I left the Bay Area for Seattle. Here’s why.
My great love and a new relationship. This isn’t a diatribe against the Bay or a local’s perspective on Seattle.
A lot of people have asked me, “Why Seattle?” Why would we pack up our beautiful life and three kids, say goodbye to the glorious sunshine and 70+ degree California winter? Not to mention, an endless buffet of opportunities to work for some of the hottest startups in the country. I understand why they’re asking. After all, for many years I couldn’t fathom living anywhere but San Francisco (or at least the Bay Area). When I married my Ohio-bred husband, I warned him that he’d never pry me out of NorCal. I also never planned on having three kids. Life takes you places.
But in the very brief amount of time that I’ve lived in Seattle, I already know that we couldn’t have made a better choice. Here are my (very) early observations.
The weather. No, really.
Before we made the move — in winter, no less — I heard no shortage of warnings about the weather. “Oh but the rain!” Sure, Seattle may be known as the Emerald City for a reason but we can’t deny the shift in weather patterns happening across the country. Although we haven’t been enjoying summer highs like we did in the Bay, we’ve found the weather to be mild, and not entirely unpleasant. The air is crisp, fresh, and cool, and the snow-capped mountains, which can be seen from virtually every direction, make even the dreariest days sort of lovely. You (hey, dad, looking at you) might even be surprised to learn that Seattle’s annual rainfall is actually lower than that of NYC. Really!
Raising our older daughter in San Francisco was nothing short of a gift. We lived just blocks from Golden Gate Park, The Cal Academy of Science, and the beach. Her favorite restaurant was a Japanese hot pot restaurant and our favorite weekly activity was visiting our neighborhood farmer’s market. We certainly didn’t leave SF because we felt that it wasn’t a good place to raise a family, but we’ve been happy to discover that Seattle offers as many — if not more — opportunities to live a full life with a family.
Since we moved to Seattle, we’ve been invited to no fewer than three dinners/ parties at our neighbors’ houses (with all the kids!), and discovered plenty of kid-friendly adult activities (hello, breweries with play areas). There are two libraries within walking distance of our house and many well-rated public schools. In our community, parents are encouraged to join neighborhood-oriented groups (PEPS). Seattle seems to be a place that’s made for families, young and old.
Being here, my goal is to avoid the busy trap as much as possible.
Seattle is getting more expensive. It’s no Dayton, Ohio, to be sure. But despite the rising costs, it has still been able to cultivate and maintain a creative community. There’s a pulsating energy here and the (relatively) smaller community here ensures that people seem more eager to connect, help each other out, and feed off of each other’s ideas. One truly surprising thing we’ve noticed since we moved to Seattle has been that people rarely seem to say no, even to last minute invites. Making plans has felt relatively painless. Being here, my goal is to avoid the busy trap as much as possible.
The best of the ‘burbs, in a city environment.
One of the things we immediately loved about Seattle was that it made living in the city feel more manageable. A three story house with a driveway, ample street parking on a quiet cul-de-sac, and even a small yard, just blocks from some of the hottest restaurants in the city? You can have it! Like many young families, we weren’t ready to give up on city living, but we were frankly tired of everyday life in a twelve unit building with coin laundry and an arms-reach view of our neighbors’ kitchen. We love that we can continue to live in the heart of a city, but can now enjoy some of the conveniences otherwise only found in suburbia.
The talent pool is less concentrated, but no less talented.
Perhaps it’s the people I know, but something about being here has given me the incredible confidence to take the leap into self-employment. Many of our friends here have their own businesses, freelance, and consult, and just being in their presence has offered me a renewed sense of self-confidence that I am in control of my destiny. I made a resolution to live more fearlessly in 2016 and this city has allowed me to shed some of my fear and just try it, without any sense of guilt.
It’s on the cusp of something big.
Depending on who you ask, we’ve already missed the boat or we’re getting in at the ‘right’ time. If you drive through the city, you’ll notice cranes dotting the skyline in every direction. It’s been this way for quite some time, if you ask the locals. And Californians have been making the migration up north for years, perhaps much to some Seattleites’ dismay. But something seems to be swelling now.
This city is growing faster than ever and while much of the growth is being attributed to the explosion of Amazon, there is no shortage of startups popping up, not to mention Silicon Valley companies trying to get a foothold of prime real estate while they can. The talent pool is less concentrated, but no less talented, and being just a stone’s throw from California means that business relations (and same day meetings) can happen easily. I’d heard stories of Seattle being cold — and not just temperature-wise — but we’ve been met here with open arms. I am grateful.
I don’t regret not leaving the Bay Area sooner — even if it meant we could have saved a significant amount of money on our house — but I do feel like we snuck in here, so to speak.
I did not move to Seattle to forget San Francisco, or to replace my experiences there with experiences that simply mimic my ‘old’ life.
Don’t get me wrong, I miss my City by the Bay. Terribly, sometimes. Already. I get glimpses of it on Instagram, or am reminded of it when I wake to fog horns or a light mist in the air. I still refer to San Francisco as “The City” and often start sentences with, “Well, back in the Bay…” We left with great anticipation, but also with great reluctance. Despite its transitional state, I do believe it has been and will remain one of the greatest cities in America and there is a reason so many people are drawn to it with stars in their eyes.
I did not move to Seattle to forget San Francisco, or to replace my experiences there with experiences that simply mimic my ‘old’ life. I daydream of the stories I’ll tell my kids about Golden Gate Park strolls and the sand dunes at Ocean Beach. The way that the fog would envelop one part of the city only to suddenly reveal a perfectly sunny day. I’ll take them to get morning buns at Tartine. And we’ll definitely drive across the bridge to go on a hike in Marin. I’ll have to stock up on my favorite wine on a weekend trip to Healdsburg. I love so much about the Bay and as it undergoes tremendous change, I so hope that whatever is next is ok. Did I leave my heart in San Francisco? Yes, a piece of it. It has long been and will continue to be one of the great loves of my life. But at this moment in time, I couldn’t be more excited to be anywhere else.