On September 11, 2005: my life took it's most significant turn. Second only to the day I understood what the 'birds & the bees' talk was really about; I was about to be a permanent resident of Seattle, Washington. I packed up my little car that morning with the few possessions I needed to live on until my parents would arrive a few days later with the rest of the things I couldn't fit in a hatchback - and I hit the road alone. I wasn't scared yet; just excited for who I was going to meet, what I was going to see, and what I imagined the big-city girls in Seattle would be like. (tattoos and piercings!)
I said goodbye to my old dog Molly's grave, my bedroom, breathed in the smells of my backyard, told Keiko, my parrot "bye!" (he actually said "bye" back to me, no idea that I wasn't coming back until Thanksgiving), walked through my dad's big garage, and gave my parents a hug that would have made even the coldest criminal's eyes well-up. I held myself together pretty well until I saw my dad start to cry, at which point I completely lost control of the last thread of emotional stability I had left. It was something I'd never seen before, and I didn't understand at the time that he was watching his best friend drive away. I didn't realize I was doing the same thing.
The night previous, I had thoroughly washed my new Mazda Protege5 and burned six CD's that would feed my ears & sustain my trip to the big city (shout-out to My Chemical Romance). I grabbed two bags of David's BBQ Sunflower Seeds, a purple Powerade, and a Nalgene bottle full of tap water that I wouldn't taste again for months (I can't stand that water today). Since smartphones weren't exactly available yet (or at least affordable for a kid living in Montana), I stopped in Moses Lake and bought a map of Washington to aid in my quest to the city in the event that I might get lost somewhere (asking for directions is for bitches, and I'm not a bitch). I'm proud to say that I know Seattle's streets better than I know the ones in my hometown now, and I still have that map in my glove box.
I bagged groceries for five years leading up to this point. I rode dirt-bikes, drank a ton of light beer, did some hunting, and was active in Student Government. I didn't care much for getting awesome grades in school, but I really liked being there. I wanted to have as many friends as I could & spend as little time as possible on caring about what/where I'd go when it was all over. I just wanted to enjoy everything while it was happening, and I did. However, nothing could have possibly prepared me for what it's like to live nine-hours away from everything you've known for the past 18 years in a sub-3,000 person town and now in a 3,000,000+ person city. I never realized this until much later, but more than 20x of my town could fit inside Century Link stadium.
I was terrified, but so incredibly ready for a change.
Seven years later - here I am. September 11th came & went without a thought of it being my 'anniversary' in Seattle. I'm 25 years-old and no longer considered 'the young kid' in everything I'm involved with or the industry I work in. It's not impressive or notable anymore, it just is what it is. I don't have an inkling of "the-7-year-itch," but I can finally say that I understand why people experience those feelings. I'm still a huge smart-ass and still not sure of what my life will be like seven years from now. In a way I guess I'm reverting back to my HS self, just blindly enjoying every day for what it is and putting less emphasis on the future. To this day I still insist on bagging my own groceries just because it reminds me of how easy things were back in high school when my occupation was stress-free as the "Super Box-Boy" at Empire Foods.
I remembered a married couple who used to come in every single night to the grocery store that I worked in. I can't remember their names anymore, but let's just call them Buck & Edna. They were always smiling, laughing & holding hands as they made their exact routine through Empire. Every night they'd get two TV dinners, two packs of cigarettes, a 12-pack of Natural Light for Buck and a gallon-jug of "red" Carlo Rossi for Edna. Every night their faces were flushed-red from the booze they'd clearly been drinking that whole day (or week/month/year) - but they were always so happy. They were just a comfortable, positive, giddy, functioning lovers of the cigarettes-and-booze-diet. A classic country-town married couple. I'm certain they probably shouldn't have been driving, but things are pretty different back there. Every night I'd help carry their groceries to their single-cab pickup and every night I'd open Edna's door and wait until she slid into the middle of the bench-seat so she would be right next to Buck as he drove them home. Happily buzzed with a new Checkers cig hanging from both of their lips, this was life; and life was good. Buck had a huge white mustache, orange flannel shirt, and cowboy hat. Edna always wore jeans and an old wool coat that I imagined Buck had retired after years of hard labor working outside or in an auto-shop everyday. I never got to say goodbye to them, but in my mind they're still doing their routine. Happy.
I went into a grocery store tonight after work to pick up more oranges and yogurt and thought about them. I hope whoever is bagging their groceries today is paying as close attention to their lives as I did, because it seemed so sweet and oddly promising. I bagged my own groceries again and grabbed a 12-pack of Natural Light (and purple Powerade to wash it down), told the cashier thank-you, and drove home in the same car that I drove out here alone in seven years & one-week ago.
A lot has changed and I've grown a lot in seven years. But some things won't, and I'm thankful for that. I don't need that map anymore, but if my iPhone dies I'm pretty screwed.
Natural Light still tastes like shit, though. Sorry Buck.