Life Updates – New City, New Job, New Opportunities

A view from the park in downtown Bellevue, WA. In the foreground, a long waterfall is flowing into a large reflecting pool. In the background, skyscrapers, trees, and a crane are visible. The sky is grey and cloudy.

I have been in Washington for three and a half weeks, and I have been so incredibly busy. Life has felt like a whirlwind since I left California… meetings, volunteering, starting work, trainings, appointments, coffee dates, exploring… I’m absolutely loving it!

I’ve already hit the ground running at my new job. On my first day of work, I was in the office for 11 hours! Since I’m working in the emergency management and community risk reduction field, I am attending various trainings and community outreach events after hours and on the weekends. I’m currently getting trained as a Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) member, and soon enough I’ll be CPR certified and will have worked my first fire department open house at an active fire station.

It hasn’t all been peachy – I’m a little squeamish when it comes to injuries and emergency medical procedures, which are topics that come up quite frequently in the fire department. However, the good things I have encountered in my new role have far outnumbered the uncomfortable ones. I’m very tired when I get home at the end of a long day of work and training, but I’m also grateful to have so many opportunities to learn and get involved with my new department.

I also love working downtown – I wasn’t sure how I was going to adjust to working in the cubicle-filled city hall, but I actually quite like it! I love looking out the office windows and seeing downtown’s skyscrapers and the surrounding naturescapes. I love getting to stop for coffee at cute, local cafes on my way to work, and I love being able to walk to a wide variety of restaurants on my lunch break. I could do with a little less rain and a little more warmth during the day, but I’m sure I’ll adjust to the autumns and winters here eventually (just maybe not as quickly as I’ve adjusted to life in a real metropolitan area). 

I’ve also embraced the cliche “say yes to whatever comes my way” mentality, and so far things have been working out well for me. I’ve said yes to meeting up with old acquaintances. I’ve said yes to playing video games with a group of people who live on Capitol Hill in Seattle. I’ve said yes to canvassing with a nonprofit organization in a South King County swing district. I’ve met a ton of new people, made new friends, reconnected with old ones, and have figured out more of my own likes, dislikes, and strengths. It can be hard to put yourself out there when you move to a new place, but I’m happy to say that so far I’ve been able to do it and that I’ve been met with positive results.

Well, that’s all for now! Stay tuned for more life updates when my work schedule calms down in a few weeks – I’m just dying to share more about my experiences volunteering (I found some great opportunities, y’all!) and some of the challenges that I’m going to be facing in my job (like not passing out during a disaster medical simulation). 

“I am gonna make it through this year if it kills me” – My New Year’s Resolutions

The Mountain Goats performing onstage at Austin City Limits Live. The stage lights are blue and purple, and John Darnielle is playing a black acoustic guitar.

Goodbye summer, hello back-to-school, and happy new year! I love this new year’s season – I have personally found September to be a much better time for new beginnings and fresh starts than January. Luckily for me, Rosh Hashanah happens right around this time of year, which gives me a chance to reflect on my life and make new year’s resolutions during a time where I am motivated and emotionally and spiritually ready to make life changes.

For me, this new year is looking especially promising for resolutions and growth because I’m already in a period of major transition: I’ll be moving from California to Washington in less than a week! I also had a phenomenal end-of-the-year vacation this weekend – my partner and I went to Austin, Texas to eat lots of good food and see The Mountain Goats (!!) in concert. This trip was such a satisfying end to my year and really made me feel like I was starting the new year on a very, very high note. All of that being said, here are the 6 resolutions that I’m making for this sweet new year! Shana Tova!

1) Do more of what I love that I haven’t had the energy to do during the past few years

Recently I’ve done a lot of personal growth which has left me feeling mentally rejuvenated and energized. As a result, I’ve been able to dedicate more of my time and energy towards and old hobby that I let fall by the wayside during the past few years: language learning! I’ve gotten back into studying French and Spanish, and several other languages have piqued my interest during the past few weeks (Russian, Hebrew, Tagalog, and Afrikaans to name a few). I’m excited about learning and practicing again, and I’m looking forward to continue learning my languages as a part of this new year’s resolution!

In addition to language learning, I’m resolving to make more time to read in Washington, and I am going to look into taking ballet again! Ballet was a hobby of mine for years before I had to stop for health reasons. Now that I’m healthy and moving to an area with a much larger ballet scene, I’m ready to get back into my slippers and onto the floor! Additionally, getting back into ballet will be a fun way for me to incorporate more movement and art into my self care routine.

2) Maintain the work that I’ve done on myself

I’ve alluded to personal growth a few times on this blog already, so it should not come as a surprise that one of my resolutions revolves entirely around my personal growth and development. Because I’m in a time of transition, I know that the next few months are going to bring many stressors and challenges. This means that it is going to be especially important for me to work on practicing self care as an act of self preservation when I arrive in Washington – I want to make sure I don’t revert back to old habits or toxic ways of thinking in the new year! So, rather than resolving to grow even more during the upcoming year, I think it’s important for me to focus on maintaining my current level of personal development during this uncertain time. Once I get settled in, I can think about shifting my focus from personal and emotional maintenance to continued growth and development.

