I was careful, when I picked Oregon. I was so careful. I liberated the library of every even tangentially related book. I spent more time than you want to know Google-imaging. Dreaming, planning.
I saved up and visited, twice. The first time the sun never came out. (I was pleased to report my newly purchased Hunters had paid for themselves.) The second time I don’t remember seeing a single cloud. I wished for sunglasses, during that trip. (Aviators, and the face to go with them.)
I looked at the places that seemed the most plausible: Portland, Eugene, and Bend. I picked Portland.
It was so easy to picture myself there: working in the pretty Pearl District, walking home to a brightly lit one-bedroom in the Northwest. I’d escape to the gorge on weekends, I’d never run out of coffee shops to try during the week.
I’d be able to squeeze in a few arty, eclectic years in Hawthorne or Belmont, if I wanted. Someday I’d settle in so-cute Sellwood, but Seattle wouldn’t ever be very far, if I started feeling twitchy. It all seemed so….doable. Possible. Not perfect, but pretty close. As close as I was likely to find, anyway.
Let me just say: the too-good-to-be-true feeling tapped me on the shoulder, too. I recognized it, even welcomed it. Truthfully, I think I may have even turned to face its touch. It had been so long.
I wanted to hope — just not too much. And so I set out to stretch my column of cons: I asked the locals to tell me about all of the things they weren’t wild about. I took notes, for heaven’s sake. And then I asked all the other questions I thought I should ask. About the job market, the cost of living. (The way of living, too.) I even asked about the rain.
(As it turns out, there’s a perk to living in a place with a notoriously ominous amount of annual rainfall. Waterfalls! Lots and lots of waterfalls.)
I was hooked. Hook, line, and sinker. But I was determined: I would not move without both eyes wide open. I would be intelligent, this time. I’d been uncharacteristically reckless, when I’d picked NYC. Actually, I’d never picked NYC — Food52 had picked me. (And I’d all but shouted: YES, ONBOARD, I LOVE CITIES!)
We’ll get into City v. Country another day, but Portland felt like it would be a nice compromise.
Still, I wanted to be sure about Oregon at large, too. So I went to the coast. Found it unlike any coast I’d ever seen.
I went to Crater Lake, felt my jaw drop.
I went to the mountains, fell in love with snowcapped skylines.
I drove through the countryside, stopped every two feet for a photo. Another photo. I loved it all. Every place we stopped.
So I did it: I moved. I moved clear across the country, to a place I didn’t know but desperately wanted to know.
Was I blindly optimistic about jobs, about friends? Yes. Yes, I was. Did I have any real clue how hard it would be? No. No, I did not.
I did it without knowing that I would get sick, in the process. I did it without knowing that I would wake up every day for 3 months, wondering where I was and how the hell I could get myself home. (I did think about going home. Very seriously. Up until about last week, I clung to the idea of going home.)
Mostly, I moved without knowing I had had no concept of what it feels like to be alone. Or maybe that’s not quite right: maybe I moved without any real understanding of what it feels like to fail.
If I had known — if I had known how much I was going to rattle my already fragile sense of self, if I had known how silent my world was going to go, if I had known how I would cope — I don’t know that I would have done it.
It is not all better, but it is better. We are getting acquainted, Oregon and I. For real, this time. All of a sudden there is an exit on the highway, and it’s my exit. There is a familiar tree, just ahead, around the corner, and it might as well be a traffic cop, telling me which way to go. I can find my way home.
And if sometimes it doesn’t feel that way — if sometimes it feels distinctly like ACTUALLY THIS IS NOT HOME AND I AM NEVER GOING TO FIND A BOYFRIEND OR A JOB OR A FRIEND OR A PURPOSE OR ANYTHING EVER — I wake up slightly more convinced that I might feel differently tomorrow.