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The Power of 10

Ten years ago today, I arrived in Redmond as a new resident, about to start a new job and a new life. I had never heard of a “floating bridge”, never seen a bald eagle, never done anything remotely outdoorsy, didn’t understand why the highway had those raised “turtles” in the lane markings, and had only just discovered I might not hate microbrews.

My departure from the Bay Area was the social equivalent of a nuclear bomb. My reasons for leaving were half professional – it was the year of the EA_Spouse controversy and a terrible time to be working for EA in general. I wanted to run development teams but when asking for the opportunity I was told I’d have to wait years. I wasn’t willing to give EA those years, so I left for a company that would give me the opportunity I sought.

It’s complicated, of course, since it also happens that the man I had become romantically involved with several months prior also worked at my destination company. That fact slowed down negotiations considerably and made my future employer more than a little concerned. And it was smart of them to be cautious. Still, eventually, while driving home to Palo Alto on the 101 one night I got the phone call with the job offer that brought me to Seattle.

But because of that romantic entanglement and the breakup preceding it, also within the confines of an employer, my support network of friends had become highly polarized. Worse yet, in Seattle I only knew a small handful of people, all at the new office, all of whom were my new significant others’ friend first. Some thought I was completely insane to take a pay cut and leave the Bay Area. It was daunting and terrifying to leave the friends I still had there (many of whom I’d had friendships with for years throughout college) for a completely new start.

Even with all of that, my heart told me emphatically and without question that I must go to Seattle. I wasn’t unfamiliar with the area. It had been my first ever visit on the West Coast – in sophomore year of college, when Microsoft flew me out to interview for an SDE internship. (I didn’t get it, though it proved to be foreshadowing.) I remember that first cross country plane ride. I was sitting next to a character straight out of Portlandia, rhapsodizing in his Birkenstocks over how miraculous plane travel was and how great Pacific Northwest trees were.

Years later, when EA first flew me to Seattle for a business trip, I was reminded of that man’s rhapsody as I drove up the 405 from the airport. The air was clear. The trees and the mountain skyline were beautiful. I immediately felt at home, bizarre since I’d never really been drawn to the outdoors at all. And the more I came, the more I enjoyed it here.

And thus it was that I threw my California life out the window and started anew here in the Puget Sound. A few weeks prior to the move, my partner and I looked at apartments. The first one we looked at was a peculiar split-level condo on a hill in Redmond with a huge balcony and sunset views. Halfway through our second showing elsewhere, we decided to take the first unit. Ten years later, I still sit in that unit, long since become the owner of the property. No place has ever been more home to me in all my life than this place.

At first, I didn’t have any reason to leave the Eastside – we lived in Redmond and worked in Kirkland a few miles away. But almost immediately after arriving, I’d subscribed to a mailing list called “Performers Callboard”. Back in CA, I had realized I felt unbalanced, incomplete, and sought to recapture the joy I found in theatre in college. I got headshots taken and went to my very first general auditions in the South Bay. But by the time I got the first callback from the South Bay generals, I had already moved away. That momentum, small as it was, I wanted to maintain by auditioning for SOMETHING out here.

The idea had been scripted work, but then I saw an audition come through for an improv show called “Saturday Morning Cartoon Show”. I decided to make that my first area audition, completely accepting that I would not be cast. I made my first pilgrimage across the 520 bridge in winter darkness, listening to “What You Waiting For” on repeat, and missing the Jet City Improv building on the first pass despite its being a large, yellow presence on the Ave. (I blogged in more detail about these early times in “Improvception” here.)

A week later, I got the call for the show. For a split second, I considered talking to my partner about it before accepting, but then thought better of it and accepted on the spot. In retrospect that must have been quite a transition. He didn’t know he was dating an actress. And my return to the stage definitely had a transformative effect on me and my life.

And many of the cast and crew from that show are still friends today. Some closer than others – my director from that show is Spock in our improvised Star Trek show “Where No Man Has Gone Before”. Ten years later. I never would have foreseen that, but I am grateful for it.

I almost didn’t make it to my 10-year anniversary here. In late summer, I received a compelling job offer from Riot Games in Santa Monica, and was almost certain I’d take it (even though it would have been a financial burden with the cost of living there). But thanks to one of my friends here who didn’t want to see me go and knew about a great UX group within Amazon, the stars aligned quickly and an offer came in that I just couldn’t refuse. Two months in and I’m having a great time in the new role, and still discovering new parts of Seattle in my explorations of SLU, even after all this time.

So much has happened in these past 10 years. Three employers; 4 shipped games from start to finish; thousands upon thousands of performances on stages of all sizes. A few more boyfriends than I would have hoped, considering I originally moved here for love, but in the end a meet cute at a callback that led to love and a wonderful husband. Far more medical drama than I could have guessed, having moved here in perfect health: a tumor, a shattered kneecap, hemochromatosis, and several cancer scares. Memories like performing in a New Year’s improv show at the Intiman followed by fireworks at the Space Needle; being onstage with Leonard Nimoy; performing a lead role in my favorite musical (Cinderella in Into the Woods);  teaching my first interaction design workshop to high school girls; watching Wario and Mario have a cupcake fight while looking on as “Violet” in “Wallflowers”; doing Arms Debate live on the local news with NERDprov; crossing the finish line of my first 5K in CenturyLink field; getting married in a ridiculous windstorm at the Newcastle Golf Club.

But most importantly, I’ve been blessed with an overwhelming group of wonderful people here. It took several years to find many of them, but thanks largely to my theatrical homes and inexplicably massive employers like Microsoft I’ve found lifelong friends, almost none of whom I knew prior to moving here. I didn’t know what I was getting into by moving here, but all of the heartbreak, stress, and uncertainty were worth the eventual outcome.

Seattle and Redmond? Here’s to more years of adventure ahead of us.

Amaze (aka Griptonite Games) company photo. The employer that brought me to Seattle.
Amaze (aka Griptonite Games) company photo. The employer that brought me to Seattle.

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