3) Build community

This year I am resolving to build community in three areas: in my new home, at my new workplace, and through a new volunteer opportunity. Building community in all of these areas will involve me going out of my comfort zone to meet new people, practicing my listening skills, and intentionally making connections with people who have had vastly different life experiences than I have. My work and any volunteer roles I pursue will give me opportunities to pursue boots-on-the-ground community building, including interpersonal advocacy and relationship building.

Finding a long-term volunteer opportunity in Washington is especially important to me as I believe volunteering allows you to integrate into new communities, connect with others, and resolve issues in ways that full-time paid positions cannot. I’m hoping to find a volunteer opportunity that I can stay with for a year or longer – I want to be engaged and committed to building community at an agency and with a population in a sustainable way. Currently, the volunteer opportunities that I’m looking into are teaching ESL (English as a Second Language) for immigrants and refugees and providing personal support and advocacy for people in recovery and members of the disability community. I’ll keep everyone posted when I find the volunteer opportunity that is the best fit for me!

4) Go to at least 1 place that I’ve never been to before

This resolution is pretty simple – everyone knows that travel expands horizons and can be a whole lot of fun. Some places on my list of potential travel spots are Montana (I’d love to hike in Glacier National Park) and anywhere on the East Coast! We’ll see where I end up!

5) Further explore sustainability

Moving to an area with a robust public transportation system is going to open up a world of opportunities for sustainable living! In addition to riding the bus and walking more, I’m going to focus on buying fewer items and reusing items as much as possible in order to cut down on my personal consumption and waste production.

6) Learn as much as possible

Moving to a new area will be an experience of a lifetime for me. I am resolving to keep my mind open so that I can learn everything that this transition and the people I meet along the way have to teach me about my new home, my new community, and myself.

“You don’t know where you are until you arrive.”

The rolling green hills of San Luis Obispo, California, as seen from Prefumo Crest at sunset. Morro Rock and the ocean are visible in the background, and fog is beginning to roll into the valley.

In t-minus one month I’ll be moving out of California semi-permanently! I’m excited, but also very nervous – I’ve only ever spent a few months living away from my hometown, my family, the ocean, and the year-round temperate California weather, so this move is going to bring some enormous changes for me. Though I have solid plans for where I will be living and working when I arrive in Washington, on a larger scale, I have no idea where this move will take me.

“You don’t know where you are until you arrive” is a quote from the song Going to Wisconsin by The Mountain Goats. The song itself sounds pretty rough around the edges, as do most early Mountain Goats tracks, but the sentiment and lyrics of the song are clear and poignant and perfect. I’m probably over exaggerating, but the song did come into my life at the exact moment I needed to hear it, and for that reason I’m very attached to the lyrical aphorism that lends itself to the title of this blog.

After I quit my first job out of college and moved back to my hometown, I was convinced that my life had been completely derailed from the path to success that I had been trying to follow. I wound up taking on a new job and new volunteer opportunities and trying to make the best of things. Within a few months, I started feeling pretty good about myself and my choices; I began to think that maybe I could get myself back on track again.

One morning at my job, I decided to search for a new desktop background – something that could help make my cubicle and desk feel more personal and calm. I went online and found some images of quotes from The Mountain Goats placed over classic paintings. I looked at all of the paintings and read through the quotes to try to decide which image I wanted to greet me every morning when I logged into my computer. There was one lyric in an image that I kept coming back to even though I had never heard the song it came from. There was just something about “you don’t know where you are until you arrive” that was calming and reassuring and that made me feel like everything in my life was happening exactly how it was supposed to happen.

That’s when it hit me: I had never been derailed from any path to begin with. I was on the same life track that I’d been following for years; I’d just hit some ups and downs along the way. This was a moment of true clarity for me. I felt like for the first time in a long while that I could see and appreciate exactly where I was in my life. I could see what choices I had made in the past that put me on the path to where I was at that moment. Moving back to my hometown no longer seemed like a derailment, but just another point, albeit a lower one, on the same life track that I’ve been following for several years. In that moment, I had truly arrived – I could see where I was in my life, and I was happy about it.

I appreciated this moment of clarity and insight, even if it did only last for a moment. In the time between then and now, I have felt that clarity about where I was – felt that I have arrived someplace – only a few times. After my move, I imagine I won’t feel like I’ve truly “arrived” in a spiritual and emotional sense until November or December, several months after I have physically arrived in Washington state. And I’m okay with that. Not every decision or life change can (or should) yield an immediate positive or negative result. Often you have to wait for something to happen to find out if you’ve made the “right” decision. Life is complicated. Sometimes a life change might feel initially like a bad choice or like you’ve failed, only for you to feel much better about the change a few weeks later. Sometimes changes feel good when they’re first made, but worsen as time goes on. I’ll only know where I stand in the moment of clarity when I have “arrived” somewhere wholeheartedly.

For now, I am trying to think positively about my upcoming move. I can’t stop feeling nervous (nor should I – being nervous before a major life change is perfectly normal), but I am refusing to stress unnecessarily about whether or not moving is the correct choice for me at this point in my life. I have chosen to walk this path, and I won’t know where I’ll end up until I have lived and experienced the move and everything that follows. I know where I’m moving and where I’ll be working, but I don’t know what my life will be like in 6 months or a year from now. For that, I’ll have to live and walk along my path until I unexpectedly realize I have made it somewhere. You don’t know where you are until you arrive.