Sunday, September 03, 2006

The Why of it All

I graduated from high school when I was 17. The day after classes ended, I packed up and left—didn’t even go to my graduation. I hated that place so much. I spent part of the summer in Denver with my sister Kate and the rest of the summer at my dad’s house, then I moved to Oregon for college. I had been accepted at Reed College, but we couldn’t afford it (I really only applied to see if I can get in—shut up, I am NOT competitive!), so I went to Southern Oregon State instead.

My dad and Kate drove me up. Somewhere near hour 10 of the 12+ hour drive, we stopped for a picnic. Kate had me dunk my head into the freezing water so she could cut my hair. We were sitting on a picnic table at a beautiful park with an almost-frozen stream. It was the only 20 minute window of the whole day that didn’t rain.

We stayed overnight in a hotel in Ashland—Kate and I didn’t sleep though. I was too excited, and she was too annoyed by my dad’s snoring. The next morning, we drove to the college in Ashland, dropped off my stuff, then headed into town.

As usual, I made friends easily and quickly (except my roommate. Gah. I hated my roommate). For the Thanksgiving weekend , I went with my friend Kristen up to Portland to have the holiday with her and her family. And thus began my deep love affair with the
city of roses.

Our family has a history with seasonal depression. I didn’t know that. The winter I lived in Ashland was one of the wettest and coldest on record. And it snowed. A lot. By the time I came home in December, I was on the verge of suicide. Literally.

I moved in with my dad and began my slow crawl back to humanity. I met my future husband, we moved to where I am now, just north of San Francisco. It was as far north as I dared to go. These were the days before Prozac.


My sister Kate called me the summer I turned 33. It was about a month before my birthday. She had been ill, but no one knew what was wrong exactly. X-ray films made it look like she had an aggressive lung cancer—there were further tests which would confirm or dispel that, but it was weekend and they would have to wait. So she called me and we cried. She was afraid her kids wouldn’t remember what she looked like. She was afraid her youngest child, her daughter, wouldn’t remember her at all. She was terrified of the diagnosis and felt helpless and out of control. She said to me, “There’s only one thing in my whole world right now that I feel like I have any control over at all, so even though this is none of my business and I know I have no right at all, I’m going to ask.” She said, “I want to see you happy one more time before I die. I want to hear you laugh. I want you to leave John.”

And so I did.

Obviously there were a number of other factors, but my big sister, who only asks me to do impossibly hard things when it’s so important to her that she can’t hold back—she asked me to go.

As it turned out, she didn’t have lung cancer. Thank ALL The Gods. She has sarcoidosis. It still completely sucks and she goes through long periods of discomfort of pain, but at least she’s alive, raising her kids and being my best friend.


This summer, Kate’s husband finally finished his combined Master’s degree and teaching credential. As has always been the plan, this means Kate and family are now expected to begin paying a significantly higher rent on the house they’ve occupied for the last 8+ years. What no one counted on though was that there would be no jobs in their region.

So after much thought, many hard conversations, a lot of soul-searching, and more than a few on-line house and job searches, they have decided to move to Portland. Kate’s best friend Leslie moved there a few years ago (Hi, Leslie!), and my best friend Kimberly moved there a year ago last spring (Hi, Kimberly!)


I know most of you remember when I got laid off my job—that was in May of 2005. Although I’ve managed to hobble together some temp gigs in the last 15+ months, I haven’t landed another permanent job yet. The tech industry here has just dried up. We looked seriously at moving to the Silicon Valley (Hi, Leese!), because I know I could find employment down there in the blink of an eye, but we would have to move from our 1700+ sq ft house into a teeeeny condo, I’d have to change law schools, and I’d be working my ass off just to live in a region I don’t really like.

So my mom and I talked and decided to check out Portland. We drove half way on Friday night, finished the drive on Saturday, then spend Saturday evening, all day Sunday, and all day Monday scoping out the area.

We talked to Kate a lot on the way up and while we were there. Tuesday we did a marathon 13 ½ hour drive home, during which time Kate called with some trepidation in her voice. This move is rough on her husband and kids. They don’t know what to expect and they’re scared. She’s not getting the emotional support she needs, nor is she getting any actual support in terms of help getting her house on the market. She was on the verge of tears and asked, in a very quiet voice, as if she was afraid to ask because she knew I couldn’t refuse… She asked me to move to Portland.

Mom and I spent the rest of the drive home talking out all the pros and cons and making plans. Our real estate agents are coming tomorrow morning at 10:30. Our house should be on the market in the next 2 weeks and I’m already looking for a job in Portland. I’m going to turn some of my scheduled phone interviews into actual personal interviews (thanks to gracious Leslie who has offered to let me stay at her house!) and hope to have a job in hand in the next month.


We bought our house 3 years ago. Even if the market has gone flat in the last 6 months or so, and even if it’s dipped a little bit, we still have enough equity in this house to buy a comparable or nicer one up there and put down nearly 50%. That means every month instead of freaking out about whether or not I can scrape together nearly $3000 for my mortgage, I can rest easy knowing the $700 mortgage payment is already in the bank.

Some of it is that I can’t deny my sister. Some of it is a money thing. Ok, more than just some… Most of it though, I must honestly say, is that 22 years after meeting this beautiful city, I finally feel like I’m going home.