Four Dollars and Change

There is far too much beauty in the world to keep our eyes fixed on the ground we walk. Agree?

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I agree mostly. I agree except for when it’s raining cherry blossoms, and it’s difficult to go more than three feet without disturbing another pile of pink.

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This place! This place is so pretty. I no longer bother to pluck the stray petals from my hair.

I hate to admit this, but that street (21st street) is one of the only streets I’ve really gotten to know.

I know, I know. We’re talking about my new city no longer so new. It’s time I took a bigger look around.

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(Particularly now that I’ve committed. Or am committing, providing I ever find a place to live.)

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I did a lot of looking around when I first got here. When it was relatively easy to pack a lunch, stuff a raincoat under the front seat, and get out to the gorge/the mountain/the coast. I say “relatively” because I’m terrible at directions. You know this; we talked about this last week.

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Anyway — the road to the gorge, the road to the mountain, or the road to the coast — you take your pick.

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They all lead to places I like. Places where the world goes kind of quiet, save for the sounds I’ve always thought the everyday does much too good of a job drowning out.

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But the fact that some of Oregon’s postcard-perfect places aren’t as accessible as they once were does not mean that there isn’t anything left for me to see. There is so much left to see, and be seen, right here in Portland. Yes? Yes.

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It’s true that I don’t have a built-in buddy to adventure with anymore. But I didn’t have one of those in Manhattan either, for what felt like the longest time, and I made out just fine. I made friends by writing (half of the reason I’m afraid to give this up), and then by going places and doing things. It was impossibly hard and then impossibly easy.

I don’t know why it feels so much more intimidating this time around. (Is it the streetcar? It could be the streetcar.) Maybe I’m still rallying myself; maybe I’m just beginning to feel ready. But yikes. Sometimes it feels like all I can do to smile at someone first. Tentatively introduce myself, take the tiniest step.

I want to, though. I’m beginning to want to. It’s the fourth weekend in a row I don’t feel content to spend most of Saturday at a corner table in a coffee shop.

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I used to love coffee shops because for $4 + change, you could be alone but not alone. You know what I mean, right? Sometimes you want to be alone-alone, and sometimes you want to be mostly silent but still around other people. And — although I’m less familiar with this one — sometimes you want to be around other people and you want to interact with them. Sometimes you want this very much.

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I guess what I’d like is more of a balance. Not quite so much time alone. Not quite so much time spent absorbed in my own thoughts. It would be nice to take a break from being the beekeeper to all of the humming in my head. It would be nice to get away for a little while.

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What I’d really like is to get completely caught up in what somebody else is thinking. What somebody else has to say. All of a sudden, I don’t want to be the one typing away on a MacBook Air, oblivious to the world. Frowning occasionally. I want to be the one checking the clock a touch too often, the one nervously chewing her bottom lip, the one texting her friend remind me why I agreed to this?!?!

I read something recently that stuck with me. The long and short of it was that life is not a spectator sport. I don’t want to be someone who is content to just observe. I am not content, to just observe. This would account for some of the recent restlessness, I think.

These small, delicate sips I’ve been taking of all of the bitter/sweet? They aren’t enough. They aren’t nearly enough.

“You’ve got to invest in the world, you’ve got to read, you’ve got to go to art galleries, you’ve got to find out the names of plants. You’ve got to start to love the world and know about the whole genius of the human race. We’re amazing people.” -Vivienne Westwood

{SE Portland street via @extracelestial, twisty Gorge road via @chriskerksieck, Oregon coast via @samantharosen5, Portland at night via @justin.watts, dream home via @alexstrohl}

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4 thoughts on “Four Dollars and Change

  1. The corner at that particular coffee shop is especially pleasant, so no one can blame you for being there. But I know what you mean. In fact…

    I can’t say I’ve had the pleasure (or pain) of living in a new city—though I’d like to—but there seems to be something about Portland that makes it harder than other cities to find your people. Just past the Abbey Bar, there’s a coffee shop called Coffee Time that’s been around forever. Used to be owned by a woman in her late twenties who moved to Portland from San Diego. She had a really hard time fitting in. So hard, in fact, that she sold the business after a year or two and moved back. It’s the same story with this girl from NYC: http://www.slate.com/articles/health_and_science/medical_examiner/2013/08/dangers_of_loneliness_social_isolation_is_deadlier_than_obesity.html

    But hey, it isn’t all bad news. Next time I see you in that especially pleasant coffee shop, I’ll make a point to say hello.

