Monday, August 23, 2010

Making the Most of Where I Live

Whenever I go on vacation, or travel to visit friends, I always plan ahead. I think of places I want to visit while I'm there - sometimes the activities are super touristy and sometimes they aren't...even if it's a town I've been to before I always have a list of things I want to do (call me OCD if you want but I'm a born planner)! When I visited friends in Seattle this past 4th of July, eating at Sky City (the Space Needle restaurant) and visiting Pike Place MarketSan Diego Zoo and my favorite restaurant Spread are always on my to-do. were both a must. When I travel to San Diego to see friends and family the

Back in 2007 two of my favorite actors (Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman) teamed up for a movie called "The Bucket List". While I enjoyed the movie (and this isn't a movie review folks) it approached the idea of a "Life To-Do" list a bit more...somber if you will. I mean I get it..."Bucket List"...before you "Kick the Bucket"...but I don't want to be running around my few last months of life trying to accomplish things. I want to come to the end of my life having confidence that I did the things and went to the places I wanted to.

After the movie it was almost an epidemic of websites and books giving tips and pointers to people looking to make their own Bucket List. Ideas ranging from 101 Things To Do Before You Die to websites encouraging people to have Bucket List items like "Be Financially Stable" and "Find and Marry the Love of Your Life". 

However, it wasn't any of these websites that inspired me to create my own "Bucket List" was a friend and co-worker. A few months ago she decided to create a Bucket List for the city she was living and attending school in. She decided to explore and do/see as much as she could before graduating school (and thus possibly moving away).

I moved to Portland, Oregon in October 2009 and have done fairly well at exploring my new home. I bought the Secret Portland book (as well as a number of other Portland Tourist books) and have been inspired by a number of the entries. Now I want to go a step further. I've decided I want to take as much advantage of Portland as I can (since I do not know how long I will be a Portland resident). 

I've consulted with friends and family, as well as just my knowledge of Portland have come up with the following:

Places/Things I want to do:
-Portland Art Museum
-Oregon State Fair
-Japaense Garden
-International Rose Test Garden
-World Forestry Center (going on Sept. 7th)
-Portland Walking Tours (underground tunnels!!)
-PSU Farmer's Market
-First Thursday
-Last Thursday
-Hoyt Arboretum
-Pittock Mansion
-Ashland Shakespearian Festival
-Mt Hood
-Mt St. Helens (okay I know it's in WA but its close)
-Oregon Coast Aquarium
-Wine tasting tour

Places/Things Accomplished:
-Powell's Bookstore (done a few times over)
-Multnomah Falls
-Portland Spirit Cruise along the Columbia River
-Pioneer Cemeteries (work in progress)
-Portland Zoo
-Summer Concert at the Zoo
-Train from Seattle to Portland
-Hawthorne Blvd
-Portland Rose Festival (heck I worked for them!) <3
-Chinese Garden
-The Grotto
-Peacock Ave at Christmas
-NW23rd Neighborhood
-McMenamin's Tots @ McMenamin's Edgefield (8/21)
-Gresham Farmer's Market
-Saturday Market
-Seaside (In November so it was super cold. Would like to do again when warmer)
-Tillamook Creamery (2x)
-Oregon Coast & Coast Highway (2x)
-Voodoo Doughnuts (duh!)
-Stepping Stone Cafe (recommendation from my BF after watching the Travel Channel)
-Portland Epicurian Walking Tour (8/24)
-Por Que No
-The Space Room

If you live (or have lived) in the Portland area and have ideas, suggestions, or recommendations - please feel free to pass them along. 

Heck, if you've never been to Portland but have seen somewhere on the Travel Channel or Food Network - pass that along too!!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Surviving a LDR (or PDX vs HK)

It might be useful, during the read of this blog, to know that my boyfriend is currently living and working in Hong Kong, China while I am currently living and working in Portland, Oregon. "Long Distance" does not begin to describe the physical distance we are currently separated. We are not merely in different towns, or different parts of the same state. We are not even in the same country - but opposite sides of the the largest body of water in the wold, the Pacific Ocean. 

To help better understand the vastness of what we're experiencing here are a few facts. 

Time Zone Difference: HK is +15hours
Mileage: 6,554 miles between Portland International Airport and Hong Kong International Airport.
Time of flight: 14-22+ Hours (depending on stops and the whole International Date Line thing)
Plane Ticket Costs (1-way): at least $1300.00-$1700 (US Dollars)

*     *     * 

Also, to give a quick understanding of shorthand that might be used during this blog here is a key to abbreviations.

Abbreviations Used: 
Portland (PDX)
Hong Kong (HK)
Long Distance Relationship (LDR)

*     *     * 
This is not my first LDR. However, just as with all relationships, you cannot compare one LDR to another. Sure there may be common themes, concerns, issues, struggles, etc but the challenges facing one couple are not going to be the same for another couple. In turn the things that keep these relationships strong, the forces that keep them going may be similar at times but once again what works for one relationship does not mean it will work for another. 

