So now that we’ve lived in the Northwest for a few months, I’ve decided to make an attempt at communicating to all our New England friends and family the cultural divide (not to be confused with the contential divide) that happened somewhere on our roadtrip. In order to do this effective, I’ve asked a few “friends” to be the objects of my discussion.
Meet Marty and Laura, the typical Northwest couple, and Charlie and Jessica, the typical New England couple:
While I will readily recognize that I’m about to endeavor upon some pretty extreme generalizations, I am hoping to paint some sort of picture of our lives for all of you.
Marty and Laura were 28 when they got married. They both have master’s degree. Marty’s degree is in the Philosophy of man’s existance, and Laura’s degree is Environmental Science, her thesis was about saving the salmon from extinction in the greater Puget Sound area. They waited, as any good Northwesterner would, until they were settled into their careers before pursuing any sort of romantic commitment. And once they were married, children were replaced by dog ownership. They have two properly bred dogs whom their lives revolve around. They are not sure if they will ever have children. Perhaps, this is because there are more parks for dogs around here than for humans (and potentially more veternarians than doctors). Laura grew up in Israel, where her father was a professor. Her family is scattered around the globe. Marty grew up on Mercer Island, part time in their house and part time in their house boat on Lake Union; however, his two younger siblings are spending the family fortune as they back pack across Europe and Asia.
Marty and Laura are constantly pursuing education. Whether its a heated, philophical discussion formed around the latte bar down the street, or actually continuing to take classes. Education is a way of life for Marty, Laura, their dogs, and their neighbors.
In order to fully explain the Northwest life, let me give you THE DAY IN THE LIFE OF MARTY AND LAURA. It starts at 8:30am. No joke. No one gets up early in the Northwest. They’re way too chill for such things. Even the dogs seem to let their owners sleep. Their two dogs finally arose them, and the morning walk commenced. Marty takes care of the morning walk. He carries his plastic bag which he uses to grab the warm dog crap up from the sidewalk once their dog, Walter Snohomish Baker Sr., the first, does his duty. This morning their other dog, Pricilla Amber Dootle Jr, the third, also does her duty. Marty double fists his way back to their $500,000 house. That’s right: bags of warm, fresh crap in his hand. He greets several neighbors whose behavior mimicks his.
After sorting the recycling, composting, and trash, Marty and Laura carpool to their jobs. They both arrive a little late because they stopped for their morning lattes at Starbucks. No one minds. I forgot to mention that they drive 5 miles per hour under the speed limit regardless of traffic. It’s a silent commute. No one honks.
Marty and Laura enjoy their days at work. There are several coffee breaks throughout the day. The rain drizzles outside. At lunch, Laura rushes home to love on her dogs. She lets them out and plays with them. On Fridays, they have playdates with the neighbor’s dogs. Laura’s job allows her to have every other Friday off for this. Marty and Laura work late, grab something to eat at the local pub, and enjoy an evening of relaxation, retiring late into the night.
They’re weekends are filled with entertaining their animals, hiking in the Cascades, sleeping in late, and getting in heated political discussions with the usuals at the local coffee shop. They occasionally attend the church down the road, although they do not let this “idea” impose upon any of their natural liberties. Ah, life is good for Marty and Laura.
Let’s look into Charlie and Jessica’s life. Charlie and Jessica were high school sweethearts. New England carries with itself a high sense of history. They grew up just down the road from each other and got married at 21 and 22. Charlie and Jessica both have bachelors degree. Education is valued in New England, but for them, it is a means to an end, rather than just a means. Charlie became an engineer, and Jessica became a teacher. They are setting their lives up for the long haul. After one year of marriage, they purchased some land where they, along with family and friends, are now building a house. Jessica plans on teaching at the same high school she attended until she retires. Charlie works at a paper mill. They recently found a puppy at the local pound. He’s some sort of lab and shepherd mix. They can’t wait to have children, and their parents, who live just down the road, can’t wait to become grandparents. They see their nephew every weekend because Charlie’s sister lives in the next town over.
Here’s a glimpse into their daily lives:
Charlie wakes up at 5am because two feet of snow fell. He puts wood in the fire place, drinks his black coffee, and shovels the entire driveway. Jessica wakes up at 5:45, adds some wood to the fireplace and packs lunches for them both. Charlie leaves at 6am for work. The mill is 40 miles away. Jessica leaves the house at 6:30. School is not cancelled due to the storm. She teaches history to a very uniform looking student population, a few of them are her distant cousins. Charlie works until 3:30. He’s reading the paper when Jessica comes home, and she starts cooking some deer meet stew as soon as she arrives. They watch a few shows on TV, and go to bed early in the evening.
Their weekends are spent skiing, snowmobiling, visiting with family, and doing projects around the house. Their house is only half-finished. They still get up early, still only have black coffee, and still mostly spend time with family members. They also find time every Saturday night to go into the “big city” (about 15,000 in population). They catch a movie and make the weekly WalMart run. They attend the church they grew up in every Sunday.
I’m so glad I could introduce you to a few of my “friends”. The question that now lies before us is: Where do Ryan and I fit on this spectrum?
I believe our current residence in the Northwest is part of our continual journey to become balanced people. Our entire marriage is a process of balancing two extremes, and now our residence seems to be having similar effects. At work, Ryan’s co-works often tell him that he’s way too chill to be from the East Coast. Oddly enough, no one at my work makes these comments about me. Thanks dad. Perhaps Ryan is naturally a West Coast personality? His love for VW buses, snowboarding, and ouber relaxed people might make you think so; however, his driving reflects his drive, impatience, and irritation more found in New England. While I know that Bronson driving is not precisely equated to New England driving, I must say that Bronson driving is completely extinct in the Northwest. Perhaps, this is why God has led me here. Seriously though, New Englanders drive their 20+ mile commutes in quicker times than Northwesterns drive their 5 miles commutes. Things are too “hella good” in their Volkwaggons to rush to work. As far as driving is concerned, we are New Englanders to the core.
As far as education is concerned, I’m probably more of a North-westerner and Ryan is probably more of a New Englander. Although, to me, education isn’t everything; and to Ryan, education is hardly a means at all. Ha,ha. Just kidding. We actually both think education is great; however, we enjoy the practical education of New England that gets passed down from generation to generation , something that seems to be found less in the Northwest.
We’re finding that we really enjoy sleeping late on the weekends; however, we’re some of the earliest people at work. Ryan arrives to work at 6:35am, and I arrive to work at 7:45am. I do, however, love Northwestern coffee; and truth be told, Starbucks has grown on Ryan a little since moving here. “I’ll have a tall, non-fat peppermint mocha latte with whip cream for $5.” That’s me, not Ryan. 🙂
We certainly enjoy the diversity and opportunity found in the Northwest. There are more things to do and see. More cultures and people to try to understand. This is something I admire and appreciate and something Ryan is growing to love as well.
While this is a little hypocritical to say (considering we’re not from here either), it’s astounding to us that so many people who live here are not from here. We miss our family tremendously. While I’m ok with not having our parents down the road (Mom, Dad, Lisa–take note of that statement, ha,ha), we miss our families tremendously.
Perhaps, we’re a little of both. God help us, if that makes us mid-westerners though:)
An addendum: Marty, Laura, Charlie, and Jessica’s lives are not meant to offend anyone, so please take their lives with a grain of salt. Also, the entire city of Seattle has now shut down because we have 4 or 5 inches of snow. Places are already shutting things down for Monday. If only Charlie were here to shovel all the roads.