Bend 'til it breaks

I will never forget my very first view of Mount Hood from the ground. My boss and I were on our way out of Portland in our rented Nissan Xterra--for driving through the mountains, of course.

I could not keep my jaw out of my lap.

A REAL MOUNTAIN. It was beautiful.

"Is this real life?" I thought. Do regular people get to just live life with a view of a big, beautiful mountain outside their window?

But then we drove up, over and through the Cascade Mountains on our way to Bend, and my mind became unhinged. I could not believe the beauty. Now, I'm a pretty sheltered individual, and my travel experience is not vast by any means, but I'd never experienced anything so beautiful in my life. I have the hundreds of photos to prove it, mostly from me hanging out of the car window to snap a perfect shot, or asking my boss to pull over so I could jump out and take it all in.

I spent that week working out of our office in Bend, and I've never really recovered. I just can't put into words, no matter how hard I try, what I felt while I was there. The mountain views. The sunshine. The fresh air. The kind people. The quirky downtown. The great outdoors. The possibilities.

I got to know my colleagues in Bend, who are a wonderful bunch. I bonded so heavily with my boss, who's taken me under her wing and has had so much faith in me since day one. We sat outside the ski lodge on Mount Bachelor to take in the views and enjoy a local brew on a Thursday afternoon because that's just what people do. They sit among the mountains. I drove into the office each morning with a breathtaking view of the Three Sisters mountains just hanging out in the background like, "Yeah, we're here, too. Don't mind us."

I felt sad when we left. Like, reverse homesickness. I didn't understand how a place so beautiful could have existed this whole time, and I never knew.

Six months later, I got to go back. On my own. And I knew that place was meant to be mine. Before and after work, I explored every nook and cranny I could find. Mountain lakes, high atop a butte, Cliff Rock State Park. I got lost on an 18-mile run through a national forest and found an incredible rapids on the Deschutes River. I woke up early each morning for a run before heading into the office and thought, "How is this real life?"

But it was real life. Sitting outside, breathing in the Juniper air, talking to my mom on the phone while I looked at mountains in the distance. Central Oregon is perfect.

Well, now I have the opportunity to make it real life.

If I choose to, I can join my colleagues in Bend and serve as the west coast connection of our corporate communications team next summer.

If I choose to.

That choice. It's my choice. I discovered the most beautiful place I've ever seen because of a job I found when I wasn't even looking, and now I have the opportunity to move across the entire country. This is literally a Choose Your Own Adventure Book come to life.

WHAT THE HELL DO I DO?

I've never in 33 years of life lived more than a couple hours away from my parents. For a reason. I am sort of attached to them. I've also never done anything so monumental, like move across the country, for reasons like: fear, fear, and never having had the opportunity. But the fear goes back to reason No. 1: never having lived far from family.

How do people do it?

I feel like this is my chance to take a big, scary leap the way brave people often take big, scary leaps, but I've mostly avoided them because of the big and scary part. But why? What is the actual worst that can happen? I last a year, then come running home?

My job will always be based here. My family will (for now) always be here. Here will always be home. You can always go home again. Right?

I love the idea of being brave and exploring a new adventure and stepping 100 percent outside of my safe zone for me. For the 100 percent selfish reason of I want to.

I want to try living in a brand new place. I want to find my footing. I want to say "I live on the west coast," and actually realize, holy shit, I live on the west coast. I want to be brave and I want friends and family to visit and fall in love the way I did.

I want to move to Bend, Oregon.

But do I?