There was a time in my life where I thought I had everything. I had an awesome job, found the love of my life, and was surrounded by friends and family all the while living in sunny L.A. It was a great time, but I still wanted more—I wanted to learn, grow, and experience new things.
So I applied for graduate school. I only applied to two schools, my “dream school” and my “back up school”. My dream school was in NYC and my back up school was in LA. The first letter arrived and it was from my backup school. I was rejected. I was bummed for a while, then relegated myself to staying in LA and continue working. Several more weeks passed and I got the letter from my dream school. I got accepted and was invited to start the program in three months.
Leaving LA, my career, my family, my friends, my partner all behind was the hardest decision I’ve ever made. I knew I was walking away from stability and love to pursue my own dreams 3,000 miles away. For those three months leading up to my departure, I was in a semi-permanent state of panic. I was about to accrue more debt, and leave my love and everything I knew.
Leaving the known for the unknown is always scary because it’s a risk.
Also, I never thought I would be in a long distance relationship. I always said, I could never do that, why would I do that to myself? But when you have an opportunity that you have always wanted and you don’t want to just throw your relationship away, sometimes there is no choice. My partner was also in school and he was so supportive of me going to grad school, I couldn’t then turn around and tell him to quit school to follow me.
On the day I was supposed to leave LA forever, I was sick. I don’t know if it was the panic or what (or maybe too many goodbye parties?), but I was physically ill. My mom and boyfriend drove me to the airport, but I had to pull over every 10 minutes or so to use a gas station bathroom. It was not pretty. That, coupled with typical LA traffic, I almost missed my flight. I had the most unromantic goodbye with my boyfriend and couldn’t even say goodbye to my mom.
It was one of those moments that I knew my life would change forever and I couldn’t go back. For two years, I lived in New York and attended graduate school. Aside from the difficulties of long distance, it was pretty awesome. My boyfriend then had an opportunity to move to Portland for school, which he did three months after I moved to NYC. Somehow both of us moving to new cities for better opportunities, while apart, connected us even more. We would talk about the new people we met, how different our respective cities were than LA, the cool things we did, the loneliness of trying to acclimate to a new place. Visiting each other was the best part—we’d see each other every 2-3 months. I’d go to Portland, he’d come to New York. We even met in Seattle for our three year anniversary, and met in San Francisco for Thanksgiving. Somehow, we made it work.
When I graduated school, I was determined to stay in New York for a while. I fell pretty hard and wasn’t really interested in moving to Portland. About six months later, I had a lot of great opportunities, was creating and living a full life, but I was incredibly lonely. The skype dates were getting old, the time difference a nightmare and the physical pangs of longing between each 8-12 week stretch, unbearable. I didn’t want to leave New York, but career prospects weren’t great enough to keep me there, while my love was in Portland. I was done with school and he still had two more years to go. After many discussions, I decided to leave New York and move to Portland. This was especially hard as I had just had twenty interviews in a short period of time (none which panned out– but I felt like I was getting closer) and I was moving to Portland….where “young people go to retire”. I knew Portland was going to be hard and the job market sucked. I erroneously thought that because I had success in LA and NYC it would be “easy” for me in Portland.
I did get pretty lucky moving to Portland—I found work right away, but it wasn’t in my field. 15 months later, I am still a contract employee and have been unable to find permanent work. My boyfriend is doing fairly well here and I am trying to find my feet. We both know this is not where we want to end up and realize opportunities in our field are limited here. Luckily, our dream cities of New York and San Francisco would have better opportunities for our careers, but the cost of living is so high.
Everything comes at a price. I was initially intrigued by Portland because it is so damn affordable (especially coming from LA and NYC). I thought, I’ll be able to pay off my student loans quicker! Not really, because my pay is low and my left over income is still comparable to what I had in New York.
Now my partner is graduating in two months. Ironically, I have a second interview for a job with my backup school that rejected me. I am excited, nervous and filled with mixed emotions. I want to live in my dream cities, have my love, have my career, and pay off my student loans. I want it all—but at what price? Although my finances are alright, I need to pay off my loans so that I can have the choice to go where I want. Right now, I will go where there is meaningful, permanent work.
I am eager to find where we will end up, what jobs we will have. I want my love, career and geography to match up again. I have to remember that life is an adventure and everything is temporary. Amazing things will happen and I have to be open to opportunities. Who would have thought I would live in three states in three years? Although it hasn’t turned out the way I wanted, I am so glad that I had a chance to leave home and wander. Some people never leave their hometown. There is a big big world out there and it’s been amazing to taste the East Coast lifestyle and Portland lifestyle. They are both so different from what I experienced growing up. I will continue on with the adventure and be open to life’s opportunities.
Have you ever been in a situation where your love, career and geography did not match up?