Sunday, July 13, 2014

One week living in Vancouver, Washington (and a discourse on the contemporary housing situation of average Americans)

Here we are at home.  Where?  Vancouver?  This must be a joke, right?

From the age of 16 to the age of 31 I lived in the same subdivision on a quiet street in Oregon City, Oregon.  After I left there, I found I never wanted to live in a subdivision again.

"Why?" You may ask.  Because I was tired of living in a quiet, perfectly-engineered community where middle class families minivan their collective lives away between their cedar fences and lap-sided walls.  People in my subdivision always drove 20 miles through traffic to another city to work a more-than-eight-hour day, drove back home, popped the garage door remote and drove into their American oblivion.  I really didn't know any but a few of my neighbors even though I lived there for a decade and a half.

I wanted to live in a real community where people actually knew each other.  Where they talked to each other and were interdependent.  Where I might actually have a chance of meeting a stranger who was in a different income bracket, of a different generation or a different culture.  Not just because it's good for me (it is), but because I'm an ambassador of Christ, and it's my privilege to show him to the World.  All of it.

And God blessed us with all of that in Tacoma.  Yes, He did.

We knew our neighbors, the owners of many of the local businesses (which were within walking distance) and met all kinds of different people.

At the same time, our neighborhood had problems with crime, and I'm not talking about littering.  Vandalism, theft, breaking and entering.  Shootings routinely occurred in the neighboring areas.  I wouldn't go for a walk late at night in my neighborhood for my family's sake.

People still commuted long distances and the traffic could become another--or maybe an only--hobby.

A lot of things changed, including me.

Tacoma is the third-largest city in the state of Washington and is 60 square miles of urban turmoil; Vancouver is the fourth-largest city in Washington and it's 50 square miles of suburban cul-de-sacs.

If I've learned anything in the last week, it's that life is life wherever you are.  (Profound.  I know.)  There's lots of different kinds of people, even in subdivisions.  Maybe neighborhoods are as friendly as you make them.  And God is wherever you are.

I have a lot more to say about this, but I'll stop for now.  I need to actually get to the post I wanted to write when I first started.  I repent of my overly-harsh and perfectly-narrow view of the American subdivision.  At the same time, I'll never click that garage door shut quite as quickly as I did five years ago.


Unpacking is such a daunting task.  The feeling is the same one you get after putting together a 1000-piece jigsaw puzzle.  You know you have to tear it all up and put it away, but you feel stupid for doing it after just finishing the hardest part of the process.

We spent all of Sunday un-puzzling and sleeping.  For me, it was back to work on Monday, but at my new office.  I got up like usual, but didn't have to leave to win the race to Olympia.  Instead, I drove three miles across my neighborhood to work.  It took me seven minutes and forty-five seconds.  I felt really weird, but walked into the Vancouver branch at 8:00 AM and started unpacking.

I met a bunch of people and settled into the new place.  In general, I've really enjoyed the quirky feel and laid-back atmosphere of the Vancouver version of our company.  Most of all, I enjoyed seeing my family on my lunch breaks.  Fifteen years into my career and I'd never come home for lunch until last Monday.  Not only is it good for my family, but it gave me a reason to actually take a lunch break.  I can be terrible at that, even though I know it's an unhealthy practice.

Anne-Marie busied herself putting up shelves and decor and finding all our clothes.  Every time I came home for lunch or after work, something new was done or changed.  The Tetris game in the garage is quickly becoming a home.

Right around Wednesday afternoon, I had a project that went horribly wrong in multiple ways.  I ended up working overtime and collaborating (arguing) with multiple parties and getting input from about ten of our past projects.  It was a terrible experience.

Still, my family was just a few miles away.  I got to come home to them in the evenings and remember that they are here by my side as we attempt life again.

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