One Year in Portland

A few weeks ago marked the end of my first year in Portland.

And as anniversaries often do, this realization put me in a reflective mood, considering what I’ve managed to do in my year in Portland.

Personally, my first few months back west were tumultuous. I went through a weird, open-ended break up, I left most of my friends from the recent years, and suddenly, and rather shockingly, I was back living with my parents after not doing so for 7 years. I had no real goals other than “find a job that makes me happy,” which after enough time turned into “find a flipping job you lazy, useless idiot.” My therapist told me the latter was not a great approach, but I think everyone in the midst of a job-search reaches this moment.

But honestly, my months of unemployment, on the occasion I wasn’t stressed about re-employment, were wonderful. I took a class thus fulfilling my want to become a forever-student. I learned to draw like a designer and practiced, practiced, practiced. I got an amazingly energetic puppy who helped force me out of bed on days that life seemed especially bleak. I was tutoring again. And, once some boundaries were outlined with my parents, having them as roommates was actually pretty great most of the time. I had plenty of time to train and eat properly which led to my cutting almost a minute off my average mile, and running my fastest mile ever under 8 minutes. Basically, I had all the time to do exactly what I wanted and had to spend no time doing what I didn’t want (read, go to an office and sit in front of a computer for 8 hours a day, 5 days a week). With all of that going on I also met an awesome man, and it’s a good thing I was unemployed at the time, because his 80 hour a week work schedule was certainly something to work around.

Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end, and as an adult who wanted to keep my status as adult, I knew eventually I’d have to find a job that could sustain me again. My version of sustaining meant being able to move out of my parents’ house – ie afford my own rent.

At the end of October, five months after moving back to Oregon, I started working. When I got the offer earlier that month, I was weary. It all felt a little too similar to the situation I had just left. But I also knew a few things: the offer was good, the company was smaller, and it should potentially be easier to find a job from an employment status. I accepted the offer somewhat apprehensively and tried to remain positive.

In the following months, I wound down from my marathon training, found a roommate and apartment in the city, met my partner’s family, started lifting heavy things, moved myself and Milo into the city, cut my commute drastically, stopped lifting heavy things, and started questioning a lot of my motivators. I was dealt my annual sag into winter-time depression (one that even Portland locals complained about this year), discussed the options of intermittent paid leave to protect my job, and eventually started looking for work again.

At times, I feel like I have gotten almost nowhere this past year – I’m still struggling with my weight, I’m still struggling with my relationship with food, I’m still struggling with my self-esteem, I’m still looking for happiness at work, I’m still looking for friends. But the truth is, a lot has changed.

The most obvious change is my relationship status. I’m still with the man I met ten months ago. Though this is the longest relationship I’ve been in, it’s unique in other ways as well. I actually talk to him when something is bothering me. I share my fears and concerns with him. I share my ideas for the future with him. I try to help motivate him and keep him going, and he does the same for me. My relationship looks nothing like a rom-com, and that’s exactly how it should be (PS this is something I totally resent sometimes, but thankfully, around those times something happens that feels rom-comie enough to get me over the stupid hump).

But there are other changes too. While it’s true I’m still struggling with self-love and my relationships to food and exercise, my goals have changed. Instead of aiming for thinness or fitness, I’m aiming for health. Firstly, a healthy relationship with food. Secondly, a healthy relationship with exercise. What does that mean? Mostly a change in motivation. And it’s hard. It’s hard not to consider certain foods bad and other foods good. It’s hard, for the first time in fifteen years, to let myself eat whatever I want in the hopes of fixing my brain. It’s hard not to stop to look in the mirror and dread the weight-gain and hate myself a little. It’s hard, but I know it’ll be worth it in the end. I know I will come out of this able to live my life more freely and happily and easily. And that hopefully I won’t pass this on to my children if I ever choose to have any.

And as for work and friends. I’m just trying not to live my life  out of convenience. I’m trying not to go through life asleep. I’m trying to make decisions that are right for me, even when they’re scary, and they’re almost always scary. When something makes me unhappy I try to change it instead of just accepting it as the way of life. It’s hard. It’s scary. I’m always worried that I’m going to hurt someone’s feelings or gain someone’s wrath. But then I just have to shrug it off.

I’d say the biggest change for me is that I’m learning that what I want out of life might be different than what my family, friends, and loved ones want from life. And, more importantly, I’m learning that that’s totally ok. That doesn’t make my wants any less valuable or acceptable or correct or true or ok. It just makes them different which means that means that my path will look different from theirs and that’s something I have to remember when I’m making those scary decisions that I’m bound to have to make.


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