Friday, August 15, 2008

Life, the Universe, and Everything

In a few months, I'm planning to make some major changes to my life. My partner and I are moving to Portland, Oregon, a place where we believe we'll be happier, healthier, and more comfortable. After five years together (almost exactly - our anniversary is the 20th), we've grown kind of set in our ways here in Tulsa. The move to Portland will really shake up our routine.

We're going from a city where cars are absolutely indispensable to a city where we won't even have cars. Instead of commuting to work on a Tulsa moonscape spending hundreds of dollars on gas, insurance, and maintenance each month, we'll be using efficient, comprehensive public transportation. Instead of driving to the grocery store and getting a week's worth of groceries, we'll be walking to the store and getting things for one or two days. We'll ride bicycles, and we might buy a scooter, which will get about 100 miles per gallon.

We probably won't have air conditioning, as it only gets hot enough to need it in Portland for a few days out of the year. We won't get hundreds of channels of cable television, because there will be many more things that we can do outside of our apartment. My partner will go to school at a real university, instead of a horribly managed community college where he's constantly frustrated by inept instructors and an incompetent financial aid office. In short, we'll be active, engaged, alive, and aware of the world, instead of living this kind of half-dulled couch and television and computer gaming existence we have in Tulsa.

Of course, we're both a little nervous about making such a major transition in our lives. There is a lot to consider. The move itself is going to cost a lot of money. It will be a challenge to find a good job and a nice apartment from halfway across the country. And once we get there, there's no guarantee that we'll actually be happy.

The thing is though, I've spent too many years of my life just kind of coasting along and not taking risks, lazily taking life as it comes and taking the easy road when faced with a difficult choice. Moving to Portland is a major gamble, and it will allow both of us to kind of reboot our lives. And we'll have a network of friends already established in the city once we arrive, so we won't be totally lost and out of our depth.

I'm convinced that despite the challenges, this move will be good for us. I grew up in Tulsa, and it's always going to be the place that I call home. But I also grew up in Paris, and I miss the urban dynamic that Paris provided and Tulsa sorely lacks. I miss being able to sit at a sidewalk cafe for hours on end. I miss being able to walk in a city without worrying about being run over. I miss being able to hop on public transportation and go anywhere I want.

Portland seems to provide a good balance between the urban dynamism of Paris and the affordability and comfort of Tulsa. It is a city that is well designed, walkable, alive, and full of great restaurants, cafes, and museums. At the same time, it's small enough that it won't seem overwhelming.

Clearly, we'll have to see where we are a year from now to determine whether we made the right choice. The only way to really know whether you've made the right decision is to make the decision and see what happens.

So the decision is made, and we'll see what happens.