I can be a lonely old lady who cuddles with regret, looking back on her life and wishing it was something completely different. Or I can say 'fuck that'. And that's exactly what I did. It's like I suddenly realized that I am only twenty-six years old and I have the ability to create any life I want for myself. I don't have to surrender to misery; what a beautiful revelation that was. I want to experience life fully, deeply, passionately, but instead I was the embodiment of the opposite of all that. I was living a life that was comfortable; comfortable in the way that all my basic needs were met, but I was completely, dramatically, painfully unexcited about it. It became clear to me that the way I was living wasn't working for me. I couldn't see the magic in the world. And that is when I decided I wanted to go on a new adventure. I finally gave myself permission to chase the things that make me happy without any expectation of the results they should produce. I love Los Angeles, but it was starting to exhaust me. This is a very fast city where everyone has something they are trying to achieve and they are too busy fighting for it that they forget there are many things besides success that make life full. Having moved from New York City to Los Angeles, two of the most difficult cities in the country, I am tired. I am tired of feeling like such a small fish in a huge ocean. I am tired of having to fight so hard for everything. It took me five months to get a waitressing job in LA and I have ten years of experience. Seriously, what more do you want?! It's serving people food for heavens sake! I am certainly qualified to do that. I just want to slow down. I want to take a walk in the forest and smell all of the beautiful flowers. I want to spend an afternoon sitting in a coffee shop reading a book and not feeling like I should be somewhere else doing something more productive. I want to stay in bed all day with a cute boy simply because we're drunk on each other and want to exist in our own little world for a day. I moved to Los Angeles because I wanted to be an actor. I wanted to do projects about complicated people that induce a connection and a feeling of being understood with those who watch it. But there is a competitiveness in this city that focuses on the business of the craft and in turn depletes the art. Along the way, the reality of the industry stole my joy of acting. I lost the love of my life, my favorite thing in the world, and it broke my heart. I just need something different. I need to figure out what I want to do with my life. I crave an adventure in a new city where I can experience life in a different way. So where should I go? I have always had this fantasy about Portland, Oregon, this grandiose idea that I would love it there, like it is the sort of place built with me in mind. And so when I made the decision to move, Portland was the first place that came to mind. Of course I had never actually been there and I felt it best not to rely on my fantasy to make my decisions and that I should probably visit the city before I packed up and moved there. So I planned a little solo trip to Portland with the idea that if I liked it there, then that is the place where I would move. I had never traveled alone before, but as I don't have a ton of close friends in LA, I am used to spending time alone and figured I would have a perfectly enjoyable time in the company of myself. Plus I had an agenda - to decide if Portland was the right place for my new adventure. And because I'm slowly turning into my mother, I made a very strict itinerary for my trip in order to insure that Portland checked all of the boxes I wanted my new city to have.
One of the most important things for me to find on my quest for a new city is that there is plenty of opportunities to act. I am still in the "have I made a mistake? I don't even know who I am anymore. I feel lost" stage of my break-up with acting, and I want the option to get back together in the future in case I realize that acting really is the love of my life and I never want to live without it. Maybe I am behaving impulsively in leaving acting behind. Maybe I just need the freedom to explore the world without focusing on creating an acting career for myself, and when I am ready I will come back to it. I just hope it will be there willing to take me back, like it was waiting for me all along with open arms to hold me through the next chapter. Or maybe I will fall in love with something else, just as deeply and intoxicatingly. I don't know. One thing that appeals to me about Portland is its artistic culture. The city is filled with theater and music and storytelling. I hope that outside of Los Angeles perhaps the focus will be on creating art rather then appeasing the financial demands of a business. I let my imagination dream up a million wonderful acting opportunities that laid ahead in Portland, but I needed to see for myself if reality could compete with my fantasy. And so, on the first night of my trip I sat in the second row of one of Portland's main theaters and watched professional actors perform 'A Streetcar Named Desire'. At first, I just sat and watched this beautifully tragic play unfold on stage, but soon my mind began to drift off to imagination land and I was envisioning myself up there. I was no longer watching the play because I was too focused on the performances. WIth my old acting teacher's voice whispering in my head, I sat there trying to understand Blanche, a role so complex and powerful, and determine of all the ways I would approach the character. My actor brain had switched on without me asking it to. I wanted to be up there, I felt myself craving it. I'm not done with acting, that became clear. I just need to find a way to fall in love with it again. And right now, I feel like theater is the place to start. Suddenly, I didn't feel so lost anymore. Since my philosophy right now is just to follow the things that make me happy and see where they lead, over the past year I've loved studying improv and performing around LA with my troupe, so it is important to me that I can continue to do that in my new city. While in Portland I went and saw a show at an improv school I had researched and I very much enjoyed myself, which is wonderful, because if I do decide to move here it means I can indeed continue to do improv. ACTING OPPORTUNITIES - CHECK.
