June 3rd. It’s time. I throw what meager belongings I have into my car the day before, which basically consisted of a few guitars, an ancient television (with a built-in VCR, if that tells one anything about its age), a pile of clothes, too many books, and other odds and ends. It’s too early in the day for my tastes, but I like to get a head start whenever I have a long day of driving to look forward to.
I carve a northward path along California’s spine, to coasts I’ve never seen before, names of cities I’ve only read about, unknown county lines, and the endless expanses of the so-called wine country. It’s much less scenic than I had anticipated, but anything beats the 1200 mile trip from West Texas to San Diego that I am so used to. Seemingly lifeless plots of land dominate either side of I-5 the further inland I go. It doesn’t matter. I’ve never seen them before. The newness is refreshing.
Sacramento surprises me. I pictured it as some dirty town in the middle of the desert. Instead, the state capital is the greenest city I’ve seen in a while. I book a room in a shady hotel in a small town about an hour north of the capital. An unhealthy Jack-in-the-Box dinner, sports updates on ESPN, and then it’s to bed.
June 4th. I take my time leaving in the morning, seeing as how I don’t have a particularly tough drive today. I am heading to Portland, a city I’ve wanted to visit for quite some time. There I’ll be staying with my brother-in-law’s friend’s family just outside the city. It helps to have connections.
The sky is wrapped in sullen gray. I haven’t stopped seeing forests since crossing the state line into Oregon. I’ve never been this far north. Glacial lakes and precarious mountain passages guide me into the heart of the state. At a gas station deep in the mountains, I awkwardly fumble with my wallet as an employee fills my tank for me. I could get used to that.
The rain comes early and doesn’t stop. Eventually I’ll become acclimated to this, I think to myself. The road is slick with rainfall by the time I reach my destination. It’s even greener than Sacramento; everything is aglow in verdant splendor. Water covers everything like webs.
The Strobecks are kind people. They ask me where, what, why – the usual queries. Honestly, I’m still trying to figure out most of the answers, knowing I’ll have to repeat them time and time again once I get where I’m going. We have dinner at a Mexican restaurant and spend the evening watching movies and playing Wii. I hadn’t expected such comfort and hospitality from strangers.
June 5th. The date rings around in my head from the moment I stir. I’ve been waiting for this day for a while. Everything would change today.
I am offered a large breakfast, some vague words of wisdom, and an invitation to return anytime. By the meal’s end, I am anxious to get on the road. I am less than 4 hours from my destination and I can barely contain my excitement at this point.
Today is bright as I return to the interstate, a stark contrast from the gloominess of the previous day. I don’t recall the names of any of the cities between Portland and where I’m going. I speed the last leg of the journey because I am on a tight schedule. I have people expecting me.
The trees become thicker; the spaces between buildings shrink the further I go. Names of cities I have seen on maps make their appearance on roadside signs. My anticipation rises with every passing mile. I am on my way to a new life.
It’s not long before I see it. The traffic begins, the rain returns, and large looming structures break through the fog on the horizon. I can’t help but smile as I push through the congestion, bringing the skyline of Seattle closer every minute. By the time I am driving through the tunnel beneath the city, it is impossible for me not to laugh. I did it, I’m here.
This is my home now.
* * *
Six months. Half a year. Twenty-six weeks and one hundred eighty-four days. That was the count this past Tuesday. I can’t believe I’ve been in Seattle half a year. The eagerness and uncertainty I felt on that long drive northward feels like an eternity ago. And yet, there is much left I have to learn and discover.
Seattle has been good to me, to say the least. Sure, I’ve taken several curve balls right out of left field since I’ve been here – but that’s to be expected when you pick up your life and throw it into a random corner of the country. Poor baseball analogies aside, I can’t say that everything came together right off of the bat (see what I did there?).
In fact, just the opposite occurred. In the first two months alone, I lived in four different places – a large house that used to be a parish with six other guys near the water in Edmond; an old house-turned-dormitory with eight guys lovingly called The Brown House; a dark room in the corner of an empty house in Shoreline with a drug dealer and several other undesirable tenants; a second stint in the Brown House; and finally a cramped apartment in a bad part of town in Edmonds. Technically, that’s five different places.
