On August 24, 2014 I arrived in Seattle to start my new life. I had never been to the city before, and didn’t know a soul. I remember how I felt that day: excited, and scared silly. I felt like I was in a foreign country. Sometimes I still do.
In retrospect, I really think I was in shock. The terrain wasn’t flat like I expected. The weather was sunny and mild. I had been expecting rain, and after living in Florida for 40 years, “mild” was a sensation I had very rarely experienced.
I remember sitting in a park with my dogs, just staring at people. After driving for 3100 miles, I still had the sensation that I was moving. I still pass that park every day on the way to work.
I remember noticing that there was a completely different vibe in this city. It’s a much smaller city than Jacksonville, Florida, but it feels like a much larger one, probably because people are much more densely packed here. I don’t know how I was picking up on these signals just by sitting in the park, but I remember drawing conclusions that I later found to be true: this was a more educated, more sophisticated, more liberal, more diverse place.
More liberal! I wanted to jump for joy. After 40 years of feeling like a liberal turd in a conservative punch bowl, suddenly I felt like I fit in. It was like taking off a pair of shoes that was two sizes too small. I had no idea how much of a burden I had been carrying all that time. That feeling of being an outsider, that feeling of having to justify my conclusions, that feeling of never being taken seriously…I could lay those burdens down for the first time in my life. And it felt so good.
In the coming weeks and months I had a lot of adjusting to do. Finding my way around. Getting used to the insane level of traffic. Figuring out which of all the unknown grocery stores fit my budget and my tastes. Getting used to the fact that a lot of the products I was used to are sold here, but in entirely different packaging. Getting used to the fact that everything costs about 3 times as much. Learning my job. Finding doctors and dentists and libraries and post offices. Wrapping my brain around the Seattle Freeze.
After a few months of desperately trying to make friends, I wrote about the Seattle Freeze. I just didn’t know what it was called at the time. In that blog entry I called it, “Nice, but not.” After two years I’m still convinced that this is a thing, but since then I have made friends, and therefore don’t act quite as needy, and am not as hurt by the smiling, polite, unmovable wall of rejection.
I also came across a blog entry I wrote before leaving Florida, called A Florida Transplant to the Pacific Northwest. In it I had a lot of anxious, unanswered questions about how to make this massive transition. I can still feel the stress rolling off the page. Man, I was scared.
But you know what? Since then I’ve answered all those questions, and this place now feels like home. I can’t imagine living anywhere else. It was the best decision I’ve ever made.