On one of my days in Portland, I rented a bicycle and rode all throughout the city. As it turns out, Portland is quite the bike friendly place. I rode along the streets entwined with the cars and they were very cautious of me. No one almost hit me. No one yelled at me for slowing down their commute. Not once did I get cat-called, and that was a very spectacular feeling. I felt safe and taken care of. I parked my bike and lazily roamed around book stores and cute shops. At one point in my day, I rode through a neighborhood that looks exactly like what you think a Portland neighborhood would look like. I stopped at what might be the hipsterest coffee shop I've ever been to, where music came from a record player and local art decorated the walls. Guys with beards and girls with bangs peppered the coffee shop chatting in whispers and typing quietly on laptops. (If I move to Portland, it became clear that I will definitely no longer be the only mid-twenty year old who still has bangs.) And as I sat there reading the 'Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath', drinking cold brew coffee from a glass cup and eating a gluten-free vegan muffin, it felt like I was in some kind of wonderland. And I felt like I belonged there. I stopped at a donut shop and got a maple bacon donut and my mouth was the happiest it's ever been. I got ice cream at this unique ice cream parlor where I sampled way too many flavors before deciding on sea salt ice cream with caramel swirl and honey lavender I had a lovely conversation with the girl who scooped my ice cream and she told me to come back there if I do move to Portland because she would love to hang out sometime. And then I realized I should probably stop indulging in every desert this city has to offer or I'm going to get real fat real quick. Each neighborhood I biked through was the same and different all at the same time. Busy streets lined with unique restaurants and shops, each with their own essence. Then I traveled past all of the noise, through streets strewn with bright green trees and scattered houses, and I imagined myself in one of them - with a dog and maybe a life partner. An herb garden in the back yard and a front porch where I'd sit in the morning drinking coffee. I talked openly with many wonderful people and exchanged numbers with kind strangers to develop possible friendships. FEELING SAFE - CHECK. NEIGHBORHOODS I WOULD LIKE TO LIVE IN - CHECK. NICE PEOPLE - CHECK. GOOD DONUTS - CHECK.
If I may talk about God for a moment. (Yes, God and I are pretty close. You're not a God person? That's cool. I hope we can still be friends.) I talked to God a lot on my trip. Being the alcoholic that I am, my best thinking often isn't very good. Left to my own devices, I tend to run my life into the ground. And then I run it a little deeper until there's dirt covering it and everything is dark and I can't breathe and soon I feel like there's no point in existing anymore. So I've found that I function best when I let go of trying to control everything and ask God for his direction for me. I believe God, the universe, whatever you are comfortable calling it, communicates with us through our bodies. When we are comfortable and at peace it is because we are in line with the universe, when we are uncomfortable or restless it is because we are imposing our self-will and our alignment is off. That gut feeling we all experience, I like to think that's God. And so I asked lots of questions -- Is moving the right decision for me? Do I belong here? Am I just running away from my unhappiness? -- and then I tried to quiet myself enough to hear the answer. It was on day two of my trip that I knew Portland is where I belong. It just feels right. I can't explain it in words, it is only feelings. Maybe Portland won't be forever. Maybe I'll come back to Los Angeles at some point. Or maybe I'll have another adventure in a different strange city. I don't know. But for right now I feel like it is where the universe is directing me to go. THE GUT FEELING THAT I SHOULD MOVE TO PORTLAND - CHECK.
The idea of moving to Portland excites me. It rejuvenates my me. It makes me happy. And it freaks me the fuck out. Once I decided that I was going to move to Portland, reality- insistent and blinding - consumed me. The fantasy of moving is filled with magic and excitement but the reality is quite terrifying. I was going to leave my financially stable jobs, my friends, my home, my lovers, a life I took three years to build, and move to an unfamiliar city with little money and no place to live, no job, and only strangers for company. On the last day of my trip I found myself feeling homesick for LA. I decided I was going to make Portland my new home and I felt myself craving the comforts of the familiar -- the places I know, the people I know, the feelings established in all of it. I suddenly felt uncomfortable with the idea of moving. Fear began to push out God and suddenly it engulfed me. I was afraid of all the newness. The loneliness. The uncertainty. I've built a comfortable life here for myself in LA, but none of it excites me. It's just comfortable. I don't want to feel complacent anymore. I want to be excited by life. Invigorated by adventure. I want to feel free. And I don't feel that here. This uncomfortableness is fear, that's all it is. My mind's projection of made up ideas of how things may be. But what if all the wonderful things I could dream up come true in this new city? Fear can be a paralyzing thing, and it does nothing for us but hold us back. We can't just wish it away, but we can embrace it, wrapping it in the arms of strength and courage. So what I say is 'hello fear, I know you're there, I can feel you. I want you to know, that you are welcome to come on this new journey with me, but you are not going to drive the car. You don't get to control me. You are simply a passenger. And please don't be offended if I ignore your loud voice. I'm simply not interested in the lies you have to tell me.' I don't want to live in LA anymore and I don't have to. Sometimes life is a lot more simple then we let it be.
I want so many things for my life. Things I see in other peoples lives but that exist for me only in the space of my mind's fantasies. All of the things in this world that are possible to grasp if only I weren't too afraid or uncertain or insecure to go after them. But I want them. These are things I have decided not to only wish for anymore. And the only way to stop wanting something is to start doing it. So here's to Portland and the next chapter of my life.