Monday, November 28, 2011

Life Lessons and Little Earthquakes

In 1994 I moved to Portland, Oregon the first time. One day I just decided I needed a change and that I was moving to Portland, OR, a city I had never been to and knew not a soul. I packed up what I could of my belongings into the gold "86 Volkswagen Jetta I bought specifically for the purpose of driving 2000 miles and gave my white "72 Volkswagen Bug to my younger brother to do with what he wanted. I asked my my mom to take care of my beloved beagle, Rio, until I could find housing that allowed pets and then I drove to my new chosen city. I had been working at Sally Beauty Supply and transferred to a store in Clackamas, so at least I was going with a job even if I didn't have anything else.  

I lived in a hotel for the first week or so until I could find an apartment. I looked at several apartments and most of them were a bit depressing and left me feeling a little despondent about options in my price range. The real-estate guy showing me apartments did have one apartment he thought I might like. He said it was in a trendy part of Portland, but that it was a little above what I said my price range was. I remember walking up the narrow steps to the second floor apartment and looking at the #7 on the door and feeling a strong sense of déjà vu. I just knew this was the apartment I was going to live in. The agent bent over backwards to make things work on paper so I could get the place. He was wonderful and it worked out.

I had no furniture therefore I slept on the floor for the first week. Armed with a credit card I went to a mattress store I drove by every day on my way to work and made a much needed purchase. It was a queen sized mattress and box spring and it took up pretty much the whole room that I used as my bedroom.  It was the only room with a heat source so I could close the door and heat only that room. There was a back room that was more like a sun room that could have been used as a bedroom but it was much too cold for my liking.

I felt homesick...very homesick. I missed my dog who I was used to having sleep beside me every night. I missed knowing where I was going when I was driving. I missed having anything that was familiar around me. I missed my friends. I missed my family. I cried a lot and I cried often. I felt so lonely and sad. On my days off it wasn't uncommon that I would spend the whole day in bed sleeping.

I ended up hating my manager at the new store which led me to looking into changing my life yet again. Years before I had looked into Northwest Nannies in Portland, but at the time, living in Missouri, it didn't feel very realistic. But years later and now living in the same city, I decided to look into the agency to see what I could make happen. I ended up quitting my job and starting nanny school. I did a little work with the temp agency but mostly lived off my student loans. They crammed a lot of information in a short amount of time on their students.  We had piles of homework and I felt overwhelmed with school and trying to survive at the same time. I think I had a mini breakdown about every one of the 9 months I attended that school. I was an emotional wreck.

My saving grace was my friend, Nina, who was a classmate and lived with me for a short time. Having Nina by my side, I felt more comfortable getting out and exploring my awesome neighborhood in Northwest Portland around the 23rd and 21st Ave area. Our daily ritual was going for a slice of Escape From New York Pizza, grabbing a latté from Starbucks "to go" and wandering the neighborhood and talking our brains out. It was what kept me sane.  

Along the way I met a few freaks and a few really amazing people. Unfortunately the freaks outnumbered the amazing people. lol People around here take the local motto "Keep Portland Weird" very seriously. lol The winter rains wore on me and I felt really over the rain. My graduation date neared and I felt the urge to run away and try someplace new. I always do when I come to the end of something and I don't really know why. The jobs I interviewed for were mostly on the East coast, but the job I wound up taking in the end was in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

I was running out of my student loan money and was starting to panic and stress. I made arrangements with my brother that he would come out to Oregon and help me move back to Missouri for a couple months before my job in Michigan started.

Spring in Portland is magical! Seriously. It is so beautiful with all the flowering trees.  It often felt surreal walking down the side walks with the flower petals fluttering down and all the lovely scents that fill the air. Then two weeks before I was due to move away and all my plans were in place, I met an amazing guy who I dated for the two weeks I had left. It was so unexpected to meet someone I really liked who actually liked me back. But I was leaving and I told myself that I should just enjoy the moment and not worry about anything else and that is what I did. It was a really great two weeks.

My brother turned up to help me move my things and part of me was screaming on the inside, "Don't leave!  Don't do this!  It is a mistake!". I didn't listen. I carried on because, after all, my brother had inconvenienced himself and surely I had to do the responsible thing and follow through. As I put all of my stuff in the U-Haul trailer my apartment called to me saying, "Please don't go! We belong together!" Being the rational person I was I told my apartment I couldn't stay because I had already given her up and couldn't afford to pay for her anymore. I was being responsible.  

Driving down the road every fiber of my being was screaming, "Don't go! You are making the biggest mistake of your life! Just turn around and go back NOW!!" And my response to that voice was, "I can't.  I have to do the responsible thing. I have made agreements and I can't back out now." We carried on driving down the road and that is when I started crying on the inside which eventually led to me crying on the outside...a lot. I left my heart in Portland and a piece of my soul.

I went into a kind of mourning, I think. I never stopped missing Portland. Perhaps it was more than just the city I missed. In fact, I know now it was much more than the city I missed, but it was the city I fixated on. I pined away for my old apartment and my old neighborhood. I missed the mountains, the trees, the moss, the magical springs...and I even missed the rain.

For 10 years I missed Portland...until I moved back. :) I love Portland! God, it feels so good to be back. I've been back for 6 years and I still love it here.  Does that make me an Oregonian yet?

I have spent a lot of time reflecting on that time period and asking myself why it was I didn't listen to that inner voice that was screaming to me to stay. I should have stayed. I know that now. What I have learned from my mistake from so long ago is that sometimes the things that might be the best for us aren't always going to be considered "responsible". I shouldn't follow through with something for the sole reason that I feel obligated or that it is the easier thing to do. Sometimes the best experiences in life are messy, sometimes they are complicated, sometimes they create a series of little earthquakes...but they are so worth it and help us grow and become better people.

I think I have come to a point in my life where I am ready to put that life lesson into action and actually live it.