I just spent nearly six weeks in my home state of Colorado.
I woke up many mornings to my 3-year-old nephew climbing into my bed telling me that the sun was out and it was time to get up and get ready for the day – well, after building blocks and knocking them down or pretending we were ninjas . . .
I held the two tiny hands of my 1-year-old niece hoping she would walk on her own in the time I was there.
I had lunch with my grandmother and coffee with friends.
I worked, I played.
I spent a week in the mountains watching the Aspen’s turn and discovering new places and feeding the mountain-hungry part of my soul.
I went out to dinner with my mom and talked about life and dreams and love and drove her home after one incredibly strong martini.
I turned in my last college paper while I was there, officially completing a goal I have had for 28 years.
I got two of the most significant writing jobs I have ever gotten and am plugging away at making them successful steps in my chosen career.
I finished my (extended) time in Colorado feeling triumphant, confident, complete and excited about the wellspring of things happening in my life. I boarded a plane at DIA with just a tiny bit of tears because I always miss the people I have to leave, but I left also with anticipation for returning to where I currently live – Portland, Oregon.
Two nights ago my plane landed late and I dropped myself into bed. My room was the same as I had left it six weeks earlier. My messy dresser drawers still the same mess from packing for a trip that would span two seasons. My bed linens the same as I had left them in the heat of the summer, even though Fall is sneaking its way in. The furniture arranged the same, the same things shoved under the bed, the same pile of boots in the closet.
After six weeks in Colorado and returning to my familiar apartment I drifted off to sleep.
Only, the next morning I woke up sad. Confused. Unsure. The opposite of how I was the final days in Colorado . . .
When I first moved to Oregon I panicked. Never before had I panicked the way I panicked when I drove up to my first PNW apartment with my car full of stuff and my best friend beside me. I woke up in the middle of the night, unable to sleep through how fast my heart was beating. I couldn’t eat. I stressed. I blamed the unsure future and got a job at a farmer’s market and tried to make my apartment a home.
For the first six months I was here I fought driving back to Colorado, leaving my stuff behind me and letting my landlord keep my security deposit for bailing. The feeling subsided a little bit as I met new people and made friends and worked on important projects that meant a lot to me, but I still held something deep and sad and disconnected inside me.
I blamed circumstances, money, a job that I didn’t like.
And I trudged forward.
I switched jobs and moved apartments and tried again. I went on adventures to the coast and found a favorite trail at the base of Mt. Hood. I discovered coffee shops and beer spots and tried to be a good friend and spend time with awesome people.
In short, I have been trying to dig my roots in here and make this spot on the map home.
Only, after nearly three years it doesn’t feel like home. I don’t feel settled here. I don’t feel deeper rooted here. I don’t feel like this town is offering me more permanent ground. It still doesn’t feel like home. I still wake up lonely.
This morning I woke up at 3am stressed about the decision of whether or not to leave Portland. Have I given it enough of a chance? Have I tried my hardest and it is clear this is not where I should be? Or am I running away again, uprooting again, limiting my chances of building the life I want because I don’t stay in any one place for very long?
I have talked this issue over with so many people. All good people, all good thoughts, all over the board when it comes to how to handle a decision that seems to have so much weight behind it.
Go home because it is healthy.
Go home because it is family.
Stay because these feelings are just life.
Stay because that cloud over your head will be there no matter where you are.
Go home because it is the people that know you the most.
Stay because of opportunity and creativity and kayaking.
I feel like this decision to go or stay is so huge in my life right now that I don’t even know how to make it.
I want roots. I want to plant somewhere and build something great. I want to have friendships around me that last through the years and I want to meet someone to share that life with. I don’t think that is Portland . . . but how do I know?
I want my independence, I want to build my own life and not get stuck in other people’s expectations. Can I do that back home in Colorado? Can I set myself up there to succeed and not fall back on old patterns and old fears and bad relationships?
I have only ever imagined moving back to Colorado with a family. I thought that I would live this life all over the world and meet someone on my journeys and we would build our lives together and when we decided, together, that it was time we would find a quaint place in Colorado for our kids to grow up. We would take them skiing through the winter and they would go to school and we would live a cute little life in the shadow of a mountain.
Can I pack up my house and drive the 21 hours and find a small apartment and not feel like I gave up? Like I failed somehow? Like I am returning with so little to show for my time away?
I don’t know what to do. I have no way of knowing what the right choice is and it is stressing the hell out of me. I am up in the middle of a rainy night in Portland feeling so unlike myself. The strong decision maker that does whatever she wants and goes wherever she has a fancy feels weak and unsure and afraid of either path. The girl people call brave feels afraid. The girl that knew she could make it through any situation, any country, with just a pack on her back isn’t sure what to do with the move across a couple of states.
I don’t know what to do. I wish I could sleep. I wish I didn’t feel so afraid of the future and the unknown. I wish I didn’t feel so much like I am stagnant and staring at two dark paths.