Saturday, July 5, 2014

One Year Seattle-versary!

A year ago today at around 3:30 in the afternoon, we drove through this tunnel and arrived in our new hometown.

It was a moment I'd been dreaming of for nine years, ever since I'd visited with a group of girl friends in 2004 and knew-- just knew the very moment I glimpsed Seattle on the bus ride into downtown from the airport that this was the city of my heart. 

It's scary though to take a leap of faith, to believe that just because you want something, because you feel it is part of your soul or your destiny or whatever, that you can go for it and it will work out. It was scary for me in particular because I've always been anxious, a worrywart. For years I focused on the many reasons I couldn't move--the townhouse I couldn't sell, the sorry state of my finances after my last leap of faith leaving full-time work to write (and bartend... and freelance... and teach...), and especially the overwhelming fear that I would fail.

I’m a perfectionist, a straight-A student, a Lisa-Simpson type. My failures and perceived failures haunt me. I was not supposed to be the girl who dropped out of college after a year, but I did. Then, my first attempt to live on my own failed when I completely lost sight of myself and the drive I’d had throughout childhood and high school and was forced to crawl back home to Chicago at 21 with a drinking problem, an alcoholic boyfriend, tons of credit card debt. Then there’s that relationship with the alcoholic that lasted years longer than it should have because I didn’t want to admit I’d failed by being with him. And let’s not talk about my writing career and all the missteps and failures I feel I made there (whether or not that is truly the case.)

But dwelling on these failures and letting my fear hold me back was killing me. In 2012, I found myself as depressed as I had been in the worst phases of my life—eighth grade, junior year of high school. I had to make a change. I went back to therapy and found a brilliant social worker named Liz Ledman, who pretty much saved my lifeShe was the first person who really asked me, “Why not? Why can’t you go to Seattle? Just GO and see how it all works out.” It was part of her way, I think, of teaching me to live in the present. Forget my past failures, forget my future fears of jobs, financial security, housing markets. Just go. 

Fortunately, my incredible husband, Scott was on board with this. So at the beginning of last year, we started planning. In June, we came out to Seattle to rent an apartment and then we went back to Chicago to pack. On the morning of July 2nd, we set off on a three-day drive across the country through the Badlands, Wyoming, Montana, Idaho and into Washington with our two cats. There were some not so fun moments like right across the Wisconsin border when Kaspar freaked out and pooped all over his carrier, but for the most part it was one of the most incredible, scenic trips of my life and I hope we can do parts of it again (without cats and an overpacked car). It was the beginning of what would be the best year of my life and my marriage.

Me and Scott at the Columbia River in Washington
 I keep a five-year journal—a notebook where each page is divided into five sections so you can write a few lines about each day. I’m currently on year three. It has been incredible to track the difference in my mental health between 2012 and now. I’m a different person, a healthier and happier person than I ever thought possible. It’s also been funny for the last month or so to revisit all of my anxieties about moving: those days in Seattle when our housing prospects looked grim until we found a place in a prime location with a gorgeous view of Rainer and the Cascades; my OMG there is so much stuff to pack followed by procrastination followed by pure panic; my deep and horrible anxiety about the delivery of our moving containers (god, what a trainwreck it was to get those into the driveway next to our house) and then the fear that all of my precious, precious things would break in the process; my tearful but sweet goodbyes with friends and especially my mom and niece; and of course the horrible, all-consuming “must get a job and/or sell a book” state that I know will fill my journal entries until mid-August. Depending on my mood, these entries either ended with giddy hope or prayers to the universe that this leap of faith would be worth it.

Even though the job anxiety lasted for six weeks after we moved (and through several heartbreaking “But that was the perfect job! Why don’t they want me?” moments), I knew almost immediately that my leap was worth it. My fears big and small were for naught. Packrat that I am, I was able to whittle down our stuff, pack it up, and though there were a few headaches with arranging the transit, it all arrived completely safe and sound. Seriously, not a single thing broke. (And therefore I can highly recommend Mayflower’s container move.) The drive across the country went well, even with the cats (though as I noted in my July 2nd, 2013 journal entry, “We should have brought baby wipes.”) and I even drove a few stretches on the highway (though admittedly I have hardly driven at all in Seattle because I’m intimidated by the hills and the traffic, something I should work on.). I have a great hairstylist (Danielle at Bowie Salon on Capitol Hill), great health care (Group Health), a great dentist (Smiles on Madison), a great vet (Jet City Animal Clinic) and neighbors in my apartment building to swap cat care with. I didn’t lose my local support network—I keep in touch with my best friends in Chicago the same way I have with my best friends that live in Denver, St. Louis, and San Francisco—and I found an amazing set of friends in Seattle, some who I’ve known for a long time, some who are brand new but it feels like we’ve been friends forever. Though my husband changed jobs once after we got here, he loves his current job and I love my job at Seattle University, a gorgeous campus that’s an easy walk or bus ride from my home where I get to work surrounded by people who share my same passion for books, learning, and social justice.

