If You’re Brave Enough to Start

News! I have news.

1). The halibut at that restaurant you’ve been walking by for six months — it’s really very good.

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You aren’t wild about radishes (even thinly sliced, there’s something about that peppery kick), but that’s because you’ve never thought to poach them in butter. Or pair them with glossy green fava beans and a spoonful of springy salsa verde. Notes! You are taking notes.

2). Blue cheese is one of the last loiterers on your list of dislikes now. Take a baby step. Mostly cheddar is mostly good.

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Roelli’s Red Rock might be the most beautiful cheese you’ve ever seen. You watch — another month and you won’t be giving that skinny stripe of blue such a wide berth.

3). The salted caramel cupcake on display across the way, under the aqua-colored awning you’ve seen on a couple of corners now? Bump that right up to the top of the list of things you aren’t going to want to miss.

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4). Ramps are back! All the foodies are excited and you are too but mostly you’re excited about upcoming pesto possibilities and whoever decided to pick up where you left off: and flatbread and bacon and Pecorino and piquillo peppers. And, and, and!

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5). You’ve come so far. So unbelievably far. Look at where you were in September; look at where you are now. You’ve been so brave, re: so many things. If you still don’t feel brave re: relationships, re: putting yourself out there, I’m telling you (better word choice: begging you) not to worry so much. Some days you will feel like a lion and other days you will feel like a mouse. (Too much a mouse.) But however you feel now won’t be the way you feel forever. Take comfort in that — that’s the equivalent of a bear hug from your best friend.

I want to abandon our list, so neat and tidy. I want to ramble now. I want to tell you about the city that does, in fact, have a little studio for someone just starting out. Starting out a little later than planned, but starting out all the same!

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I like to think we all get a couple of starts. I moved to Portland last fall, but it feels like this is the beginning. This is the beginning, now.

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It took a month for me to find a place to live. NYC is not the only city with a tight rental market. I knew this — but I was surprised anyway. When I moved to Manhattan, I had two days and no idea what I was doing. I hired a broker, because that seemed like the way to go, and spent a scorching hot afternoon sprinting around the city, sweating and exchanging increasingly horrified glances with my mom. I picked the least shocking of the ones we’d seen and applied for it. Got it, just seconds before the whole city emptied out for Memorial Day.

I never really considered that apartment to be my first apartment. It was more like a glorified room, for one thing, and I knew going in that it would be temporary. I also couldn’t afford it without help from my parents, so it never really felt like mine.

I ended up looking at a lot of apartments in Portland. Calling a lot of property managers. That’s the way it works, out here. I looked at a range of buildings: some very new, some very old, and some somewhere in between. Not one of them had a window with a screen. (Must be an east coast thing!)

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What surprised me most was how much more I liked the older buildings. I didn’t end up taking a really nice new apartment for two reasons. One, because I wanted to be able to swing it on my own, and two, because those apartments felt too hotel-like. Yes, there is something to be said about a LEED certified building, a fitness room, an accent wall, and an outdoor grilling space…but it felt too sterile. Too expensive. Too snobby.

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That was the kind of apartment I’d dreamed of being able to afford, a few years ago. Very contemporary. Picture Pinterest. West Elm. Schoolhouse Electric.

But in the end, I held out for an apartment in a historic building I fell in love with. It was called the Glenden. I waited and waited for a studio to come available. It had everything I wanted — the built-ins and the hardwood floors, the gas stove and the beautiful bathtub, the creaks and the squeaks, the character and the charm. I called every day for four weeks. I waited until I couldn’t wait anymore, and then I went to look at a place both my co-worker and my yoga teacher had texted me a picture of.

It’s not as cute as the Glenden. (Or the Worthington, or the Carmen.) It’s not as shiny as the Cordelia. But it has good bones, and it’s going to be home. It already feels more like home than anywhere I’ve been in the last five years.

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This landlord doesn’t make my heart skip a beat. But he is quite possibly the sweetest older man I’ve ever met. I told him about the apartment I wanted, the one I’d been told was coming, and he offered to hold the apartment for a week. I called him on Wednesday, and I told him I’d gone over it with my mom, and I really wanted a place I could afford on my own. I was going to risk it and keep waiting for the other (cheaper) apartment to come up. He paused and asked me what my budget was. I named my price, and he said, simply, okay.

Okay, done.

Where I come from, people just don’t do that. They don’t take an hour to sit down and get to know you, if they’re just going to be renting you an apartment. They don’t forget all about the application, the credit check, the personal references, the proof of funds. They don’t hold the apartment for free while you make up your mind. They don’t slash the rent and throw in everything except electric too, just because they got a good read on you and want to see you get off to a good start, in your new city. They don’t offer so much of themselves. They don’t introduce you to your new neighbors when they poke their heads out into the hall. They don’t give your keys a week early so you can start moving your things over ahead of time. They don’t tell you to call anytime, and obviously really mean it. They don’t tell you to stop by, whenever you want or need. They don’t tell you, without telling you, that it’s all going work out.

Maybe I just need to be friends with the 60 and older set. Maybe that’s the key out here.

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“I want to be independent. I want to meet interesting people. New people with clever things to say. Things I’ve never heard before. I want to be free. Open to whatever adventure comes along and sweeps me off my feet.” -Kate Morton

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“You can, you should, and if you’re brave enough to start, you will.” -Stephen King

“Don’t wait for other people to be loving, giving, compassionate, grateful, forgiving, generous or friendly. You lead the way.” -Steve Maraboli

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“I want to know you. You seem like someone worth knowing. Every day I feel like I’m surrounded by people with hard edges and sour faces but I get the sense that you’re different. Too often people seem to think that they have the answers to everything. Their faces are trapped in permascowls and they can’t be bothered with anything besides their own narcissism. You aren’t like that. You still ask questions. You’re still looking for the answers.” -Ryan O’Connell

{Portland via @justin.watts; rays of light via @young.seeker, Trillium Lake via @georgia_explorer, Mount Rainier via @hudson.henry, Natural Bridges Trail via @madeoregon.}

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