I’ve spent the past few weeks walking Portland’s tree-lined sidewalks with friends, showing them the places that have started to feel like home over the past two months. They slept on our second-hand couch and visited our favorite coffee shops. And time after inopportune time I was reminded that I live here. And not only in the sense that I’ve signed a lease and started a job, but I am building a life here.
I’m reminded of it most often in a physical sense, the way streets and landmarks and bridges come together to build this city. They are coming together, alongside orders of french fries and honest conversations, to build my life here.
A few times a week, I’ve been running trails in the park near my apartment. I’ve always hated running, but I love trees and podcasts - running is my excuse to experience more of them. And every time I do it, I can run a little farther and see a little more. And every time, I feel a little more at home in my body and my neighborhood. The bulk of my time is spent processing emotions as they occur, thinking too hard and feeling even harder. But when I run, I’m able to be inexplicably present with the words in my earbuds and my feet on the ground. In order to be at home in a place, you have to be at home with yourself.
It took moving across the country for me to realize just how not at home I’d been with myself. It took a realization that I’d been mumbling and hedging and staying silent because I didn’t think I had anything to add. So I’ve been speaking up. I’m learning that if I’m going to convince other people their words matter (they do), then I have to believe mine matter too. The more I speak, the more willing I am to listen.
And I find myself listening all the time - even when I’m not the intended audience. I listen to couples fight in the parking lot beneath my open apartment window. I listen to the leaves blowing across the sidewalk and the brakes squeal as the route 15 bus pulls into a stop. I listen to podcasts and playlists and my friends’ instagram stories from all over the country. And I listen, hard, when people tell me how they’re doing and where they’re at and where they want to go.
Everyday I learn something new, whether in stillness or solitude or solidarity. I’m learning to run, and it’s teaching me to be still. I’m learning to speak, and it’s teaching me to listen. I’m learning how to navigate neighborhoods, and it’s teaching me how to navigate my own emotions. Everyday I claim a new piece of this city as my own, and in doing so I reclaim pieces of myself as well.