Sayonara, Seattle—and Other Exercises in Letting Go

Sayonara, Seattle—and Other Exercises in Letting Go

Six weeks ago, I wrote this on my blog:

I think one of the great things about transitions, whether you’re initiating them yourself or struggling to adjust as they’re thrown your way, is that they offer the opportunity for radical transformations. What’s more invigorating than giving yourself permission to be seven again, dream big, and believe anything is possible?

(Photo credit above: Angelina Kovtun)

Even if I don’t always go into specific detail, there are often deeper things going on in my life that inspire me to blog about the things I do. Though I couldn’t write it publicly at the time, the impetus for that particular musing on change was this: my dream job had just posted online, I knew I was going to apply, I knew I’d have a reasonable shot at it, I knew that getting it would mean moving to Colorado, and between the lines of that entry, I was asking myself, “Where will I find the courage to leave Seattle?”

Seattle, my favorite city in the world. Seattle, my home away from home, my circle of friends and colleagues and running buddies who have become like family. Seattle, with its glittering bodies of water, mountain range frames, majestic bridges, hills, hidden stairways, spectacular summers, and plethora of gourmet ice cream shops. Seattle, with its cat people and tea drinkers and book lovers and tech nerds and musicians, its beards and flannel and coffee. How do I say goodbye to a place that feels more like home to me than anywhere I’ve ever lived?

How do I leave the friends who play banjo by the river in the summertime, who go on rainy, ridiculous night hikes in the wintertime, whose idea of a good time is flying over the Cascades on Google Earth Flight Simulator? Or constructing Seattle icons out of gingerbread? Or donning union suits to snowshoe to a backcountry hut with a front-seat view to Mt. Rainier?

High Hut Trip 2012, Photo courtesy of Cambajamba

How do I say goodbye to my tight-knit circle of lady friends, with whom I’ve shared uncountable brunches, lady hikes, and evenings of putting on our eating pants and trading head massages? How do I leave the amazing runners with whom I’ve shared hundreds of miles of mossy, fern-laden trails, strangers I’ve carpooled to races with who became quick friends, the various crazies I’ve bunked with pre-race at Orcas Island each year? How do I not run all my favorite Northwest trail races in 2013?

Angel’s Staircase 60K in the Methow Valley

How will I miss my friend Brant’s annual Time Travel Bike Ride from 1 a.m. to 1 a.m. each November when Daylight Savings ends?

TTBR, 2011 – Photo retrieved from the time space continuum

How will I miss the annual July 4 Cavalcade of Revelry, watching a thousand fireworks shows along the horizon from the theater of the Cascadian wilderness?

Cavalcade of Revelry

This place has been exceptionally good to me. My mother’s jaw hit the floor when I told her over Skype that I’d applied for a job in Colorado. “You’d leave Seattle?!” she exclaimed.

“Only for this job,” I said.

This job. If you’d asked me a year ago what my dream job was, I’d have told you, “Editor at Trail Runner magazine.” And now, here it is. Here I go, bound for one of the only jobs in the world that will allow me to combine my two greatest passions – writing and running (trail running, even!) Everyone in my life has been unequivocally happy for me, even down to some of the most diehard corporate types I currently work with. Even they have beamed at me and said, “Yitka, if you have the opportunity to go do what you love, do it. And don’t look back.”

I cannot embark on this new adventure without paying proper homage to the experiences and people that have led me to this moment. When I first moved to Seattle, I’d had a few outdoorsy experiences. My parents, after all, are both lovers of the great outdoors, and had taken me on plenty of summer hikes in the Rocky Mountains, windy camping trips at KOAs in the great plains of western Kansas, canoe trips down the Missouri river, ski bus trips to Keystone and Breckenridge. But these adventures were few and far between – twice, maybe three times a year.

To get to the point I’m at now – having built a day-to-day life, social world, career, and identity even out of my love for the outdoors – took a lot of little perfect storms between then and now. It took meeting my best friend Seyeon at a summer program when I was 16; she’d grown up in Seattle, and had an inkling by the end of that summer that I’d thrive in this place.

SLC snowboarding with Seyeon, 2007

It took the editor and publisher of Outdoors NW magazine in Seattle taking a chance on a total stranger (me!) who emailed her for advice on breaking into the world of outdoor journalism. Thank you, Carolyn, for believing in me, for publishing my writing before anyone else would, for valuing my thoughts and ideas, and for being equal parts mentor and friend.

It took getting utterly lost in the streets of Seattle in my first month here, back in 2009, to stumble upon the flagship REI and impulsively ask for a job application. It took a friend of a friend, and a lucky coincidence, to learn about a Meet and Greet REI was holding to hire new employees. It took making quick friends with my coworker Tom early on there, and having him talk me into signing up for my first trail run.

Tom and I atop Angel’s Staircase (Neither our first trail run together, nor our last)

It took other early REI friends, Cam and Jeff, taking me out for epic hikes and bike rides, and constantly inspiring me with the unmatched authenticity of their passion for the outdoors.

Mountain biking with the boys, circa 2010

It took my first manager at REI, Jamie, believing in me, inviting me to join the Outdoor Industries Women’s Coalition, and passing my name along to REI Corporate when they needed a copywriter. There, I temporarily filled in for a woman who’d also soon become a close friend, and the big sister I never had. Thank you, Jeannette, for Googling my name when I applied to fill your shoes during your sabbatical, and for convincing the powers that be that I’d be a good fit. A thank you, too, to the head editor of the REI blog, Steve, who gave me a chance to write about running for a national audience for the first time.

It took another boss-turned-mentor-turned-friend (with ‘running/training buddy’ thrown in the mix, too!), Lauren, to help me find my path this past year. As anyone who’s been fortunate enough to work with or for her can say, she has a true gift for putting air beneath the wings of your dreams.

It took many miles with many friends in the trail running community here to crystallize my love for this wonderful sport – amazing, peaceful, soulful miles with Elodie, Tom, Glenn, George, Deby, Jenn, Ben, Van, Ras, Kathy, Tim, Angel, James, Jonathan, Linh, and so many more … you all have inspired me beyond words.

It took a chance encounter with a guy who walked into the Seattle REI last May in need of new hiking boots, whom I serendipitously ran into on a mountain trail again months later – and eventually, who sat with me for the better part of a Saturday helping polish my cover letter for said dream job. Thank you, Steve, for your unyielding support, encouragement, and enthusiasm.

There are so many others who’ve helped me along the way; I couldn’t possibly name you all in a single blog entry. At the end of last year, I declared that I wanted to make gratitude a priority for 2012. I intend to carry this tradition into the years ahead, and so I hope I continue to give thanks to all of you who’ve thrown me a stone, helping hand, or otherwise to help me navigate the waters of my life.

So. It’s scary to leave people, and places, behind. Leaving Kansas was hard. Leaving Ohio was harder. Leaving Seattle will be the hardest yet. It’s scary to go somewhere new. And yet, above all, there is something dazzlingly wonderful about changes. This is going to be a good one, I know.

Mt. Sopris. My new Mt. Si?
 See you soon, Carbondale.