Seattle, Washington. Sigh. When people think of this city, they tend to think of rain or grunge. For me, I think of my life’s biggest sliding door moment.
With all the advanced technology available to us now, I am hopeful that I live long enough to be around for the actual sliding door app that will take you back in time to allow you to see what your life would be like if you had made just one different decision. With the way my life works though, the announcement of this new marvel will appear on the headlines of every news outlet the day after my death.
Back in 1992 I had an opportunity to move to Seattle. Someone I knew was going and was willing to pay my expenses, to have companionship during his life changing move. At the time, I was 20 years old and collecting unemployment during an off season from my job, while spending my time drunk and going to hardcore/punk shows in NYC. There were a grand total of zero things in my life that tied me to where I was.
The only things I knew about Seattle were grunge, and that it was very far away. I would not have been able to find it on a map. I am not even sure I would have known where to find a map. I had never had any use for one.
So here is my big chance. Seattle. Someone funding my trip. While collecting unemployment. I could go and always come back when the off season ended and I had to go back to work. I had a few months of freedom. Why not go?
I did not go.
Have you ever had a fantasy that starts out small and grows and grows over the years to the point you never stop adding to it no matter how many years have passed? It grows so big that years later you find yourself still adding to it? That is what Seattle is to me.
It did not even start right away. It wasn’t until a few years later that I began to dwell on it. I don’t even remember how it was we were supposed to get to Seattle when he first brought it up. Were we going to fly? Take a bus? I have no recollection at all. But it doesn’t matter. Because all that I know about that trip I did not take, is what I have turned it into in my mind after the fact.
I was 20 years old. I had never been on a plane. I had never been on vacation. I had never traveled further than New Jersey. I had never been in a different time zone. I lived in a basement apartment on Long Island with my mother. I had never been independent. I lived more life at that point than most people had, but I will still dependent on my mother. Although I contributed to the rent on our apartment, my contribution was small. I didn’t have a driver’s license. I was always at my mother’s mercy for rides. Sure, I could go very far from home and see bands play. Once I was very far, I could fend for myself. But the simple act of getting to the train station ten minutes from my apartment in order to kick off that trip? I relied on my mother to drive me to the train station.
If I had taken this trip, I would have gotten so much out of the way not only all at once, but so much sooner than I eventually did. There are just so many things that would have been different in my entire history.
I would have traveled. I would have seen places I had never heard of. Even if Seattle itself had not been all I wanted it to be, what if someplace along the way was? What if we had stopped in some random city in some state and had any sort of life experience that drew my heart back to that place and inspired me to return? Or what if this trip encouraged me to continue on seeing more and more of the world? What if my first time on a plane had not been for my 29th birthday? What if I had gotten my first passport before my 39th?
What if travelling while being dependent on someone at such an early age had taught me the lesson of never living a life where you are dependent on anyone, years earlier than I eventually learned it? Or what if traveling while dependent on someone had gone the complete opposite direction of my life and it turned out I would find myself actually being able to depend on someone?
I pride myself on my independence. But deep down, I will always wonder what shade of green the grass is on the side of the fence where being independent is what you choose and not what you are forced by necessity to be.
These wonders have spiraled out of control over the years.
What if I had not been living here any longer, when my seasonal job offered me a full time position in Brooklyn, allowing me to move to “the city”? What would have become of me? What would I be doing for a living right now? Would I be working in an office? Or would I be struggling to make ends meet working at a coffee shop in the day and as a bartender at night? Or would Seattle have been a temporary stop that lit my wanderlust and encouraged me to try living in other places? What if my life’s stories started with sentences like “When I was living in San Francisco back in 1995…”
Or what if instead of being in my late 30’s and trying to convince someone that we should totally chip in and buy that at-death’s-doorstep car that someone is selling for $500, so that we can drive until it dies, and where ever it dies, that is our fate. We now live there. Or what if instead of doing that, I had moved to Seattle and caused a huge chain of events where I had already lived in enough places that I would be settled in my twenties or thirties and not seriously considering making a huge life change so close to my forties, based on where a car dies?
What if that car died in SEATTLE? A city who has forever loomed in my head, a place I have always wanted to go. As if going there would somehow cork up the bottle that all my “what if’s” were pouring out of.
In 2008 I got my chance.
My favorite band is a band named Blacklisted. My blog name is actually taken from a song of theirs named “Tourist.” I love them and have traveled insane lengths to see them. One day I was looking at tour dates, picking out the shows I wanted to go to. And there it is.
Seattle. (Okay it was Tacoma but let me have it, okay?) With Sinking Ships. A band I am so in love with. A band with lyrics that are so powerful, they make my skin start to tingle with the imaginary razor blades that pop out to protect me from all the things that hurt me. All the things brought to the surface by their lyrics. The ability to identify myself with a song title rather than a psychiatrist’s diagnosis.
I was sold. Plane ticket = BOUGHT.
I spent the entire flight writing in my diary. I was so desperate to find out how I felt walking around a city that had been the star of all my “what if” fantasies for 16 years. I don’t even think I realized at the time the irony that was me traveling there solo when I may never have grown up to be such an independent woman had I gone there when I was still dependent.
