Recently, I spent an idyllic five days with my daughter in Corvallis for Parents Weekend. Corvallis has always been a cherished place for me. It is where I came of age and where I graduated with my Bachelor of Science in Political Science. Returning to this rural town after spending a gritty three months in San Francisco felt surreal. I think as we go through big changes we don’t even know how to feel or we can’t label how we are feeling. However, it felt shocking that for a little while I thought I would like to live in Corvallis and teach at Oregon State University and how much I loved the idea of how that would be a full circle moment for me. I saw myself living in one of those houses close to campus with a porch that has almost real furniture and I would sit there and plan my classes. Maybe even have a porch swing and lemonade.
I arrived on a sunny day with high clouds that left shadows over the green and gold landscape. We drove past fields of cows. Rows of orchard trees, farm houses with tractors and barking dogs. This is the land of my youth, the place where I was educated and began to become the person I am today. The brick buildings, and winding paths that led to my sorority and some of the dearest people I’ve ever met, have changed little. Flipping through my college album over the summer I could see that these were very happy times. The sorority functions, frat parties and pictures in Shasta Lake and rafting down the Deschutes River found little competition in the years that followed to surpass all of the fun we had then.
The serene landscape and the company of my youngest daughter was a reprieve from my busy city life. I settled into the passenger seat and went along with the fun filled weekend she planned full of football games, tailgaters and frat parties.
I am teaching on campus in Berkeley this term, so I go there, but I do not walk past any houses with porch swings. I walked past a man with his pants down the other day, but there were no falling leaves and porches on the route to my classroom. I teach Business Negotiating to 44 French students in an exchange program between UC Berkeley and the ESSEC Business School in Paris. My campus experience in Berkeley is very different than that of Corvallis, although they are both equally charming.
On my visit to Corvallis I could not see myself there even though it felt like a possibility six months ago. One of the reasons I moved back to San Fransisco is because I think cities like this can change you. They make you wiser and more worldly with their culture and even harshness. You are also exposed to the wider universe in ways I can’t explain. When I was here in my twenties I felt like I was in the epicenter of the world and I was very changed by it. I was also changed by my time spent living in London, England.
Living in a city like this is not easy. Just running errands can be a challenge. There are many variables to consider while living here. My suburban life was comparatively easy. I could drive and park at the grocery store for example. Now, I order food. If I forget something I won’t have it. Yesterday, a woman was walking through traffic screaming. It rattled me, but everyone else just walked on, and after stopping so did I. It woke me up. I no longer walk through my life like a dream on autopilot. I am fully present now.
The days spent with my daughter and sharing our joint experiences of living in Corvallis was magical. Every visit to see her is like this. However, as the days went by I noticed that I missed the city and was looking forward to going home.
I think that when my daughter graduates in June I can leave Corvallis behind this time for good. While walking those streets over the weekend I felt that I could finally put it all to rest, and maybe the happiest days of my life are not in my past, but in my future.
Love and blessings.