Today I am sad. I realize recently I live in a place where friendship and enthusiasm for the company of others is enough to freak a person out. It breaks my heart a little place that this culture is so cynical and damaged that everyone feels the need to be too cool for each other or only desire to company of someone apathetic to them. What a sad place that even friendship is easily rejected. Even the least bit of courtesy is construed as a ruse. In both the dating scene and in the process of making friends this is what I have observed.
It makes me sad to imagine what the stories of all these hurt individuals are that they could not receive even kindness. They enjoy the illusion of kindness and friendliness but none of them are thise things.
Who is the new Portlander? I say new because according to natives of Oregon most of the population is from elsewhere and are recent emigrants from other states in the last twelve years. Some even refer to the new Portlanders as colonizers. Being from a colony myself, had I heard that five years ago on my island I would have called bullshit. After three years here and feeling more like an observer and a guest of the city I think I can see similarities to” expats” that move to Puerto Rico from the United States. They do seem to bring of cynicism and resentment but either they adapt and become part of the community and adopt some of our values, such as family, friendship, courtesy and compassion or they stop being around. Granted surviving in Puerto Rico can be a constant struggle even for natives and we are a high context culture but our friendship, love and kindness are sincere. We have the mechanisms in our language that allows us to express love without confusing relationships or intent too much. Only when we mimic American customs of friendship or courtship do we really fail to communicate. In my case I express my love for my friends freely and loudly and I am open and direct about my fondness for new acquaintances. This can be taken as “heavy” for the American, certainly for the new Portland colonizers.
I never imagined I would ever have trouble adapting to a new culture if I was immersed in it, but having only lived on one two little islands that was arrogant of me. Also I did have trouble adapting to aspects of my own culture. Yet I feel I was able to embrace and internalize more than what I could not abide. I felt more at home in Mayagüez, a small town with more traditional values but also very accepting and a population more liberal and cultures than they themselves even realize.
Keep in mind, Portland does not seem to represent all of the United States. It is but one city and a small one to boot. However maybe it is a good place to get an idea of what colonization in its early stages may have been like emotionally. Or at least to study friction between locals and newcomers or how a region and culture is changed by colonizers.
Back to me now, I am sad. I felt like I am having a hard time being open. It tends to cause discomfort for others. Yet there are a few that have embraced and that is what matters but I may have to put up yet another wall. I have maybe all the friends/family I need. It is nice to pick up more and connect with others. Something about me scares them but a few stick around and even take me in their hearts. I am grateful but I feel sad for the rest. A good friend once told me one of my strengths and flaws is my dedication. Having some ones dedication is power. Perhaps the new Portlanders have escaped their former homes because they had no power and power scares/angers them. I can understand that. Being brought to Portland gave me some power, being here I have learned to use it better. I am not truly powerful but I am growing. This can be scary for someone who has an oppressive and cruel experience with power.
I will bear the thing I hate, loneliness, and climb to power, and remember to wield it with compassion. I have enough love directed towards me to survive. It looks like a hard path maybe I will die before I can even complete it but it is worth trying. There are Titans that will go on to terrorize and eat the weak. Why not become a titan that can turn the defeated and compassionate into titans?
Still I am very sad that I have to measure my words and acts of kindness to make the inhabitants of this city comfortable but I am afraid I will not. I will destroy you all with hugs and break your hearts with the kindest words. I will flood this city with your own tears because you have never been loved or you hate yourself. I will burn you all with a kiss and my love and power will drive you all out of this city. I will not run away to the mountains, no, I will end this plague of cynicism.
Watch out Portland, I will love the life out of you.
Esteban “Stevie” Martin Elepan II