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.