If you’re reading this via Facebook or Twitter, you probably already know this. But I also realize not everyone I know follows what I post on FB or Twitter. For those, I have some news.
I have made the decision to move to Chicago at the end of this year (2014). I will shed possessions and prep over the next three months, then leave Seattle for good and drive across the country (with a holiday stop in Las Vegas to visit my family) shortly before Christmas.
I’m going for several reasons.
– As I mentioned in a previous post, I am done with Seattle. I have pretty much done everything professionally and artistically here that I can reasonably hope to accomplish, and to continue at this point is to either beat my head against a wall or spin my wheels while getting nowhere. I realized a while back I needed a change of scenery, and of my options I felt that Chicago’s massive theatre and improv scene offers a ton more untapped opportunity.
– Chicago is the mecca of improv and its theaters are always exploring the evolution of the form. I really want to learn from that environment and be a part of that exploration. I can practice regular old improv anywhere. I want to do more than just improv, obviously. Having a high quality environment in which to practice and learn would also be very helpful and balancing at this stage of my life.
– The cost of living in Seattle is spiraling upward with no signs of normalizing. Amazon and tech companies have brought in thousands of new well paid tech workers who have stratified the cost of living. Plus the risk of violent crime is becoming an increasingly relevant problem in Seattle to go with the already sky high property crime rate. While I’ve been able to weather the trend and live alone in affordable housing, I realize my days of being able to manage that in Seattle are numbered and I want to get out with my bank account and dignity intact (I always said that if the point came where the only way I could afford to live here was to live in the poorer suburbs or south end, I’d leave anyway).
– Plus, I figure, if I’m going to pay megalopolis prices and deal with the risk of crime, I might as well live in a legit megalopolis. Yet…
– … Chicago’s cost of living is actually *lower* than Seattle’s cost of living! Grocery staples and most retail items sell for lower cost than in Seattle. Gas is about 10-15 cents per gallon cheaper. Despite being the 3rd biggest city in the US, housing is actually more affordable in Chicago: Regular searches through housing channels show a wealth of affordable options in desirable neighborhoods (e.g. many studios available for under $900 a month in some prime north end neighborhoods). Chicago’s economy, while active, is more normalized and absent of a stratifying boom. My dollar would actually go farther in Chicago. I don’t have to fear a housing market that spikes the rent to take advantage of a boom influx of wealthy newcomers, since that influx isn’t happening there.
– My daytime work situation is a relative dead end. I probably would always have a fiscal job at UW, but my ceiling there for that work is currently pretty low (I’m years of work and a couple of fortuitious breaks from commanding a promotion). My current pay, while good in general, is light years below what Seattlites in the tech industry are making to write code. Because of that, I’m relatively poor here despite a good salary. In Chicago, there’s a lot of universities to work with in the same capacity, the fiscal jobs there pay as much if not more, and my dollar there goes farther. My middle class wage in Chicago would actually make me middle class rather than relatively low class in Seattle.
– Temping with universities there on a full time basis becomes more feasible. Here, there’s pretty much only UW and like all universities they have a 1050 hour annual limit. The only reason to temp with them is to try and land a full time gig somewhere. But with a dozen+ schools in Chicago to choose from, between them they can keep me gainfully employed year round. If I hit the limit with one, I still can work for the others. This gives me the option to not go permanent if I wish… which would make performing my shows at fringe festivals (each of which requires a few weeks of travel at a time) a feasible possibility again. With this many possibilities for working relationships, chances are dim I would be unemployed for long at all.
– Chicago has a decent transit system with the elevated trains plus a decent bus system beneath it. Metro service in Seattle was a lot better 10 years ago. It sucks now for various understandable reasons. It’s no longer practically useful for my needs. Both cities have horrid traffic, but Chicago at least gives me the option to avoid dealing with it.
– Back in 2001 I had ambitions to study improv and sketch comedy in Chicago, and even visited Chicago on a scouting trip with my friend Turner. Once we returned to Vegas, Turner backed out due to various understandable reservations about making the move, and I was admittedly struggling quite a bit at the time and needed to get my life back together. So I shelved the idea. The idea to go to Chicago wasn’t ever again a consideration until recently. But now I have a chance to explore that ambition and close the books on that. Back then for me, Second City was *the* place to go, but in recent years I’ve been turned on to other theaters like Annoyance and Improv Olympic (iO). Right now I’m leaning heavily towards studying with iO.
– Seattle culture is getting on my nerves. Chicago’s got its cultural issues, but I feel far more comfortable putting up with their potentially blunter, at times openly shitty prejudices than Seattle’s hateful prejudices hidden behind a polite PC veneer. Chicago is rougher and at times blunt, plus is far more culturally diverse (only 31% white!). I feel more in my element in that world than in the frozen, too easily offended tundra of Seattle’s world.
– Most of all, there comes a point where you’ve made enough change from within that you realize the next change you need to make is the world without. Sometimes, for who you are and what you want/need to do out of life, the place you’re in just isn’t right for your needs… whether or not it was before, or may be in the future. This was not a snap decision: This is the end decision after months, possibly even more than a year, of exploration and consideration. I’ve probably given Seattle far more of a chance than I ought to, and now more than ever it’s clear I ought to leave it behind.
I am planning to shed almost all my possessions and drive out in late December. I’m taking my clothes, my bedding, a box of useful books, my cookware and my messenger bag. Everything else is getting donated or sold.
There are some things about Seattle I will miss. There are a lot of things I will not.
I look forward to what’s coming next.