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Stefan Mai

Spends too much time on the internet.

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Seattle and Newness

It’s been said that the soul travels at the pace of a camel. You can move to Amsterdam but it’ll take a few months before you’re really there. I’ve been in Seattle for almost two years now, but it feels like I’ve been alive here forever.

Moving really slows down time, which is good because it feels like everything is speeding up. I’m almost certainly making this up but I looked at my watch a few days ago and I could see time passing by more quickly, as if I had some sort of external reference by which to verify that claim. My emotional response was almost the same as a kid who realizes that the blanket he used to love is _really _small.

Is is truly liberating leaving everything behind. When I initially moved up here I stayed in hotels until I found a Craigslist house that would take me, then hunkered down and tried my hardest to adjust. I budgeted for six months of loneliness (it’s oddly satisfying to allow yourself to feel negative emotions) and let go of all the social pressures that suggested that I was failing if I didn’t have a full schedule every night. I’m happy to report that I’ve got a lot of budget left over. Initially I knew no one and loved it. I rode the bus because I wanted to, not entirely because it was cheaper, or really more convenient, or anything. I played videogames on my phone while sitting in line, stared out of windows, and walked everywhere. I ate a lot of canned food and microwave meals. I just didn’t care; I did what I wanted. And I did fine.

Maybe this shouldn’t be surprising. It’s not like there aren’t hoards of people out there telling you to be yourself (and exactly what that looks like). But epiphanies are personal, and growth doesn’t happen in lecture halls. I was deathly afraid of leaving my social net because I didn’t know how far I would fall. What I failed to compensate for was that there were nets underneath.

The thing is that social connections have this way of keeping you the same. Even if inside you’re churning and changing, the shell of you remains consistent. Which is good when things are great. But at some point it doesn’t make to sense to hold on to a shell no longer your own. Friends are not just wrappers waiting to be shed off as you blossom; that’s not the picture I want to paint nor the life I want to live. But there are situations where temporal disconnects can make all the difference in becoming who you are. I think I needed one.

And if there was a more perfect setting for shedding skin, I know of none. Seattle is beautiful year round. I knew coming up  here that this was going to be the case and I have resisted the pressure to become bored of the scenery. The trees, colors, mountains, lakes, people, houses… all lovely.  The mountains here are like a cute girl you liked in junior high, where you plan out these little glances all day because they make you feel immaterial and you want to go back as soon as you turn your eyes. It makes sense that people would want to live in a place that’s beautiful. It’s like the primitive human in you suggesting that this is a good place to stay for the moment. And when that voice dies down and the sun is low you gather your energy from everything else, soaking it all in. I try hard to be happy and it just works.

If I’ve discovered anything from the past couple years of my life, it’s that everything is negotiable if you have the momentum to push. Start small and build steam. Things don’t “fall into place” in the lives of those who work for it: they tumble in delightful reverence for life done right. Don’t forget to breath every day.