The concept of “home” is such a complicated one. Is it where you live? Is it where you grew up? Is it where your family is? To me, home is where I can let down all my guards and feel grounded. Home is where I feel like myself.
I grew up in a suburb of Portland, Oregon called Beaverton. I attended a small private school from first grade all the way through high school. For the first eighteen years of my life, I lived in the same house, went to school with the same people, ate at the same restaurants, and drove down the same streets every day.
When it came time to decide where to pursue my higher education, I dared to apply to schools that would require me to travel by plane. I had never strayed far from home, and the thought of moving so far away was both terrifying and exciting. The idea scared me because I honestly didn’t know if I was capable of taking care of myself so far from the security blanket of the close friends and family I knew and loved. But deep down, I yearned to stand on my own two feet and experience something other than the place I had called home my entire life.
Where did I end up attending college? Oregon State University. Wait…that’s not very far from Portland. Right, it’s not. I chickened out. And while I had many fun and challenging experiences there, I couldn’t help but feel that I had cheated myself somehow.
When I graduated I thought, “This is it, Julie. You have to take your chance. You have to go somewhere new. You have to figure out what you’re really made of.”
So when I was offered a job at Safeco Insurance in the University District in Seattle, I knew I had to take it. I know what you’re thinking – “Julie, that’s still not very far from Portland.”
I know, I know. To many, it’s not. But to a girl who had never even slept over at a friend’s house her entire childhood - a girl who had never lived outside of the Oregon border - moving to the bigger, seemingly busier, more diverse, more bustling neighboring city up north was a really big deal.
Moving up to Seattle was both terrifying and thrilling. I had my own one-bedroom apartment, furnished with a bed, a table, and a single chair from IKEA. Just driving in the city was nerve-wracking at first. Living on my own, learning my way around, making new friends, trying new restaurants, and exploring new sites gave me a confidence that has grown over last fifteen years. I’ve lived a lifetime here – I had my first grown-up job here, I was engaged here, bought my first home here, had children here, was divorced here, had a career here, made lifelong friends here, made enemies here.
I know my places here – the places I go when I need to escape, to center myself, to connect with a higher power, the places I go when I want to have fun and let myself go, the places I go when I want to lose myself in a good book or just people-watch. I’ve gone through so many life-altering experiences in this city – experiences that have brought me immense joy and experiences that have brought me to my knees in anguish. Experiences that have shown me who I am.
So yes, Seattle is home. It’s the place where I have become me and feel like my true self. But I know that wherever life may take me, I’ll continue to discover more about who I am, and I’ll take with me the woman that this city has helped to create. Seattle will forever be engrained in who I am.
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