“Congratulations, we’d like to extend you the job offer.”
That’s what the subject line stated. And with that one sentence, my life — and the lives of my family — was forever changed.
For, you see, I’ve accepted a new job in a part of the country I’d never visited: Seattle. Go west, not-so-young man, I thought. The Pacific Northwest, to be specific.
But, accepting this position didn’t happen until after much consternation, discernment and even a good many tears. For Michigan is all I’ve ever known.
I was born, went to school, skinned my knees, made friends, fallen in and out of love, earned college degrees, got married, buried my parents, had kids and made countless other memories — all in the friendly confines of this mitten-shaped peninsula.
But no more. Goodbye Great Lakes; hello Great Wheel. Goodbye Mount Clemens; hello Mount Rainier. Goodbye Bill Ford; hello Bill Gates.
So Seattle it is. And, in an effort to familiarize myself with my soon-to-be-new home, I decided to compare key factors regarding what Washington has to offer with what I love about Michigan:
- Coffee vs. coneys. This one’s simple: coney wins every time. Maybe it’s because coffee gives me headaches. Regardless, there’s no doubt about this one.
- Cobain-inspired grunge music vs. Electronic, Bob Seeger, Madonna, Stevie Wonder and Kid Rock. Yeah, um, score another for The Mitten.
- Rain vs. snow. This may sound crazy to some, but I love the snow in a state that was once known as — heck, they actually pounded this into every car’s license plate — the nation’s “winter wonderland.” Even during this most recent polar vortex and record-breaking snowfall, I got deep satisfaction out of cranking up the snow blower and foraging freshly hewn paths through my driveway and sidewalks. Michigan’s snow beats Seattle’s cold rain any day.
- Mountains, the ocean and nature vs. Great Lakes. Wow. This one’s difficult, most likely because I have so many good memories of and on the Great Lakes. But, once you combine all that Seattle and Washington have to offer in terms of lush vegetation, rain forests, wine country, mountains and the ocean, I’ve gotta give the nod to the Evergreen State.
- Opportunity. Clearly, Seattle won this one. For a tech PR guy like me, the west coast is the epicenter of all gravity for jobs. Yes, tech jobs are sprinkled elsewhere (including Detroit), but the irrefutable critical mass remains in Silicon Valley, Seattle and Boston. I was probably bound to emigrate to one of those locales eventually — it just happens to be now.
And, it’s that last bullet — opportunity — that tipped the scales so much that I didn’t even make the decision to move: opportunity made it for me. Try as I might, jobs in Michigan are just plain scarce. So for me, for now, the call westward is the right one.
As the sole bread winner, I have to provide for my family, and the company I’ve joined is a pretty amazing place — a successful, global brand that’s full of potential and promise.
Of course, on a personal level, moving to Seattle will be a big adventure for not only me, but also the family. The kids are young enough that, to them, moving won’t much matter. And, since we’ll know nobody, we’ll be forced to try new things, experience new places and rely on our own wit and gumption to make things happen — to create a new normal.
But for a while, there will be no real normal at all. It’ll all be high-octane, unadulterated newness. And, that’s a good thing, I think, especially after decades of enjoying many of the same haunts, the same peeps and the same geographies.
Sometimes every 48 years or so, you’ve just gotta shake things up, right?
This will naturally happen, I think, since we’ll just have no other option than to force ourselves into making new friends, taking new chances, trying new things and, hopefully, becoming stronger for it all.
- Want to keep playing hockey, Doug? Then get off the couch, go hang out around some of the local rinks and make new friends who know where the beer leagues are.
- Want to find the best greasy spoon diners? Try ‘em all for a while until I find a replacement for my beloved Coney Islands dotting the Detroit culinary landscape.
- Want to go “up north?” Then get used to the fact that north no longer means Charlevoix and Mackinac, but rather Vancouver, Whistler or even Alaska.
Will it be scary? At times, yes. Sad? Definitely at first — especially after saying so many teary goodbyes to such great family and friends. Worth it? Without a doubt.
Yet, those same friendships and family members that are so difficult to leave now are also the same people who’ve also formed and forged our character enough to accept this new reality — equipping us with everything it’ll take to experience life in a new, adventurous way.
My vision is that this new reality makes those existing relationships even stronger, and that the thousands of miles that are so hard to fathom now will soon become meaningless as we adjust, as people visit, as new friends are made and as our new reality and hoped-for success takes shape.
As I’ve noted before, change happens — including change we don’t ask for in a way that crashes in life’s front door. I didn’t ask for this particular change, but after doing everything I could to stay in the land and around the people I’ve known and loved all my life, change was the obvious option. The only option. The right thing to do — both my heart and my head told me so.
It’s a new day. It’s a new opportunity. A new normal.
Thank you, Detroit — it’s been a great ride. And, Seattle, bring your best — oh, minus the coffee.