Milestones and anniversaries. They increase as we get older, no? And after awhile, there are so many, I lose track. I’m not typically one to make a big deal about some of these things (for instance, I really only celebrate my birthday every two or three years) but sometimes one has particular meaning.
I realized when December started I have been at my current house for three years. Now that may not seem like anything to some of you, but for me it’s a big deal. I’ve lived in Portland for almost sixteen years, but I’ve only ever lived at one place for about two years. In fact, I’ve only lived at one other place over two years, and that was my first apartment in town. Portland has been a series of transitory rentals for me. And for a few years in the middle of the aughts, it was a lot of semi-permanent living: crashing in friend’s guest rooms or on their couch. I even lived at the hostel for a bit. And the last time I have lived in one spot for three or more years was in the mid-90’s.
This transitory living pattern means it was hard for me to get used to the idea of living in one spot for an extended period of time. I’d come into a new room or space, do the bare minimum required to make the space liveable, and then not think about it. This style of living suited me in my late 20’s into 30’s, where myself and most of the people I knew in town seemed to move on average once a year. Why get too comfortable with a space, too lived in, when you know you’ll be somewhere else next year? Why accumulate a bunch of stuff that you’ll either have to haul to the next place or get rid of? Besides, for me it seemed like my house was a place to sleep and make an occasional meal. I was “out” most of the time, whether working, doing stuff somewhere, volunteering at a place, or just hanging out. Hell, it wasn’t until 2011 that I had a true way to access the internet at home, so I was always somewhere else to use it.*
It wasn’t until after The Big Tour in 2011 did my concept of home shift a bit. While I had done extensive multi-month travels in the decade preceding, they were still nothing like the four plus month tour April and I did. Living out of panniers got old after a bit, and I longed for some permanence. When we got home, we had no plan, no permanent place to live. Our stuff was stored at a friends house. We managed to “live temporarily” at April’s old apartment, the one she had before we moved into an apartment together. Miraculously, they had never rented out her old room, so it was back to a familiar space.
But this temporary living dragged on for almost two years. It was easy to get comfortable in a space like this. But the problem for me was it was never my space. This was a space occupied mostly by the stuff and memories of others. The only bit I could call my own was my desk. I started to feel like an intruder in the place I lived in, and that wasn’t fun. While I am definitely thankful that April’s old roommates let us stay indefinitely, in retrospect I wish that there was a time limit and we would have been forced to figure out something else. This dragging on in that apartment was a contributing factor into the dissolution of our relationship.
This made me find value in finding a space of my own. And I’m glad that I’ve had it for the last few years. Sure, it took me awhile to “ease into” this new reality. (For instance, I didn’t put much up on the walls my first year here.) And I do like my house. While there are issues with it, it’s nothing insurmountable. I generally get along with my roommates. And while Woodlawn is not my most preferred neighborhood to live in, it’s not bad.
The question in the back of my mind is: How long? I do think I’ll be here for at least another year. But ideally I’d like to live on my own somewhere. But Portland is a hard place to accomplish that these days. And we’ve got decent rent at my current house, too. I worry that either the owner or the property management company will realize how much more they can make in rent, or sell it. Our chunk of affordable “paradise” will be gone. And there’s always that notion of doing another big bike tour. It probably won’t happen in 2017 but it could be 2018. I feel like 2011 was the last possible time in Portland to leave your house, put your stuff in storage, and come back and expect to find a reasonable place. If I did the big tour, I may have to figure something else out. I might not be able to come back to Portland.
*Note to self: This is always a good way to encourage yourself to leave the house more often!