PDX Visit Reflections

Caveat: I wrote this initially as a thread in Mastadon

In 2018 I moved to Berlin, Germany from Portland, OR. Moving half way around the world by myself to a city where I knew no one was a difficult event but I did it. It’s a huge accomplishment to tackle a dream like that, especially with a global pandemic in the middle of it. Recently I’ve been in PDX to visit with the people I love and have have deep connections to but don’t seen often enough. It’s been both good and difficult. Here’s my reflection.

I am so happy I brought my folding bike. I don’t have a car here so having a bike has given me the freedom to easily roll around town with my dog. There are very few things that top riding your bike on a summer evening with friends. I was also stoked to see more bike infrastructure in PDX.

Owning a piece of property and managing it from afar without a property manager was like personal-life (tech) debt. When I got into town the property was a mess and no maintenance had been done for 4 years. The tenants took advantage of my compassionate empathetic side and I gave in too much to their requests. This resulted in financial commitments not met and toxic relationships where tenants think I owe them something.

My tenants’ choices are not my responsibility and we made a commitment to each other via the lease. I wish I’d adopted this as a mantra years ago. Dealing with this took away from time I wanted to spend enjoying Portland and my fave people. I underestimated the amount of work I would have to do when I got here and regret many things.

Along with stress of fixing up the property and dealing with the tenants, I lived in the unit while they were moving out and during construction. In the last 3 months I’ve had very few amenities that make life easier (looking at you very dull bread knife) and their absence has really worn me down.

Packing for a three month trip that crossed from summer into deep fall was difficult. I’ve had very few clothes to choose from and no winter coat as the weather got cold. While I’m not a super adventurous dresser, I miss the variety my closet typically provides. I am for sure not a minimalist and can’t imagine living as one full time.

Being back in a place where I can speak the same language as other has been glorious. While I’ve made friends in Berlin, living in a foreign country on my own (during a pandemic) has caused me to retreat a lot. I have loved being able to easily banter with strangers I meet (shout out to tradespeople, who are excellent at banter). It felt like being unshackled.

The “Not Belonging” feeling monster of lurks endlessly in my psyche. I think this feeling causes me to never feel content where I am. I am constantly seeking for a physical place where I might suddenly feel like I belong. Being an immigrant has also strengthened this monster. Unfortunately those feelings don’t just go away by visiting a town with lots of old friends. Being here has helped me see the problem is that it’s an internal me thing. I have so many wonderful people in my life! Of course I belong! We all do! I need to focus on the sources that severed that sense of belonging and figuring out how to see how I already belong wherever I am.

My perfectionism is also putting a strain on my mental and physical health. I’ve been struggling to get direct feedback from those I’m closest to without it feeling like a criticism and that I’m failing them. This isn’t fair to them or me. I can see how poorly I am equipped to celebrate my wins, strengths and quirks and be ok with being a work in progress. I ask a lot of myself and ask for help very rarely.

Setting up systems where I don’t try to be the end-all-be-all is important. Getting help early when the ask is smaller is less stressful. It helps prevent the build up of the personal life debt I mentioned earlier. I don’t need to be doing something the “right way” all the time. Of course, the perfectionism piece interplays strongly with the search to belong.

I love Mexican food and pizza. Maybe a little too much. My my relationship with food, especially while in the US, is dysfunctional. It’s been the perfect storm of eating to socialize and lacking kitchen equipment to cook. I think I’ve eaten out 90% of my non-breakfast meals. Coupled with the size of portions and salty/fatty food, I easily overeat for every meal. I think I have probably gained 20 lbs in 3 months. This causes me extreme anxiety (see aforementioned perfectionism) that keeps me up at night and just doesn’t feel good physically. I’m not sleeping well, my clothes are too tight and my gut is not happy.

So where am I at at the end of the visit? I’m happy to be returning to my creature comforts and larger wardrobe choices. I’m excited to start cooking for myself again. I’m going to miss my family and friends deeply. I’m going to hire a property manager for the times I rent my place out in Berlin. It’s time to go back to therapy.