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Posts Tagged ‘Seattle’

You burn your arm on the oven when you’re taking out the pizza. The burn turns into a weird blister. You put a band-aid on it and don’t look at it again because you don’t have time to have a burn on your arm right now.

You also have a mysterious bruise on your shoulder, sore arms, a sore neck, a sore back, sore legs, and you’re wearing your ankle brace all the time again because you don’t trust yourself to walk properly and not hurt yourself.

You have driven past your street or driveway by accident at least four times in the past week. Maybe more.

You struggle not to lose your patience with customer service representatives who take a ridiculous amount of time to do something that should take two minutes. You throw things away you never would have considered throwing away even a few months ago. You try to convince people to take random stuff because you know that otherwise it will go into the landfill, and it all feels like a huge waste.

You play and play and play your piano. And then you can’t bring yourself to play even though this is your last chance because it’s just too fraught.

You cry when you think about selling your piano. You cry when you get a voicemail from your friend saying he thought maybe you could use hearing a friendly voice, because you could use it and then some. You don’t cry when they carry your beautiful table away because by this point you are somewhat numb.

You do cry after you get off the phone with the emergency vet tech, who tells you, yes, you  need to bring your little dog in right away because the crack in her fang could be serious and there are no appointments available on the weekend so Friday night it is. If there is anything that can break you, it is your little dog’s health. You stand there and cry for five minutes, and you wish you had housemates or a boyfriend or family nearby, and then you coax the dog into the car and do what needs to be done, and now there are antibiotics twice every day, which isn’t so bad but is one more thing to remember.

Speaking of dogs, your dog is unhappy. She barks at the ceiling fan. She barks at the people who come over to get stuff. She barks more frantically than usual when she realizes you’re leaving. You tell her every day she’s coming with you, but she doesn’t speak English so communication is problematic.

Communication is difficult even when you speak the same language. You send endless messages to people. It’s all scheduling and logistics, and while you are okay, even good, at these things, you kind of hate them. You stare at your phone waiting for people to get back to you. They mostly get back to you after you’ve pretty much given up on it happening. It must be like water not boiling until you look away.

You spend one miserable night lying there unable to sleep, which means you have way too many hours to think about every detail of the move. Now you take melatonin every night before bed. It seems to help.

People have a lot of opinions, and you disappoint some of them, and you are too tired to care. The weather in Seattle is bad. The weather in Seattle isn’t so bad. What, you’ll move again if you don’t like it? What are you thinking? Why did you get an apartment in Bellevue? You should throw a goodbye party in your copious (read nonexistent) spare time. You should put your stuff up for sale on Craigslist. You say no a lot because there simply isn’t any wiggle room. You have the time you have, and it is extremely limited in quantity. At this point, if the other person in any given equation doesn’t make a lot of effort, it’s not going to happen, and there’s nothing you can do about it.

You receive your first few invitations for Seattle, and you think, hmm, I’m not going to know anybody there. And then you think, wait, this is going to be the next several months of my life. And you get ready to steel yourself. In the meantime, you get to see a few of your closest friends more often than usual, and it is lovely, and you almost wish you could always be on the cusp of moving so you could always spend this much time with them.

You drink sparkling cider and you eat cranberry sauce from the can. More and more of your stuff is in boxes. You can tell how much you care about an object by how much paper you use to pack it.

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I’m not burying the lede this time, but I’d be happy to mix some metaphors. I’m taking a leap, starting a new chapter, and making the move up to Seattle in a few weeks.

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What you are seeing here is a completely mythical sunny Seattle day.

Haven’t you been talking about this for a long time?

Yes, since my first visit to Seattle, in fact, which was in the spring of 2012. So this is definitely not what I’d call a spontaneous decision.

Didn’t you once make an April Fool’s joke about moving to Seattle?

Yes, and I think it might be the only April Fool’s joke I’ve ever made. But I’m moving for real this time, I promise.

Doesn’t it rain a lot there?

Yes, yes, it does.

Aren’t you afraid you’ll get S.A.D. (seasonal affective disorder) and be absolutely miserable? Don’t many Californians move to Seattle and then come back?

