevitably, I did find my group, and they are a fantastic force to be reckoned with. What I love about the Portland family is how different they all are, and how each of them is a part of me in a certain way. And, it’s been nice to be able to mix those groups together sometimes, and see that everyone can co-exist. Also, I’ve made friends who were around for a short time, but that doesn’t mean they are any less important in my time here. Through some of them, I found strength, and support and will forever be grateful, even if I don’t see these people as often as I once did.
I’ve tried on a lot of different hats in the last 10 years, and have really tried to figure out who I am. I’m not sure if I’m any closer to that goal, but I’m so grateful to be in a place where I can do that. I’ve sought out my religious identity, and have met some incredible people along that journey. It’s, also, a journey I’m still on, and still trying to decide what is best for me, but that’s what’s great about life, I guess. I’ve also found I have a deep desire to be in Women’s Health, and am actively pursuing my certification to become a Labor Doula. I work with OBGYN’s all day, so I’m assuming some of that had to rub off on me eventually. But, I don’t know that this is something I would’ve ever tried back in Las Cruces. I think I would’ve been too comfortable in my bubble, and it would’ve been too easy to just stay home. But, I do see the benefit of pulling up stakes from my hometown and trying to root myself some place different. 10 years ago I didn’t see my life like this, but looking back, I think I was headed here anyway.
I don’t know if Portland is my forever home, but it will always be a home for me. It’s changing, and pricing us all out, and pushing us further out than we would like, but sometimes, I get these remembrances of the way the air felt those first weeks here, and it hits me like a punch in the gut: this is the life I chose. I came here with two bags, a whole body full of insecurity, no job and some sort of dream to do something with my life. I look back on the family I’ve created here, and the life I lead, and though it took me a while, I see it now. I’m an independent woman, and if I get nothing else from leaving my hometown, I think I’m okay with this.
People used to tell me I was really brave for moving. I guess I can see that, but at the time, I just thought, it’s not that big of a deal. But, leaving family and friends is very hard. The wonderful thing about this time in life is how much technology helps to keep people together. My old friends who don’t live here are still just a click away, and there’s so many text conversations to be had. My mother sends text messages, and I’ll even get the rare one from my dad as well (but hey, I still talk to both of them on Sundays!), and my sister and I are in constant communication. You can do the things you’ve always wanted, and you can make a life some place different. It’s not easy, and it doesn’t always work, but sometimes, you end up in the right place at the right time. I think I did.
Happy anniversary, Portland.