27 May, 2013

Dear Seattle: maybe we should see other people

In the last week of August 1999, I put my guitars, amplifiers, clothes, computer, and the cat into my Corolla, and I waved goodbye to Boston. The drive across the country was an apropos passage through the birth canal into what would be my new life on the West Coast. I didn’t know what it would be like. I didn’t know why I’d even decided that what I had was not “good enough” for me anymore. My family certainly didn’t understand it. My sister had said “Everything you could ever need is right here.” My father hadn’t been so dramatic, but he did ask me “Are you sure you really need to do this?” When I said I did, he respected that decision, and I feel that, as the years have gone by, his respect for that choice has grown and grown. And as our relationship has grown stronger and closer, especially in the wake(s) of deaths of my mother and sister, my dad has shared more and more of that respect and pride in me.

So, it’s sort of a sign of the times that, when I called him on the phone, while sitting in a park in the sunshine in The Mission in San Francisco, and told him “I think I might move to San Francisco,” he said to me that it was always a city that he loved and remembered fondly from his time in the military when he was stationed there (in the mid-1940s). He didn’t ask me if I was sure I needed to do it. He didn’t even ask me if I thought it was a good idea. My dad is done with worrying about the quality of the choices I make, and he trusts me. I suppose that it’s the result of both of us getting older, but it’s also the result of both of us having taken risks in getting closer in the relationship (something that is fundamentally difficult for either of us to do).

I moved here fourteen years ago, without any idea of how long I’d live here. I didn’t think it would be forever, and I didn’t think it wouldn’t be forever. People often move around after finishing a doctorate, so there had to have been the subconscious expectation that there would be other cities. But I don’t recall it, if that was the case. And when I decided to leave academia, the choices I made, including buying a home, made me feel more rooted to Seattle. There came a point where I couldn’t really imagine myself ever leaving here. There were lots of reasons: A relationship… Property values… A job. I’d idly talked about wanting to live in New Zealand when Bush was first elected, without having ever been there. It was just a Utopia to me. I’ve still not yet visited. When I visited Germany, I thought “Someday I want to live in Munich!” And there have been various other passing sentiments, either based on political (Canada) or some arbitrary loosey-goosey feeling that another place would be better (Portland). There have even been some nostalgic feelings that occur each time I visit Home that make me think I may one day move back to Boston.

Over the past several months, a little voice inside has started to whisper, though. Not about Utopias. Not about expatriotism. Not about nostalgia. Something about “here and now.” And that voice has been whispering “It’s time to move on…” The feeling is that maybe I am all done with Seattle. And not long after that voice fades off, the next voice that I hear is saying “Maybe it’s time to move to San Francisco…” Over the years, it has come to the point that I have nearly as many strong connections down there as I do up here. In no way do I forsake or minimize the relationships I have here in Seattle, which obviously include a few of my closest. But sometimes it is just time to try something new. Sometimes the only way for a plant to keep growing is if you repot it.

I don’t want to think of this as running away. I don’t want to think of this as any kind of delusion around the truism that starts with “Wherever you go…” But the question is not about who I *am*. The question is about who I will *become*. And I am starting to feel that the same kind of tectonic shift that occurred in my life after the move from Boston to Seattle may once again be due. I don’t know for sure yet. But I am now open to it. Instead of thinking about all the reasons I cannot possibly move forward, I am now strategizing about the ways in which the move might be accomplished.

It’s time to move on, it’s time to get going
What lies ahead I’ve got no way of knowing
But under my feet babe, the grass is growing
(- Tom Petty)