Monday, October 1, 2018

A Year In Maine

"So why did you move back?" One year after moving back to Maine from Philadelphia, it's a question I find myself answering at least once a week – and one I even find myself asking fairly frequently. It feels like I've met a lot of people who have moved back here for one reason or another, many in the creative industry, many in their 30s, just like Chris and I. And still, one year later, it's a question that gets a long, drawn-out answer. I could simplify, but why bother? Unless it's for a job (and even sometimes when it's for a job), the answer to the question of "why did you move?" is often a complicated one.

I've been thinking a lot about this anniversary over the past several weeks as it's drawn closer and closer. the months leading up to this time last year were turbulent, which is perhaps why I still feel so in tune with how I felt. Our last few months in Philly were filled with uncertainty – I had a job offer on the table, but it didn't feel right. What brought us to that city was a job, plain and simple. But at that time, suddenly being without a job felt like options were on the table. The decision to move back was difficult, but one neither Chris nor myself has ever regretted making. I'll spare you the details if you want to know more about the why read this. Anyway. One year. It actually feels like two because it was split almost down the middle – for the first four months, we lived in the country at my mother's house while we saved money and looked for jobs and a place to live. And I'm talking the country – top of a mountain on a dead end dirt road, kind of country. 40 minutes from the nearest grocery store, kind of country.

And those first four months were hard. As much as we missed the mountains and nature, neither one of us was prepared for how living in the woods (and with family) would challenge so many aspects of our daily lives. From working from home and relearning how to build a daily fire in the wood stove to stay warm (and also being 30 miles away from a decent cup of coffee) to just having room for our food in the fridge – and of course the small issue of everything in "town" closing at 6pm and pizza being the most decent fine dining option. Each day brought with it reminders that we'd been living in the city – the big city – for longer than we realized or cared to admit, often in hilarious and embarrassing ways. Example: There was the day I went on a lunchtime hike with the dog, got covered in ticks, then lost in the woods, then ran home and stripped down in the driveway (because ticks... )... that's the gist and yes it was awful. But I also believe firmly that we needed that time away from what we had come to consider "normal" to re-center ourselves and strip away the residual effects of living in an environment that wasn't conducive to our collective wellbeing, as a couple and as individuals. I believe that living the way we did – with almost all of our belongings in storage, surrounded by nothing but mountains and the people who love them – broke every pre-existing routine and idea of ourselves we had, so that when it finally came time to move into our new place, we could really start fresh. From scratch. How often does an opportunity like that present itself? Not often, at least in my experience.

And so now the other half of our year one story – we've been in Portland since February. And I can confidently say we love it. The city has changed so much since I was a kid, but it's proved to be the right kind of city for us. I love the proximity to the ocean, to the mountains, to amazing food, and to our incredible community of friends. I love how welcoming and weird and wonderful Portland is, and it's many different moods, from desolate and moody in the winter to overflowing and vibrant in the summer. I've certainly had my moments living here – we're both frustrated with the job opportunities (or lack thereof), I have moments of loneliness and the occasional feeling of being quite removed from everything. Portland, and Maine, in general, can feel like its own little world, which, depending on how you're feeling, can either be fantastic or a little limiting. Like anywhere, Maine is complicated. There are economic problems and a drug epidemic and homelessness. It can be a little out of touch, but for the most part only with the things that don't matter. But the wonderful far outweighs the bad here (for me) and it's still wild for me to think that just one year ago we were walking out of our apartment on 4th Street in South Philly for the final time, after dreaming about moving north for so long.