A hard goodbye is a good goodbye
I’m moving out of Eugene this week.
It all kind of happened so fast. One day, I get a phone call and the offer for a job in San Diego. I always knew I was going to accept, but I called back a few days later to make things official. I got excited. A new city. A new job. A great job. There was so much to look forward to.
Then it started to sink in– while it was an exciting change to look forward to, it also meant saying goodbye to the city and the life that I’ve had for almost the past three years.
Leaving Eugene behind is going to be difficult.
At first I tend to think of the more superficial, sensory things. The smell of trees slowly decomposing into mulch. The ubiquitous sights of Ninkasi’s teal branding. The squishy dirt at the Amazon Dog Park and the soft-off-the-bone ribs at Papa’s Soul Food. Then I move on to the more significant stuff.
The spirit of independence and self-determinantion that gets drawn to the Northwest like a nonconforming compass.
The security that came from the routines Deanna and I developed over time. Our routes home and our favorite running trails, Saturday pancakes and the market.
The faces of all the great people we’ve gotten to know over time.
It’s tough. Then again– if you asked me about moving out of Eugene two years ago I wouldn’t have thought it would be that tough. At several points, I would have left in a heartbeat.
It wasn’t the rain, either. It was a sense of emptiness.
About two years ago, Deanna and I returned to Eugene after getting married in Santa Barbara. Our wedding left us with a sense of richness– we saw so many different people from various parts of our life come together to celebrate with us. It was a reminder of the warmth of community we had in California, and spread across other places. It also reminded me that we didn’t have that in Eugene. Not a single person from Eugene could make it to our wedding, and we had a long ways to go to have anywhere near that kind of community up north.
That was an expectation I brought with me when I moved in. Community. It was the Fall of 2014 and I moved up to begin graduate school. I had long consisdered the Pacific Northwest my favorite part of the country, and it definitely had a lot of things that appealed to my epicurean tastes. There was the pursuit of embrace and culture that Portland is famous for, and all the beauty and adventure in the woods and mountains and coastlines that surrounded it.
I figured we would move into Eugene, make some great friends, move up to Portland a couple years later, and get established. We’d find a community we loved and we’d have a chance to build things.
Instead, Eugene was a place that often tested my patience. I often connected being in Eugene with being in grad school, which I often couldn’t wait to finish so I could start doing more hands on work. Being a smaller city than most of the others I’d lived in, it also felt like life in general there was slower, and the process of making friends and meeting people was slower. There would be countless times when I would invite people to hang out or come over for dinner only to have those plans never realized.
Culturally, Oregon was “nicer” than California when it came to simple interactions or greetings. When it came to jumping into deeper bonds, though, that didn’t happen as quickly as I’d gotten used to.
A year ago, if you would’ve asked me how I felt about moving out, I would’ve been pretty eager to do so. I was starting to discover that having so many interests made living in a larger city a little bit more ideal. I also started to think about all the different projects or work I tried to start in Oregon with limited success. A change in scenery seemed like a good idea.
But that wasn’t how I wanted to leave Oregon. I moved in with high hopes and I figured it would be like giving up if I left on that note. I didn’t see myself in Eugene long term, but I didn’t want the transition to a next, future home to feel like an escape.
I heard somebody say that every ending is either a graduation or a divorce. No shade on anyone dealing with the challenges of divorce, but you get the connotation. You can either end with a sense of compleion and moving on to something better, or with a sense of escape and resignation.
Things started to change about a year ago, though. Nothing drastic changed, but Deanna and I had a really good summer. We spent a lot of time exploring some nearby wonders– the Oregon Coast, the Painted Hills, Astoria. We also spent more time enjoying the summer in Eugene, knowing that we’d likely leave before the next summer. I started to bond a little deeper with some friends from grad school and other groups. And, after looking for a good church to be a part of ever since we moved up, we finally found one. We found a brand new church called Joy with a strong community feel. They were the church we were looking for the whole time, and I wish we found them sooner. We found them about as soon as we possibly could have, though.
In short, we learned to like Eugene for what it was, and slowly it became more of the place we were hoping for. That made all the difference.
And looking back now, I know we had some real milestones. Eugene will always be:
The first city we’ve lived in as a married couple.
The place where we welcomed home Beignet as our first pet.
The birthplace of Nike, where we got to run the Eugene Half Marathon.
The place where I finished grad school and Deanna worked her first full-time job. (And her second.)
The place where I learned how to check my ambition, thrill-seeking, and idealism with an appreciation for the small things and a resolve to get things done.
We’re definitely leaving as different people than we were when we moved in. And in a good way.
When I think back on to Eugene, I’ll remember the early days of our marriage. I’ll remember how we learned how we learned how to work with what was put in front of us, how we learned to put each other first, and how we learned that some of the quiet, steady formation that happens in slower times can be the most important.
Eugene is where our lives happened. They weren’t always the easiest of lives, but they were ours. We found our way to the lives we learned how to love. We are two people with very independent spirits, so being able to know that we were living in the wake of our choices was always a reassurance.
Life happens in seasons, and Eugene was a quieter but more formative one. I like the word formative because it makes me think of a piece of pottery that needs to set, or dough that needs to rise. It doesn’t take doing a lot. It takes time and patience.
Interestingly, when I think of what I’ll miss in Eugene, one big thing will be seasons. Especially now that I’ll be living in a literal endless summer.
I’ll remember the hysterical light of the early springtime, leaving behind rainbows and college students scattered on grass. There’s always that first week of sunlight in April that puts everyone in the best of moods, and it wouldn’t be like that if not for the ceaseless rains for the five months before.
It took time for us to grow into the people we were becoming and it took time for Eugene to grow on us. That all happened over the past couple of years, though. It came at a cost. Now, moving out is far more difficult than it would have been a year or two ago.
I’m very much okay with that.
I’m thankful that this transition feels like a graduation and not a divorce. I’m thankful that my last week in Oregon was one of the hardest ones, having to say goodbye to church friends and grad school friends and Portland friends and even a few favorite restaurants and bookstores. We’re ready for the next adventure. I’ll still look back on Eugene fondly, and I’ll hope to be back in Oregon as often as I can manage.