Nearly every morning for the last few weeks I have started each day the same way. It begins at about 5am these days, when I am greeted by the sun blasting its way through the blinds in my bedroom and onto my face. I have never been an early riser and yet, each morning it brings me joy to start my day this way. The towering buildings on either side of our old apartment have been replaced by fir trees, swaying in the wind and making the sunlight dance across my room. I find myself humming or singing as I begin my day, throwing my breakfast on the stove and making some of my favorite Chai tea from Townshend’s (I’ve even given up coffee!). I enjoy a brief yoga session and some strengthening work outs in the living room while I await my breakfast, and once it is done I plop down into a chair on my front porch to drink my tea and consume my eggs in peace. Our yard is overgrown so there are a plethora of birds, squirrels, and insects just roaming free. I love watching and listening as they too begin their day, and sometimes I feel as though our yard is a little untamed oasis where nature can thrive. We have a small planter garden for now, until we have time to tackle the yard, and once I have nourished myself I check on my plants to see if they too are in need of nourishment. I spend a few moments caressing their leaves and talking to them as I examine for deficiencies or pests, and water them if they call for it. This is all in the first hour of my day, and on most days I leave for work or school shortly after. Though my life is nearly consumed with these other obligations and I don’t have as much time to relax as I would like, I am still content. It is a far cry from the life I was leading in southern California! Witnessing the seeds of change blossoming into something so beautiful, even if imperfect, has been remarkable.
Today is the first full day “off” that I have had in some time, and though I should be focusing on homework I chose instead to have some extra “me time”. I dedicated more time to my plants, admiring the new growth and sudden abundance of ladybug larvae, then set up a chair next to them to enjoy some reading in the sun. Now I have migrated back to my shady porch where I am writing for the first time in months. The only sounds I hear are birds chirping their little hearts out, wind rustling the leaves of the trees above my head, and the occasional insect zipping by my ear. Off in the distance there is an occasional car passing, but with our house far back off the road, an empty plot behind it, and quiet neighbors on either side… it is just blissful. It is days like this when I become almost overwhelmed with the gratitude I feel, I am still so amazed at what has transpired to bring me where I am at this moment.
The purpose here is not to brag in any way, but to rather evaluate this new life I am living and see how far I have come. Today I came to the realization that it has been nearly seven months since I uprooted my life and made my way up here. Even as I think this, it still seems so strange. Seven whole months, already? This means that I have spent half a year here in Oregon, and folks it has been an amazing change for the better. In the past even the word “change” could instill fear deep into my heart, and I am still amazed that I stepped up and pushed through to get where I am now.
I’m especially proud of the strides I have made mentally, having made a conscious effort not to repeat old, negative patterns from the past. The very first day we moved into our new home I had a phone interview with the herbalism school I had been longing to attend and was accepted into the course I wanted. I had an undeniable moment of doubt though, as my fear began to get the better of me. Should I be committing a large portion of my time and finances (which I honestly didn’t have at the time) to school when I had literally just set foot in a new city? I had to put down the deposit and would need a second job to pay for the tuition. Maybe I should wait until I am better settled and financially stable, which for this school meant not starting for another year. The class didn’t begin for two months at this point though, so it gave me time to find work but not much. I have let myself be controlled by fear more times than I can count, but everything had lined up so perfectly to get me to this point that I couldn’t allow my doubts keep holding me back. In the end I took the plunge and had faith that everything would work out. This will be my fourth month in the class I am loving every second of it!
A month or so after I made that commitment I did indeed find another job, and a wonderful one at that! Having just left an acupuncture clinic that I loved, I decided that I wanted to stay within the “alternative medicine” field. I am, after all, studying to be an herbalist! I felt a need to immerse myself in the world of healing, and luckily in Portland there is no shortage of naturopaths, acupuncturists, or even herbalists. At first I started in a part-time position at an integrative medicine clinic, but I have now taken over as their full time office manager. With the physical and mental health issues I have dealt with over the last few years, keeping my remote job as my primary was not something I was willing to compromise on. Having those days at home to feel like garbage was important to me, though entirely unhealthy. This time when the opportunity came I chose instead to get out of the house, dedicating more time to a job and company that I love and not hiding away in my home. They work around my school schedule and are just the most supportive and positive people!
In the months that we’ve been here I swear we have already spent more time in the outdoors than we did the entire time I lived in California. Though I have admittedly been slacking on my posts, we have ventured out into some amazing places which I hope to fill you in on soon! Raging rivers, waterfalls, dense forests, snowy mountains… I feel such a sense of being home! In our last outing we were both simply too tired for anything intense, so we hiked about a mile and a half up the Salmon Butte Trail and just picnicked under the trees. We laid on the forest floor and dug our bare feet into the dirt, enjoying each other’s company in silence, listening to the animals and the river below, and watching the trees above swirl in the breeze. Though I love hiking, and reaching the breathtaking views only obtained from a hard to reach peak, these moments in nature are therapeutic in their own right.
