Thursday, August 22, 2013

I'm breaking up with my city and it's tough as nails

To My Dearest Seattle,

I love you, but you have broken my heart.

Not swiftly or intentionally I think, but for three years there's been a slow crack growing in my chest. This crack's been pulling slowly open from the repetitive tension of lacking that, for so long, went beneath my notice.

I've made love to the grooves of your geography. Found comfort in the crooked of you disagreeing streets. The curling friendship of your neighborhoods has cushioned the empty of my resources these three years we have shared together.

I came to you, Seattle my ass freshly kicked out of a rigorous and a sadly less-than-radical teaching program. I showed up with 800$ in my pocket and no job guaranteed. I came seeking rebirth, looking to put some roots down. With you I wanted to fuck around unfurl in ways I was afraid to do while I was digging myself into the debt of college. I let the story of starting fresh seduce me. I believed I could prosper here.

Little did I know my belief in your gift of prosperity was the same one that ruined my college experience. It's the one that so many young folks of my generation are painfully and swiftly recognizing as a false promise.

When I arrived I sunk the last of my borrowed money into you. Dear city, I've spent the time since waiting for a return on that wistful investment. In the three years we've been together I've been out of work more than I've be in it. I worked as a pizza delivery guy and a data entry clerk. I pulled shots at a doomed co-op in the south end. For six weeks I drove through winter's hardest hours of morning with a van full of fresh bread I couldn't afford to buy.

I took a job on a boat giving tours. I proudly told strangers all about your most beautiful features. And in some ways I loved it (minus the 10 hour days and rigorous nautical duties). Talking about you always brought a smile to my face and almost made those grueling duties worth it. I used to dream about mentioning you and my love for you on the back of my very first bestseller. But your lack of give back has stopped me from dreaming about such things.

But I loved you before all of this, before I even came close. Seattle I loved you before I sunk my trust into your salty soil. It would take me days to list everything I love about you. Every third poem I write is about your body. None of my other lovers can boast this number. But you've never belonged to me. Your salt, who's flavor I love, has continually rejected the all of the roots I've tried to stick into it.

I've moved 7 times in the past 3 years. Your arms may have been open but not always comfortable. Even in this last year, while I've had enough resources to render my poverty invisible, while my address finally stayed the same for a little,  I could feel you shifting, still feel you constricting.

This is tough for me to say. Because if anyone asks me where I am from I will say “puget sound born and raised”. I'm proud of how constant you've been in my life. I love your fractional politics and your highly visible friction between urban an rural communities. In so many ways we are family, you and I.

I don't even know how to contemplate living someplace without salt in the air. Your breath is all that know.

But I've begun to prepare my lungs anyway. Started slowly packing a few bags. I'm tired of being the only one of my friends who doesn't pay their own rent.

My dearest Seattle, I simply have no idea how to make it with you. I've always felt at least one step behind your gorgeously rapid cultural beat. I have been intimidated by your purportedly artsy and encouraging communities. Those I've attempted to dip into have always seemed a little too cool for me. And I've been dipping into your icy for long enough to see that its not just my impostor syndrome anymore. As cultured as you are Seattle, you are the wrong city for beginners like me.

I am not a prodigy (I gave up this version of myself long ago). I'm actually a lot slower than you think I am. Addicted to the uncertainty of learning, I don't know if you can wait for me to catch up anymore. And as much as I love the way my legs long to race when I see you looking at me, this time I need to resist the way you tug at my sensibilities.

I'm not sure of what I am going to do with this life. With you, Seattle there is so little room for confusion. I always feel you begging me for a definitive answer to questions my body is not ready to set free. Can't you see? I want to stay in the swill of my curiosity. Curiosity is my salt.

I recently saw some pop article that rated you as the hardest working city in the US. With most residents putting in a combined 56 hours per week of work, volunteering, and other scheduled activity. Who knows if it's true, but it felt true when I read it. Right now and for the near future, I don't intend to work a regular 40 week. I'm not going to over-volunteer or compromise on how much work I know my body can and cannot do. I don't intend to martyr my energy for the righteousness that's touted as one of  your defining features. I am still playing, I am still trying things out and in some cases doing what you some of your other residents would call "wasting time". But I'm still a beginner. And I'm not going to rush anymore.

People often talk about the "Seattle chill" (some of your residents will express interest in an event or relationship then not show up/follow through). And sometimes and I think that this chill is an unfortunate byproduct of how you pressure us to always be doing and to be pulled in so many directions. We're drawn to commit our energy and interests in ways that are unsustainable and eventually become disingenuous.

As my health has declined in the last several months I've become less able to keep the same commitments I've had in the past. Those commitments have become less and less sustainable I've not had any sort of replacement or acceptance of my new shift in/ability. I am afraid continuing like this will lead to a breakdown in my integrity.

I have never lived anyplace else. So maybe this is a problem everywhere, for every city. But I'm willing to strike out and see if there is a city out there that might just be a little better for beginners like me.

Seattle I want to be with you, but you ask so much from me and you don't give back enough for me to stay healthy and honest to the person I aspire to be. So I've decided to leave.

I'm leaving with less money, less hope, and less health than I came to you with. I am leaving to see if I can find or create that which you could not give me.

I'm leaving in September. I might come back in November, or February, or April. I know you hate when plans aren't concrete, I do too, but I can't say for sure when I'll be back.

Because I might not come back.

And yes, Seattle, it's true that there are parts of you I can never leave. I've embedded my identity in your most precious residents; sunk my love poems into your salty pockets; mixed my saliva with the sweat of your distant ocean neck. My bike and I have sliced through your avenues churning, yearning, and howling out 80's power ballads.

Oh the glorious moments we shared! Like the first morning of this year, when I was wildly hungover you convinced me to climb out to you. You snagged my vision on your distance, on the crisp of your wide cyan embrace. The cold comfort of a mountain range steady behind each of my shoulders pushed me and my bicycle forward. In that open moment, emptied of breath, it was easy to love the pressure of you and to forget how you constrict me, my gorgeous winding salt water lover.

I love you so much. And I'll send you so many post cards. Thank you for giving me what you did. I think we both wish that it had been enough.