Sunday, February 5, 2012

Geographic Orientation

After being a "west coaster" for most of my life, and spending about 2 years on the east coast, only to then come back to a different part of the west coast, I am pondering the idea of geographic orientation.

How does where one live affect their personality? Lifestyle? Outlook on life? I know for a fact that if I was born anywhere else than Southern California my life would be completely different. For example, diversity, and working class people were "normal" to me. My cousins from Michigan however, were literally shocked with the diversity and homelessness present in Socal. I am glad that I was born in such a diverse, enriching place. And now only because I have left that place, can I look at it objectively. I understand (now more so than ever living in Portland) the amazing high that comes along with constant sunshine, the benefits of diversity and the general laid back feeling that permeates Los Angeles' air. (I've heard many a NYer who comes to LA and complains that everything is 'so slow')

Reflecting on my time on the east coast, I must say I am no expert. But also people claimed I would have a hard time with the "fast pace" in NYC and "east coast attitudes". What does that mean anyway? I did not have a problem adjusting to NYC. I was actually thankful for the fact that so many people enjoy working and getting things done in the city. I enjoyed people's honesty, heartache, pain and stress that parades itself across the whole city. The city is resilient and so are the people. The city and the people force you to hustle, to make it work. A study in perseverance and endurance.

I miss the fast pace energy and diversity of NYC. And now I find myself in another place. West-East-West. ((Orientations made up for convenience, with a whole lot of meaning. Makes me think of the useless labels we ascribe to race, geography and sexuality. Exclusionary forces. ))

Portland is very relaxed. Upon not being available for a meeting with a new acquaintance, I was told that he was hoping I was a "typical Portland slacker" with lots of free time during the week. Nope, definitely not one of those.

Because I am getting to know people at work and in the theatre, I have rehearsed my own little geographic story. LA-NYC-PDX. Some people get more details than others, about what brought me to each place. With the consistent recitation, and reactions to my geographic journey, I wonder how much does a city thrive on its people? And vice verse? It's as if we should put down on job applications if we are a West Coaster or East Coaster.

I have also gotten familiar with one particular reaction. "Why did you leave New York for Portland?" I get asked with an incredulous tone. I get asked this in such a way that eludes to my sheer idiocy for leaving "the center of the universe" for Portland, Oregon. Some people say it more politely, inferring that I went from one hip place to another and that I must be ok.

The answer: A man. I moved for a man. Is that dumb? The feminist part of me feels uneasy with this answer every time I recite it. Not because I am ashamed, or not in love. But because it is the first time in my life that he has really affected my life decision. I made a choice to move. So far the choice has worked out better than expected. I am embracing the journey. Who knows where we will end up? SF? NYC? Stay in PDX? The good thing is I am open.

I know a lot of people who have never left their hometown. They have no desire to leave what is safe. And now I know first hand, the sheer exhaustion and emotional toll of moving back and forth. But it can be thrilling. Sort of like an anthropologic study. A study of the self and the will to survive. To adapt to consistently changing environments.

I know that during my stay here, Portland will be come a part of me. Just like the morsels of Los Angeles and NYC have ingrained themselves in my thoughts, my actions, my nostalgic daydreams. The thing about this is I can't quite put my finger on it. I can't exactly describe how place affects me, or why I miss a certain place. I do believe cities and people have a symbiotic relationship in which each are breathing in and out of each other, affecting and changing. I am just fascinated by the divide and thought process behind East coast and West coast. And yet, I intellectually understand there is a difference.

How have you been affected by your geography?

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