I have tried to make it a priority to find those moments of peace I never allowed myself to have before. Even when I am at work I often spend my lunch break walking around the neighborhood, admiring the tree lines streets and beautiful gardens. I have been trying to do the opposite of what I did in San Diego by making the best of every moment and not letting every little thing get under my skin. At first it felt like remaining positive and trying to keep myself out of my depression was a full time job on its own, but I have been working so diligently and it is finally becoming easier and easier. I have felt an overall sense of calm and peace since settling in here, for the first time in years feeling as though I am on the right path. I often hear the phrase “grow where you’re planted”, and while I agree to an extent I also feel that one’s environment can have an enormous effect on their well-being. And in my case the change of scenery was absolutely necessary, and has been welcomed with open arms.
It hasn’t been without stress though. This wonderful house in which we are living is owned by a dear friend of ours, and the previous tenants had trashed it so horrendously that he couldn’t afford to repair or rent it out for the last two years. When we asked to live here he made sure we knew of the condition it was in, and that he would not be able to fix anything. We chose to live here anyway not only for the ease of not having to hunt for a place to live, but because we wanted to help rebuild the house that had been a beloved thorn in his side for too long. Though we knew it would be taxing on our minds, bodies, and wallets we committed to this endeavor which we hoped would benefit all of us. We first had to clean the house both physically and energetically, and I have never been so repulsed by a space in my life. We gave the living room and kitchen fresh coats of paint, and it started to feel more like a home. All of the appliances were destroyed and it took us a while after moving in to obtain even a new fridge, and we still have to cook with a convection oven and hot plate. As mentioned the yard is overgrown from years with no upkeep, and there are still a lot of repairs needed inside and out. So though we love this house that we’re blessed to live in, it also came with a list of burdens.
Jeremy had a tougher time settling in than myself, which has been rough on both of us. It took much longer for him to find work and he’s in a seasonal position at the moment. For the first few months we were relying solely on my income which meant I was working 60 hour weeks and also attending school. Though I am now down to 45-50 hours a week, my weekends are consumed either will school or homework so there is no real “free time”. Jeremy had pointed out that part of the purpose of our move was to slow down and not work so damn hard or have as much stress, which hadn’t happened yet. Obviously transitions like this can have their hiccups, and it has only been six months so of course everything isn’t perfect! Plus I think it will take us some time to ease out of the southern California hustle and adjust to a slower lifestyle.
He and I have opposite days off right now, which means our outdoor adventures have mostly been on hold for a month or two. It has been disappointing to be missing out on spring in the mountains, but we find other ways to enjoy our time together. We make time to spend in our garden, and though he arises later than I do on work days I try to encourage him to join me for morning tea time on the porch. Just having that moment of quiet contemplation at the beginning of the day can set the tone.
So as I sit here reflecting on everything that has occurred in the last half year of my life, I cannot help but feel proud of myself. I’m not going to pretend that everything is peachy and I do not have moments or days when my depression or anxiety creep back in. All of these changes I have made didn’t just suddenly turn me into a new person! The difference is that I have finally done something about it, and continue to do so. I’ve given up so easily in the past, either before even starting or if it was too challenging or I didn’t see immediate results. This is the first time in as long as I can remember that I have remained persistent, and have made it happen.
Last month was also the anniversary my first hiking adventure, and a year since I started Wild Nemophilist! I attribute a lot of the changes that I have made to that moment on my first day in the mountains, and I cannot believe what has occurred since then!
I’ve spent the last year consciously and diligently clawing my way out of my pit of despair (Princess Bride reference!). I know firsthand how difficult it can be to allow yourself to make the necessary changes to better yourself and your life. You become comfortable in your misery, because for so long it is all you have known. It has absolutely been a struggle and continues to be, nothing happens overnight. And maybe it is silly to say that hiking is responsible for this shift in my mindset that enabled these changes, but in a way it is! I’ve learned to focus on putting one foot in front of the other, rather than focusing on how far I still had to go and giving up. I learned how capable I really am when I challenge myself, and that I could actually accomplish things I could be proud of. Just being out in the mountains or even the desert reminded me how spectacular the world is, and how shortsighted I was being. And because of these realizations I was able to make significant changes in my life that I was too afraid or disheartened to make before. I’ve moved states, started school, and committed to a job that I love instead of sitting at home. None of these were thought possible a year ago!
I’ve learned so much about myself over the last year and used it to grow as a person rather than focusing on the negatives. It has been a remarkable journey so far, and I hope to keep adventuring, making positive changes, and growing into the person I strive to be.