I've had a lot of thoughts of how to write this half-year update since my 6-month mark in Tacoma hit at the beginning of March. As far as a quick overall update for those of you I don't keep in touch with much, I'll hit on several things while giving a commentary. So here we go!
Things in Tacoma, WA, have been overall good. Life has been more difficult than ever at times, fulfilling at many other times, and completely confusing almost all of the time. I've been extremely homesick at times, but overall this experience has been completely necessary. I lived in Pittsburgh for the first 26 years of my life and loved it. I still love Pittsburgh, but possibly more than ever now that I've been away. I needed a refresher and some time away from what had become an infinite norm of life in my hometown, so my experience in WA has been fruitful to remind me of where I've come from, if nothing else.
My job has simply been amazing and I'm certainly not just saying that because I think my co-workers or students will be reading. In short, I have amazing colleagues who are a joy to work with, an incredible supervisor who is gracious and supportive, an amount of autonomy that I didn't think would be possible in my first job, and a fun group of students who are around a lot and keep the job interesting. My job is Career Development Specialist at UW Tacoma and I'm basically the only person doing career services at UWT. I am in charge of everything including meeting with students, giving presentations, communicating with employers, operating the career fair, etc. I am fully in charge of determining the direction of career development at UWT. The possibilities are endless. I'm essentially in an Assistant Director position for my entry-level job. I wouldn't trade this career move for anything I interviewed for last summer. This level of independence and variety is the exact reason that I know my move to Tacoma has been the right one.
Church life has been developing. I reached out and met a bunch of people at Soma Communities right when I arrived. At times Soma has felt like a great fit, at other times not as great, but it's been important for me to avoid comparing with the Open Door, which really showed me what it meant to be a church. For that, I commend John and BJ's work.
Life in general in Tacoma is difficult at times. While I've met a few groups of people with whom I spend good time, I definitely miss my friends most of all. I don't have a go-to person with whom to watch Pitt games, go to shows, or just sit and talk about our Christian lives. While I appreciate the people I've found to do these things with, I certainly miss my close friends in Pittsburgh. I miss living with very close friends, playing music at church, and doing simple things like sharing meals or playing ultimate frisbee while having in-depth discussions.
The people of the Northwest come off as friendly and inviting, but there is certainly a barrier that is up between you and a new person. It's hard to get into deep conversations with people because they like to keep their guard up and not let you into their lives as quickly as people from the East Coast. As someone who opens up quickly and frequently, it's been difficult to become friends with people who don't open up as easily. Walls break down, though, and I expect that things will change with time.
Tacoma doesn't have a lot going on, in my opinion. For a similar cost of living as Pittsburgh, it certainly lacks many of the amenities. Pittsburgh's unique neighborhoods are not rivaled here. The best touring bands go to Seattle instead of Tacoma, which can be a bother on nights when driving 45 minutes to and from an event doesn't seem logical. Seattle's cost of living is too high to justify, so living in the midst of the action isn't as easy an option here as it is in Pittsburgh. That won't change, but I know I need to do my best to make this place interesting on my own.
I've also been dating a really amazing girl, Sam, who I met through mutual friends. She went to Geneva, is from Lancaster, and is doing an internship at World Vision, so it's been great to go through this difficult time of transition with someone who shares a lot of my growth away from home. She's likely to be heading home after the internship is over in July, so I'm excited to see what God does with our relationship moving forward.
I'm trying to keep it brief, so I'll wrap it up. I'm definitely planning on being in Tacoma for 2-3 years at least while I develop my career options. The longer I'm here, the more valuable experience I'll build before looking for my next job. The next move feels like Pittsburgh, but a lot can change in the course of another year or two. In the end, though, God has a plan that I'll learn when I'm supposed to. So, there's no telling when or where the next chapter might start. Although, on an adventure like this, it feels like a new chapter starts every day.