Have you ever made a life decision? You know the kind: deciding to move to a new city; ending a serious relationship; going back to school; or moving in with a significant other. Making life decisions is tough work, but after deciding to move to Portland, Oregon I have decided making life decisions are some of the most liberating, thrilling experiences in your life.
For starters, Portland is a kick ass place. It is the type of town with a culture and community that could only be fostered on the west coast--where a zeal for life's joys is truly appreciated and nurtured in even the most square and cynical. Many people are not familiar with this town. After all it sits nestled away in the northwest hiding in the shadow of San Francisco and Seattle. However, just like those other west coast Meccas Portland overflows with good food; teems with young adults; embraces art and varied architecture; and has strange and wonderful traditions. Not to mention there is a greater beer selection in Portland than anywhere else in the nation--perhaps the world. In fact, there are more than 28 different breweries in Portland and countless bottle shops. This is no coincidence. Oregon was one of the first states to repeal prohibition era laws against brew pubs and it has never looked back. (You can be sure that anyone who hangs on board W.C. Homer will be treated to countless beer reviews in the coming year).
But anyway, back to life decisions. I'm a kid who is threatening to be an adult. I'm 25 years old and I've been in school every year since I was 3. No one ever told me that I was going to be in school for two decades and when I was finally done I wouldn't have a job and no one was going to tell me where to go or how to get there. Needless to say, staring that prospect down is daunting. Toss in the fact that this homer is shackled with some impressive student loans and has to pick a state to take the bar exam in and we're in full blown life decision mode.
A life decision is never (or not often) made on a whim. Sometimes there is a "fuck it" moment and you just pick up your things and go. But even then, there is usually a long time spent thinking, struggling and agonizing over the decision. Needless to say, trying to decide where the best spot for a jobless young lawyer with student debt to take a bar exam and set up shop required some agonizing. Where are the most opportunities? How will I pay back my loans? Do I want to live at home? With my parents?! Will I ever have a job? Will the economy ever come back? Ugh! For months I set out to answer all these questions before I made a decision about where I wanted to live.
Eventually I settled on the idea that I would pick a place first, move there, and make things happen. This story was easy to propagate to meddling parents at Christmas parties, who only asked about my story so I would ask about their kids, so I went with it. However, behind the scenes the agony was palpable.
Then one dark morning on a highway between Eugene and Portland the answer hit me like Chris Brown: I want to live in Portland. Then the epiphany started rolling in: that was the only thing I needed to know; the job market sucks everywhere; living at home would be trying; I'm just a dude looking for a job (who isn't?). All I need to know is where I want to live and the rest of the questions no longer need to be addressed. Then a few hours later I found myself standing with my friend high above Portland at Pittock Mansion (see below) on a crystal blue day in the best mood of my life.
It took me some time to realize why I was so happy that day, and felt lighter and less burdened than I could ever remember. I came to realize that for three years I had been in one of the most homogenized, self comparative environments known to man: law school. For three years all I've done is hang out with law students. Nothing seems unique in law school, least of all me. We're all vying for the same jobs and we all spend our days thinking and talking about the same things. The result was that I constantly felt that I brought nothing to the proverbial table. In my law school environment there was nothing I could do that someone else couldn't do and usually there was nothing I knew that someone else didn't know. I felt like a brain washed soldier with a crew cut.
Now all of a sudden, my resolution of a life decision had me traveling to a young, hip, up and coming city. I was going to be one person among a sea of diverse interests and backgrounds. Suddenly my background would be unique to someone else at a party. Suddenly going to school for 22 years would be different. Someone would be curious about the fact I went to law school. All of a sudden I felt my soul emerging, I was about to become an individual again. Soon I could grow out my crew cut and exist in a population of people with different stories and varied dreams. It was all at once liberating, exciting, refreshing and scary.
The liberating individuality I was overcome with was certainly due in large part to being cloistered in an educational and social vacuum with--in the grander scheme of things--unvaried people. That is not to say I have not made some close friends and met interesting people. However, no matter how much of an individual one is, when we're all law students our immediate, interests, thoughts and desires just don't vary that much. I am also aware that social vacuums and lack of variability can be the result of being in any place too long and retreating into the heart of your comfort zone. However, right now my mouth is watering at the thought of adventure and my heart is lighter than it has been in years.
The bottom line is, that when faced with a life decision you will never know beyond any shadow of a doubt that one decision is better than the other. The important thing is, that once you make that decision you must embrace it with enthusiasm, hang on, and keep your eyes wide open; because the ride will be a journey you may want to tell your grand kids about some day.
I know there will still be set backs. Many obstacles await as I try to execute my life decision, but right now I am basking in the glow of being a young man on the way to the Rose City. I also know there will be other life decisions in the future, but I hope I look back on this one as one of the best, because right now it sure seems to be. Either way, at the very least, I'm still in the West!