(Home: Astoria, Oregon)
It hasn’t been uncommon throughout my life for me to doubt myself. My insides will be screaming with wants and needs, pulling on the shirttails of my heart. Yet I ignore the inner pangs and internal beggings wanting me to listen. Listen to what I really want, to what my soul wants, and to listen to my own destiny. For so long, I stuffed down those longings like cramming clothes in a dirty hamper. And old habits tend to cling; they burrow their claws deep, grasping to keep hold.
Even after procuring my apartment in Oregon, I still knew I could withdraw my offer and not move. I don’t think I really thought of that as an option, but I also couldn’t believe I was going to pack up my life, leave my boyfriend, and drive almost 1,400 miles to Oregon with just me, my dog, my Subaru and a small U-Haul in tow. I now had two weeks to follow through on one of the biggest decisions of my life.
I had decided not to tell my boyfriend of my plans. He later would call me a coward, but at the time I saw it more as protection. A person can only share so much of herself, and not be received, understood or loved, before she closes off. I was officially closed like a door tucked tightly in its frame. I didn’t want to have any more discussions. I didn’t want to share my plans, my dreams, or the next stage of my life. I felt like a mother protecting her young.
I secured a U-Haul for 10 am on October 19th. I spent the next two weeks going through “our” stuff, “my” stuff, just accumulations of stuff. I decided to leave almost everything behind. Most things felt tainted or infected. So I took time to organize those items I did want. I met with the two friends I had made while living in Colorado, one was a previous student and one was a fellow teacher, and I told them of my plans and said my good-byes.
The doubts that had been lingering like storm clouds continued to drift away. My boyfriend had progressively grown reticent. He continued to lie and hide truths from me. He continued to spend his time wrapped in his own personal world. Even if I didn’t have every inch of my body and soul telling me Oregon was where I needed to be on my own, our relationship had run its course regardless. So I kept my focus on what I knew was right for me.
October 19th arrived, and my boyfriend left for work. It was strange saying good-bye to someone I had spent almost two years with knowing I would never see him again. But I was saying good-bye to my whole past, to an outdated way of being. I had found the perfect spot in Astoria, Oregon surrounded by forests, trails, rivers, the Pacific Ocean, artists, community, and a sense of belonging. It was the place I needed to develop my relationship with self.
As soon as my boyfriend left, I went to pick up my 4×8 U-Haul trailer. I arrived back home and nervously loaded my Subaru. The passenger seat was flooded with my loose clothes on hangers. The backseat was set up for the dog: a pillow, a blanket, and toys; I also had my peace lily plant named Baps. I was given this peace lily at my mom’s memorial service. I named her Baps after my mom’s initials (Beverly Ann Passero). Baps had moved from Tennessee to Colorado with me, and she was now about to join me on the next journey of my life. Boxes of my books and shoes filled the rest of the car. My kayak was loaded on top of my car. The U-Haul had my bike, more clothes and shoes, artwork, more boxes of books, outdoor gear, and a few memories from the past.
Before I drove away, I sat in my car. I looked in my rearview mirror as the U-Haul tagged along. My heart palpitated like rocks skipping over a lake’s surface. I felt the ripples through my body as I drove away.
I have been in Oregon for almost 4 years now. I am still in Astoria in my same purple Victorian home. I continue to gaze at the beauty of the Columbia River. The tree-lined shore of Washington State greets me every morning as I pull the shades up. As I get into my car, I gaze at my license plate and see “Oregon” on the front plate with the row of Douglas-firs. I am still filled with awe and elation to realize I am here. That license plate is a symbol of answered dreams and a followed destiny. I waited 37 years to feel at home within myself and within a place. Any concerns I may have had about never being able to feel content or whole have subsided.
The daily gratitude I feel to be where I belong has not faded but grown with time.