The Long Road Home

After six years of trying to settle in a strange and hostile territory, I’m going home.

At the beginning of July we are moving back to California.  The irony of making this decision right after (finally) getting our application for the HAMP loan modification approved does not escape my notice.  We made this decision two months ago and I hope that any of you that ever doubted my ability to keep my own secrets will doubt no more.  The timing was wrong to make such announcements but today I am finally able to set the truth (mostly) free.  I am deeply relieved that we will be leaving this community and heading back to one I feel welcome in, feel comfortable in, and understand.

If any of you were under the impression that I’ve been happy here that’s because I have worked hard to BE happy here.  I have continually tried to see the good in this weird town I managed to land us in.  Every time I have been disappointed or hurt I have worked hard to see the lessons, to find the truths, to make peace with the feeling that I will be trapped here for all eternity.  I have repressed so much of what I’ve felt.  When friendships have ended over issues I couldn’t believe were issues I have chosen to look to myself and work on my own tolerance issues instead of focusing on their intolerance.  I have chosen to counter the bad with the positive and to stuff my uncomfortable feelings far out of anyone’s reach.  Mostly because I didn’t think we could ever afford to leave and if you are trapped somewhere (anywhere) you either have to find a way to leave and not give up until you do OR you have to make the best of where you are.  I chose to make the best of my situation and repress my desire to get out of this hole.

But repressed feelings have a way of working themselves to the surface, worming a way into the light.  It’s a full time job to convince yourself that you can survive in a community that doesn’t embrace you and that, in the end, you can’t embrace either.

I hate it here.  I hate this town.  I’ve been slowly suffocating.  I have been so lonely, watching others publicly inviting everyone around me to participate in their private lives while leaving me out.  I’ve been trying to think how best to explain this and I don’t know – I can’t figure out how to make anyone understand that this is not a friendly town beneath the surface of things.  There are invisible fences around everyone.  People are artificially friendly.  I’ve been referred to as “family” by someone who has never once, and never will, invite me into his home.  If that’s how you treat family how the fuck do you treat your friends?  I once was trying to explain my experience of McMinnville to the girl at the video rental place (who grew up here) who was really surprised that I called this town unfriendly.  Another customer interrupted our conversation to say that she came here from Humboldt County and definitely thought McMinnville is an unfriendly town.

People are cliquish here.  This town is like one enormous high school.  While many incomers I’ve met have felt the same way as I do about it, there are definitely some who have had a totally different experience – they had the fortune of finding a clique that they were welcomed into.

In spite of it all I don’t believe it was a mistake for us to move here in the first place.  I believe our story would have been very different if we’d landed in Portland as originally intended and I think it’s a real possibility that I would not be returning home to California if we had.  But if we’d moved to Portland a lot of important things wouldn’t have happened and I can’t regret what I’ve learned from living in a community in which I don’t belong, in which I feel so far out of my comfort zone that I learned things about myself I couldn’t have learned otherwise, like how much less tolerant of religion and religious people I am when I’m the minority atheist in town.  I can’t regret the isolation that forced me to reach out online to find like minded people to create a community that have sustained me through hell and back even though I’ve met so few of you in person.  I can’t regret the few really close friends I have made here and though they have all either moved back to where they came from or are complete recluses, I can never wish the past six years didn’t happen because I treasure what warmth and love they have given me and I certainly would not have lasted a year here if it weren’t for them.

I have so much to say.  I have so many things I have to try to find the semi-politic way to say without compromising the truth.  I rarely look back at old posts of mine unless someone posts a fresh comment on them or unless someone brings one up specifically.  (Maybe once in a while I go through them late at night in a maudlin mood after a few beers.)  I will need to write a lot of posts to unload the tumor of emotion and thought that’s been amassing in the throat of my intention.  I am sure I will cover plenty of old territory, it’s inevitable.  I’m not going to go back and check to see if I’ve already said this or that.  If I need to say it today then it wasn’t enough to say it yesterday or five years ago.  I’m not going to apologize for telling old stories because my perspective has changed with my decision to return home.  Consider yourself warned and please don’t read anything you might find tedious.

Consider this my McMinnville debriefing period.  Before I can return home to Santa Rosa I have to be grilled by my conscience, by my heart, and by my memory to be sure I am truly ready to rejoin civilization.  It will be like Lucas being debriefed on MI-5 when he returns from a Russian prison but without all the torture, blood, and sweat.



  1. angelina says:

    Thank you, Jess! I’m so relieved to be moving back to California. I realized a while ago that this place is killing me inside. I didn’t think we could afford to go back to CA but since we also can’t afford to live here (no better paying job than what Philip already has and we can’t afford to live on what he makes) so if we aren’t going to afford living anywhere, we may as well not afford living around people who love us.

  2. Aimee says:

    I’m so happy for you. 🙂 I know this decision has been inside you for a long time; I’ve been waiting for it to come to fruition.

  3. angelina says:

    Thank you Aimee! The decision was actually reached two months ago but we couldn’t say anything until Philip could give notice and we really wanted Max to finish out his school year before moving. After giving Seattle some serious consideration we realized we’re too tired to have to go through settling in a whole new city when we were so happy in Santa Rosa and Philip’s dad is close to Santa Rosa and getting a bit frail so we knew this was the best decision. It has been SO HARD to not say anything online about this.

  4. Helen says:

    Oh, I am so happy for you! As you know I am living a parallel existence here in a small town in the South. I look forward to living vicariously through your move-

  5. French Knots says:

    Sounds like a good move for all of you, especially if you are returning to a supportive community. Feeling alone or isolated is draining.
    Debrief away.

  6. Lucy says:

    I am so happy for you guys. I do hope, however, that I can make it to Mac before you go to share a little hello/goodbye. As a transient resident of McMinnville, I am very interested in the upcoming posts.

  7. I am so very glad for you. Living somewhere when you know, no matter how much you bend, you just don’t fit must be like throwing your energy into a blackhole. Any experience that teaches us something is worthwhile I am just glad you have now found a way to have the freedom to move on.

    Best Wishes for this leg of your life journey

  8. angelina says:

    Thanks everyone! It’s so hard to know how to share certain things I’ve experienced here that have contributed to my misery because it’s a small town, it’s hard to be vague enough to not reveal someone’s identity and still tell the real story – the alternative is to just be prepared to alienate 15,000 of the 30,000 people who live here. I don’t want to smear people or businesses to be mean or anything like that but I do want to tell some of the stories that have outraged me – they’re my stories as much as they are the other people’s stories. Why should I protect people who have never bothered to protect my feelings or my business? It’s tough. I suppose I’ll inch around in posts until I’ve said what I feel I need to say.

  9. Jay says:

    I am thrilled for you Angelina….it is wonderful to feel your burdens released in your writing. Bittersweet though, in that I know that I am losiing a kindred spirit regarding life in McMinnville.

  10. Karmyn R says:

    Good luck with your move! If you are like me, I’ve begun our packing process and can’t believe how much junk I have required over the past 8 years of living in this house. I’m a bit overshelmed.

    I hope Santa Rosa welcomes you back with warmth and open arms!

  11. angelina says:

    I’ve been getting rid of so many things! I am really enjoying paring down my belongings. The house we’re moving into is smaller with a lot less storage so we have to edit our stuff and it feels great. How’s your move coming along? I haven’t checked in with you for a while – I need to do that!

  12. angelina says:

    Thank you Jay. There are other kindred spirits here in McMinnville but you all are hiding from each other it seems. You only found me because I’m so damn loud and public!

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