I survived a winter in London, so I’m not hugely worried. But I’m also prepared to move again if I feel I’d be happier somewhere else. This is me we’re talking about, so I have a plan B. And a plan C. And a plan D, E, and F….

This is a big deal!

Yes, this is a really big deal. Some of you may not know that, aside from a year I spent living in London right after college, I have lived in the Bay Area my entire life. So moving to a new city in a new geographic region will be quite the adventure for me.

Are you for sure going to move?

I’ve put money down on an apartment, I’ve given notice at my current place, and I’ve reserved a moving truck, so I’m pretty sure this is going to happen. I’ve taken my time with this process, partly because I had other stuff I needed to do before moving and partly because I wondered if I would change my mind, given the chance. But I never did change my mind, so here we are.

What are you going to do in Seattle?

Pretty much what I’ve been doing in the Bay Area. Although it’s not a stretch to suppose that living in a new place, I may try some new things. And I’ll definitely be meeting some new people.

What does this mean for me?

Well, if you live in the Bay Area, you might be seeing a bit less of me. If you live in the Seattle area, you might be seeing a bit more than me.

If you read the blog, I hope to write about my experiences living in a new place and creating a new life for myself there. I imagine I’ll have a lot of thoughts about it, and I’m pretty excited about what this could mean for the blog. We might be in for some interesting times ahead!

I have feelings about this!

Oh, wow, do I know. I have feelings too. Lots of them, and they run the gamut from excitement to terror.

How can I help?

My friends have been very supportive thus far, and I feel really lucky. If I am moving away from you, keep in touch; I’d love to hear from you! If I am moving near to you, invite me to do stuff; I’d love to not be a hermit!

If you read the blog, I’d appreciate your patience. I might be writing here sporadically or not at all over the next few weeks as I orchestrate this move. If I am quiet here or elsewhere on social media, it is because I am very busy. But I’ll be back soon enough.

You still haven’t said WHY you’re moving.

Yeah, this is the most common question I receive, after some comment about the weather. The decision to move out-of-state is a complicated one, and I’m not moving for any one reason. The easiest reason to give is that it’s a financial decision, and it is true that I’ll be saving money living in Washington, and I am looking forward to that.

The more accurate reason is that it feels like the right time to move on. While there have been plenty of challenges in execution, this wasn’t at its heart a difficult decision for me to make. I gave myself a lot of chances to turn back, but I never wanted to take them. On the whole, I have felt exceptionally grounded about uprooting my life and trying something new.

That is not to say I don’t feel sad to be leaving. I will miss my friends here a great deal. I will miss the sunshine. I will miss the place where I grew up. I will miss the sense of personal history I get from so many of the places I go. I expect I might be horribly homesick, and then I will write about it, and we will see what there is to learn from that.

But it is time. And so I am going.

Let’s see what this next chapter holds, shall we?

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I got into a conversation today on Twitter about the high costs of housing in the San Francisco Bay Area.

I was looking at houses for sale in the Seattle area, and they are just gorgeous. They have tall pine trees outside, they have views of lakes or Puget Sound or downtown Seattle, they have huge sheets of glass. A lot of them have three or more bedrooms, and some of them even have basements that you can convert into game rooms (air hockey! ping pong!) and/or home theaters. And they aren’t all that expensive.

Someone suggested I look into Omaha, Nebraska, and I found huge houses on huge lots with price tags that seem cheap by Seattle standards…which seem cheap by Bay Area standards. The consensus, whether you’re John Scalzi or Patrick Rothfuss, is that if you’re a writer, it’s best to live somewhere on the cheaper side. Read: not New York City, and not the San Francisco Bay Area. (The happy news is that you live one of those places, everywhere else looks wonderfully cheap.)

It’s a dilemma. For a long time, Silicon Valley kind of irritated me: too much engineer speak, too much social awkwardness, too much busyness competition, and not enough appreciation of the arts. But just when I was beginning to consider a move, it started to grow on me.

