Caitlin Flynn
Updated Jun 16, 2016 @ 11:59 am
Woman unpacking boxes in attic
Credit: Getty / Tom Merton

My quarter-life crisis left me reeling. I’ve always been a planner and I was living the life I’d pictured for myself, working at a book publishing house and residing in New York City. For a long time, it was wonderful, and I was perfectly happy with my choices and where my life was headed. And then, all of a sudden, everything about it started to feel wrong. At first, I chalked the nagging unhappiness to my anxiety disorder and figured it would pass. Instead, things only got worse and this time I knew the problem was not just my illness.

I had to make a change, but I felt somewhat paralyzed. It got to the point where I couldn’t stand to listen to my own thoughts anymore. I knew that I wasn’t doing enough to change a situation that made me desperately unhappy and unhealthy. So, I did the most out of character thing possible — I resigned from my corporate job, pre-leased an apartment that I’d never seen in person, and booked a one-way plane ticket to Seattle. I knew a grand total of one person there, I didn’t have a full-time job lined up, and I’d only visited once — but it felt like the right decision.

I recently celebrated my one-year anniversary in Seattle. Here’s what I’ve learned over the past year.

I’m grateful I trusted my instincts.

About six months before I moved across the country, I visited Seattle for the first time. I only spent a few days there, but something about it just felt right. I loved the rainy weather (yes, really), the laid-back vibe, and the way urban life and nature were beautifully intertwined in a way I’d never experienced. Still, it was a risk — I hadn’t spent enough time in the city to do anything except admire the beautiful sights and I knew I might be seeing it through rose-colored glasses because it was so different from New York City. Still, I had a gut feeling that Seattle was going to be a great place for me to live and I trusted that feeling. When I first moved, I figured I’d stay for a few years and then move back to the east coast to be closer to family. I can’t predict the future, but Seattle feels like home now and I can’t imagine living anywhere else.

Don’t worry about what other people think.

Before I told friends and colleagues about my decision, I was beyond worried about what they would think. Would they judge me for not being “strong enough” to handle New York City life? Would they think I was naive to assume I could simply design my own career rather than stay at a corporate job? None of this should have mattered to me, but it did. In the end, people told me they thought it was brave and smart to not “settle” and to leave behind something that made me unhappy. But, more importantly, I knew in my heart that I wasn’t running away — I was taking a necessary step to grow as a person and professional.

I was stronger than I realized.

Although I was unhappy at my job and I no longer wanted to live in New York City, it was still my comfort zone in many ways. I was close to my beloved hometown so I could escape to my parents’ house whenever I felt stressed, and most of my friends lived in the area. After a year in Seattle, I’ve developed a close circle of amazing friends — but when I first got here, I was pretty much on my own while I found my footing. I couldn’t hop on a train home when things got tough and my best friends were all 3,000 miles away.

I’m incredibly grateful for the friends I’ve made here — and I certainly wouldn’t be able to live in a city where I didn’t have companionship and a support system. But, I’m glad that I had a few months where I really had to rise to the occasion and be strong for myself. I needed to know that I could be comfortable “on my own” and handle difficult situations without my usual safety net. The caveat to this is that I found a great therapist right away, so I had someone to give me advice and perspective as I navigated my new living situation.

Things don’t always go according to plan, but that’s okay.

I’d always dreamed of writing full-time, but I never imagined I’d be able to make a living doing so. It just didn’t seem realistic or practical and it felt like too much to hope for. I waited until I had plenty of money saved before I made the move, but my plan was to job hunt and do some freelance writing on the side.

During my first month in the city, I interviewed for two full-time jobs and was disappointed when I didn’t receive offers. While I was job searching, I made some great connections and my writing career took off in a way I never expected. I realized that I could support myself as a full-time writer and it was a dream come true. Things didn’t go according to plan, but it was a good thing because I’m much happier as a freelancer than I’ve ever been at a corporate job.

Even if I didn’t love Seattle, I think I’d still be glad that I took the risk.

It’s impossible to know exactly how I’d feel right now if the move had been a disappointment. A lot of things could have gone wrong — I may have been forced to take another uninspiring job, or I may have struggled to meet friends. When I moved here, I was extremely optimistic and hopeful that I had made the right choice — but I also promised myself that I wouldn’t look back or regret anything.

Everything is reversible. If things hadn’t worked out in Seattle, I didn’t have an obligation to stay in the city once my one-year lease was up. I would definitely have been upset and discouraged, but it would have been worse to stay in an unhealthy situation and not at least try to make a positive change. I really had nothing to lose by leaving New York City, but I had a lot to lose by staying due to fear of the unknown.

In the months leading up to my move, my excitement was often mixed with anxiety. I looked at a Margaret Shepard quote every day and it inspired me: “Sometimes your only available transportation is a leap of faith.” I’m so glad that I took the leap because it allowed me to learn and grow as a person.