On Our Next Big Adventure



You may recall that a few weeks ago I announced that my wife Clay and I are packing up our home & business and moving to Portland, Oregon. This particular change feels even bigger than others I’ve made recently, and that’s because it involves a significant change in place.

If you know me at all, you know that I am am California girl. I love my state (and its flora and fauna) so much that I have the word California (flocked with poppies and a Quail) tattooed on my left forearm. The California Bay Area has been my home for almost forty years. When I was eight years old my family moved from upstate New York to the Silicon Valley (first San Jose, then Los Gatos). When I was 18, I moved to Moraga, California to attend college, and from there, in 1990, I moved to San Francisco, where I lived for 23 years until I moved to Oakland a little over two years ago (which I wrote about here and here).

And for years and years, I said I would never leave San Francisco. It’s where I came of age, came out of the closet, where I became a real adult, worked, laughed, roamed the streets, fell in love for the first time, experienced & recovered from countless bouts of heartbreak, learned to love good food and wine, met most of the important people in my life and became an artist. “I am never leaving this city,” you might have heard me say years ago. “I am staying here till I die.”

But what I didn’t know then is that I would change. And that San Francisco would also change. And that even though I still love the place, I wanted, needed to get out and go somewhere else. I was craving more quiet and San Francisco was getting more crowded and more expensive. So two years ago I moved over to Oakland, a short 12 miles from the big city. And I grew to love it here too. Oakland offered so much of the change I was craving: more quiet, more space, something new and different for my mind to experience. But it was still only 12 miles away, and on average I’ve driven or taken the train into San Francisco at least twice a week since moving to Oakland.

Early in 2014 my wife and I began to talk about my art business. It was growing at an enormously fast pace, and I was struggling to keep up with & manage all of the opportunities by myself. We wondered aloud what it would be like for her to come on and help me with my business, to manage my marketing and operations, strategic decision making and communication. That wondering grew into a plan, and a year later we are making it happen (she started as Head of Marketing and Operations for Lisa Congdon Art & Illustration last week, after leaving her job at California College of the Arts). We also realized that in order to build the studio of our dreams (complete with room for things like art-making, order fulfillment and client meetings) we had to leave the Bay Area. The cost of living here is one of the most expensive in the country.

So we began researching other cities and towns that might be a good fit, places that were economically vibrant, but more affordable, and we kept coming back to Portland, Oregon. There is a rich arts community in Portland, a fantastic outdoors culture (we love to bike and swim and hike), and, best of all, my parents and sister and her family all live there. It’s already been like a second home to me for the past 15 years. After months of visits and weighing options, and lots of hemming and hawing, we decided, despite having to leave California, Portland was the place.

And just like that, I’m leaving the place I once thought I would never leave, and everything I thought would be true about my home is no longer true.

And while you might think that I would feel scared or sad, I am, in fact, enormously excited to leave the Bay Area. And that’s not because I’m angry or disgruntled about the changes in the Bay Area; it’s because I’m excited to try something new. I’m excited to experience an entirely new place first time in my adult life — not just for a few weeks on a vacation, but as a new way of living. I am looking forward to making new friends, hiking new trails, getting to know my family in new ways, making a new home with Clay and planting some roots. I am even looking forward to experiencing new weather, rain and cold winters.

I have no doubt I will miss the abundance of sunshine, the endless hillsides covered in dry grass and dotted with oak trees, the diversity, the culture of innovation, my beautiful friends. I have unending memories of my life here in California, of San Francisco back when it was just a regular bohemian city, and all of the incredible things & people I experienced here over the past 25 years.

But I am excited about our next adventure. I’m excited about being uncomfortable, about new experiences and about getting lost. The older I get, the more I realize how intentional change and placing myself outside my comfort zone fuels my creative process and growth. I have no doubt that the next few months will be an intense and sometimes difficult adjustment for both Clay and me. But I also know that I have not felt this much energy for life (despite my busy work schedule) in a long time.

So, Portland, here we come.

Have a great Thursday, friends.

CATEGORIES: Personal Essays