Talk Before Sleep

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.

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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.)

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I looked at the places that seemed the most plausible: Portland, Eugene, and Bend. I picked Portland.

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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.

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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.

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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.)

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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.

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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.

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I went to Crater Lake, felt my jaw drop.

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I went to the mountains, fell in love with snowcapped skylines.

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I drove through the countryside, stopped every two feet for a photo. Another photo. I loved it all. Every place we stopped.

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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.)

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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.

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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.

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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.

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3 thoughts on “Talk Before Sleep

  1. Your story is a very, very familiar story among Portlanders– I’m sure you’ve discovered that. Oregon has a sneaky way of pulling back the cloud curtain for a sneak preview and slamming it closed once the key is in the door. I fell head over heels from the beginning but coming from a very like place that I was most ready to leave. Now I’ve been away for a few years and we are about to make our move back to Oregon, which my heart has yearned for from the moment we stepped out. I’m guessing you will find your mutual love, even if it’s after you eventually move on, but I hope before that.

    • Aww thanks for stopping by and commenting, Kelly! It’s so nice to hear that a). This kind of a beginning isn’t all that uncommon, and b). You’re on your way back to a place you love. I think I’ll be sticking around — but I might think about some of the less flashy places. Wish you all the best!

      • One sentence I wrote and deleted was: “hint: Portland is not the Oregon I fell in love with.” I love Portland for visiting, and I enjoyed plenty about living there (in SE) but Oregon is much beyond the ultra-hip trendiness of Oregon. I hope you find your love.

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