And The Story Begins

Denver Olmstead Storytelling Blog Leave a Comment

When I moved, it was all about taking a big leap. I forgot about the little steps required once the move was complete. It’s more than a job and paying rent. Finding yourself in a community takes placing one foot in front of the other to find where you belong. I decided to start by volunteering.

Portland Story Theater Home Studio

Portland Story Theater
Home Studio

Walking to the Portland Story Theater, a welcoming smile was given as the door opened, making it easy to take the small steps onto the porch of the inviting green house. I was guided to the living room containing a circle of black comfy chairs arranged around a low round table draped in cloth of blue embroidered with yellow thread. A large black cup of coffee with a hint of sugar and cream was offered. It was time to explain why I was here.

How long will it be before I can say I’m from Portland?

Seven months ago, I moved from my home of nineteen years. A landscape I knew the ins and outs of. I took a leap to find a new home. When I left the city of the Great Salt Lake I asked, “How long will it be before I can say I’m from Portland?” I took the leap for a reason. I wanted to be in a city with more opportunities to tell my stories, to take center stage. Lets face it; Portland is that city. With Portland’s Story Theater, The Moth, Back Fence PDX, Literary Arts, The Attic, and so many more organizations that support the arts who wouldn’t want to live here.

Portland skyline

Look at that view!

I’ve explored museums, attended concerts, and walked the green expanses of a quarter of Portland’s city parks. Everything’s new—something different to explore each day, a change from my past routine. As great as these experiences are, homesickness crept its way in. The homesickness isn’t missing the geographic location, it’s not about missing the physical home. The homesickness comes from missing the feeling of belonging. I was active in Salt Lake, a person shaping and participating in the growth of my neighbors and in turn myself.

The Question I Really Want Answered

My question changed. No longer am I asking how long until I can say I’m from Portland has turned to, when will I feel I’m a part of Portland?

Audience appreciation.
Photo by Kelly Nissl

Tomorrow I play a role, volunteering at the Urban Tellers performance, selling raffle tickets to support Portland Story Theater. To become part of a community the first step is to realize it’s not about taking center stage. The first action is to listen. To become the person who’s willing to be part of the audience. Being an active audience member, community is built through exchange. The exchange of telling and listening makes one feel at home. It’s the connections made, feelings of understanding that unite individuals together and make us feel comfortable in our own skin.

Feeling at Home

I’ve learned, in a new community you will feel lost until you meet the people who make you feel at home. You have to be willing to walk through the open door. Sometimes all it takes is a welcoming smile and a hot cup of coffee to make you feel at home.

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