PDX to SAN
I’m flying home from Portland right now, for the second time this summer. It always feels good to get to go back to Portland.
The first time I ever went to Portland, I was 22. As soon as I arrived, the place felt absolutely right. A city with a thoughtful, creative personality hugged by some of the most gorgeous natural sites in the country.
I absolutely knew that it would be my first of many times back. And it was.
Portland became the destination of a road trip so meaningful I wrote a book about it. Then I decided to go to grad school in Oregon and found myself there every other weekend.
Both visits this summer confirmed the fact that the feeling hasn’t gone away at all. So many things usher it in. The concourses at the airport. The sight of the water’s edge underneath all the bridges. The rust and brick exteriors of the industrial areas. All the patio tables outside the cleverly branded restaurants in walkable neighborhoods.
All of these elements felt like a very warm welcome.
I can think of just two other places that have a similar sort of feeling. One is the Johannesburg orphanage where I’ve spent a lot of time. The other was Santa Barbara. When I lived there in college, I remember coming back after a summer away or a semester abroad. Something as trivial as the goofy font on its brown street signs would conjure up a deep exhale. Alrighttttt. I’m back.
It’s kind of funny that I’m now recognizing this feeling in a place where I’ve never technically lived. But perhaps that’s a side effect of a very nomadic decade. The concept of home- and the feeling of being home- both get a lot more fluid.
Over the past few years, I’ve been looking for more roots. I started to get tired of having to say goodbye and rebuild community every few years. I got tired of only being able to see most of my good friends once or twice a year. I also started to think that I could make the biggest impact on my surroundings if I were fully committed to it.
So I moved to San Diego a year ago. I never would’ve expected to look for them in San Diego, not that there’s anything wrong with the city. I just figured my personality would always be one to make a new home rather than returning to one.
To be honest- the feeling of being welcomed back home after a long time away doesn’t exist in San Diego for me. At least not yet. I’m usually happy to be back with Deanna and Beignet after a long trip, but that has more to do with who they are versus where they are. I’d be just as thrilled to get to see them again... in Denmark.
I really wish that weren’t the case. I want San Diego to feel like my home base. I want to grow where I’m planted.
But as much as my romanticizing of Portland shows me what’s missing in San Diego, it also gives me hope for my new home. I’m still hopeful that those same sentiments can exist here too. They grow stronger the more that you feel like you belong. And that takes time.
Growing rooted takes years. It takes working the soil and staying nourished. Belonging to a community doesn’t happen overnight. Things that are built to last aren’t built overnight.
One of these days, I’ll fly back into San Diego- and some of the things I see heading back towards home will remind me of why I belong here. Will it be a taco shop? Will it be those archway banners marking every neighborhood? Will it be the red shades and stripes of public transport?
I look forward to finding out.