Saturday, October 20, 2012

leaving things behind

When I first decided to move back to Portland, I had nothing but resolve. There was no queasiness about leaving, no inhibitions about what waited for me on the other side of the door, just happiness, light, and a great excitement tumbling through me: I was going home.

Growing up in Eugene would be hard to define to anyone, most of all to someone who’s never lived in a small town. Not just any small town, mind you. A small town replete with a nuclear-free zone, attorneys who might be mistook for hippies, public marketplaces, community gardens, and a town full of adults who spoke to a 14-year old girl like she was an adult. And around us all was the green, green, green of that fair town. A small town, a University town, filled to bursting through the school months with lively, bustling young students. From football to basketball, the town moves and breathes with the school.

Moving away from all of that- that was the hard part. Getting plunked down in the middle of high school in a small town in the Midwest alternately infuriated me and puzzled me, leaving me saddened and confused. I didn’t understand the way the students in my town breathed or moved. I didn’t get their inside jokes, and I wasn’t included in their long-ago formed cliques. I often eschewed early morning or late afternoon classes in favor of driving around with my friends. (“Were you ever there?” my mom recently asked me. “As little as possible,” I replied.)

Because for the most part, the other students laughed at my designer jeans (“Guess?” Guess who?”), didn’t understand my sarcastic jokes and much of the time, I felt like an alien from a strange planet.

It was hard.

But over the years, I found my niche. With the exception of a few close friends, I hated high school, but I loved college, and my work after graduation intrigued me. I made friends, business contacts, moved an hour south and got to know the large city like the back of my hand. At some point, without even realizing it, I began to love my life.

Except…except.

Every so often I would remember that green city. That tiny microcosm of people, moving and breathing without me.  I missed them.

I used to cry a lot. Without much reason and without much to-do, I’d find myself moved to tears by a cheerless story on the news, a tender moment in a movie, or in deep conversation with the friends of my heart. I tried to explain myself after one sobbing session to one heart friend, saying, I have no idea why I’m crying, really. I guess I’m just too sensitive. My emotions rest right on my skin you know, I said, laughing it off.

“You’re unhappy because you’re not where you’re supposed to be,”
she told me sadly.

And she was right. I missed Oregon. I missed my family, long since relegated to annual visits. I missed seeing the little faces, now grown, shining up at me from the dinner table. I missed long walks on a deserted beach, wandering through art and crafts-filled stalls on a rainy Saturday, and fountains that gushed water every day of the year.

In the end, the decision to move back was easy. I set a deadline for myself, to become self-employed and to move back, this time to Portland, within three years. And in the 12th month of that third year, I packed up the last of my belongings and headed west.

Sometimes, I miss my friends. There aren’t many left in that small town in the Midwest- so many of the friends of my heart flew the coop as soon as they had the chance. Some never did leave. I think about them, moving and breathing without me, and I wish them well. I hope to see them again, one fine day.

In the four years since I returned to Oregon, I’ve had my share of ups and downs. There isn’t, I don’t think, ever a time where I’ll look around me and say “Yes, this is right. Yes, this is where I am meant to be and what I am meant to be doing.”

It isn’t always that easy.

But I don’t cry at the drop of a hat anymore. I think…I think I found myself again, here amongst the green, green trees and the gentle rain. The other day, someone even called out to me in a way I haven’t heard in a long, long time: “Hello, sunshine!” And it’s true: Despite the looming, gloomy rain of the winter season in the Pacific Northwest, I’m sunny again. My laugh bubbles over at every opportunity and I’ve even found myself laughing uncontrollably as of late. It’s a sign, I think. A sign that I made the right move.

It feels good.

It feels right.

I’ve written a lot about taking leaps. About being true to myself and following my muse. Taking steps to improve myself and my relationships. And I am still learning. I won’t try to fool myself about that. But one thing I have learned and I know to be true: When you are where you’re supposed to be, you’ll be happy.

It’s as simple as that.