If you are interested in telling your story onstage, please see Monday's column. I will soon be on vacation for a week, so if I don't get back to you right away, I will read your letters with great interest upon my return.
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I am a California girl who was living in Texas for 15 years, the last three in Austin. Austin is a great town, but I had not done a lot to get involved in the community. I did not have any close friends in the city and spent much of my time alone. This isolation, the fact that it is hot in Texas, and that the political climate is not the greatest for liberals like me resulted in a burning desire to leave.
I looked for a place where the weather suited my clothes and the politics were more progressive. I set my sights for Portland, Ore. I saved money and read everything I could get my hands on about the area. After much hand-wringing, I finally made the decision to move; I made an advance trip out here, got an apartment, had the utilities hooked up, loaded my stuff onto a moving van, and headed west.
I have been here for two weeks and -- I hate it. Even though I knew the unemployment rate was high (7.8 percent at last count) I still came. It rains here a lot and everything is unfamiliar. I feel scared and lonely most of the time. I saved a nice little nest egg, but I fear that I will end up a bag lady with no home, no job and no safety net.
Friends and family have been amazingly supportive and they assure me things will work out. I'm not happy here, but the thought of going back does not seem like a great alternative, either. My grandmother always said, "Be careful what you wish for." She was right -- I wished, dreamed and made this Oregon adventure a reality. And now, I want a do-over. I have learned that you take yourself wherever you go and that being happy has less to do with where you are than with what you are. My mistake was thinking that changing location was the answer. Now what?
Lost and Lonely in the Northwest
Dear Lost and Lonely in the Northwest,
Congratulations on taking a big, courageous step. Good for you for not settling for a life that wasn't working. So you're lonely and scared these first few weeks? That sounds about right for having leaped into a brand-new city where you don't know anybody and don't have a job. You've leaped, and now everything is new and different. You're not going to be comfortable right away. It's normal to be freaked out at first. Anybody would be. You've uprooted yourself. There are strange newscasters; the air smells different. You have to use a map.
As you say, you do take yourself with you wherever you go. But it doesn't sound as if you fled Austin in the middle of the night, hoping to discover an uncharted river or chart a new and better religion. It sounds as though you went through the whole thing thoroughly and with the appropriate trepidation. So I don't think your current unease means you made the wrong choice. You're just going to have to work at becoming part of your new town.
So from now on, you're majoring in Portland. Every day there will be a pop quiz. Today's question: The Bybee Bridge is closed until January! Why? (Answer: It was built a long time ago. It's nearing the end of its useful life. Besides, "the concrete girders continue to sustain damage from truck collisions.")
The one thing that concerns me is that you found yourself isolated in Austin. Austin is a great town, and every time I go there, I'm amazed at the friendliness of the people, the quality of the music, and the deliciousness of the food. Granted, it is hot and perhaps not as liberal as much of the West Coast. But I think it's a friendlier and less pretentious town than, say, San Francisco. I don't know about Portland. But wherever you go, you're going to have to work to become part of the community. If you don't feel an immediate click, you may need to go through the motions until you start to feel comfortable.
If after a year you're still profoundly unhappy in Portland and feel you've made a mistake, there's no shame in turning around. Just don't expect a location to solve your problems.
Good luck. Splurge on a raincoat.
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Want more advice from Cary? Read the Since You Asked directory.