Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Stick Me In Forks? I'm Done.

Treehouse-eye view of me, writing in the hammock, oblivious to the gnomes that are watching me work.

It's been about a month or so since I gave a life update, and a little bit more than two months since Cody and I moved to Forks.  And to the surprise of probably very few people who know me, I've found it very difficult to remain living in a place like this.  We've already found a new living situation for the start of May, one that I am far more confident in and can't wait to move into.

Forks is a beautiful place, and I would highly recommend it to people looking for a place to get away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life.  It's like travelling back in time 30 years.  When I first got here I was checking Craigslist in an attempt to find anything interesting - from jobs, to activities, to things for sale - and to my surprise there would be days in which no one posted anything at all.  Coming from a place like Boston, that was a gigantic shock to me.  I later found out that people here still depend on the local newspaper for things of that nature, but even with that knowledge I never really found much in the way of interesting places to meet new people.

At its core, the main reason that I was dissatisfied with life in Boston was that everything felt too crowded.  It felt like there were too many people and I was sick of it.  At first I thought that life in Forks would be the epitome of what I was trying to get away from back East, but in practice it ended up feeling like I had made a wish on a monkey's paw that I was starting to regret.  Feeling lost in a crowd is bad, but feeling isolated from the rest of the world, in my opinion, is worse.

The two closest towns to Forks are Port Angeles (75 minute drive away) and Aberdeen (2 hour drive away).  It had gotten to the point where I would volunteer to run errands simply because I wanted to leave the house and didn't know where else to go.  With the exception of Cody and a handful of weekends where I traveled out of town to see friends, the only conversations that I've had for the last two months have been with strangers and employees at local businesses.  As someone who prefer in-depth conversations to friendly smalltalk, I found this to be really challenging to adjust to.

The two things that helped keep me sane: Cody, and the wooded nook next to our house where we spent a lot of time.

I don't want to give the impression that it was all bad.  For one thing, Cody and I picked a little spot under some trees right next to our house and made it into our outdoor playground.  One of the first things we did was to pick a little spot in the woods that we wanted to build out, which became something like a permanent campsite that we regularly used.  We dug up a fire pit, which was awesome - for years now I've wanted the ability to settle around a fire when I wanted and have had access to neither a fireplace nor a front yard, and having that was every bit as good as I hoped it would be.

Once the fire pit was in place, we started adding more to it.  I hung our hammock up between two trees that were close enough to the fire pit that I could warm my bare feet over the fire.  Cody went to town, moving a bunch of his art supplies outside so that he could be surrounded by nature when we was creating art.  He hid various things around the woods, from garden gnomes to treasure chests, in the hopes that people exploring the woods in the future might find them.  And, in a move that quite impressed me, he started building out a tree house that overlooked our woodland nook.  We started to joke that, in the worst case scenario where we couldn't afford to pay our rent, we could just relocate outside and probably never get noticed.

The nook, as much as I liked it, started to highlight the problem I had with Forks.  As we built our home into a place that I liked and took pride in, the reality started to set in that, in all likelihood, no one was ever really going to see it outside of Cody and I.  One of Cody's projects that he had wanted to get into once we moved was gardening - here, we had the land to do it, but growing plants here meant conceding to the idea that we would be here for a long time.  It kind of felt like a cruel joke.

It was very difficult to motivate myself to put effort into feeling at home because I knew deep down that I don't want to stay here.  The largeness of the trees and fact that it rained, on average, five days a week both added to the overall sense of isolation.  I'm 100% positive that I'm going to look back at my time living here as an overall positive experience - it just isn't a lifestyle that I think I can sustain for an indefinite amount of time.

I drew this picture when I was feeling a bit down to describe how I felt in Forks.

On a plus note, I am of the belief that my time spent in Forks helped get me in a rhythm in terms of maintaining this blog.  Blogging is how I helped maintain a sense of connection to other people in a place where I couldn't find it in face-to-face interactions.  Writing that last entry took a long time and brought me out of my comfort zone, but it helped give me a lot of positive momentum and a much more clearly defined sense of what I want to be doing for a living.  That'll be another post, though.

Sometime last week, the two of us sat down and acknowledged that neither of us really wants to live here. Cody's an introvert and it's even too remote out here for him.  When we originally set out we were intending to move to Portland - a lot of the reason for that is that we wanted to be around people who shared a similar vision to us.  I think that 12 days on the road travelling across the country made us lose sight of that - by the time we got here, we were happy with just having any place that we could call home.  But once we agreed that Forks isn't for us, we started looking again for something closer to our original vision.

And what we found is an awesome little communal house in McMinnville, OR.

I have a really good vibe about this place.  It's a house in a little suburban town located an hour from Portland and thirty minutes from Salem.  There is a large amount of housemates - I'm not exactly sure how many - but unlike my past experiences living in large houses, the people who live there all actively seem to participate in creating a shared vision of how they want to live.  We traveled down to visit the house last week to make sure that we would get along and I was blown away by the retroactively obvious realization that I thrive most in environments where I have the ability to be social.  I left the meeting liking everyone I met, and it seems like the feeling was mutual because they invited us in to fill their empty room.  We'll be moving there sometime during the first week of May.

We could tell the place was magic when we brought a hat to show the house and a rabbit popped out of it!

The house and people within seem really cool and I'm excited to live there.  They have a functioning farm in the backyard where everyone seems to pitch in.  Not only does this help out with food expenses (another thing that was killing us in Forks), but it tells me that the people there are willing and wanting to work together on large group projects for the greater good of the house.  And most importantly, there are people there who we are interested in getting to know who seem interested in getting to know us back.  I didn't realize how much I missed that until I didn't have it anymore.  Cody will have an environment with animals and a gigantic garden where he can work on his projects, and I will be around people with whom I can socialize with regularly, where I can once again immerse myself in the type of environment in which I thrive in most.

So that's that!  Forks has been one heck of a trip.  Now that we know we're leaving, Cody and I are able to relax a bit and we've been looking at the end of our time here more like a vacation and less like a prison sentence. I'm glad we came, but I'll be happy to move on.