I did not fail. I succeeded in all of the best possible ways, in ways I didn’t even dare to dream about.

It’s weird to think about being here a year. Part of me feels like I’ve been here forever—maybe because this is where I belonged or this is where I finally came into myself, like the real me—the happy, joyous, capable of living in the moment me was born here. On the other hand, it does still feel so new. I’m constantly in awe of the view of skyline I get every time I go over Jose Rizal bridge on the way to or from home, in awe of the mountain, of the Sound, the long summer days, the changing sky, the many, many flowers. I’ve never lived somewhere with so many flowers.
Washington Arboretum

Washington Arboretum

Washington Arboretum

The garden behind my office building where I eat lunch
But I don’t think that awe will ever fade or go away. That awe goes hand-in-hand with my gratitude, which I've also started recording in a notebook this year. Each night I make a list of at least five things I'm grateful for and it always includes Seattle or some aspect of it--vegan pizza, delicious vegan food, hikes, legal weed.

I am so grateful to be here. To wake up to smell of rain or the dampness that never seems to fade even when the sun has been shining for a week. I’m grateful for cloudy days, foggy days, sunny days, rainbows, gray mornings that turn blue, gray mornings that stay gray. For the drizzle in the winter that makes it feel so good to go home, cook a warm meal and cuddle with your partner and furkids. For the glorious, glorious return of the sun.

December Fog

Seattle Skyline from Alki Beach on sunny spring day

Golden Gardens

I’m grateful for the view from my bus stop:

The view from my apartment window:

The view from the trail I regularly run:

Downtown as seen from the I-90 trail
Mount Rainier and Lake Washington as seen from the I-90 trail

And the spectacular sunsets I can walk down the block to see:

I'm grateful that all the places that I loved when I visited Seattle are mine now. I can spend time at the waterfront, at Pike Place Market or Viretta Park anytime:

Viretta Park on April 5, 2014
I'm grateful to keep discovering new parts of the city and surrounding area and taking part in Seattle traditions that make me feel like I'm a real resident:

Fremont Solstice Parade

I'm grateful that I'm surrounded by so much nature. By water:
Saltwater State Park
Canoeing in Mercer Nature Slough

Alki Beach

By waterfalls:
Snoqualmie Falls
Wallace Falls State Park

By trees:

By mountains with amazing views:

The view from the top of Little Si
The view from the top of Rattle Snake Ledge

By eagles and ducks and deer and slugs and snails and turtles:

Mercer Nature Slough

And I see those on our Sunday hikes, we have also taken a slew of long weekend adventures since we've been here--probably as many trips as we have taken together in the course of our marriage and I am very grateful for that!

San Juan Islands Anniversary Trip

We saw a fox

and alpaca

and Mount Baker on the ferry ride back to Anacortes

Olympia in fall

Tacoma, Defiance Point Park, New Year's Day

Valentine's Day trip to the magnificently rain WA coast

And the spectacular Hoh Rain Forest where we saw our first eagle!
Easter Weekend

Above all, I'm so grateful for the ways that this move has made me physically and mentally healthier and closer to my husband than ever.

Fully vegan Thanksgiving for two

Crossing the finish line of my first 5K

That’s a large chunk of my year in pictures, but if you want to see more (and all of the adventures to come), check out my tumblr.

I’m proud, ecstatic, and beyond grateful to call Seattle home. I miss my Chicago people (and am thrilled that my mom and niece are coming to visit soon!), but this is definitely where I belong. I feel centered, whole, focused, and inspired on a daily basis. Even on the dark days, I am able to find beauty and peace. I can’t wait for all of the adventures in the years to come.  Great risks do lead to the greatest joy. I highly recommend taking them.


Audrey (holes In My brain) said...

I saw the title of your post and thought "has it been a year already?" I'm so glad that you've found so much happiness in Seattle, those pictures are gorgeous! I think oftentimes I always find an excuse not to take a risk, but seeing that risk paid off in such a positive way for you makes me feel just a wee bit more willing to make that leap. I hope the years to come are just as wonderful for you :)

Stephanie Kuehnert said...

Thanks, Audrey! It has been amazing and I can only imagine that the years to come will be as well. And yes, great risks do pay off!