It’s never been a mistake when I leave Seattle. That said, it’s also never been a mistake when I’ve come back.
After growing up just south of the city, moving away for undergrad seemed like the only prudent thing to do. I was desperate to live somewhere else and more than a little convinced that New York would be the place for me – convinced in the way you can only be when you’re 18 and really, really determined to move away from your hometown.
I tried as hard as I could to leave Washington and subsequently spent five years outside of Philadelphia and in Manhattan before finally packing up and heading home in 2011. Try as I might, I couldn’t shake the homesickness – I woke up one morning in my apartment in Harlem and just knew it was time to go back to Seattle. I spent the day applying to jobs and explaining to my confused parents that I was going to need my childhood bedroom back for a few months, and I was on a plane home less than a month later.
That sort of determination doesn’t last though, and I’ve flirted with other cities over the past five years. I’ve applied to jobs in New York (“Maybe it’ll be different now that the economy is better!”) and Los Angeles (“It’s all the West Coast stuff from Seattle but with better weather!”), but nothing was quite good enough to convince me to leave. I couldn’t fathom leaving a place with mountains and water and easy access to cheap oysters.
My family is here and my friends are here. I know all the streets. I remember the names of obscure, momentary Mariners stars. This is my home.
Five years living in Seattle as a grown-up have brought with them a few career twists and turns; I showed up an aspiring journalist, switched to the dark side and worked in PR, then took a hard left and started law school. Those kinds of career reboots require a little geographic flexibility when it comes to employment prospects, so I’ve had to figure out which parts of Seattle actually appeal to me as I jump from job to job. But that’s the hard part, really; it’s everything.
That’s what made it hard to leave this summer when I was offered an incredible opportunity this summer in Washington DC. Hard, but not a mistake. I took a legal externship working for inspiring people in an office that is doing work I believe in, and it was fantastic. It also opened my eyes to the idea that Seattle may not be as permanent a home as I thought when I left town in June.
So I’m happy to be back; I’m looking forward to eating cheap oysters during happy hour at The Annex and spending evenings watching boats at the Shilshole Marina and enjoying the underappreciated view from the Aurora Bridge looking west over the Ship Canal at sunset. I’m also looking forward to living in a city where it’s not oppressively humid every day, the overwhelming majority of the cockroach population exists only at the zoo, and nasty winter weather lands me a day off from work at most. I’ve just made peace with the fact that I may have to leave again soon. I love the work I did in another city, and I’d like to keep doing it. Letting go of the idea that I’ll live here for the rest of my life has been freeing in a way I didn’t expect.
So Seattle, I love you; let’s enjoy this while it lasts.