One Year Later
Focus on the road. No matter what happens, you’ll be okay. You can always turn around and drive back home. These are the things you tell yourself when you’re alone in your car on the open road, attempting to justify your decision to drive across the country and move to a city you’ve never even seen before. You repeat these phrases over and over in your mind until it becomes a sort of mantra that keeps you from falling apart. Everyone told me how brave I was to embark on such a risky adventure. I had no job, no connections, and no place to live. I was crossing a 2900 mile bridge with nothing but uncertainty on the other side. This journey may have made me seem brave, but I sure didn’t feel it at the time. My first night away from my hometown, I broke down and cried. I cried because I was willingly driving away from the home I’d known my entire life with no intention of turning back.
What happens when you spend 55 hours alone in a car? You change. You change so severely and quickly that when you finally reach your destination, you barely even recognize yourself. You begin to feel at home on the road, living out of your car and waking up every morning in a new state. You learn how to channel your fear into forward motion. You allow yourself to be transient and adaptable to change. And then you start to wonder why. Why did I decide to do this in the first place? How does one reach the point where they’re willing to risk it all for little more than the hope of something better on the other side? Was I tired? Was I bored? Was I fed up with the safety and security of my tiny hometown? Or were the two and a half years I spent living in my parents house and working for the family business just my way of biding my time until I stumbled upon my Next Big Thing? I’ve made it a year into my new life in Portland and I’m still unsure of how I even got here. Nonetheless, I’m so thankful that for even a brief moment, I was a person who was brave enough to take such a life changing leap.
The last twelve months have been strange and wonderful and, at times, rather trying. Before I left New York, I was building a life and putting down roots without even realizing what I was doing, but then I moved to Portland and suddenly, I had to start all over again. At first, it was hard; I was lost and lonely and I often questioned my decision to come here in the first place. But with time and persistence, I was lucky enough to encounter some of the most wonderful people. And now, I can't imagine them not being in my life in some way or another. If I've learned anything from my time here thus far, it's been to value human connection in a way I never did before because when you're 3,000 miles away from everything you've ever known, you begin to realize that what makes a place a home isn't the place itself. It's the people. The experiences. The memories. A city is just a city unless you choose to make it your home.
Lately, I've become painfully aware of how much this place has changed me. Despite the setbacks and heartbreak and confusion, I am more at home with myself than I've ever been. I have grown into a strong and resilient woman who isn't afraid to walk through the world on her own. I have learned how to open my heart and let people in, even when every fiber of my being is begging me not to for fear of being hurt. And for all of this, I am incredibly proud. This is not the person I used to be, and that's okay. But I like who I'm becoming now. When I made the decision to move this way, I went into it with the expectation that I'd stick it out for a year, hate it, and go back home. I didn't expect to fall in love with this city in the way that I did. I didn't expect to call this place home.
Still, I have countless places to experience and cities to live in before I consider myself ready to put down roots. But no matter where I go or who I meet along the way, Portland will always call me back. To all of the people who have made my time here unforgettable, thank you for existing and for letting me into your lives. It wouldn't be home without you.