On March 25th, 2007, at 8:30PM, I pulled my nine-month-old Honda Civic to a stop on the corner of 12th Ave and 62nd street in the University District of Seattle. I creakily climbed out of the front bucket seat, stretched, and then reached into the back seat to snap the leash onto the collar of my six-month-old Golden Retriever puppy, who has just spent the last 14 hours wired like a cocaine junky, panting, and drooling on my shoulder. Early that morning, my roommate, Tom, and I had finished packing the last few of our things into the U-Haul Truck, and had driven the mind-numbing journey through Utah, Idaho, Oregon, and Washington to arrive at his old, and my new, home.
It was only my second time in Seattle. The first had been a few scant weeks earlier, when he and I had made the drive from Provo to Seattle so I could visit the area and determine whether or not I wanted to move there. To be fair, my first impression of the place was not particularly favorable. It was early March, which meant that it rained the entire time I was here. The city seemed old and cramped, particularly when compared to the wide-open spaces and always-new construction of the expanding megalopolis of the Wasatch Valley.
Nevertheless, Tom was going to be moving out of Utah and returning to Seattle in a few weeks. (This move would prove to be very beneficial for him, as shortly after returning to Seattle, he got married, and now has two children). I was in a strange place in my life. I had stopped teaching voice at BYU, I had retired from performing after realizing that I wasn’t able to handle the lifestyle of an actor. (I can handle constant rejection, criticism, and scrutiny…but only if I’m well paid for the abuse.) I had blown my gasket at a friend and boss with whom I had started a company, quitting in as melodramatic and disrespectful a manner as I could conjure. I was broke, I had declared bankruptcy only one year earlier, and I was really, really unhappy. I knew I needed a change, and I figured that perhaps a move to Seattle would be as good a change as any.
(Plus there was the matter of some ludicrously misplaced affection on my part, but we’re glossing over that part of the story these days…)
When I arrived in Seattle, I had no job. I had no prospects. I had no money. I was living in the spare bedroom of Tom’s parents’ house. They were complete and total saints, allowing me to eat their food, and even paying for the storage unit that I couldn’t afford. They let me bring a puppy into their house. They even bought me a vacuum cleaner when I moved into my brand new apartment in Redmond, on the shore of Lake Sammamish.
As of today, I have spent six years in the Greater Seattle area. It is the longest I have ever continuously lived in a single location since the day I graduated High School back in 1996. And more importantly, it is home.
I have grown to love Seattle. I love the craftsman architecture. I love the water. I love the greenery. I love the never-ending flowers. I love the dog park, and Pike Place market, and my tap class, and the malls, and the movie theaters. I love the technology industry and the high standard of living that it provides.
But most of all, I love the people. In my six years here, I haven’t made any super-close friends. (Quite on the contrary…I’ve managed to mangle a couple of formerly-close friendships. But that’s another post.) But despite the fact that I haven’t met my soul mate, I have met a lot of truly wonderful, truly open, and truly accepting people. Despite living in an apartment complex with a high turnover rate, I feel as though I have found a community, a neighborhood. I know most of my neighbors. I enjoy my co-workers greatly. And most importantly, I feel accepted.
That feeling of acceptance is something that I don’t know that I had ever felt, anywhere else I have ever lived. Part of it is because of the person I became when I moved to Seattle. But a large part of it is also the people whose casual and unconcerned attitude about others’ choices granted me the courage to become that person. The pace of this place has helped to shape my personality, my passions, and my outlook.
I love having a place where everyone wants to come to visit, instead of a place that people feel like they have to come to visit. I love being in a place where there is almost never snow, and where the summers are so glorious they truly exist in a sphere beyond explanation. I love the fact that I can see greenery year round, that flowers sprout up spontaneously on every corner, and that the Rhododendron bushes are more like Rhododendron trees. (Seriously…it’s crazy.)
I love sitting on the dock as the sun sets, watching the herons and bald eagles floating lazily over the lake then taking a short 5-minute drive to a posh dine-in movie theater or fine dining restaurant. I love wandering the paths of the Marymoor dog park with the best golden retriever alive, and watching the model airplanes performing acrobatics in the distance.
I love that I work with people who came here from France, India, China, Japan, Vietnam, Russia, and Texas. (Seriously, though…Texas really is another country.) I love that everyone here has a dog, and more importantly, they all realize that dogs shouldn’t just be thrown on a chain out in the back yard.
I love the sometimes-infuriating nanny state that thinks it’s okay for gays to marry and for people to smoke marijuana, but who have outlawed trans fats and plastic silverware. I love Pike Place market, where I can go to feed my pen obsession, my flower obsession, and my fried lumps of dough obsession.
Seattle, more than any place I have ever lived is where I belong. And, with the possible exception of New York City, it is the only place I could ever imagine choosing to live for the rest of my life. I am grateful every day that, back in January of 2007, Tom finally had enough and decided to move back to Seattle. I’m grateful that, even though I really didn’t like Seattle the first time I came, that I came anyway. I’m grateful that I went through the hard times and the loneliness. I’m grateful I found a place that would foster the courage and acceptance I needed to be myself. And more than anything else, I am grateful that I found a place I can proudly call my home.