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Making the Move: Seattle

Stephanie Kuehnert

Part Three of Three

When I was seventeen, I graduated high school a semester early and moved from the Chicago suburbs to Madison, Wisconsin. My desire to escape my problems—depression, drug-addicted and troubled friends, an emotionally abusive ex-boyfriend—was so intense I couldn’t even wait the nine months until college started. My mom and my best friend helped me move into my new apartment, I completely broke down the moment they left. As badly as I wanted to escape all of the drama I was leaving behind, I was terrified to be away from the people I was closest to.

Sixteen years later, that heartache remains a vivid memory, so before we set off on the journey to Seattle, I warned my husband, “I’ll probably cry when we get there.”

seattle

But I didn’t. Sure, I shed a few tears during my last private moment with my mom, and I bawled like a lost toddler when my niece and I said our goodbyes. But the day we arrived in Seattle, I sat grinning like the high school girl who finally hooked up with her crush after months—no, years of pining.

house keysI’d expected it to be surreal at first, like an extended vacation or a dream, or maybe a little bit scary like Madison had been. But surprisingly, I immediately felt at home and at ease. The only intimidation was the idea of driving those hills—a fear I’m admittedly still working on.

I had fantasized about this life since my first visit to Seattle: a life with great vegan food, a lot of time spent outdoors, an overall healthier lifestyle. The day after we arrived, a friend invited us on a hike just outside of town with her kids. Then we discovered new places to explore: the marsh islands by the UW campus, Alki Beach, Kubota Gardens, Seward Park, Interlaken Park, Lincoln Park. So many parks! It seemed as though I enjoyed the outdoors more in these first two weeks than in the last year I spent in Chicago.

We’d arrived, we were told repeatedly, at the perfect time of year. Our first month was filled with sunny days that never got too hot. The humidity that kept me inside through most of a Chicago summer was non-existent here. Mornings were foggy and fresh—perfect running weather for me, the kind of mornings I was lucky to get a few of on either side of a Chicago winter.

My weekday morning runs were invigorating with the majestic views of the cloudy Puget Sound, Our new Sunday routine included a vegan brunch plus a new hike. On Saturdays, I would explore my neighborhood by myself, visiting the produce stands and storefront restaurants in the International District, taking the bus to the waterfront, or walking to my favorite thrift shops in Capitol Hill. There was a bridge down the street from our apartment from where I could gaze in awe at the same view collected on so many postcards over the years. Now, this view was mine. It was perfect.

Well, almost.

On August 5th, marking our first month in Seattle, I finally broke down. I cried myself to sleep, I cried throughout the next day. I was still puffy-eyed and sniffly when my husband arrived home that next evening bearing vegan cupcakes because of my pathetic texts about being a failure.

Before we moved, I told myself that moving to a place where I loved the weather, the food, the scenery, where I was more inspired to be active and healthy, might help to lighten the dark clouds that had been swirling around me in recent years. I told myself that those dark feelings might not magically disappear, but deep down, I hoped they would. I fantasized that after our arrival in Seattle, I would get the news that my latest book had finally sold to a publisher, or that I would find that Ultimate Dream Job of writing, teaching, and empowering young women. I fantasized that finally, after four years of creative struggles, of rejected manuscripts, of being stuck in my “temporary” bartending job, my luck would break. Everyone I talked to before we moved would say things like, “Few people take a leap like this, you’ll definitely be rewarded for it.” It had to be true.

Seattle

But after a month of waiting for these fantasies to become my reality, I found myself disappointed and scared, and crying harder than I had that first night in Madison sixteen years ago. While I wasn’t happy with the life I left in Chicago, at least there was some stability. Was my happiness worth this much risk? But I also realized that this leap forced me to face my deepest anxieties, something I would not dare from my place of stability and unhappiness. The power of that realization, and the view of the majestic Puget Sound during my morning runs, reinforced that this leap is worth all the risk. If there is anything I’ve learned from this journey, it’s that even though things fall apart, they also eventually fall into place.

About the author

Stephanie Kuehnert

Stephanie Kuehnert

Stephanie Kuehnert was raised as a health-conscious feminist. She went vegetarian at 13 and vegan at 17. She hated gym class, but learned to enjoy working out in her late 20s when she realized how fun and empowering it can be to punch and kick imaginary opponents. She also writes for Rookie (rookiemag.com), an online magazine for teenage girls, and has published two novels, I Wanna Be Your Joey Ramone and Ballads of Suburbia. Find out more about her writing at stephaniekuehnert.com.

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