I landed in Portland a year ago today, after a 12-hour drive from Utah, and just in time to see my best friend play her last soccer game of the season. I recall shivering as the sun faded below the horizon and decided in that instance I was right all along- it never gets warm in Portland. Lucky for me, I’m not always right.
I turned 30 this month and have had a chance to reflect on this past year. I reflected on my decision to move to Portland, to seek out a new career, and to build a life back in the US. Twenty-nine was a year of growth and transition. It was a year of taking risks, developing a business, working on impulse, moving, putting my name on a lease for the first time in years, making new friends, and jumping into a new job. I still can’t believe this is my life… sometimes with pure happiness and sometimes with my face in my hands wondering what the heck I’m doing. And that’s okay. That’s what your 20s are for, right? The first few months in Portland were really difficult. But I found my footing, and I found so many AMAZING people in Portland. Sure, the food is good, the markets are great, and the ability to explore new places is exciting, but if it weren’t for the friends I have here, I’m not sure that Portland would be a good fit for me. But for my 29th year, it has been.
After turning 29 and moving last July to Portland, searching for a job was my priority. I filled out an application for my current job, as an employment specialist for a refugee organization, but I became stuck on the Language question. I felt like I had knocked out the employment and experience part and that my background was a great fit for the organization. But I struggled at this point. After listing a language, you could check the following options about your knowledge of the language: Poor, Intermediate, or Advanced. I was looking for a ‘Basic’ box but that option wasn’t available. I may not be a marketing expert, but I did know that touting your ‘Poor’ knowledge of something doesn’t exactly land you a job. So my ‘Basic’ knowledge in Swahili suddenly became ‘Intermediate’. The next thing you know I had an interview, accepted a job specializing in Congolese refugees, and was listed as a Swahili speaker on our organization list. The first couple of months were stressful: my first request for interpretation failed miserably. I studied, I learned from others, I engaged clients and we laughed when I said “I’m drunk” instead of “I understand”. While I hope my boss doesn’t read this, I also hope that if she does, she recognizes my drive to learn and succeed and my genuine passion for and dedication to my clients. I may not have this Swahili thing down quite yet, but I have great relationships with my clients and my job is an absolute joy. This sums up 29 for me: taking risks and finding rewards, even if I stumbled a bit along the way.
I can happily admit that I’ve been wrong. I was wrong about the weather in Portland, and I have been mistaken about many things this past year. Emily told me (multiple times) that it gets warm in Portland. I was certain, not that she was wrong, but that maybe she forgot what hot feels like since she was no longer in the south. If I learned anything at 29, it was that I should listen. And I should be open to new ideas. As I learn this lesson personally, I’m also trying to apply it professionally. Things for Amsha are going well, but I have plans for some exciting changes as we learn to grow and adapt with our environment and assets. At times it was incredibly difficult. But I wouldn’t trade it. Everyday in Portland and working on Amsha has been an opportunity to learn, a chance to grow, and a reason to smile.
I’m sad that I have neglected to keep up with my blog. I’ve taken some pretty exciting adventures in and around Oregon, and my work stories are out of this world. I think this year is about finding balance, and I hope that includes writing. Thank you to everyone who happens to be reading this (and has stuck around for so long!). I’m feeling extremely lucky to be alive, to be in Portland, and to engage with so many fascinating people on a day-to-day basis.
Love from Portland,