I spent a truly lovely few years of my life – longer ago than I care to admit – living in Seattle. I don’t know whether Seattle is this way now, but back then, even though it was (and is) a big city, it offered a level of “sameness” that one might usually associate with a small town. One could go away on vacation and feel confident that Seattle would be waiting, basically the same as before, when one returned. Even after I had been living in Miami for two years, when I went back for a visit to Seattle I was still able to get coffee at Café Ladro and Espresso Vivace, and a big, fat peanut butter cookie from Cinnamon Works in Pike Place Market. I swear the same guy even checked me out at Bartell Drugs. (Whether this is good or bad is a question for that guy, but the fact that Bartell’s still exists is actually a little remarkable in and of itself.)
This isn’t to say that nothing changed – like any big city, there were always new developments in the urban landscape – but the changes were usually additions to what was there before, not replacements. This made Seattle sort of a comfort food of cities for me, which was important at the time since I was going through a divorce and other seismic life changes. Seattle was not always perfect, but there was a lot of security in knowing exactly what I was going to get.
This feeling stood in sharp contrast to my experience of Miami, the next place that I lived, this time for nearly a decade. In Miami, a two-week vacation could be long enough for your favorite restaurant to be replaced by another and for at least one of your friends to leave town. Miami was then – and I believe still is – a shape-shifter city. It morphs quickly, often without warning. People come and go in rapid succession, often moving to or from not just a different city, but a different country. (At one point, one of my friends hosted a “Johann is Staying” party as an anecdote to all the farewell events.) The rapid-fire changes make the city vibrant, alive, and above all, never boring. For those who are in it for the long run and even for those who stay only a short while, Miami offers an exciting opportunity to be part of sculpting the form the city will take next.
Ironically, Seattle and Miami are my two favorite US cities in which to live, despite their many opposite characteristics. Seattle helped me learn that life can have a Zen-like levelness even while personal circumstances change, while Miami taught me to appreciate the transience of life and the value of enjoying what is there to enjoy today.
Fast forward to Barranquilla and our recent return home to Colombia from Christmas holidays. If I thought Miami changed quickly, it is because I did not know Barranquilla well enough at all. I came home, quite unexpectedly, to find much in my own house and in the broader landscape significantly different than before. The road to Cartagena had been partially widened… Our son’s nanny was gone…. Even the location of stuff in the closets and what’s in the kitchen cabinets had changed. At one point, I actually imagined I had entered some alternate universe, where everything is there but rearranged and/or face-lifted, making you wonder whether it was ever the way you remembered in the first place. As for why all the changes in our household, that is a story for another post, but suffice it to to say that the reasons, which were multiple, were beyond my control.
I’m not gonna lie: all these changes threw me for a serious loop. I am above all a planner. I rely on my ability to assess what to expect and to prepare accordingly, and my skills in that regard are usually top tier. I don’t need everything to go smoothly as long as I can predict with some degree of accuracy that it won’t. Unfortunately, my penchant for planning is perhaps symptomatic of my struggles with adapting on the fly. And yet here I am. Here we are.
I remind myself that I will cope and organize everything again soon enough — and that the contents of my life are still just as amazing as they were before, even if the Universe did decide to grab the bottle and shake things up a bit. I just have to have enough patience to get on with it. Keep calm and all that. For me, patience is both the solution and the challenge.
Has life thrown you some curve balls lately? What’s your best coping mechanism? B.o.B. would sincerely like to know. Onward.