I went to a local coffee shop with a friend and walked around to their porch to leave Pal (my dog) there while we ordered something to drink. Megan was sitting back there, reading. I let her know I would be back soon for Pal. She was immediately very kind and the three (or four, if you count Pal) of us chatted and chatted and chatted. Megan had been talking to people all day at Summer Fest, but was still gracious enough to entertain our questions about her and her art. I asked her to participate in this project and she agreed and, soon after, I had the privilege to meet her at her home where I learned that Megan is the genuine article. I doubt very much that there is a kinder or more genuine person out there, but if they exist, I look forward to meeting them. Be sure to look at her paintings. I'm sure you'll be seeing a lot more of her soon.
Who are you?
My name is Megan Myers. I'm a native Oregonian. I'm an artist - I'm a painter. I'm a small business owner. An animal lover (laughs). Oh, and I'm a runner! Those are kind of my identifiers.
Where do you come from?
I'm from southern Oregon. I'm from Medford. I grew up there - I went to high school there.
What brought you to Bend?
Initially, what brought me to Bend is I was trying to get closer to my hometown. Because I left for college and moved to Seattle and that's where I spent my twenties and went to college and started my career there. I moved to Portland for a couple years after that. Me and my partner, Matt, decided to move to Bend mostly because of the outdoor access. We just sort of found ourselves here quite a bit because we loved running out here. And he's a mountain biker, too. We really wanted to live in such a beautiful place. And I think that's what brought us here, but what kept us here has been the people. We've been really fortunate to have built the relationships we've built here. Both of us just feel like we were really welcomed and we just have really, really cool groups of friends here now. I don't expect that we will be leaving. We love it here. Because southern Oregon, where I grew up, is so close to Bend, I spent a lot of time coming here when I was a kid and stuff. And culturally, I see a lot of similarities. When I started coming to Bend as an adult, it felt so familiar to me. And not just the part of the country or the part of the state, but like the way people treat each other here. The way people have pride in their work, but are still humble. I've just felt really at home. Like, in my heart of hearts, I've felt like Bend was where I was supposed to be almost more than where I grew up. But it echoes so much of the place that I grew up in. That something I love about it, too.
What does community mean to you?
Community's a huge part of my life. It's very, very important to me. I would say that it's one of my core values to be a good community member and to be active in the community. Sometimes being an artist can be a really solitary venture, but I think the reason I'm an artist is so that I can use it to connect to my community. I spend a lot of time at festivals, having a booth or putting up art shows in businesses around town. And so I've gotten to interact with a lot of really interesting people here. Being a good member of the community is something that I just think is really, really important. What that means to me is being, first and foremost, mindful. So when I'm moving through my community, I try to be mindful of how my actions and behaviors can be affecting other people. I just try to make sure to be mindful of who's around me and what their values are. On top of that, living intentionally, so going beyond mindfulness and really trying to think, How can I make people's lives better when I interact with them? And that doesn't always mean a grand gesture, but you know. I think people in Bend are really good at this and that's been inspiring to me. So you say hello to your neighbors. You ask how they're doing. If you see someone that needs help, you offer to help them. You use a blinker in a roundabout. You let pedestrians pass through an intersection. Just kind of small acts of kindness, but to think that they might help improve the area you live in. Like, as I said before, when we first got here I felt really welcomed by different parts of this community. I felt really welcomed by the running community. People immediately started asking me to go on runs with them. Go to FootZone and join the group runs. I started feeling, just out of the gate, really supported by the art community here. Artists in town I didn't even know would reach out to me over social media or they'd come to an art opening and they'd offer to go out to coffee with me and talk to me about what I was doing and what they were doing. Offers to collaborate. I felt really welcomed by businesses who often wanted to collaborate or were just interested in what I was doing. And so they inspire me to be like that. Those people, right out of the gate, inspired me to want to welcome others. When you do that, you inspire people to be their best selves. And if they're inspired to be their best selves, they're going to be good community members because they feel connected to their community. I just have been really grateful. I know there are a lot of people moving to Bend and I know that it's really hard - that change is really hard for people. But we're all humans and I think if we're all treating each other with respect and generosity, it's kind of like the pay it forward or like, you know, the be the kind of change you want to see in the world. If you model the kind of behavior you want your community to offer, then I think that's the best way to teach people how to be a good citizen in their community.
Well, I don't think there's a lot to lose from doing it. The worst thing that could happen if someone could kind of ignore you or shut you down, I guess. But I don't know what else - there's not really another repercussion of being friendly. What you can gain is so much more valuable because you can gain a real connection with someone and, you know, have a relationship. Or maybe learn about something you didn't know about. Or they can open your mind to new possibilities.
What do you most look forward to here in Bend?
Ohhh. It's so hard. I feel like I'm living in the present so much right now. I haven't thought so much about the future of it because I'm just so happy with how things are going. I always look forward to the different seasons just for different activities. Just being out in nature is a really big part of my happiness and who I am. And it also inspires so much of what I do for my artwork that it's nice to have the natural changes here. It's really visible when the seasons change and I really like that. I just look forward to see what other creative endeavors people are coming up with. There are really cool businesses opening. People just astound me with their ideas. There's like so many of these mobile boutiques and mobile coffee shops. I just like that people are thinking outside the box. And they're doing it because they want to live here and they want to make a living here. There's a lot of things that are enriching our community and I'm excited to see what people are coming up with. I think it's exciting.
What do you wish for the future?
I just hope that my business keeps going. It's been doing really well here the last couple of years and it keeps kind of getting bigger. Yeah, I just hope that I can, on a personal level, keep it afloat and keep doing it full time. That's just kind of the dream.
And on a community level, I'm hopeful for the future that the changes that are going on in Bend start to be embraced by people and not looked at as an obstacle. I understand that there are some problems, like with home pricing. And there's a lot of issues that fast growth and population cause, but I'm just hopeful for the future that our community will stay really strong. And because of that strength, be able to work together to solve those problems. And it won't become sort of an Us vs. Them kind of mentality here. I see little things, more online in little forums and stuff than in person, where I can just feel so much pain of people that are local. I feel so bad for them that they feel so negatively. I just hope that they can find a way to keep loving Bend and keep loving their new community members as well. That's something I hope for the future.