However, being caught between GenX and the Millennial Generation, I of course have looked to the internet for tips and suggestions on how to survive a LDR (often times finding websites called "Keeping the Passion Alive" and other such overly dramatic titles). Some of which I found useful and were things my partner and I do already and others...well let's just say they were less than helpful.

Top 5 Common Internet Tips for LDRs
1. Communicate every single day
2. Express your feelings
3. Send care packages
4. Spend time together when apart (i.e. date night, etc)
5. Plan regular vacations together

My Thoughts on these Top 5
1. I agree that communication is one of the most important keys to any relationship whether LDR or not. However, when you are faced with a 15 hour time zone difference talking EVERY DAY is definitely a challenge. He's just getting into pjs and drifting to sleep as I'm starting up my computer and getting ready for a days worth of work...or on the flip side....he's waking up and is checking his morning emails as I'm powering down my computer ready to leave work and crash for the rest of the day. (Phone calls aren't any easier either when we're talking International Long carrier requires a $3.99 monthly fee for calling internationally and then an additional charge per minute.) We try to talk as often as we can but we are also living our own lives and being independent - "every single day" just does not happen. 

2. Could not agree more. I'm a feeler and I'm a talker about feelings. This is not an area that needs to be worked on...if anything I need to pull back on the reigns some. I perhaps talk too much about feelings....if there is such a thing. There is a wonderful line in Eat Pray Love that goes, "I am the planet's most affectionate life-form (something like a cross between a golden retriever and a barnacle)..."  I suppose I'd rather be a "barnacle" than a "leech". 

3. Sending care packages is wonderful - if you are a soldier stationed in a combat zone where you cannot get your favorite cookie (we used to send my cousin Molasses cookies when we was stationed in Afghanistan). Sending care packages is cute - if you are ten, at summer camp and forgot your Winnie the Pooh stuffed toy. Sending care packages from PDX to HK I'm just not sure about. What would I send? Sure pictures and thoughtful cards could be put inside....trinkets showing my love and affection. But all honesty....If it were me receiving the care package.... I'd much rather have him in person than a box with a postage stamp reminding me how far away we are. (Exceptions: My birthday, Valentine's Day, Anniversary....all of which take place in February so really we're talking one a year)

4. Date nights nearly 7k miles apart, I can only imagine, would be more difficult than just planning/coordinating an online chat date (see #1). Don't get me wrong. These are all super sweet and super cute ideas. I'm a romantic and love date nights with my beau. Would I prefer to snuggle up against him and watch the movie at the same time? Yes. Would I rather walk hand-in-hand along the river star gazing? Yes. Will I approach him on these (somewhat) silly LDR "date night" ideas? You bet I will! I'll take whatever I can get at this point. :)

5. Perhaps if there weren't already a 14-22 hour flight time between us this could work...not that there is much of a "meet in the middle" option for us. Perhaps if the Midway Islands were a luxury getaway and not just 15miles of sand and flora. I'd love to be able to just jump on a plane and *poof* land at the HK Airport - however it's not that easy (*see Plane Ticket Costs under Factoids). I do plan on getting my passport (no, I don't already have one) for that "just in case" opportunity....because let's face it, bankruptcy or not I'd jump on that plane tomorrow if I could!

*     *     *
So here I am 6,554 miles away from the love of my life, struggling to keep the relationship from going stagnant, and no idea if I'm doing things right or wrong. No idea if I'm helping or hurting our relationship by being a Golden Retriever/Barnacle mixed-breed. So what am I to do? 

Turn to friends of course. 

Luckily I have some of the most open and willing to share friends possible. When I first sat down to write this blog I didn't know if I was being selfish...if I was going to be ranting and raving about something that was my problem and mine alone. Was I the only one who felt that LDRs are frustrating and hard yet make you love and appreciate your partner even more with every moment that passes by? 

So I reached out to a few amazing people in my life and here's the words of wisdom they had to share.

Words of Wisdom From Friends (who have been/are in LDRs)

“I do believe that long distance can work if both parties are more mature and are truly in love. Love can conquer all, no matter time, distance, race, religion, or age. I truly do believe that. Love is worth fighting for.”  - MSG

“Being separated from someone you love is always tough. And it gets harder the greater the distance, because it makes it that much harder to arrange visits. But on the other side of that, it makes the time you do get together that much sweeter. I think you appreciate each other more….I think people in LDRs sometimes communicate better and know each other better sooner than other couples because the relationship is necessarily so predominately verbal. ”  -GR

“I think long distance relationships, at least from my perspective, work when each partner is able to see themselves as an independent entity first, and having this somewhat peripheral relationship...peripheral meaning some type of either physical or emotional "compartmentalization." You have to be as ok with being alone, physically, as you are with being separated, physically. Those are 2 very different things. And emotionally, I think you have to be able to compartmentalize, I think particularly in your case with a huge time zone difference, etc.“-SS

I believe it takes a great deal of maturity and patience from both parties to truly achieve harmony. Communication is one of the most important things in a relationship -- we must build connections, we must build trust. it can be very difficult to establish those things without much face-to-face. Not to mention the physical intimacy!” – CA

“There's some quote out there, trite but with truth to it, ‘absence (or distance in this case) is to a relationship like wind to a flame, extinguishing some, enlarging others.’ Or some other nonsense.” – BC

*     *     *

I suppose you are wondering what my next move is going to be? 
Am I going to jump on a jet plane and fly away to HK?
Am I going to insist on bi-yearly vacations, care packages and Netflix nights?

