I had my first ever chai tea in Eugene, Oregon. I knew from the first sip that it was the beginning of a very long and meaningful relationship. I began to learn the true power that being “coffee shop mellow” had over the next few years. I hopped from café to café in hopes of finding the perfect ambiance for whatever mood I may be in, all the while falling deeper and deeper in love with the relaxing aroma of a variety of chai teas. I spent five years in Eugene. For the first time, I had a place that was truly mine. I made a home for myself in its moist climate, amongst its liberal banter and organic produce. I always described Eugene to people as a slightly more conservative version of my hometown in California — which says a lot about my hometown. I truly came into my own while in Eugene, as the unpredictability of the twenties swung my life in all sorts of directions.
The last two years were the golden years of my college experience. I was finally living in a place that allowed me to be myself without fear or containment. I lived in a little cottage up in the wooded South Eugene hills. I will be forever grateful to the woman who referred me to this place. It was a magical environment, a peaceful existence — a good space. I finally had an art table, which I’d spend some nights working at until the wee hours of the morning. I covered my refrigerator with paper and wrote all of my thoughts on it every term, a sort of public journal of ideas and inspirations. I hung pictures on my walls in the ways that made me happy. It was simply a wonderful place for me to call home. The day I moved in, I found a wall hanging sitting on top of some of the built-in cabinets. The hanging read, “Home is where your story begins.” The pure bliss I had moving into this place completely related to what the wall hanging said and so I hung it from a nail above my door as a reminder of what this next phase of life meant.
Last week, after two years of stories, I began to pack up my little studio in the woods. The smallest trinket, the lightest smell, or the gentlest of touch sent me twirling through a ballet of memories. I’m not so much the type that draws upon memories wishing for the past to reoccur, but rather I use them to examine the steps I took that got me to this exact place I am at now. I look upon memories with a heart that worries whether I have paid them the respect they are due.
While packing, I felt like I had the opportunity to relive the last five years and I was flooded with smiles as I taped each moving box closed. Going through my jewelry, I found the bracelet my mother had given me the day she dropped me off at the dorms for my freshman year. She has one too. On mine a small charm was filled with sand from a beach back home and on her’s a charm was filled with soil from Eugene. I felt so moved watching her leave and knowing I would be walking back into my postage stamp-sized dorm room alone. Looking through photos, I laughed over the absurdity of the enthusiasm my circle of friends had for Duck athletics. We shared some truly epic times camping outside of ticket offices and arenas in the cold of winter. I began to remember my dad coming up to visit me, rolling down his windows and riding low in his car while “bumping” some of the current hit songs. I would just shake my head. He was so proud to share with my “Unkie” Steve that I was a Duck. I was too. Downtown adventures, hikes of the butte, Greece, New York, Atlanta, run ins with interesting characters on Eugene’s public transportation, the wonderful people I met working for the school district, and a million other topics ran through my head. I could never capture them all in this blog, but they were incredible and I am so grateful for all of them — from the lonely nights wondering what I was doing with my life to the highest of highs where the future seemed so bright. Slowly, but surely, they each got packed into boxes to come back with me to California.
It poured rain my last weekend in Eugene while my dad and I packed up our cars with my belongings. As I lay in my bed the last night, I listened with the window open to the falling rain as I had done so many times before. I felt comfortable and connected to my space even knowing that the next day it would all change. By mid-afternoon the next day, my place was empty except for the Tibetan singing bowl my dad had given me last Christmas. This was planned. We both sat on the floor of my empty house, the front door open and the rain falling against the forest’s leaves, and hit the singing bowl one last time. The harmonious ring took over the bare room and I sat calm, looking outside. I suddenly became aware of how much I had been holding in my feelings on leaving this place. The meaning these four walls had to me began to warm in my soul and I was quickly overwhelmed by emotion I could not control, emotion that had been hiding within me all along. I acknowledged the feeling and the sense of loss and tears began to roll down my cheeks. It was time to go. I wrote a little note to the future tenant of my place, taped it on the wall hanging I had found when I first moved in, and placed it back where I found it so that they may discover it too and begin their story. I walked around my quiet, empty home once more, thanked it, and closed the door.
I left Eugene yesterday. I locked up the place I had called home for two years and for the last time for a while I began the drive south on Interstate 5, leaving that chapter of my life in its special little manila folder in my heart’s filing cabinet. I grabbed a Yumm bowl for the road and some of the Divine Cupcake’s organic, vegan delights.
I have some great adventures coming my way soon and I cannot wait to get started on ending poverty in the Washington, D.C. area. I will find a slice of home there where I can begin the next piece of my story. However, the truth is that sometimes it doesn’t matter how excited you are about something. It doesn’t so much matter whether you could have predicted an upcoming event. No, it is not always reassuring to hear that this is the right path for you and all will be well in time. The truth of the matter is that when it comes down to it, endings are endings. They beckon great change and uproot the very foundation you allowed yourself to become accustomed to. They are the separation between your now and what are to be your memories. Whether a happy ending or a sad ending, they all come with some sense of loss. It’s hard not to cry when leaving a place you’ve grown to love and all of the people within it you’ve vowed to hold in your being forever. I left Eugene yesterday and now sit in a café in my hometown, reflecting and preparing for my next round of packing for my move east. My chai tastes a little salty today and I think I know why. Farewell, Eugene — until we meet again. I love you.