There’s Treasure Everywhere

Maybe it’s the weather. Maybe it’s race relations. Maybe it’s the Scandinavian past or the tech industry present. You hear it all.

I’ve lived in Seattle for over 7 years now (excepting most of 2008), and in that time I’ve heard countless friends, acquaintances, coworkers and strangers lament their frustrating experiences and (sometimes) vow to sever their Puget Sound residency.

At first I listened sympathetically and then forcefully countered with my own experiences, and suggestions for coping or meeting new people. Each consecutive story prompted me to listen more and counter less. At this point, I’ll still offer isolated personal anecdotes when the conversation calls for it, but I no longer bother to argue against the Seattle Freeze. I soak up their frustrations with weary resignation, knowing full well that I have no intention of being a part of the solution for a particular resident (I have things to do!)

So, now, here, while it’s fresh in my mind, is a brief open letter to the struggling non-native Seattleite:

Sorry. Truly. Yes, it’s real. It’s your experience, and your experience is valid. You’re not alone. A lot of us get by without viewing the city in those terms, but you’re not obligated to “toughen up” or disregard your own perspective. If it doesn’t work for you, it doesn’t work for you. But guess what? It’s still a big city. There’s always hope. Oodles of people of all personality types and walks of life. No, not just white people. No, not just Northerners. No, not just the extroverted or the introverted. All kinds of people. 

No one is saying you have to put out more effort than it feels worth it. You should choose a community where thriving comes naturally. Everyone should feel at home in their own home. But as someone who grew up (and then spent a couple years of adulthood) in a place where the vast majority of the community felt not only culturally foreign but actively hostile to my worldview, gosh, Seattle feels like a piece of cake. Maybe it’s because I’m a white male, maybe it’s (most but not all) of my political ideals dovetailing with those around me, maybe it’s because I don’t mind being an indoor kid and I am lousy at connecting how the weather affects my mood, but, there’s fun everywhere to be had, and people everywhere to have said fun with you.

Like, EVERYWHERE. All the time. That was the best lesson I ever learned in the ol’ hometown. There were people for me and ways to carve out a community and purpose. That’s the case with most places. You may have to compromise and adapt, or try new things and explore beyond your initial energy or interests, but the reward is there and waiting for you.

If you feel like you’ve given it your best shot, or as good as you’re willing to give, I feel for you and I’m sorry it didn’t work out. But the blanket assessment of us 650,000 people, it’s bumming me out. The explanations for why? Likely legit, but not the end-all be-all. The futility you feel — perfectly valid, but not unimpeachable.

There’s motherfucking treasure everywhere. Don’t see it? Keep digging, or consider revising your definition. Don’t want to? Ok, hand over your trowel, there’s someone else eager to discover what awaits.
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