I have moved about six times since my initial move to Portland, Oregon almost four years ago. Not all of the moves have been voluntary, because if I had planned it better, I would have researched apartments more thoroughly and stuck with a place longer. But due to hindrances like financial constraints versus convenient locations, the choices I made in where I lived were, surprisingly, intentional.
I was technically in my third year of my undergraduate years, but nowhere close to being done with my degree. I knew that I had to get out of the environment I was in if I wanted to succeed in my studies. I picked Portland because a sorority sister already had plans to move to the city to pursue graduate school. I started doing research on Portland State University and after hours of intensive internet research, I decided to apply to be a transfer student. The only thing was I couldn’t afford to visit the campus prior to the actual move, so I was taking a gamble on the city. But I told myself that even if I didn’t end up liking Portland, at least I only had at most, two years to finish my degree and I could move right back to California afterwards. Lucky for me, I fell in love with the Rose City.
The period of time living with my sorority sister was short, I think less than a year. Unfortunately, we found out soon enough that our living arrangements were not aligned with each other. She ended up moving to San Francisco for graduate school and she remains there today. I’m proud of her and grateful for the time we had living together during my first year in Portland, but I’m also very thankful that we do not live together anymore. It’s good to know these things for the future. But soon after she moved, I knew I wouldn’t be able to afford the rent of our spacious 1-bedroom apartment in downtown on my own. I found a tiny 450 square foot studio apartment in a building literally next door, which kept me living in student housing and close to school. I didn’t have a car and I wasn’t completely comfortable with public transportation yet, so I played it safe by staying in familiar territory. This made it my second official move (including the big move to Portland from California).
After about six months of living in the tiny studio apartment that looked almost like a doll house, I ran out of money to pay for tuition. It’s a long story on it’s own, so I’ll spare you the details for now, but pretty much my rich uncle that promised to support me until I finished school, just one day out of nowhere said, “No I’m not doing it anymore.” Needless to say, he made the next six months after that, back in California with no job and no school, a hellish experience.
During that excruciatingly long six-month gap of nothingness in California, I waited. I waited until the academic year started up again the following fall so I could apply for financial aid and scholarships. My partner, who also was trying to figure out his next steps, was accepted into a nursing program in Portland, so we took that opportunity to move to Portland together. Yes, we did long distance for the first year I was in Portland and yes, it was hard. It’s another long-winded story that I’ll write about another day. This move made it my third time moving in total.
We were low on funds when my partner and I arrived in Portland together. He was lucky to land a job on the first day, so at least we were secure in some sense. We couch surfed for one night with some friends and then officially moved into the basement of a single mother and her nine-year-old son’s house. The first few days were extremely difficult in that basement, because my partner and I literally shared one room. The kitchen and restroom were communal and after a few months of living with the single mother, we ended up taking on some household chores in order to save money on rent. After a period of time, I started to feel as though we were the live-in caregivers (we baby sat her son a few times) and housekeepers (we mowed the lawn and cleaned the kitchen, living room and her room). Despite the fact that she was a sweet lady and her son, though a rambunctious child, was also lovable, I realized that the living arrangement was no longer ideal. So we moved out and into student housing, which made this my fourth move.
We loved living on campus due to the convenience of being in downtown and being close to both work and school. It was a bit expensive, but within our budget. We had to move one other time during this time period because our building went through a renovation. I know, it’s confusing — have you kept up with how many times I’ve moved yet? But the experience of living on campus in downtown Portland was truly worth it. Since I’m at the end of my graduate program, it means that I was drawing closer to the end of my time with student housing eligibility. After nearly a year of searching, my partner and I found an apartment on the east side of town that fit our budget and allows dogs! I don’t have a dog yet, but I will soon.
Despite all of the constant moving in and moving out these past four years, I am excited to be where I am now. There was once a time in my life when I couldn’t get a bank account (due to all of my bad credit) and now, I’m officially a renter! Reality hit me on our first official night in the new apartment; I stood in the living room, surrounded by our belongings and the next moment, I broke down in tears. Throughout all of the difficult times I’ve endured, I was finally in a space that I could somewhat call my own. I don’t think I’m planning to move again for another few years, unless an amazing opportunity arises. Until then, I’m staking claim on this place for as long as I can have it.