Sometimes I think my life loves symmetry. It’s November, and once again I’m choking back tears as I leave my beloved City of Destiny behind.
It was a little over a year ago, after months of resisting, that I left Tacoma, my adopted home, and returned to my homeland in Oregon.
Making this move was not an easy decision to make. The fact that it was the only viable decision left to me made it all the more painful.
At the time, I was jobless, homeless, and hopeless. Thankfully, I wasn’t friendless, because without my dear friends, I wouldn’t have even made it long enough to leave Tacoma. I was at a low point, not entirely sure where I was going to sleep from week to week, and even less sure how I was going to eat from day to day. The people in my life helped me figure it out. More importantly, they gave me a reason to do so.
By this time last year, I’d given up. I’d lost the will to live, and the only thing keeping me shuffling along were the amazing people in my life, from blood relatives to the people I chose, who have earned the right to call me family despite the lack of any genetic or legal ties.
It was my lowest point, even lower than the rock bottom I’d hit over nine years earlier, when I nearly took my own life. So, after five years, I retreated. I left the city I’d fallen in love with, swearing to return but having trouble believing I’d ever be back for more than a weekend or so.
It hurt a lot. Though I missed and longed for Oregon the entire time I lived in Tacoma, leaving my city –yes, my city– behind was difficult. I’m a man with two homes, and while Oregon is the home I was born to, Tacoma is the home I made for myself. I worked to make it happen, I struggled to maintain it, and I poured my heart into it. When I left, it felt like my soul was being ripped apart.
One year later, I’m in a much better, and healthier place. The return to Oregon did a great deal to help repair my battered and broken psyche. I began reconnecting with people I hadn’t seen in ages, rediscovering old haunts, spending more time with loved ones, and getting back in touch with who I am and who I want to be. I remembered that I do love Oregon, and part of me will always reside within it.
But part of me will always be in Tacoma, too, so it was with great delight that I planned to trek up to T-Town for what was going to be a week, maybe two.
I’d been to Tacoma since moving away, of course. But only twice: once, to participate in the third Tacomapocalypse zombie art show that my friends at Treefish Studio put on every year –it was during this trip that a great night out, an emotional high, and my first real experience with alcohol led to the infamous “Fedoras Are Awesome” video– and once for a family reunion. There wasn’t a lot of time, in either case, to spend in my city, the city that held part of my soul, so I was excited to take this longer trip.
As soon as I returned, though, I started settling in as if I were back for good. It just felt too much like returning home. So “one week, maybe two” turned into “definitely two weeks,” and two weeks quickly turned into three, and before I knew it I’d wound up staying for over five weeks.
This still wasn’t nearly enough time to see everyone, do everything, and properly reconnect with my beloved 253 area code. But I did accomplish quite a bit of living. In those five weeks, I attended all sorts of events, visited a number of my favorite places, spent time with many (but not even close to all) of my Tacoma-area friends, shot three short films, officially entered into two polyamorous relationships (simultaneously entering the practicing poly lifestyle for the first time and coming out as polyamorous), and voted (I never changed my voter’s registration, not being sure how long I would remain in Oregon). My productivity increased, my social life was even more on fire than usual, and there was always, always, always something gorgeous to see, take in, and occasionally photograph.
And now I’m leaving, and again I feel as though my soul is being torn in two. As I sit here, on the train back to Portland, I’m desperately trying not to let loose the tears welling up in my eyes. As difficult as it was to leave the 253 a year ago, it’s so much harder this time. It hurts so much more, because this time I’m not leaving behind a life in shambles.
This time, the part of my soul I leave behind is happy, and strong. It’s mostly forgotten the pains of 2012, instead remembering all the joys I’m leaving behind, all too soon. The people, the places, the events, the community, the gorgeous vistas and the beautifully gritty alleys. They’re a part of me, no matter where I am.
I still don’t know what the future will bring. I don’t know if I’ll stay in Oregon, or if Tacoma will become my home base again, or if I’ll find a new, third place to call home. Only time will tell.
But part of me will always live here, in the City of Destiny. And it will always hurt to leave.
Don’t get used to my absence, Tacoma.
Now matter how many times I leave, you’ll always pull me back.