So I'm selling all my stuff and moving from Miami to Seattle.
So I'm selling all my stuff and moving from Miami to Seattle.
We have all experienced moves, transitions, or some kind of transplanting in our lives: a move to a new city or state, leaving or starting a new job, even something small like changing a habit or shopping at a different grocery store. With each transition in our lives comes a change in perspective and understanding of the world.
Philosophers have opined on the inevitability and importance of change since Heraclitus; today's self-help culture in America espouses self-improvement through change, that is, change as a way to spur personal growth both spiritually and intellectually. A friend's therapist told her: "if you don't like where you are in your life, change EVERYTHING." Turn your habits upside-down, say "yes" when you would say no, like Jim Carrey in "Yes Man." The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again but expecting different results - right?
I have undergone three major transplants in my lifetime that brought me from Ipswich Massachusetts on a south-bound journey like a little bird down to Miami, Florida. At 32 I am about to embark on another major move and I really don't know where it will lead me in terms of my career or future, my social or romantic life, or the state of my soul in terms of good, bad, or indifferent.
MY PAST JOURNEYS
I grew up in Ipswich, Massachusetts: a quiet, suburban, white little town on the North Shore (NE of Boston and north of Cape Cod for those directionally challenged).
When I was 8 my father took a new government job in Washington DC and our little family transplanted itself from Massachusetts to Annapolis, Maryland. The culture and climate shock of moving from New England to the almost South was pretty difficult to adjust to. Everything was foreign to me, from the Baltimore drawl ("wash" is "warsh"), the blue crabs doused in old bay, and the inferior (compared to Mass) public education system, to the unpredictable spring and fall weather, the brackish muddy backwaters of the Chesapeake and its estuaries instead of coarse white sand beaches along the freezing Atlantic, and the plague of both black and "mutant" crickets that somehow always found a way into my basement room. The mutant ones are pretty terrifying.
Looking back now I see that first move as a change that caused a temporary shift in my personality and habits. I went from being a very social and active little (read: hyper) kid with lots of friends to a reclusive, more humble and shy girl who only made two close friends in my first four years living in Maryland. I was awkward and lacked confidence - also because, well, puberty happened. In time I leveled out, became more social, and started dating and making more friends; yet I still entered the world of "adulthood" pretty much a homebody with zero desire to travel, explore, or experiment with anything. Read: straight-edge virgin non-sporty picky-eater that never even tried a salad or sushi till age 19, and never even considered travelling outside of the state let alone the country. There was one little hitch for me: as a condition attached to my full scholarship to undergrad I was required to spend a semester abroad at some point.
Hence my second, short term transplant: in 2004-2005 I spent about five months living in Wollongong, Australia. My whole life Cheshire catted. I learned, amongst other things, that America is not the center of the universe; that my education to date had never been challenging; that travelling, particularly by yourself, not only makes you grow more confident and independent but can be a really fun way to learn about other people, cultures and places; that I was outgrowing my boyfriend of three years who chose not to pursue a college education; and that, in some sense, the Aussies were right: Americans are all cowboys like George W. Bush. I also learned how to play "Wheel of Goon" but that's another story.
My third and most recent move occurred after returning to the States in 2005 and leaving the aforementioned boyfriend. In my senior year of college I was determined to leave Maryland and explore a new part of America. I felt like I had outgrown the mid-Atlantic as a place and wanted to get away while attending grad school. Ultimately, after gaining admission to about a dozen law schools and feeling out the universities and different towns they were in, I chose the University of Miami School of Law.
Miami, the fourth place I've considered home in 30 years, is guaranteed to provide a whole new level of culture shock to anybody who moves here from anywhere in North America. It took me about two years to adjust to this place and even then, it regularly challenges me. It drew me in with its tropical weather, beautiful beaches, and the laid back South Beach attitude that you experience as a tourist, but beyond that I’ve struggled to find other elements of community and place that make a place feel like home. While my friends and social network here are incredible, it is the place as a whole that has made me feel unwelcome.
I can go on and on about the pros and cons of Miami. Hot, sunny, beautiful, paradise with crystal waters, parrots in the trees and peacocks in the streets; coral reefs that are bleached and dying; Everglades that are parched, shrunken, devoid of small mammals and polluted but full of starving alligators and Burmese pythons; streets that flood when it rains; Cuban coffee and Miami-time (meaning 30 minutes+ late); wait staff who are downright rude; the flashy plastic beauty and ridiculous displays of wealth paraded around South Beach; the culture of promiscuity and even scorn for monogamy; political corruption; drivers who deceptively signal and are so terrible at following driving laws that car insurance costs 3x the amount it costs in other cities... Suffice it to say, I’ve lived in Miami for ten years and I am ready to go. I have been ready for awhile.