Photo Credit: Abe K via Compfight cc

I didn’t choose Silicon Valley as my home; I just ended up here. And once I’d started my business, I was stuck here; while the cost of living is absurdly high, that also meant I could charge more. I looked into moving to Portland at one point and discovered that what I’d save in cost of living expenses wouldn’t equal the amount of income I’d be losing, not by a long shot. I couldn’t afford to move.

Now I can afford to move, but I’ve made dear friends in the meantime, and I’m also more aware of the things I’ve been taking for granted. I like the energy of Silicon Valley. I might not like the culture of the busy, but I do like that people are engaged with projects and ideas that they feel passionately about. I like that people here are nerdy and geeky and care about science fiction movies and maker culture and playing laser tag. (Not to say there aren’t people in many other places who care about the same stuff, but I don’t know as many of them.) I like that a lot of people I know are living full-on lives of the mind. I like that people are liberal here, and by liberal, I mean they are supportive of free spirits and different lifestyle choices and basic women’s rights. Not that it’s perfect (because it isn’t), but it’s a step in the right direction.

Then there’s the weather (it doesn’t get much better than this) and the FOOD. I have the choice of at least twenty different types of cuisine within a fifteen minute drive of my condo. Maybe more. And if I’m willing to drive a little further, I have all of San Francisco to pick from. The beach is in driving distance, the mountains are less than a day away. I can take a day trip to a world-class aquarium or go to one of many excellent science museums (the Tech, the Exploratorium, the Academy of Sciences).

So therein lies my conundrum. I live in a beautiful and vibrant place. It also happens to be really expensive. There’s a push and pull that goes on whenever I consider my options.

Where we live matters. And there are always tradeoffs involved.

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There was a running theme to many of my conversations during my week in Seattle. My lovely writer friends and I would be chatting and catching up, and at some point, they’d ask me, “So, what exactly are you doing in Seattle, anyway?” And now that I’ve done this twice, I thought I’d share my own recipe for having a personal writing retreat.

Many of the writing events I know of place an emphasis on giving and receiving critique. This is great, and a lot of value can be had at these events. However, for the past year or so, I have found myself wishing for a different kind of event, where the focus instead lay on the writing. So this March I attended the Rainforest Writers’ Retreat in Washington, which seemed to (and did!) fit the bill.

Unfortunately, the Rainforest Writers’ Retreat is only once a year, so I decided I’d try to have my own retreat in Seattle. It’s fairly simple to arrange: I pick a week, arrange my flight and hotel, and then send out an email to the writer friends I have in the area, letting them know I’ll be in town and available to hang out. I know what I’m going to be working on ahead of time, writing-wise. And that’s it.

The view from my hotel window in Seattle.

Here are the benefits I get from these retreats:

1. Focused time to work, away from all “daily life” kind of distractions. I didn’t think this would make a big difference, but for me, it really has. I simply get more work done in a hotel room than I do when I’m at home. I’m less likely to waste huge chunks of time. And I’m also less likely to allow myself time to wallow in any writerly anxiety about my project I might be feeling.

2. New perspective. In a different place, my thinking becomes slightly more flexible, and so I’m able to see my work slightly differently and embrace new ideas and directions with slightly less resistance.

3. Motivation. Because I have spent the money on the retreat, I feel deeply motivated to make sure the time counts and I get as much work done as is both possible and reasonable. It doesn’t hurt that I’m seeing writer friends the whole time, and I don’t want to have to tell them I’m not getting anything done either.

4. Connection. In some ways, my retreat is like a convention in that I’m surrounded by like-minded writers. But in this case, I get to spend more time with these writers one-on-one and in small groups, which means we get to know each other better.

5. Inspiration. Also like a convention, because I’m spending time with writers, I get to talk a lot about writing and books, and our enthusiasms tend to feed off one another, making me feel more excited and ready to write. And if I need a little extra shot of brain juice, I’m in a big city full of museums, cultural events, and people-watching opportunities.

So far I’ve found these retreats to be a successful experiment, as well as something I look forward to. I hope I can do more of them in the future.

What about you? Do you have an ideal retreat or workshop scenario?

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