And those are just the living issues. I won’t even get into the canvasing job I had for a day, the several botched dates I went on, the parking tickets, the hospital bills, the lack of callbacks following odd job interviews, etc. Seattle provided anything but an environment in which I could comfortably cruise control through. To this day, that remains true.
Still, I wouldn’t want it any other way.
What would have happened if I had moved up here and found a great home with great roommates right from the beginning? What if I landed a high-paying job that commanded the respect of my peers and family? What if the sun didn’t hide all the time and the depression didn’t ambush me like an assassin from well-concealed spaces? What if I had met a beautiful Seattle girl and we fell hopelessly in love with each other and manufactured dozens of little hipster babies?
I don’t care to know the answers to any of those questions simply because life never asked them.
That would be a boring story. Having the American dream handed to me in a turbulent time of life when I needed the benefit of it the most would be nice, wouldn’t it? I would be a fool not to choose the easy route if I were given a choice between the two futures. Even if that should be true, I would take the second option every time.
Why? Because life rarely ever hands anything to us without a justified cost of suffering. It comes when we need it, far past the point we thought we couldn’t endure. I don’t want to think about what would have happened had the provision that I needed all along had not come when it did. I refuse to stand still and take the easy way because that door is often shut and I would rather not waste time trying to kick it down.
I guess there comes a time as you get older when you realize that the “easy way” simply no longer exists. Every decision we make - from where we choose to live, work, or who we choose to love – they are riddled with countless combinations of potential consequences. You don’t need me to tell you that, you’ve felt it before. You’re probably feeling it now.
Obviously the good comes with the bad.
Despite all the mishaps and speed bumps that I’ve stumbled over since relocating to the Pacific Northwest (herein referred to as the PNW – I’m so cool), more than a few amazing things have happened. I’ll name a few of them.
I’ve traveled along the Strait of Juan de Fuca, a place I’ve dreamed of visiting since senior year of high school (that was six years ago, for all you young people). I’ve seen pods of whales break the surface of the Sound from the comfortable seat of a ferry. I’ve read novels in tide pools while hermit crabs danced around my feet. I’ve eaten crepes at a charming restaurant in a quaint waterside town. I’ve stumbled over driftwood and fallen off longboards. I’ve waved to Canada from a coast with my brothers. I’ve watched the sun set behind the snow-capped Olympics, from a cliff overlooking the Pacific, from the glass cage of the Great Seattle Wheel.
And I don’t believe any of it – absolutely every last detail – would have come my way if the easy choices were made. I had to make the difficult ones to see the beautiful benefits. I’m not trying to come across all flowery and endearing; life is a mess and there is a healthy chance that tomorrow I’ll get pissed off about something minute and my day will suck. But on the days when that doesn’t happen (or the days when I’m merely adult enough to avoid it), I wouldn’t trade it for anything. Not for the comfort of familiarity, the safety of staying still, or the assurance of a burden-free life.
That’s where I am. I am still fumbling around up here in the PNW and have been for half a year. I’ve loved every minute of it, even the ones I couldn’t bear at the time. For the first time in a while, I can say that I feel truly at home. I’m still just as clueless as I am when I first arrived, but I wouldn’t doubt that enlightenment is coming soon.
Perhaps then I’ll have to change the name of this blog.
UPDATES & SUCH
I am still working my way through The Night Circus by Erin Morgensen. It’s enchanting – and better yet, it’s her debut. Consider me a fan.
Music-wise, I’ve been spinning everything from electronic djent to folk music to alt rock. There is a reason for this – some of my next few blog posts will cover my favorite albums (metal and non-metal) of 2012. I won’t list any spoilers here but I’m taking it very seriously. Don’t laugh at me.
Of course, I couldn’t be more excited about The Hobbit coming out next week. I am having a beard-making party with a friend as a part of my plan to go as a dwarf. Also, I’m seeing Looper tonight, which is kind of cool. Also I get to go home for five days. Also Christmas. I LOVE CHRISTMAS.