SO WHY SEATTLE?
At first, I kind of wanted to flee this place - much like the feeling I had when I returned to the States from Australia. Go, explore, leave! I have had my ups and downs over the years living and working as an attorney in South Florida: cycles of happiness, complacency, and unhappiness. And now I get cold when the temperature dips below 70F. But from the get-go the overriding "eff it" mentality of Miami, the seemingly throw-away culture, rubbed me the wrong way. I have always known that I couldn't live here "forever" - whatever that means. I have often said "this isn't a place you want to grow old and have kids." It's a place for the young, the attractive, the single, the reckless.
In 2013, for a solid two or three months I investigated the possibility of moving to Oahu. It had its downsides - being barred in Florida I would have to take the Hawaii bar to practice law there, it is extremely far from the States (and everywhere), and pretty much the most expensive place to live in the U.S. But the weather, geography, cultural and biological diversity, and proximity to Japan and Asia all intrigued me.
Then I got laid off.
Instead of taking the leap to Hawaii during that transformative time, my sudden lack of a job and the resulting financial survival mode it triggered made me hunker down and focus on making a change in my career here in Florida. I spent the next two years trying to break into the field of environmental law, working a variety of paid and unpaid jobs along the way. I also applied for and waived in to the DC Bar, which (for those lawyers that don't know this) acts as a convenient method for members of isolationist Bar Associations like that of the State of Florida to sneak in the back door of the Bars of about 20-25 other states. For example, despite that no other state had reciprocity with Florida in 2014, once barred in DC I could "waive in" (i.e., become barred without taking another sit-down two day bar examination) to the NY, MI, NC, VA, MA, IN, WA, CO, and so on and so forth Bars.
By October of 2015 when I was admitted to the DC Bar, I had created a value matrix assessing the pros and cons of all of the states that I could now waive into through DC. Using that matrix I whittled down my options to two cities: Denver or Seattle. Said core values/qualities include:
* An environmentally friendly place where nature and wildlife are valued and people actually care about things like recycling, reducing pollution, and protecting endangered species (cheers to Washington state for protecting the Northern Spotted Owl and in a landmark ESA case protecting not just one species but an entire ecosystem)
* A local culture valuing and instilling a sense of civic duty and pride, including political and social participation and activism within the community
* A scenic or beautiful place with access to different types of habitat: forests, rivers and estuaries, maybe mountains if possible (living in Florida makes you miss hills)
* Liberal and democratic
* Intellectual and well educated
* High quality of life and self-reported life satisfaction
* High job satisfaction
* Availability of skilled jobs and the ability to not only earn a living wage, but also be paid well
* Availability of a variety of outdoors activities (camping, hiking, national and state parks nearby)
* A hub for entrepreneurialism, businesses, as well as the arts
* An urban city with people from a variety of backgrounds and with many activities going on, including a good night life, music scene, and dating scene (the dating population girl to guy ratio in Miami is 1.8 women to men, in Seattle it's the reverse).
Seattle and Denver made the cut to the top two positions, with Seattle and nearby Boulder and Golden Colorado consistently ranking in polls and articles about the “best cities to live in in the U.S.” for the last 5-10 years.
After tossing and turning and feeling uncertain about the final coin-toss, Seattle/Denver?! Denver/Seattle!?, a dream in which I was happily living in Seattle settled the issue. Yep. A dream.
And now? Now I'm (almost) ready to move on. I made my one year plan for 2016 and I am executing it. My Washington State Bar application was approved and I will be sworn in within the next 2 weeks, barring any tire blow-outs or other random incidents that may slow me down on the road. And yes - I'm DRIVING to Seattle. With my cats. But that’s another story.
I'm applying for jobs and have sold most of the belongings that won't fit in my car, I am about to lock in a place to live, and I've set the dates for my cross-country drive. I am excited to retool, open-minded to new and alternative career paths, and ready to experience a new and fresh perspective from being completely uprooted. And I will share some of my journey and adventures along the way :)
What is "home" anyway? In The Circus in Winter, Cathy Day says "home is where you pitch your tent." In typical, over-enthusiastic Alyssa fashion, I'm selling mine and going on without it. It doesn't fit in my car.