As a kid, I used to motor my way through Sweet Valley High fictional series. I loved the elementary school years, the junior high years, the high school years, and I even read some of the college years and special editions.
The series revolves around the Wakefield twins, but there are two side characters that both come from affluent families: Lila Fowler and Bruce Patman. For most of the series, these two hate each other even though they are similarly snobby in lots of ways. The reader is told that Bruce comes from old money and Lila comes from new money. Lila’s family wants to modernize Sweet Valley, and Bruce’s family want to maintain the history.
The other day, I realized is how I would describe Oregonians.
When I was little, I learned that for some reason Californians were despised by Oregonians. Since I have family from there and spent some very memorable vacations, I figured this was jealousy over the awesome cultural sites, a kick ass flag, and the abundance of sunshine.
The intensity didn’t really hit me until one day at work, my co-worker put down the state. “Hey, what’s wrong with California?” I asked. Said co-worker began to complain about people who got plastic surgery, drove badly, and were snobby. “My mom is from there. They drive fast because they have 6 lane freeways and a higher speed limit,” I responded. “And not everyone who lives there gets plastic surgery.” She didn’t have much of a response, but I conveniently left out the part about being snobby or the comment “the pot calling the kettle black.”
The real reason, I learned, was not specific to Californians. Oregonians did not like it when the masses started moving to their state. There was a big population change which affected traffic, jobs, and housing. But the population changed everywhere. Whenever my mom and I were in the city of her youth, she always pointed out suburbs that used to be trees and rolling, lazy hills.
I began hearing and seeing it everywhere. Even the djs on the radio joked that Oregon should change their signs to notify out-of-towners to leave. I failed see the humor. While I was waiting to get my oil changed one day, I started a conversation with a woman who’d moved from out of state. She said that people had actually slashed her tires, and they had talked down to her since she was a transplant. I was horrified.
My husband and I went to a museum earlier this year, where two elderly women were talking at the entrance while we looked over literature and informational packets.
“I’ve lived my whole life in Oregon,” one of them said happily. “My family moved from Wisconsin.”
“Oh,” the other woman paused. “So you were born out of state? You’re not originally from Oregon?”
They continued their conversation, but I had to bite my tongue to keep from yelling at the old woman. Of course this lady she was speaking to was an Oregonian, because of the simple fact that she LIVED in Oregon.
When people found out I was moving to Texas, they all shook their heads. People told me I wouldn’t like it. But I no longer believed them. I’d heard too many “I could never live anywhere else,” or “I’m a real Oregonian. I like the rain.” I used to tell people that the reason I ended up moving out of state was because I was stuck in months of rain, had a bad day at work, and my then-boyfriend said, “I’m up for a promotion, but we’d have to either move to Texas or Florida.” And what I said was “Good, I am SICK of this rain. I’ll start packing all the sun dresses I can never wear.”
Everybody welcomed me when I moved to Texas. Everyone was nice to me. They all wanted to know how I was adjusting and if I liked it, etc. Living there wasn’t what I expected, but I did realize that I missed home.
Not everyone here is like that, but sadly, too many are. There’s a difference between having pride for your state and being a supremacist. Caring about your home versus having a statewide immigration policy. Truly loving something instead of bragging just to brag. Keeping people out because they’re not like you or you’re afraid. As Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “Hate cannot drive out hate. Only love can do that.”
I was born and raised in Oregon. I enjoy visiting other states. Summer is my favorite season. I like to tan. But I cried when I found out they were renovating the airport and pulling out the carpet I had known since childhood. I was saddened when I heard they were shutting down Cartopia. I don’t watch Portlandia, because as my dad so aptly said, “It is New Yorkers making fun of Portlanders.” And every time I find out a celebrity is from or has moved to Oregon, I feel a sense of pride whether they’ve just arrived or have been here from the beginning.
Every morning for the last year on my drive to work, I stared at the blue hills, the evergreens, and felt peace rush over me. I try to remember to welcome every person who moves to the Portland area, in case no one else has. I encourage my old co-workers to come visit me. We’ll have a coffee or a beer. I hope I can start a new trend where everyone is welcoming and friendly. Let’s show people just how great we can be.
What about you, readers? What do you love about your home state? What do you dislike about it? Have you moved, and if so, how has that affected the way you think about where you live?