Musings On The Migratory Patterns Of A Sartorially-Inclined Moose (And Of Yours Truly)

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Winter is nearly over, and you know what that means: my fully-clad moose friend, Mr. M, has stirred from his winter doldrums, anxious to indulge his jones for rambling. 

I know the feeling, and not just because Mr. M spends his winters perched on my bed. (He hogs the covers, as you might imagine.) But there comes a time when you need to make a move to new environs. Or, to be precise, new environs for Mr. M, but familiar environs for me. And so we have.

After a seemingly endless six month search, I finally start my new job on Monday. For both myself and Mr. M, this is a mixed blessing, as these things so often are.

Mr. M was the first friend I made when I moved to Seattle. I'd spent my entire life in the Northeast, but had harbored a lifelong fascination with the Pacific Northwest. I was never sure why; I didn't know a soul there, had never visited, or even know someone who had. But I always wanted to live there.

In retrospect, I think it was a combination of things. The area's stunning natural beauty was no doubt a part of it. But I suspect the main reason was simply because it was as far away from where I grew up as you could possibly be in the United States.

Like many of us, my childhood was less than happy. I was struggling with GID, which, as a child of the 1970s and 80s, was utterly alien to me. I was small, shy, and prone to depression (although I didn't recognize it as such, of course). Not surprisingly, I was bullied on a more or less consistent basis throughout grammar school and high school. 

Without indulging in parent bashing, it's fair to say that while I never wanted for material things, I was essentially on my own in terms of emotional support. I plan to write about this in the weeks to come, but I knew from an early age that something was profoundly wrong, and that I could never, ever tell anyone. Or else.

After years of therapy, I now recognize that my parents did the best they could. But as the oldest son in a blue collar, Irish-American family in a culturally and socially conservative city, I knew I was a disappointment to them in many ways. And while this was only occasionally stated explicitly, I knew it to the marrow of my bones.

So I shut down. I learned to live inside my head, and not to let anyone get too close, lest they find out my secret. And this also, conveniently, meant that I could pretend I didn't have to think about it as well.

I tried to move to Seattle when I graduated from high school. I applied for, and was accepted to, the University of Washington. But in one of those Murphy's Law moments, my high school guidance office *lost* my financial aid paperwork (and in those Cro-Magnon, pre-computer days, it was literally paperwork). Worse, they didn't realize it until the deadline had passed at UW (and nearly all of the other schools to which I'd been accepted). As a result, my dream of moving there was put on hold.


I did eventually get to Seattle, although, for a variety of reasons it would take far too long to explain, it took me nearly a decade to do so. 

When I arrived, I literally knew one person in town: my friend T (who was the unwitting catalyst of one of my earliest realizations that I was different from everyone else). Years later, he told me that he and his wife had been struck by the expression on my face that first day in town. I'm guessing it was because I had just taken the first step towards eventually becoming myself, even if I didn't realize it at the time.

One of my first stops after my arrival was Safeco Field, the home of the Mariners. I grew up as a long-suffering Red Sox fan in the pre-redemption era. But apparently I was a glutton for punishment, since I was also a dedicated fan of the Mariners, who are, to put it mildly, one of the more star-crossed franchises in baseball. (How many other teams are forced to spend the last 21 games of a season as the road team because their stadium is literally falling apart during warmups)?

I wanted to pick up a few t-shirts and a cap for myself as a sort of welcome-to-town gift to myself. But as soon as I walked in, I was immediately drawn to the stuffed moose display. 

I had my share of stuffed animals as a small child. Unlike girls, though, I had to put mine away once I passed out of childhood. It was one of many things for which I secretly envied my sister. I spent many afternoons in her room while she was out playing, furtively reading her Nancy Drew books while cuddling with Brownie, her beloved stuffed dog. One of these days I need to pick up the entire series and read them from start to finish, since I probably half-read most of them before my sister lost them. But I digress.

I walked over to the display and immediately knew I'd be buying one. When asked, I told the sales clerk it was for my niece… but I knew she would never see Mr. M. And she didn't. 

Mr. M took up residence in my apartment that afternoon, perched up against the backrest on my bed. To this day, the last thing I do every morning, without fail, before heading out for the day, is to prop up Mr. M in his rightful place.

And he's been with me ever since. Moving to Seattle finally stirred up things I'd spent my entire life fighting to suppress. Again, without going into details, you can imagine that this process was/is a slow, painful one. But even when things were at their worst, I always knew Mr. M would be there. And he was.


For several reasons - misguided reasons, which I knew at the time, even if I couldn't admit it - I chose to move back to the East Coast after ten years in Seattle. Again, I'll write more about this later, but suffice it to say I was on the verge of finally acknowledging who I was, and was doing everything in my power to prevent that from happening.

The past few years have been challenging. Work-wise, it's been checkered, to say the least. The job market has been awful, and the best I could manage was a part-time job. Financially, it was very difficult, and will take some time to restore.

On the other hand, I got to live in one of my favorite places for nearly three years. The job, while part-time, introduced me to meet a number of people who became friends outside of work. For those reasons, this layoff was difficult.

So now Mr. M and I are back where it all started for me. As I mentioned at the start of this post, I have mixed feelings about moving back so close to home.

I'm pleased because it's a good company, in a good location (just far enough away from my hometown that I can avoid it for the most part), and with what looks like a good group of co-workers. I'll finally be earning a decent salary after a much-too-lengthy stretch of pinching pennies, which will help with my upcoming transition-related expenses. I'll be closer to many of the specialists I'll need as my transition progresses.

For his part, I'm glad that Mr. M is here with me. A friend recently teased me that in her opinion, Mr. M suffers from MID - that's Moose Identity Disorder, for those of you not in the know. Her theory is that Mr. M really wants to be human, which is why he wears a Mariners uniform all the time. (Apparently his fashion sense is that of your typical human male.) The uniform is a way to hide his inherent… well, moose-ness. 

But, joking aside, Mr. M and his Mariners uniform represent something important to me. He's been with me since I took those first, unknowing steps onto the path on which I now find myself. Being a Mariners fan isn't for the faint of heart, as anyone familiar with their checkered past knows all too well. 

And while things are looking up for the Ms, their goal is still a few years away. Being an Ms fan is a commitment. It means you're willing to look at the big picture. To acknowledge that the process of achieving your goal requires a leap of faith, and a willingness to sacrifice to get there. 

And that's what I see when I look at Mr. M and his uniform. 

A loyal companion.

And a promise of better days ahead.


Eventually, I'll return to the Northwest. I know now why I left, and why it's the right place for me. But I wouldn't have known that if I hadn't left.

Similarly, I know that I'll leave my hometown once I'm living full-time as myself. There are too many painful memories when I look around. 

But for the moment, this is where Mr. M and I found ourselves. It isn't precisely where I want to be. But it will help me - us - get there. And that's more than enough for now.


Here's a lovely solo guitar piece that seems right for this season of new beginnings: Don Ross's "First Ride."


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