Home is Just a Story.
If one thing has characterized my visit to Portland - a city I lived in for 6 years, and my last home before leaving the United States - it’s how little time there was.
The sheer number of friends and visits and people with whom to grab coffee, drinks, and lunch. The bus time and the traffic. The hours that weren’t there.
I finished every day in Portland with a two-hour deficit on things that Needed to Be Done, that weren’t getting done, because Sleep Has Needs Too. It was eleven days after leaving Bangkok before I got a full night’s sleep.
There’s an element of saying yes because you’re only here for a week to it, of course. But even without that, I could feel the city pressing in. A button-down shirt just a half-size too small. Too big in the gut, too small in the chest. Off-fit.
But in that mismatch, in the dropped obligations and emails for the Change Monsters that never got sent, in the mass of overstimulation and burnout, deeper clarity wriggled its way to the surface. Deep ocean bubbles, finally working their way free. The connections between Ink and Feet and the monsters and Mindful Browsing and the children’s book I’ve been working on for two years now.
That everything comes down to stories.
I gave a talk to a group of students this week entitled, Ways I’ve Tried to Change the World and Failed. In the discussion afterwards, one student noted, “So, you’ve done all these big projects, you just got back from Thailand, you’re moving to Mexico, and you just take on trying to changing the world year after year. I mean, I know I’m a romantic, but that’s kind of my dream life.”
I heard him, and I thought, he’s got a point. For me it’s a lovely way to live. But when I opened my mouth to respond, I found something much more spilling out. I told him,
Yeah, it’s true. It’s not bad. But see, the thing is, there are these stories we all tell about what life is supposed to be like. The sorts of relationships you’re supposed to have, with whom, and for how long. How you should earn your living. How you’re supposed to change and when you should stop changing. The kinds of things you can and should realistically take on.
But all those stories - all of them - once upon a time, someone just made them up. For a lot of people, they work really well - they’re a great-fitting mold that provides them a meaningful life in a complicated world.
But they don’t fit everyone. If they don’t work for you, it’s ok. You can just make up an entirely new story. One that fits you, one that’s the life *you* want to live. And then - you just go live it.
It sounds too simple to be true, but honestly as far as I can figure out, that’s really it.
Here, walking around in the world, all I can see is how true every word is.
Everywhere I go, Portland or Bangkok, LA or Lima, in every corner of every building I touch, I find nothing but stories. Everywhere, everything, all of us. All together, a crazy symphony of a tale.
Tomorrow, I’ll get on the plane, leave behind rainy Portland for my beloved Southwestern desert, some time with family and my two small nieces just now wrapping their hands around our hand-me-down story of a world.
When I walk down the ramp, my departure city will be no more where I live than my destination. I simply no longer fit in that well-worn story of home - it, too tight all over, bursting at the seams.
I’ll cross the forests, then the high plains of the West, riding between two wings that write in contrails in the sky behind me, home can also look like this.