For me, Seattle is like that boyfriend/girlfriend you just can’t quit. I had a big huge crush on her when I was a baby-hipster back in the late ’90s (were we hipsters then? I don’t think so, we were…grunge babies? Gen X-ers? I don’t know. That’s another blog). I finally got the chance to live here for a year or so, and then had to break up with her for a variety of reasons. She was an expensive habit even back then. And then, when Mr. B and I started looking for jobs around the country and BAM! he landed a job here, I was not at all surprised. It’s like when you run into your ex at a party and you’re like, yep, I know exactly how this is going to play out.
I love this city so much. I will miss the fact that practically anywhere you look a beautiful view sneaks up on you. I will miss the glorious summers with daylight until 10PM. I will miss the fact that you can find something to do anytime–play, concert, art show, dance performance, reading, any time, all the time. I will obviously miss my Framily. People say it’s hard to meet people in Seattle and I have not found that to be true. Some of my best friends and accomplices are here.
And yet, I won’t miss traffic or cold Memorial Days or parking. I will not miss the passive aggressive battle between pedestrians and bikes and cars. I won’t miss the low level of pretension that seems to permeate so much of the culture around here.
This is an interesting thing for me. Pretension. Because I get mama-bear defensive when people make fun of the “flyover states.” Or act as though anything between the coasts is about 30 years behind the times. One time, I ordered Thai food at work and one of my colleagues was shocked that I ordered it 4 star (spicy). I asked her why and she said “because you’re from Missouri.” Another time I was remarking on Minneapolis (or was it Milwaukee?) as a major metro area. A co-worker remarked “I’d hardly call that a major metropolitan area.” I wonder how the 500,000+ residents would feel about that (which, by the way, is not that much smaller than Seattle, but who’s counting).
As is often the case with the best comedy, the television show Portlandia is not far from the truth. People do want to know where their chicken grew up, exactly what it was fed and whether it had friends. I went to a restaurant the other night and the six year old beside me was wearing a Neutral Milk Hotel t-shirt and I could not help rolling my eyes. It is impossible to order food for a group of people because every person has something that can’t or won’t eat. It’s hard to find a good burger because they are all slathered with some kind of pickled beet or something and aioli. Irony is king.
I think that stuff is all a side effect of the core issue, which is an intolerance for intolerance.
Most people that live here either started out on a coast or fled the middle of the country for similar reasons–they were looking for more tolerance, a higher standard of living, a more progressive populace. I am no exception. I was tired of always being the liberal one, the arty one or the one that didn’t follow the prescription. Mr. B told me once when talking about Seattle “I feel like I’ve found my people.”
And yet, I have learned more about tolerance, inclusion, compassion and voice from living here than I would ever have dreamed of back in the late 1990’s. I have been challenged to confront so many of my own issues and biases by virtue of being around people that won’t tolerate compassion laziness. I think about what I’m saying before I say it. I am way better at apologizing. I am also more comfortable saying what I think. Some would say this comes with age. My Facebook feed would beg to differ.
As we are thinking about where we want to live, as we are embarking on this journey to explore where we want to put down roots, start a business and raise our kids, the culture of tolerance becomes more and more relevant. And this week in particular, as I’ve watched and listened to so many comments and stories from all the various social media feeds, I cannot help but think even more deeply about what this means.
Our families would love for us to be closer to home. When I think about the kids we hope to raise, I want them to be close to their cousins and aunts and uncles in ways that I never was able to growing up. But I also want my kids to have a chance to grow up in a community where people would never consider waving the Confederate flag. I don’t want to have to fight for children’s right to read To Kill a Mockingbird or the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Nothing can replace good parenting, and I know that conversations about tolerance will (as they already are) be had regularly in our home. But I don’t want my kids to have to go 2,000 miles to find their people. I want them to be raised around them. At least some of them.
I love Seattle. I love the PNW. I am so grateful for everything it has taught me. It will be hard to leave and harder not to come back.