    • Sitting here re-reading your last sentence, and I’ve decided I can say: no, it is most definitely not all bad news. P.S. I really liked that article. (And not just because I can identify with her major reason for leaving NYC.) Up until very recently, my experience in Portland has mirrored hers. It’s strange, because there doesn’t seem to be a shortage of friendly people here — you’d think the odds of really hitting it off with a few people would be good, given enough time. But I’m finding there’s a big difference between someone you’d be happy to chat with while you’re waiting in line and someone you’d like to spend whole afternoons with. I have the feeling the girl in the article would rather skip the small talk and head straight for the good stuff, and I’m that way too. I’m beginning to think it’s a nice way to be, but it does make it harder not to walk away feeling slightly hollow when yet another conversation only skims the surface.

      It’s funny the article gets into the social media paradox at the end — I actually deleted my Facebook shortly after I arrived in Portland because I realized it was only making me feel lonelier. But on the flip side, I met some of my very closest friends in New York through my blog, so like the author, I don’t think it’s all bad. I don’t think it’s a bad start, anyway. I’m really candid on here because even though it’s hard/embarrassing/possibly unwise to admit certain things, I really do believe you up your chances of making a deeper connection when you aren’t wildly busy trying to convince everyone you’re 100% fulfilled and everything is wonderful.

      That said, I didn’t realize how much harder it would be to move to a place with no network at all — no family, no friends of friends. I hadn’t realized how grounding it is to just be around people who KNOW you. Who have known you throughout various phases of your life. You lose that physical comfort when you move a long way away. I’ve also been surprised by how few people I see walking around alone here. In New York it seemed like there were more people alone than there were together.

      P.P.S. I like that you’d give some thought to how an outsider might feel, even though you’ve been around for a while (and have presumably found your people).

      • One of my favorites: I start on 21st or 23rd and head south. There’s something I like about heading in that direction. I’ll go past Burnside and swing left on Morrison, then walk all the way to the Park blocks. Sometimes I turn south again and loop around PSU. To head home, I follow the Park blocks north all the way into the Pearl District, past that basketball court that was in the movie What the Bleep Do We Know?!? Sometimes I’ll walk toward Powell’s and spend an hour thumbing through shelves. Other times, I keep going north until Union Station, then turn west and head home. It’s a solid two hours and you see almost everything on the west side.

        Reaching out to others in this way, online, is a totally new experience for me, so it’s interesting to hear that some of your closest NYC friends you met through your blog. This is a great way to do it. There are things that can be said with ease when you have the time and the space to compose the message thoughtfully. I know that when I try to have those meat-and-potatoes conversations, I sometimes get stuck trying to articulate an idea that is hard to capture in words, let alone when you’re improvising on the spot.

        For my part, I might as well have moved to a new city a few years back, when I finished college. The only people I knew here were my folks—granted, that makes a huge difference. Branching out has been a challenge, and I think people are a little more guarded or distracted the later they get in their 20s. That’s OK—there’s usually one or two people I find that I connect with, and it makes it that much better when it happens.

      • I think you already know about my stellar sense of direction…but seriously, I’m surprised we haven’t bumped into each other more often. You described my Saturday afternoon okay-time-get-out-in-the-world walk almost exactly. The only difference: sometimes I make a detour to the rose garden and wander up to the arboretum. And I’ve never thought to include Union Station in the loop. I have seen it from the highway and wondered about all those trains, though. Where they go and who uses them and for what reasons. You mentioned Powell’s — now I’m also curious about what kinds of books you like to read. (And which section I’d find you in.)

        I hear what you’re saying about it being more challenging to answer carefully/somewhere close to semi-eloquently in person. I think that’s the really nice part about finally getting to know someone — you get to take the pauses you need, whenever you need them.

        I wonder what made you want to leave Eugene after school. It’s both encouraging and discouraging to hear you haven’t had an especially easy go of it here either (if that makes sense), but I’m really glad to hear you have family nearby. There is a lot to be said about that. I also think you nailed it here: “people are a little more guarded or distracted the later they get in their 20s.”

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