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My Seven-Year Itch

In the state of Washington, they make you get your license plates replaced every seven years. For the reflective coating, ostensibly. Even if you don’t want to change your plate numbers (they make you pay extra to keep the same number, which I did since my memory is a fragile, easily confused beast.)

Perhaps some folks don’t run into this since they’re changing cars too frequently – I’ve never owned more than one car so I have no context – but the time came for me last month.

Of course, this means I’ve been in Seattle for more than seven years, because I was a bad procrastinator and waited to get my car reregistered until I got pulled over 3 months in for having California plates. But it’s my seven-year anniversary here, give or take.

(As a side note, it turns out that California plates are basically a “pull me over please” sign, given our stately opinion of CA transplants. My first counsel to new residents is to get their plates changed immediately. Besides, the ticket is $350 if they can prove you’ve been living in the state for more than 30 days without doing it…)

Strangely, it seems that more than just my license plates are cycling out. For example: yesterday one of my doctors told me he is retiring. Next week. This is actually the second doctor in 5 months to retire on me. Now, I haven’t had these doctors for seven years, but it seems as if there’s some sort of cosmic signal forcing a reboot on some of my surrounding circumstances. Or I’m just a terrifying patient. I suppose that’s also possible. I like to think of it as “fascinating”, not “terrible”…

There are other things, too. A few weeks ago my boyfriend and I officially had our affidavit of domestic partnership notarized. When I moved to Seattle, it was as part of a couple – but a few years in a breakup rendered me a single woman living alone for the first time. And for years, I lived alone successfully. It’s just in this little seven-year cluster that life has gotten around to reengineering itself again.

Even my career is a bit reborn. My promotion to Senior UX Designer in September means at least a year of ‘finding myself’ at this new scope and peer level. Many of the people I’m now being compared to have been making software since I was in elementary school. The rules for distinguishing myself have changed, and my own criteria for success need to change. It’s entirely different from where I found myself nearly 5 years ago when starting here at Microsoft. And the woman who was in charge of our UX team this entire time, who interviewed me and has become a friend in addition to being our leader – well, she left for another team a month ago. Under good terms, but it’s another remarkable change in this little cluster of rebirth.

There’s that old adage that says we replace all of our cells every seven years. Turns out that’s not really true (though that’d make me feel better about my squishy memory – those cells were just reborn!). But what does seem true is that life seems to rebirth itself every seven years. In 2005 I couldn’t have foreseen how life would turn out now, and I wouldn’t have even been creative enough to dream some of the things that have occurred.

I’m in some training at work where they like to ask that frequently – what do you want to be doing in 10 years? – and it almost makes me cranky. Which honestly feels like growth for me. What about now? Isn’t what’s happening in this moment important? In high school, all I cared about was the next chapter; getting out of high school where I was frequently miserable and into college, where everything could start anew. But when you think so forcefully about tomorrow, you tend to ignore the people around you, who are usually far more precious than something that hasn’t happened yet. It took a long while for me to figure that out.

At the same time, you become more appreciative of the things that HAVE remained constant. And honestly, in my life, it’s mostly my home, my car, a select few childhood friends, and my family to some extent. I am amazed to look around at my condo and realize it’s a bit a part of me now, a place I’ve lived longer than anywhere else in my adult life, and nearly longer than anyplace I’ve ever lived. And my car? Well, we’re in it for the long haul together. And it’s usually there with me at the start or the finish of some incredible journey, whether it’s a happy memory like finishing a great show, or a difficult memory like those doctors’ appointments where I get bad news.

(The one constant I am NOT appreciative of is that the product I started working on in 2007 at Microsoft hasn’t shipped yet. But I’m told that will, in fact, happen; ideally before the world ends on my birthday this coming Winter Solstice. (sigh.) )

Over time, I’ve become less of a planner when it comes to my own life, because it seems rather futile. Why decide what you’ll be doing in five years when you don’t know what will happen tomorrow?

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