Somehow, without deliberately planning it, my adult life has assumed a pattern in which, every decade or so, I pick myself up and relocate to an entirely different region of the country. I spent the 1980s in Boston, the 1990s in Seattle, and since 2002 I have resided in San Diego. And now, at the dawn of 2012, life is arranging itself so that I shall be relocating again, this time to Eugene, Oregon.
Each of these residencies came about through multiple reasons, and involved multiple goals, a number of which did not succeed as I had hoped. But in each place, I went through various processes of self-discovery and transformation, some of which probably could have happened anywhere, but all of which were definitely catalyzed by people and events I could have only encountered by being where I was, when I was.
Just so with my time in San Diego, and decision to leave it. I had come down to San Diego as an escape from the big corporate environment I had succeeded rather too well at getting integrated into by the end of my time in Seattle. I was seized with a feeling of living a life designed for somebody else, with somebody else's values, and desperately wanted and needed to finally do something that I loved.
Well, I came down here ... and some of those plans did not work out as desired. Part of the problem was that I was still dogged by lifelong personal issues that were sapping my strength, the key to which I finally received a couple of years after my father's death in 2003. Some long-held family skeletons were finally let out of the closet in the wake of that death, and suffice it to say I began to fully grasp the nature of the familial monsters that had been living in my head and holding me back. Essentially, I came to realize I had post-traumatic stress disorder from a childhood full of psychological abuse and bullying. This realization, while majorly enlightening, was far from the end of the matter; in dealing with its impact on my life, I have suffered a number of setbacks, and I may well be sorting pieces of this out for many years. But after finding a new resolve last June to do the things I needed to do to heal and get more fully healthy, I feel like I am finally on my way.
And then of course, there has been the recession. At first I thought I was actually in a good position to ride it out--unlike a lot of other people, I had already drastically downsized, was used to living frugally, and had what I thought were skills that would stay in demand. Little did I, or a lot of people, realize just how profoundly unemployment would gouge California, and Southern California, in particular--suddenly the market was flooded with people with my skillset all scrambling for whatever job openings or freelance work was to be found. I finally did get a toehold in some new online work, but it was downright scary for awhile there.
Meanwhile, a friend I had met online kept urging me to get the hell out of expensive, high-unemployment California and join her in Eugene, where the unemployment rate is a little lower, the cost of living a hell of a lot lower, and the culture, frankly, a lot more suited to my leftover hippy leftist values. And the more I looked into doing this move, the more I discovered that the network of friends I had been quietly building online was making its presence, and willingness to help, known to me. I began to feel like I was doing one of those trust exercises, where you fall backwards and trust that others will catch you. I became filled with the conviction that I was being caught, and held, in a way I had so needed a family to catch and hold me. I became convinced that whatever happened on this new leg of my journey up to Eugene, I would not be allowed to fall.
I am also, partly from necessity and partly by choice, taking this latest move as an opportunity to further simplify my life. There was a period a couple of years back in which I had to move my home in San Diego three times in the space of 12 months, and it became a dreaded and expensive chore to get all thesematerial goods packed, hauled, and unpacked. And I didn't even think I had all that much anymore! But it was still more than I could do alone. When I began to look into moving my stuff to Eugene, and saw the astronomical price--way more than the replacement cost of said goods--I decided, enough. Everything must go. Like Thoreau, I was going to simplify my life way the hell down to the barest essentials. If it does not fit in my car, or in a couple of boxes at most of stuff I will ship ahead, it's not going. The books I love but never read, the clothes I've bought that I never have occasion to wear, the boxes of papers there is no earthly reason for keeping anymore--out out out. Even the furniture... functional enough, but furniture can be replaced and thrift stores abound. Away with all of it. Sell it or donate it or shred it, but however it gets done, just get it offa me. Even just talking about it I feel a burden off my shoulders.
So I have no idea what life has in store for me once I get to Eugene. I'm sure there will be more ups and downs, more cases of things not succeeding as I had hoped. But I have the strangest sense of optimism. I feel like I am achieving whole new levels of personal authenticity, of living the way I want to live as opposed to some lifestyle and values designed by and for others. And even if I do find myself in situations where I have to conform to others' values, I feel sufficiently settled in my values within my own head that external forces can no longer sway me. I know where I'm going, and that's a marvelous feeling.