Taking the Scenic Route - 8 Lessons learned on my journey from NYC -> SEA -> NYC
In January 2015, I made the journey to pursue a job and new life in Seattle. Almost exactly a year and a half later, to the day, I headed back to New York City, hopefully slightly wiser and with a new appreciation for New York. So how do I sum up my journey? Some life-lessons:
1. The most important decisions are made with your gut.
I approached my decision over whether or not to take my job in Seattle with an exhaustive pros and cons list and slew of rational reasons like being able to afford a nicer apartment. At the time, I was itching to explore a life beyond New York City. Ultimately, no pros and cons list could have articulated what my gut was telling me - the need for a drastic change in my life.
2. It's all part of your journey.
As much as I agonized over which decision to make, and what I wanted, I agonized over whether it was the right decision. And then, when I decided to move back, I questioned whether or not I should have moved to Seattle in the first place. As Oprah would say, it's all part of one, big journey. As I board the subway this summer, often in 90 degree heat, during perhaps one of the subway's most congested times in history, I look around with pride and appreciation. The characters of the city, diversity, something to see on every corner and incredibly rich culture make enduring the challenges worth the price of living in one of the most challenging but greatest cities of the world. It took moving across the country to a beautiful, growing city with temperate weather and a brand-spanking-new apartment (a dishwasher and in-unit washer/dryer!) to realize just how much I valued New York.
3. Life is too short not to take chances.
When I finally decided to move to Seattle, I figured, the worst thing that could happen is that I don't like it and I could move back in a year. Having the guts to make that decision was a milestone in major life decisions. It felt as if I was taking an active role in my future and I gained confidence from having done that. In the end, taking the chance, led to exponential growth in a way staying put would not have brought me.
4. Just do it.
Last year I read The Achievement Habit by one of the founders of the design thinking movement. One of his tenants is favoring action over thinking. As per this guy's helpful summary, when you do something versus thinking about it, the obstacles just become data to the outcome. It's a proactive approach versus reactive, deciding that "now is the time to become the person we aspire to be." To start that journey, one must take action. In the book, he also talks about how taking action on small things doesn't just give us the confidence to tackle bigger obstacles, but it's a behavioral shift that forms forward-moving habits. When I was a print producer but wanted to expand my skill set, I decided to take a photography class. I hadn't been in a classroom setting or had my work critiqued since college, five years prior, but taking action and achieving that small goal propelled me on the path that I am today. Shortly after, I attended Miami Ad School's Planning Boot Camp across the country and switched careers. Of course Nike captures this perfectly in their 2013 spot Possibilities, with each achievement building on the next, an action towards greatness.
5. There is priceless value in gaining a new perspective.
I am a cat-loving, wine-drinking, art-loving, semi-Apple fan gal, city-loving, heel-wearing New Yorker. A month into Seattle, working on a Surface Pro, surrounded by passionate, beer-loving, outdoorsy Seahawk fans, I learned I was mildly allergic to dogs. That same day, our agency was listed as one of the most dog-friendly places to work in Seattle. Fast-forward a few Bernie versus Hillary, debates, quant versus qual data squabbles, beer-drinking-boat-cruising hangouts with coworkers and bike rides along the waters of Seattle, and I've gained a new perspective into another way of living and thinking that I would have never gained otherwise. Shiba-Inu's (cat-dogs!) have a delightful appeal. I can't wait to bring my bike, Bé out of storage and I still use Microsoft's OneNote to keep track of all my research. But more profoundly, I think Seattle's culture is truly unique from cities like San Francisco, New York and L.A. and I'll treasure that unique experience.
7. Knowing what you don't like is just as powerful as knowing what you do.
I'd rather be sitting in a people-watching square than isolated in a roomy apartment. I'd rather be surrounded by architecture that spans generations than stunning natural views. I'd rather be squished between people of varying ethnicities on a crowded subway than comfortably riding a bus in a sea of white. I'd rather take off my headphones to respond to a stranger's friendly comments than maintain a level of personal space that isn't even broken with eye contact. I'd rather value the unmeasurable, subjective power of branding and qualitative insights over quantitative analytics that don't ask the why. Learning this gave me insight into who I am and what I want in a way that will guide future decisions from now on.
8. Regret is a wasted emotion.
As I formed my thoughts about my move and return to New York, remarking on the differences between the two cities and my experiences, friends asked me if I regretted moving there. No, I told them. As I reflect on my journey, I realize regret is a wasted emotion. It's predicated on the idea that there was a right or wrong decision, or that more was lost than was gained. Either way, nothing is gained from dwelling on regret. How much have we learned from relationships that didn't work out? From mistakes that led to successes? How often do we regret not taking a chance? I don't regret the lessons I learned, or meeting the people I met, or most certainly, having taken the scenic route to wherever it is that I'm going.