We land, I am in Seattle. I spent the day walking around in “deep thought” mode. I felt so warm and calm and had a rare day of zero anxiety. I walked all around the city by myself and saw the tourist spots I had seen so many pictures of in my life. It felt so familiar to me. I ate lunch at the top of the Space Needle and saw the entire city outside the windows as the restaurant revolved 360 degrees. I had such a great day and fell in love with Seattle and knew I had to go back and spend more time there.
Once my day was done, it was time to get on a bus to Tacoma. I felt happy. I had just crossed off one of my biggest bucket list items. All the years I spent dreaming about this place, I had finally seen it. I loved Seattle. Loved it. Loved it for what I saw. Not for all the things I had built it up to inside my head. It hit me on the way home, the whole “independent woman” thing. I loved flying to Seattle by myself. I loved walking around without anyone being able to pinpoint my exact location. It was so freeing. For the first time since 1992 I began to look at Seattle in such a different light. It no longer represented a life’s regret and instead was now added to a very long list of why I am pleased with the way my life turned out. My life may not have turned out like this had I made different decisions.
When I returned back to New York, I went straight from the airport to a house show in Bushwick. I had my winter coat with me from Seattle and it was 90 degrees out in New York. It is normal in my life to see friends from the East Coast play on the West Coast one night and then see a friend from the West Coast play the East Coast the next night. I have this complete freedom to fly across the country for a hardcore show and to come back home and go straight to a house show. I have a life that I love because I did not move to Seattle.
My return to Seattle took a lot longer than I initially planned. I always have all these travel plans in my head that get bumped due to the fact that I am operating on “only” 40 paid days off a year.
But see, that show I went to back in 2008. Sinking Ships cancelled the day of. Three months later, they played their last show ever in California. I was there.
At some point in early 2013, I stayed up late one night waiting for the lineup announcement for an annual fest in Seattle. I just had the creepiest feeling that Sinking Ships would be doing a reunion. When the lineup came up and they were not on it, I was actually deflated. Then I went back and looked again and after the main announcement was the pre-show line up and god damned if they were not on it. I set my alarm clock to go to the library the next morning to use their internet to buy a ticket. In my mind, I was going to relive my first trip there, only this time with the freedom to do an extended version as I had four full days in between fest nights to fit it all in.
And when May came, off to Seattle I went.
This time was not at all like I thought it would be. It was nothing like the first time. I was coming off 3+ weeks of Europe, a thirteen hour flight home followed by three hours of sleep before returning to work. Coming home from day one back at work and leaving for day two with a bag packed to fly to Seattle after work. I came home depressed because my trip was over. I went to work depressed that my trip was over. I brought this depression with me to Seattle. Once again, that whole “what if” surfaced. I am in Seattle. I don’t want to go back home. What if I had moved here in 1992 and this was my home? What if I lived HERE and did not have to fly back to a place I hate?
I spent day one in my hotel room, convinced I was just exhausted from the whole Europe into work into West Coast thing. That night I went to see Sinking Ships. I knew zero people there, no care ever. I stood there singing along to lyrics that I identify with so closely that I had flown here just to be able to sing along to them. And my mental state just spirals out of control. This song of pain reminds me of this, that song of pain reminds me of that thing. Oh hey what if I had moved to Seattle and my life had been different and I never would have lived through any of these painful situations that are causing me to not only be at, but to break down at, a hardcore show at age 41?
By the time the last song came around and I sang along to “This place can become a part of you, whether or not you want it to”, I was done. I did not want to go home. I wanted to stay here. Forever. This place has become a part of me.
When I got home, I still had some more summer travels to get me through the day to day life that I am so desperate to escape from. Then comes 2014 and I am spending a month in China. I can deal with my day to day because it is a fair trade off to afford the luxury that is spending a full month in China, while simultaneously collecting a full time paycheck.
On my last day in China, my typical “last day before going home” depression kicks in harder than ever before. Then it’s time for the flight. A two hour flight with a layover, into a thirteen hour flight. There were no movies I wanted to watch so I settled on watching “Pearl Jam 20” on repeat for those combined fifteen hours. I had never watched this before and seeing any scene taking place in Seattle in 1992, was all the motivation I needed to sit back and fall into sliding door mode.
When I got home, I booked two flights. I do this all the time. Come home depressed, book a flight. But for some reason, these booked flights are not working as the band aids I booked them to double as.
I have been in such a funk since I have gotten home. It was showing no signs of stopping anytime soon.
I dug out an old diary this weekend for reasons that have absolutely nothing to do with anything written above. It just so happened that this was the Seattle diary. Odd timing, but of course, I think it’s a sign.
This morning on my way to work, I stopped for coffee at a coffee cart. I stop here often. They know me, I do not have to speak. There are two regular guys who work inside. One was absent and replaced with a stranger, who was wearing a Nirvana shirt. Oh SEATTLE.
When I got to my desk, the first thing I did was price flights to Seattle. The second thing I did was book a flight to Seattle. I felt the most warming calm rush over me, a calm that I have not felt since I was in China. A warming calm that I may not have been able to experience had I moved to Seattle back in 1992, and had not wound up where I am today. In a life or at a job where I am able to do things like fly across the country just because I want to sing along to a band, or randomly book flights to places just because the new coffee cart guy was wearing a Nirvana shirt. At a job where I can decide that I do not want to spend the first day I feel good in close to a month, at my desk, and can leave work hours early without any explanation.
What if I had moved to Seattle and was living a life that did not come with this freedom?
Maybe I did end up on the right side of those doors after all.