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40 T/D/Y #32: Seattle

Although I enjoyed my job as an information specialist at the consulting company, I started to feel restless after a couple years. It became apparent that there wasn’t enough work requiring my skills and talents on a regular basis, and they moved me into doing more basic administrative work to fill in the downtime. That made me rather unhappy; I found that although I’m generally a fairly organized person and like things to be in order, I don’t actually like doing administration. Early in 2001, shortly after I had decided that I needed to seriously consider whether I should continue at this job, my boss called me into his office for a discussion on that very topic. He explained that there really wasn’t a path to advance my career in the company, and I should start looking for new employment; however, he was also very cool about it and did not lay me off, instead allowing me to continue working there and offering whatever support he could in my finding a new place.

Before that conversation occurred, something else significant happened in early 2001: I went out to Seattle for the wedding of my close college friend, Tony. I immediately felt at home in Seattle. In some weird, hard to define ways, it felt a lot like Boston: something about the layout with its occasional streets and intersections at weird angles, and the compact downtown core of skyscrapers surrounded by urban-village neighborhoods. In other ways it was different of course, having more steep hills and notably more trees and green space throughout the city. In a significant way, it was very unlike Boston: Seattle was overcast, rainy, and in the mid-40s all weekend long, but that weather felt great compared to the bitter below-freezing cold and five feet of snow and ice in Boston. I also enjoyed meeting Tony and Farida’s friends and had a great time hanging out with them before and after the wedding. Before the weekend was over, I was already thinking that I could see myself moving to Seattle.

So, back in Boston, I started looking for a new job. Once again, I didn’t have a very solid idea of what I wanted to do or where I wanted to work, and I still loathed the process of finding work, so my search was still half-hearted despite knowing I had to move on it. A month or two after having the talk with my boss, I mentioned to Tony that I was looking for a new job, and he suggested that I should move to Seattle and join the company he worked at, which basically provided marketing and training services for Microsoft—writing white papers and case studies, creating demonstrations on how to use various Microsoft software solutions for business, and other consulting-type services of that nature. The work sounded interesting and suitable for my skills, but mostly I was excited by the idea of moving to Seattle, spending more time with Tony, and getting to know a new circle of friends. So we talked about this for a while, with Tony recommending me to his boss, but unfortunately Tony had no hiring authority and after a while the opportunity fell through as the company got caught up in other things.

This time I tried to be smarter about my search. I knew that I wanted to do more work as a writer or editor, and I also had some experience with page layout and design both from my volunteer orchestra work and from creating reports and graphs and charts at my consulting job. So I tried to sign up with some placement agencies that specialized in creative professionals. However, my timing was bad: the dot-com crash had happened, there was a downturn in the economy, and work was harder to come by. The agencies didn’t have anything to offer me, or at least didn’t have any interest in calling me back. I carried on with checking want-ads and sending out occasional resumes, and let the year drag on. Occasionally I thought wistfully of how the Seattle opportunity didn’t work out, but I never looked for other opportunities in Seattle; I liked Seattle, but I already knew I loved Boston and had a lot of things going on there, so I wasn’t actively seeking to leave.

February 2002 came around and my boss called me into his office again to explain that he still wasn’t going to let me go but I really needed to buckle down and make a serious effort to find a new job, having let a whole year go by. I felt abashed and guilty of course, but still uncertain of what to do or how to find something when the agencies that seemed most appropriate weren’t talking to me. And then a day or two later, I got a phone call. Another college friend, Conrad, also worked at the same company Tony was working at, and his first question to me was, “What do you think about moving out to Seattle and working for us?” Conrad was now in a position with hiring authority and needed a new technical writer and software tester, so he called me. I later learned that one of the company’s co-founders was another alumnus from my college, and the company had grown in part by bringing in a succession of people from my college, including Tony and Conrad. Conrad and I talked for a bit, with me saying I was very interested in the idea, and I thought at one point he mentioned doing a phone interview, so when we ended the conversation that was what I expected would happen in a week. Instead, when he called back next week he asked how soon I could get there, and when I said I thought there was going to be an interview and hiring process, he said this was it, he was offering me a job.

Conveniently, an apartment was opening up in the house where Tony and Farida lived, and with their recommendation it was easy for me to get the place. Doug at this point was willing and able to take over my sublease in the Medford house with James, and also to inherit the bedroom furniture, which wasn’t worth moving to Seattle. With Doug’s help I packed up a dozen large boxes of books and CDs and papers and a few miscellaneous things, and dumped them in the mail to Seattle. Also with Doug’s help, because I was slow about packing, I got most of the rest of my belongings—clothes and linens and computer and compact stereo and some of my martial-arts weapons and my box o’ memories and a bunch of other miscellaneous stuff and boy, for having only a bedroom-full of belongings, I sure seemed to have a lot of stuff—packed tight into my car, with just enough room to spare for myself and Doug, who was coming along for the trip. The car rested so low from all the weight of my stuff that we eyed it dubiously and drove it cautiously around the block just to make sure it would at least get that far. And then, three weeks after Conrad’s first phone call; about 13 months after first determining that I needed to start looking for a new job; about 14 months after first visiting Seattle; about 18 months after moving out of my parents’ home, living on my own for the first time; after 32 years of living in the region where I was born, I set out west to live in Seattle.


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