Summary of 1998, Positive Version

Written Jan 1999

In January of 1998, just after New Years and right before the fourth anniversary of our relationship, my girlfriend dumped me. Shortly after, my department at my then-employer, the Houston Chronicle, was reorganized in a way I felt that would ultimately be detrimental to my advancement. With these twin blows rocking my world, the thought that I'd had for a long time -- that I wasn't enjoying living in Houston -- returned to me.

I had no particular ties to Houston, and in fact the plan had been for me to move up to be with my girlfriend who had moved to New Jersey to go to graduate school, and I'd just stayed in Houston as an interim on my way to being with her. So I began to take stock of where I had looked and considered living in the long term. I wasn't going to leave the Chronicle right away because I remained open to the possibility that the change wouldn't be a bad thing. I was, however, looking and keeping my options open.

So I spent the next few months trying to heal, surveying the effect of the changes at the Chronicle and researching various places that looked appealing. They ranged from Denver, Colorado, to Albuquerque, New Mexico, to Phoenix, Arizona, down to Bozeman, Montana and Chico, California. I started to focus on Oregon and Portland in particular for a number of reasons and began to look more closely.

Portland started to rise consistently to the top of the list because of its proximity to natural beauty in the Cascades and the coast range, the Pacific coast itself, the cycling community, the craft (or micro) brew selection, the real change of seasons yet mild winters (compared to New England winters, Portland being at about the same latitude, and yes -- because it was far from New Jersey. In fact I might have gone to Australia if I'd really worked hard on the move. None of the places I wanted to move to were east of the Mississippi river.

Another factor popped up in the summer: My Zen teacher, who had been living in Amarillo, Texas, for years, was going to be leaving the state. I knew already he had communities of students in Arizona, New Mexico, and Oregon -- that's why those areas appeared at the top of my list right from the beginning -- and after such an upheaval in my life I wanted to move to where I'd be able to see and study with him more.

In June I visited Portland and found the weather to be wonderful, and I was able to connect with one of the folks in my Zen teacher's community. I liked Portland and figured I could find work, because there is a pretty good high-tech community there also.

So all of July and August I spent preparing for my relocation. I made sure I saved as much as I could because I knew it might be a while before I had work. I would have liked to have found work before I moved but it was more important to me to get moved than find a job and I figured I could survive on my savings for six months if I had to or that I could get a low-end job if things got really tight. I wasn't too worried though, because I'd done some job-hunting and gotten quite a few nibbles and even a couple of phone interviews, so I knew I was marketable.

Finally at the end of August I gave my boss at the Chronicle, Jason, my two weeks notice. It wasn't too much of a surprise to me to when he told me he was on his way out also, and we had a good laugh about that. Jason's a good guy and I was glad to have gotten to work with him. He was good enough to give me a going away bonus and told me to take the remaining vacation I had and that I didn't need to come in the two weeks. That was great because it gave me some extra cash and some extra time to get ready to move.

Knowing I might not get another chance for quite a while to have some time off to myself, I decided I'd take a leisurely drive from Houston to Portland, avoiding the Interstates and camping out wherever possible. That three week trip is a story in itself; It was one of the best times I've ever had and it definitely changed me. I highly recommend going out to the west in late September if possible.

Once I got to Portland and got moved in (I had gone back up to Portland for a long weekend at the beginning of July to arrange for an apartment) I started to job hunt a little but also to enjoy my new home. It took me until the middle of December to find a job I wanted, but I turned down more than one offer because it turned out not to be right for me.

Now I'm trying to settle back into a work routine, trying to meet some people and looking forward to February when my teacher will be spending the month here (he's splitting the year between his three different communities). Yes, things could be better, as you know, but all in all I've managed to do some things many people couldn't dream of, and I just need to keep in mind how tough, strong, brave, and capable I am and I'll be fine.

Steven E. Newton / <> /