Current scene: Corner of a Seattle staple coffee spot, Caffe Vita, large coffee in hand and music with heavy bass and synth fills in the empty spaces between the chatter.
To the common passerby, this space is a spot to grab coffee, study, chat, or write. When I was a graduate student in the city, I came by every so often to take advantage of the atmosphere and great brew. Underneath the surface, however, this place also holds some difficult memories. As I look into another corner, I remember sitting there in one winter, shoulders heavy with the struggle of apartment hunting to escape an abusive living situation while finishing my masters degree. Though it’s been a couple years since that moment, the panic and pain sits quietly in the background still.
As much as I love visiting Seattle, it’s haunted for me. And I’m the only one who can see my ghosts all over the city.
Here’s a map of the ghosts that haunt me. Each of these places bring me back to painful memories; moments I was broken, moments I struggled, moments I felt sorrow.
I’ve spent a great amount of this trip reconnecting with the dozens of friends I left behind in the Emerald City. Many have asked about how I’m doing in my new job and living situation in the Silicon Valley, how long I plan to stay, and if I’ll ever come back to Seattle. I wish there was an easy way to explain what a mixed bag it is to be back to visit this city, and I suppose writing about it is the closest I can come to sharing my complicated relationship with this place. Because of the ghosts in the background as I navigate the city—the heartbreak, the panic, the cultural starvation, the homesickness, the abuse, the disappointment—I have a hard time answering such questions about my future in a way that’s palatable or expedient.
Something I am learning now, though, is the wisdom to recognize when you’re exactly where you’re supposed to be.
The simple answer: I don’t know if, or when, I’ll be a Seattleite again. While it’s an exciting fantasy to entertain for a few minutes over a drink with a friend, I also know what lies beneath the surface for me here. I miss my community here, and I will probably never be able to accurately communicate to my friends just how much they saved me during my time here almost two years ago. With every heartbreak, they gave me support. When I panicked, they gave me peace. When I was culturally starved, they fed me. When I was homesick, they gave me a home. When I experienced abuse, they gave me shelter and healing. And with every disappointment, they gave me hope for tomorrow.
In almost two years of being a Californian again, I have made great progress in healing my heart and spirit. Time, space and family has healed so much. For now, I plan to stay where I am for a good while. I have a lot of positive things going for me right now, and I have never felt as stable as I do now. It’s a good place to be. One of my strengths has been knowing when it’s the right time to make a move. Something I am learning now, though, is the wisdom to recognize when you’re exactly where you’re supposed to be.
At least for now and the foreseeable future, the Bay Area is my home. It’s time to work on filling the map where I am with joyful memories. Before I return to work on other maps like Seattle, I’m working on the one I have now. And that’s perfect for me.