There are some things I miss about the city. The vibrancy, the upward expanse of tall buildings, the progressive politics (especially in regards to LGBT/Women/Minority rights), the amazing food options, the gorgeous parks, the river and its bridges.
I don’t miss not being able to see the stars. And I don’t miss the person I was becoming when I was living there last.
While being home is trying, mostly due to boredom, I like that I am more the person I try to be(come). In the city I don’t talk to people for fear of being obviously small-town. I worry about how I dress, my hair, if I am wearing too little/too much make-up. The dating paradigms throw me off and make me even more anxiety ridden than usual. Most of all, I hated the rain. Because no one looks good as a drowned cat, and it’s not cool to be totally enamored by it still.
But down here? I grew up being called “rain baby” by my mom, she even bought me a book with characters called rain babies, because you could not stop me from running outside in the rain. In the summer, in the fall, sometimes dressed in the same things even when I ought to have put on more clothing in October… Yet for the first time in over a year I just sat outside in the rain. I finally listened to my desire to run outside when I hear it raining, and actually did so and didn’t give a shit about whether or not I’d look pretty/weird/whatever. The tattoo on my clavicle, while referencing my immense love of the sea, moreover references my immense love of the rain that came in from the sea and wove little rivers through my childhood.
I hate at times that I am a country girl. I grew up in a small town. I say y’all. I know how to build fires, milk cows, take care of chickens, and can identify a vast amount of wild and domesticated plants. Folk remedies, country music, at times truly despising the anonymity of a city, and having no issue walking around barefoot. I can worry my entire life if these things will haunt me and make me less desirable to others. I could write my dissertation on how the idea of being “country” is couched in classist ideology. I know that my attention to my diction, my aversion to certain types of entertainment and clothing, and probably loads of other aspects of my personality are created in response to having grown up relatively poor and in a rural community. The kicker being that mine isn’t even that rural. It’s a strange mix of hippie communes, overtly wealthy Californian transplants that gentrified the smaller towns into wine country and charming tourist traps, out and out ‘hicks’, and then general rural area suburbia dwellers. Still, take me and place me in a city and suddenly I realize just how rural/country I am.
But I don’t resent it anymore. I know what poison oak is (note: they definitely have issues with it in the bigger parks in PDX) and how to avoid it. I am capable of building a fire in a wood stove or for a campfire. It’s hard to get lost while hiking when you grew up surrounded by areas that had, yes, some hiking trials but mostly didn’t.
Mostly, having lived in Portland there are some aspects of my upbringing I will never resent. When you have to grow accustomed to not having the resources to get a lot of ‘stuff’ it goes two ways—usually both ways. First, you end up buying lesser quality stuff just to have that rush of ownership. Secondly, you end up getting the fuck over wanting shit and grow accustomed to being really happy with what you have. I still have an astonishing amount of affluence, which I won’t deny since I am writing this post on a Mac, but I don’t feel the need to drive a fancy brand new car, or live in a giant house, or wear designer clothes, or eat eight course meals consisting of caviar and gold flakes (pardon the sarcasm). The sheer consumerism that exists in a city is pretty astonishing. Perhaps it’s just the inundation that comes with that level of population, but I didn’t realize people actually bought new cars ever few years, or that people were that rabid with shopping.
I don’t regret that because I grew up where people sincerely knew each other, you kind of keep that innocence and desire to build connections. Granted, I learned to be wary in the city because there is the lovely bonus of decreased safety, but being able to create that connection is nice. Especially while painfully lonely.
Most of all, I don’t regret that somehow I managed to survive adolescence and come away with a good bit of wonder intact. While cynicism exists in me, the fact that I will still run outside when it begins to pour because it’s fun to, helps to remind me that a version of me that elated in the world still exists.
“Youngest siblings encompass a space greater than their own. Their knowledge of the world is informed by many eyes, many ears, many ideas. I have my own sense of self and character and livelihood, but in the back of my mind, I often consider what my sister thinks. Before there were my own interests, there were hers. Before I knew what I liked, I knew what she liked and took from that the way to see the world.”—
“When I was a student at Cambridge I remember an anthropology professor holding up a picture of a bone with 28 incisions carved in it. “This is often considered to be man’s first attempt at a calendar” she explained. She paused as we dutifully wrote this down. ‘My question to you is this – what man needs to mark 28 days? I would suggest to you that this is woman’s first attempt at a calendar.’ It was a moment that changed my life. In that second I stopped to question almost everything I had been taught about the past. How often had I overlooked women’s contributions?”—