As we approach the end of the year, I think over everything that happened to me this past year. So much happened over the course of the year and I would have considered this year a success if any single one of these things happened without the others.
I started off the year, after several years working as a leader in the HRC Portland Steering Committee, knowing I needed a change. I had been co-chair of the Political Subcommittee, which had morphed into the Political and Community Outreach Subcommittee a few years ago, which was then changed to be called the Community Engagement Subcommittee today. In January, I led the MLK Day of Service volunteer activities in support of LGBT Homeless Youth in the Portland area. What began as the annual effort to solicit donations for the youth and organize volunteers to put the care packages together, turned into two projects this year–one where we assembled the backpacks full of donated items and one where we helped the Sexual Minority Youth Resource Center (SMYRC) move to a new location. I knew this would be a challenge, with a higher level of donations this year than before, as well as a second activity that would require more volunteers. After a huge campaign to solicit donations and volunteers, we were rewarded very nicely with both. Over 130 volunteers showed up! It really was an exciting and exhilarating day.
Somehow I knew it would be my last big event for HRC in Portland. And it was a great event to end the long run.
In February, I testified before an Oregon House Committee, representing the Democratic Party of Oregon LGBT Caucus, to support the Youth Mental Health Protection Act, which would ban conversion therapy for minors. During my testimony, I also told my own personal story and it was one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done. Telling my story in front of legislators whom I considered my friends, in front of a room full of other supporters I knew from around Oregon. I still felt all alone as I opened the door to show my personal pains and afflictions.
March, I traveled to Washington, DC, like I always did, for the HRC Equality Convention and Lobby Day. Lobby Day was cancelled, though, due to a snowfall. It was a great convention, all along, I was thinking that it might be my last. The last time I might see many of my friends and brothers who are part of the strong HRC Volunteer Leadership around the country.
At the end of the weekend every year is an awards ceremony. I had long become disillusioned by the awards, because I saw that generally the only personal achievement awards went to those who raised the most money for HRC in the prior year and I knew that I would never be among that group since I focused so much on community building and political relationships. Well, I was surprised. I received one of the personalized awards. I was one of the recipients of the Diversity and Inclusion Leader of the Year awards. (And a few other awards to Portland for things I was directly involved with). Ok, so it was a good year. Since I thought it would be my last awards ceremony with HRC, I thought it was a very good way to end my long tenure.
There was also a “small” thing to note the evening before I left DC when I crossed paths with an attractive man named James. Unknown to me at the time, this would initiate a huge change for me later on in the year.
In April, I testified before the Oregon Senate Committee about the Youth Mental Health Protection Act. It was even more difficult than testifying before the House committee. But, we were victorious. The Senate voted in favor of the bill, after the House had affirmed it in March. Then, on to the Governor.
On May 18, I had the honor of standing behind the Governor of Oregon, Kate Brown, as she signed House Bill 2307 into law. How could my year possibly get any better than that?
In June, on my birthday, I unveiled a new photo project, unlike anything else I had ever done. “Not Human, Born Perfect” was my idea of using photographs to tell stripped down stories of LGBTQ people of all races, ages, and body types. The initial plan was to have 50 stories by my 50th birthday next June, but that goal is put on hold for now, as my life has taken on even more dramatic changes. (I will go back to that project one day, though).
As the month of June passed, I was full of conflicts. I had been in a very insecure job situation ever since 2003, finding layoff situations whenever projects would end. My current job contract didn’t provide any vacation time and the company shut down twice a year, leaving me with two weeks unpaid every year. I could not plan short term or long term and I was really growing weary of the instability and uncertainty. This is not how my career was supposed to go!
For several years, each time I faced a layoff or unemployment, I would often consider looking for employment outside of Portland. Over the years, I basically had narrowed that down to either Chicago or Washington, DC. As I noted earlier, there was an amazing man in Washington, DC with whom I had been communicating almost daily, really, since May. I knew that there was something very different about our interactions than with any other man I had ever met before. I knew that I needed to move to where he was if I was ever going to find out if there was anything more to our interactions.
Since the company where I was contracting had a ‘shut down’ week the last week of June, I knew that that was the time for me to try to arrange job interviews in Washington, DC.
There were three or four companies I was speaking with, but only two seemed to me to be a possible fit for me. I was nearly certain that one or both would schedule interviews in person, but I could not wait any longer beyond about the 17th of June in order to reserve airfare at a reasonable price. So, I took a gamble. I set up my reservations to travel to Washington, DC the last week of June.
The next day, one of the companies called to set up an interview—the last full day I would be in DC.
A week later, the other company called and also set up an interview the same day.
In all my years of job searches, this has never happened. Interviews don’t happen that easily.
So, I had my itinerary complete and traveled to Washington, DC, just a day after the historic Supreme Court ruling on the freedom to marry. I had a great visit with friends and the interviews went well, even while I had to be late to the second one because the first one ran long (they had me talking to everyone in the office, it seemed, including the CEO).
July began, I knew that almost certainly I would be moving by the end of the month, but, of course, I still did not know whether I had a job ahead for me. I most certainly could not move across the country without employment! But, I also needed to give my landlord the required notice that I was leaving. I needed to plan! But I couldn’t. So, another blind gamble. I was confident that I had done well in at least one of the interviews, so I had to take a risk and give my notice that I was moving out.
As I approached the ‘two week’ window for giving notice on my current job, I still did not have a job offer. What do I do? I need to make a decision! Down to the wire, the day before I needed to turn in my notice on my job, I had one company call to present me with a job offer! Then, at the end of the day, the other company contacted me to say I would receive a formal offer the next morning! Really? I must be dreaming! Both offers were exactly what I had asked—one would have me start employment August 10 and the other, August 15. So, I turned in my two week notice at work, then accepted the offer that I considered the best one.
Then, I began a sell off and give away of nearly everything I owned. All my furniture must go! I wanted to only have a few boxes to ship and carry the rest in my car across the country.
July 28th, I brought about 15 boxes of belongings to the local mailbox store and put them in the mail to Maryland. July 29, I had two more boxes to ship (and a few other things went to my mom’s house when I realized they wouldn’t fit in my car). I then hit the road to begin the journey across the country with my dog, Jackson and my little gnome, #timbergnome.
August 2 I arrived in College Park, Maryland. My job didn’t start until August 10, so I had a few days to get things together and also a chance to visit friends. And James and I had our first date on August 3.
The rest of the year has been very busy, getting adjusted to the new job, setting up my new home in Capitol Hill, and most important, more and more dates with the man I fell in love with.
And I am back in a leadership role with HRC here in Washington, DC. Yes, I accepted an opportunity to be one of the leaders of the Community Engagement subcommittee, part of the HRC Greater Washington, DC Steering Committee.
Looking back on this year, I am overwhelmed and humbled. I never could have predicted any of this, and I definitely would not have believed you if you told me I would be living in Washington, DC by the end of the year.
I am loving my life right now. A beautiful boyfriend, a nice home in one of my favorite neighborhoods, a good job, and a city I have always loved.
Don’t even ask me to predict anything that might happen in 2016.