Back in Newberg

In Slice of Life, Travel on January 10, 2011 by ryepdx

This weekend was crazy. It was the weekend all my undergraduate friends were supposed to go back to school. I was looking forward to this somewhat, as I wanted to have an excuse to go back into hermit mode and bang out that freelance job. (Yes, the same freelance job I mentioned in the last few posts. I really, really underbid on that one.)

Well, they all went back except one. I’ll call him Mike, to keep his identity safe. Mike happens to be my best friend. Unfortunately it also seems he’s struggling with depression right now. This was news to me. I had no idea until I called him up to hang out with him on the last day he was going to be in town.

That was a somewhat surreal conversation.

I had band practice yesterday. I was late again, which pissed my bandmate off pretty badly. Not really the best follow-up to our last meeting, in which we aired grievances and made up in classic sitcom fashion.

On top of that, my girlfriend has been unemployed for a long time. I, of course, feel the need to fix this problem for her, but that’s far easier said than done. Then there’s the freelance job, which is hanging over my head like an ACME anvil, and the other freelance jobs, and the eternal question: “what the hell am I doing with my life?”

I started wondering if it might’ve been better to just sell my soul, so to speak.

Of course, these are all first-world problems, which makes me somewhat self-conscious.

Perspective, right? But if you want to get right down to it, whether or not I’m starving and naked in Africa is hardly the measure I want to use to measure my success. Yes, I am glad to be in the first world, and yes there are worse things going on, but life starts to get awfully dull for us first-worlders without our little first-world problems. This blog would be quite empty without those first-world problems. Most blogs would be quite empty without those first-world problems.

So regardless of the kids in Africa, I was stressed out.

I went to coffee in Newberg with a friend from college. It was weird being back in my alma mater’s hometown, even though I’d been there just the week before. Mentally I had already checked out, said goodbye. I didn’t expect to be back in the coffee houses there again for a long time.

Newberg has a high concentration of coffee houses around the edge of the college campus. Only counting the places where a person can come in and sit for a while, there are four. Add in the stalls and the number doubles. But there’s only one combination coffee shop and used bookstore serving Stumptown coffee.

We met at Chapters.

There’s something about being in the town where I did so much growing up and learning that really helps the stress fall away. It’s like being there puts me back in that optimistic, excited mindset I cultivated during my college years. Being back felt like putting on a comfortable, well-worn coat, formed to your own particular shape through years of use.

It’s thoughts like that which make me feel a bit more like a hobbit than anything else.

So we talked. Well, I talked for the most part, it felt like. Stress does that to me. She was good-natured and let me go on about how I felt like I needed to solve everyone’s problems, then told me the obvious thing I needed to hear:

“You need to prioritize. Take care of your own problems first.”

Well yes. Of course. How silly of me.

After that I went wandering around campus a bit.

For all the griping I do with students and former students about the university’s various idiosyncrasies, there really was something good there. It was a time before the wisdom of the present, before the future got written and called the past. It was a place of bright-eyed idealism and Quakerly concern about the world. It was also a crucible for my ideas and my dreams, a place where I was melted and formed and re-formed.

Was it unique? Sure, but everything is unique when rightly seen. Was it for everyone? Hell no, not by a long shot. But it is my alma mater, and I find it comforting.

I left Newberg and got ready to face the week.


4 Responses to “Back in Newberg”

  1. Great shots! I liked the push button and Beloved sign deck pics the best.

  2. I too find my alma mater extremely comforting, hence why I live about 2 miles from it now haha. When I lived even closer in an apartment just past it, I used to go for walks around campus a lot to reflect on my time there. My hometown is over 4 hours away but I found a job in my college town after graduation. I think part of me can’t let go to the best 4 years of my life that I had there, but perhaps it is time (since it’s my 3rd year out!). I try to solve everyone’s problems and make everyone happy too, but you can’t do that until you are happy yourself. I’m now following your blog 🙂

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