To me, cities are more than systems or even complex organisms—they are very much like people. They aspirate, they have a circulatory flow, a heart, a skeletal framework. Streets are blood vessels; the downtown center is the body’s core. The buzz during the day is thoughts; nightlife could be called dreams. They have personality.
Like people, cities can be welcoming or angry, inspiring, lazy or stupid, a passionate temptress of ideas, frustrating, lusty, tiresome or unbearable, unchanging—or ever-changing. Sometimes, cities help you figure out who you are or who you want to be. They can be trustworthy…or deceiving.
Perhaps the best metaphor for a city is that of a lover.
We’ve all had relationships we’ve tired of quickly (Phoenix and Las Vegas top my list…and someone named Sean.) Then there are those that remain through good times and bad, changing from year to year, but always growing more complex and rich in the transformation. These are the relationships that surprise us, allow us to struggle and grow, the hard ones without which we wouldn’t be who we are.
Yet, sometimes even these relationships are ones we have to leave—at least, for a time.
The days are quickly ticking off my calendar while my to-do lists grow evermore insurmountable. Pressure at work is screwing down tightly from below and above, and I struggle with balancing a desperate need for a few moments of repose with missing out on one friend’s return from Afghanistan, another friend’s first-time visit to Seattle, and the celebration of a dear friend’s wedding celebration. (However, Jessica is very excited that I’ve agreed to go whitewater rafting for her bachelorette party in July. Hopefully, I will survive in order to make it to Italy.)
In spite of these moving parts—the what-ifs and the unknowns, the vast potential of all the balls in the air here in Seattle—there is something compelling about the inevitability of leaving. I can’t explain it, but I know in [my few] quiet moments that the best thing for me is to Seattle pried right out of my grasping hands.
When I checked the box for consideration of both the one and two month fellowships on my application, it was not a ho-hum choice; I was hoping to be given the harder assignment—one that would forcibly remove me from my comfort zone, compel me to make hard choices, challenge me to try something I was hesitant of, and push me to be a writer in a way that I could never deliver upon alone. I was ready for it, so I put myself in the path of the twister, hoping to be swept up.
(I laughed aloud as I wrote this, acknowledging that I am also drawn to love relationships that accomplish the same…)
For my money, endings such as these, all endings really, are vastly important; after all, endings are the beginning of a beginning. With that, the beginning of my farewell—
We’ve been together for nine years, and I have learned much from you. In you I’ve felt lost, deserted, desperate—and discovered. The first time I returned on a flight and sighed, “Thank God I’m home,” I knew that it was serious. There’s something real—and rare—between us, in spite of the bullshit and the irritation.
Bullshit and irritation come with every city. Yet, the friends I’ve found, the food, the drinks, the partners, the work, the sunsets, the mist, the coffee, the green, the salt smell, the flowers, the boats, the farmer’s markets, the warm hearts, the quick minds… They are all part of you, and they’ve formed a bridge to now.
I’m leaving in 40 days, and you can’t stop me. When I return, I’ll be different. What we had before I left will be in the past. I’m not sure of the woman I’ll become, but I do know one thing: without you, she wouldn’t exist.
Un abbraccio, cara città,