Last weekend JB and I took the kids to Corvallis for the day, where we visited our longtime favorite pizza joint and checked out the startlingly expansive new OSU Beaver Store. (Motto: “If you can think of it, we can slap a beaver on it.”) There are a few parts of the town that are as familiar as a broken-in pair of jeans, but so much has changed since I lived there. Stores and restaurants have come and gone and entire blocks look nothing like I remember. It would be weird if everything had stayed the same, of course — a city frozen by a pause button pressed over fifteen years ago — but still, it seems less like a place I called home and more like something I read about in an almost-forgotten book. Even the landscape outside of town felt altered, as if swept into new shapes by the tide-pull of time.


Visiting Portland over the summer gave me the same strange sense of disconnection. I spent years of my life there, and yet I felt like a tourist, marveling at all the new sights. The updated waterfront and the plethora of food trucks and the once-industrial Pearl District that’s now a trendy hipster haven.


I kept trying to find myself there, as if by looking hard enough I could actually spot my own shadow. The glass-enclosed booth where I sold movie tickets night after night, now shuttered and dark and long unoccupied, no trace of that part of my life. You can’t go back.


I don’t want to go back, not really. But it’s unsettling, somehow, to have the sense that your footprints have been all but erased over the years. To wonder what it will be like to someday look back on your life as it is right now, in all its well-worn grooves, and barely recognize what you see.


43 Responses to “Unmoored”

  1. Carly on November 11th, 2013 12:47 pm

    It’s so nice to be hearing from you more! (I assume you’re participating in NaNoBlowAGoatMore or whatever that thing is, so thank you!)

  2. JennB on November 11th, 2013 1:29 pm

    Well put.
    I like the phrase “I kept trying to find myself there, as if by looking hard enough I could actually spot my own shadow.”

    If you found yourself, what would you say to that former self?

  3. donia on November 11th, 2013 1:50 pm

    That last photo is fantastic. (But so are most all of your posts here.)

  4. Kim on November 11th, 2013 1:54 pm

    This was like a kick in the gut.
    In a good way, but a kick nonetheless.

  5. jen on November 11th, 2013 1:57 pm

    @Carly^^: BAHAHAAA! “NaNoBlowaGoatMore”

  6. April on November 11th, 2013 4:08 pm

    I’ve been getting a lot of emails lately from my high school band trying to get the alumni involved this year – they are going to Macy’s Thanksgiving parade, want help, money, come watch our new show! I just can’t bring myself to go back, and it’s only about 30 minutes away. I think it surprises me how unwilling I am to go back, right now.

  7. Victoria on November 11th, 2013 4:42 pm

    I understand a little what you’re saying. I’ve been living in Victoria for longer than the town I grew up in but Victoria isn’t quite home. Yet neither is my hometown. It’s… unsettling. I wish I knew where I fit in.

    In other news, I went through Corvallis on my way to Burning Man this summer. Didn’t see much of it, but what I did see was so so cool! We loved it. Oregonians (that we met) were super nice too.

  8. sooboo on November 11th, 2013 4:57 pm

    Whenever I go to my hometown I always imagine that I can walk up the hill from the ocean and my mom will have dinner waiting in my childhood kitchen. It’s disconcerting for sure.

  9. Kate D. (Pittsburgh, PA) on November 11th, 2013 6:39 pm

    “I kept trying to find myself there, as if by looking hard enough I could actually spot my own shadow….
    I don’t want to go back, not really. But it’s unsettling, somehow, to have the sense that your footprints have been all but erased over the years.”

    These words perfectly capture how I feel when I go back to visit NYC. Perfect.

  10. Maud on November 11th, 2013 7:10 pm

    Love this. I keep writing about going home, but you just nailed it.

  11. Valerie on November 11th, 2013 9:36 pm

    We camp at the same state park every year and I used to go as a child as well. The river has change so dramatically since my childhood days that I almost can’t believe it’s the same river where I would take running leaps into freezing cold water. If I took those same leaps now I would get a face full of rocks. Each time I go back I am still startled by how different the river looks now than the time stamped image from my childhood. It makes me both sad and happy.

  12. Robyn on November 12th, 2013 1:29 am

    I’ve been waiting for a picture of you since you started working out. You look fantastic!! Inspiration to get healthy again. I quit smoking, eating right and exercising is next!!

  13. Jean on November 12th, 2013 7:01 am

    Linda – fully inspired by these daily musings…you rock!

  14. Jess on November 12th, 2013 7:32 am

    I love this. I completely understand the sense of “disconnection”. For years after I moved out of my parents house I found it incredibly hard to be there (my family is amazing and I had a great home life) and when I would go, I couldn’t stand to be there for more than an hour. It just felt so…strange. Like I might bump in to myself. I also get this strange feeling whenever I drive past the house I grew up in (we moved when I was 14). I’m almost afraid to look at the house because I’m scared I’ll see a ghost of myself since I truly feel like I got “left” there. After the move, teenage years washed over me like a fire and I was never the same. It doesn’t help that 20 years later the house is EXACTLY the same.

  15. Shawna on November 12th, 2013 9:42 am

    I was back in the town I did my Master’s degree a couple of years ago. I have to admit I deliberately wandered over to the place where my then-boyfriend, now ex-boyfriend, carved our initials into a concrete patch on a sidewalk.

    Even though I was there with my awesome husband and our two kids, I couldn’t help but feel a little sad to see that the intervening 12 years had eroded those initials so much that they were pretty much unreadable if you didn’t know they were there and what they used to say.

  16. Judy on November 12th, 2013 10:28 am

    I understand totally.

    When I turned 30, I was terribly depressed. I was in a very bad marriage, with three children ranging from 1 to 9, and I thought my life was now half over. (Thankfully it was not, as this was 41 years ago).

    My husband … for many years now my ex-husband … managed to drag himself out of the bars and the arms of willing women long enough to take me out to dinner. We were going to go to our favorite Italian place in the town where I’d lived when we were dating. After a 45 minute drive, we arrived, kids in tow, of course, only to find that the restaurant had burned down.

    Plan B: we’ll go to the drive-in where we used to get those awesome hamburgers. It was now a tire store.

    We ended up at 9:30 at night, with three starving, cranky kids wailing about being hungry, at a truck stop on the interstate.

    You can’t go home again.

  17. perl on November 12th, 2013 3:45 pm

    Oh man. I’m glad I didn’t see you out somewhere this weekend, because I think I would have been a little too excited – probably would have just pointed and stared and blubbered a bit. I’m guessing you were at American Dream? :)

  18. Deanna on November 13th, 2013 8:26 am

    You always seem to put into words what is running through my head.

    I have started genealogy research again. And what I find so interesting – these little bits and pieces of documentation and how I am trying to piece these puzzle pieces into a picture of the actual person. (omg! don’t get me started gushing about border crossing cards with hand written physical descriptions on them from barely 80 years ago! Or how pitifully grateful I am to the catholic church from a teeny tiny super rural mexican town for keeping such amazing records in the 1800’s)

    One person married a man 59 years her senior. why? because she was twice widowed with 2 children at the age of 20? So many questions with no way to answer them.

    It makes me wonder 100 or 150 years from now what tiny piece of documentation will my descendants find. What inane tid bit will be found that will be all that is left of me? The scrapbooks I slave over? A work id from 20 years ago? Text messages from last week? My pinterest boards?

  19. Alison V on November 13th, 2013 7:01 pm

    This is beautifully written. Such a spot on description of the feeling of returning to old haunts.

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