...I don't know for sure...

I can tell you one thing - I'm going to appreciate and soak in every moment I have with him; living each day like it's our last together...after all:

", having no geography, knows no boundaries" - Truman Capote

Friday, August 20, 2010

"Emerging Adulthood" (or a Reflection on a NYTimes Article)

According to some Sociologists (or at least the ones the NYTimes works with) there are fives stages or milestones that I have to tick off my to-do list before I can consider myself fully "adult". These are: 

1.) Completing School (no mention if this means HS, Undergraduate or Graduate school...I'll go ahead and count this one as completed.) CHECK!

2.) Leaving Home (now I've done this a few times, have come back and now am trying to leave again. Hm? Maybe I'll give myself this as 1/2 a mark.) half a CHECK!

3.) Becoming financially independent of parents (now this one I know I'm good one) CHECK!

4.) Getting married (nope.)

5.) Having children (do my cats count? Probably not.)
Well there you have it, with only 2 1/2 out of 5 milestones - I'm not an adult, can I go back to bed now?

*     *     *

No, in all fairness the article does go on to say, "Some never achieve all five milestones, including those who are single or childless by choice, or unable to marry even if they wanted to because they're gay.   Others reach milestones completely out of order, advancing professionally before committing to a monogamous relationship, having children young and marrying later, leaving school to go to work and returning to school long after becoming financially secure."

Reading the article did bring up some interesting internal questions and conundrums. 

Why are these the milestones I (and other 20-somethings) must check off our lists before being no longer a "young-adult" or having crossed the "Emerging Adulthood" line and into "Adulthood"?

Where are the milestones of being happy with who I am? About confident and comfortable in my own skin? Where's the checklist that includes surviving your parent's divorce and not letting it impact every adult romance you encounter? Why are archaic, and downright selfish, life goals still being used to determine where I am in life? 

I'm not saying that the mid-late 20s aren't an individual development stage.  I'm not arguing that scientists shouldn't be studying our brains and determining if physically and psychologically we are still in transition. But leave the Silent Generation social standards out of it!

"It's somewhat think about all the things I'm supposed to be doing in order to 'get somewhere' successful: 'Follow your passions, live your dreams, take risks, network with the right people, find mentors, be financially responsible, volunteer, work, think about or go to grad school, fall in love and maintain personal well-being, mental health and nutrition' When is there time to just be and enjoy?"  

...This is what a 25 y/o named Jennifer wrote in an anthology called "20something Manifesto" edited by an LA writer Christine Hassler (the NYTimes article doesn't mention how old Hassler is or why she created the manifesto)

See? This is what I mean. When did I miss the handout that said I had to do all these things in life? Did I miss that day in school somewhere? Was I too busy coloring outside the lines in Kindergarten (haha who are we kidding you know I stayed inside the lines)? 

So what if 20-somethings aren't getting married (or "settled down" monogamously) until later in life? Maybe we'll start a trend of not mimicking Hollywood and marrying every wo/man that comes into our bed and then...heaven forbid...decrease the divorce rate?

Who cares if we aren't ready for children until we've crossed that 30-something marker? Maybe that means when we finally do have children won't be raising them to xenophobic  and prejudice of the unknown because we'll have had time to travel the world and explore cultures outside of our own? 

And I'd much rather start six or seven careers in my lifetime looking for one that I'm passionate about then settling into one that "makes sense" and dying of a cardiac arrest in my 50s.

*     *     *

As you continue to read the article (a whopping 10-page online article - which is long even for the wordier NYTimes) it isn't until page 10 that we read these words: 

"The 20s are when most people accumulate...their formal education; when most people meet their future spouses and the friends they will keep; when most people start on the careers that they will stay with for many years. This is when adventures, experiments, travels, relationships are embarked on with abandon that probably will not happen again....There is time enough for adulthood and its attendant obligations; maybe if kids take longer to choose their mates and their careers they'll make fewer mistakes and live happier lives"

Hm? Didn't I just say that?

So here I am: approaching 28 years old, thinking against graduate school, looking to move away from home for the second time, in debt but paying my own bills, and being in love with a man 7,000 miles away with no foreseen cohabitation date in place. Being 20-something may not be easy but here's the thing...I don't remember anyone promising us it was going to be.