Tuesday, July 8, 2014

I moved to a new state

I moved to Portland, Oregon this past June. I have been planning this move since last winter and went through a great adventure to get here. Since arriving, I have been working through changes, adjustment, and thoughts by writing. Below is an honest reflection of my first week in Portland


Thoughts on Moving to a New State

I moved to a new state 10 days ago. I left Santa Cruz, California, the Bay Area, and a family I have never been more than 40 miles away from for Portland, Oregon. It is not an extreme move; there is no culture shock. I have not moved across the country to an uncomfortable and challenging place. The only thing I feel is a lack of security from not having a job, which is a tangible issue that can be fixed and will go away.

I feel nothing else but numbness. I can only describe it as numbness because moving is far too fresh in my memory, taking up space that I could use to think about my emotional state. In my mind I am still moving, I am still on vacation, I am still in a long distance relationship with my special man friend. I am both consciously aware of the changes I am experiencing by way of a new location and stuck in the moment right before I loaded up my car and hugged my mother as she cried.

I want nothing more than to be conscious of the change from numbness to feeling. I want to be someone who is aware of what is happening around them and how it affects them. I do not want to be a cold, distance away watching the days of my new life as they happen to me.

In the past I have survived on the thoughts that rise in the back of my head. They’re eerie and quiet. I try to ignore or hide from them because they were the kind of thoughts that were always right but very difficult, like a wisdom I just couldn’t handle yet; a learning experience I had to go through before I could understand. It took a long time for me to realize that the thoughts in the back of my mind were my own conscious desire to change and not some stranger giving unwanted advice. I had truly been lost to the point of not recognizing my own thoughts.

In a previous relationship, I heard the thoughts in the back of my mind telling me to leave. They gave me goose bumps down my spine as they drifted in and out of my head, telling me that I was being held back, that there was no love anymore. I ignored those thoughts because I thought I knew better. I was in denial of the facts, lost. I would look at him whenever he turned away, staring at the back of his head and think that it was this time. This time he would change. This time he would make an effort. This time he would turn back, filled with apology while the dark circles of depression below his eyes disappeared.

When I began to make the plans to move to Oregon, I waited for and listened to every thought that came to mind. I would wait days before making a decision, before moving forward. I spoke with my boyfriend, friends, family, coworkers, and even my Gyno regarding my decision to move. I wanted every difficult question thrown in my direction so I could see every angle; find anything I may have missed.

Over and over again I answered the same questions: yes, I will miss my family and friends, my routine, my job, the familiarity of knowing every street in Santa Cruz, the bartender that is confused by whiskey slaps, the barista who knows my bagel order, my large and wonderfully well lit and comfortable bedroom, the quiet bus ride to work. There are so many things to miss; it was easy to answer truthfully.

I thought about the questions and answers every day and late into the night as I stared above at the bedroom ceiling glow-in-the-dark stars. It didn’t matter to me how many times I asked or answered, it was always the same and I didn’t feel sad. I made it a point of maddening sureness during those nights that moving would not be something I could talk myself out of.

The plan to move began last autumn after my boyfriend and I decided that we would continue our relationship. Having been together for a few months, we were not entirely sure if we were ready for the pain of long distance. But we talked every day, fell in love, and wanted to see what would happen. In the following winter I decided that I too, would move to Portland. The plan included quitting my job, traveling in Japan, driving to Portland, living with family friends, finding a job, then finding a place to live and build a life with my boyfriend all before next autumn.

It was a very long, slow, and well thought out plan. I gave myself 6 months of planning so I could back out without scrambling if I changed my mind. I could keep my job. I could stay in Santa Cruz.  I could save my future self. I could stay home and safe, not giving myself the opportunity to travel and experience new things.
Though I had given myself ample time and a sense of ownership over my new direction, once the plan began it was a chain reaction of events. I bought a plane ticket to Japan for 20 days, which would require me to quit my job in order to leave for an extensive time. I gave my notice of resignation at work, went to goodbye parties and chatted quietly with coworkers in offices about our jobs without reservation. I moved out of Santa Cruz, placed all of my belongings into a box and shipped it up to Portland. I lived for a week with my family, then bounced around from couch to couch as I said goodbye to my friends. I put my fish in a jar, my best friend in the passenger seat, and drove eleven hours to the door step of my special man friend.

The plan I created to get to Portland may have been ridiculous on all practical matters: I left a secure job with health insurance, spent a good amount of money on travel, and had no future job prospect in mind.  I believed in my plan, was supported by my friends and family, had hope for a new job, and heard no voice in the back of my mind whispering disappointing mistakes. I was above the practicality of the situation in a motion to do something that felt like a good idea.

I am in limbo, filled with confidence and a sense of loss, in reflection of a life decision and a state of numbness I can’t seem to shake. I want to be conscious of change as it happens to me. I want to hold on to the experience and wisdom I have gained, to experience my past from the distance of learning, to own the decisions I make.  However, if I am going to be aware of change that will happen after the numbness has dispersed, I must also be aware of the possibility that I am just on the edge of being lost again, so soon after my arrival to this new state.

I am sure that I will lose and find myself multiple times throughout my life and I hope that each time that happens I become quicker and stronger when doing it.


I'm much less numb 1 month later, looking for a job, and figuring out what I want to do in this new place. And the best part is that I have no regret in doing this. I'm happy and I love living here.

1 comment:

Eric Bablinskas said...

I very much enjoyed reading this. You write like Joan Didion: introspective but with an air of detachment, as if you are watching your feelings go by, like on a train ride watching the scenery move past you. I can only relate so much to what you are saying. I've had it a bit luckier, coming into a program where my job and relationships were secure, but there's this sense of being removed from everything I am experiencing, like I don't actually belong here. At least not yet. I met a woman who said it takes two years for a place to feel like home, when you can confidently call yourself a local. When I moved to St. Louis, the second and third months were the hardest. The excitement wore off, the days got shorter and significantly colder, and I realized that I wasn't on vacation. I don't know what your experience will be, but I do know, that even when you get a job and get settled, you will still have some significant bumps in the road. Try to look at them compassionately. Portland is not the biggest culture shock from Santa Cruz, but it's still a change and it will take time for your body mind and spirit to adjust. Take long walks. Write letters. Write poetry. Cry. Laugh. When you regret your decision, which you will at times, remember that you had the guts to take a risk and were willing to leave behind familiarity so that you could grow.

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