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I moved to Spokane from another state during the pandemic. Here’s what I learned

The author poses in Riverfront Park in September, shortly after moving to Spokane.  (Karen Gordon)

We didn’t get to Spokane until nightfall.

My first memory is of the Steam Plant lit up along I-90, a landmark I’d familiarized myself with through Google Maps that stood out that night as a glamorous welcome to my new life in the big city. I didn’t even know what it was called at the time.

Now, seven months later, I sit down to write this drinking an iced coffee I bought as an excuse to leave the house.

A year into the coronavirus pandemic, I think even the most avowed homebodies have developed more of an appetite for those mundane outings. But for me, the past few months of the shutdowns have been doubly jarring: After 10 years as a reporter in Redding, California, I moved to Spokane and started a new job in the midst of it all.

It made no sense. To the point I’d stopped even looking for different work, in spite of how badly I’d wanted it. Because how could someone move to a new state, move at all, during a pandemic? Someone like me, no less?

I’ve never been a risk-taker. I’d spent the previous four months barely even going to the grocery store, and now I’d be interacting with landlords, movers, DMV employees?

What about my loved ones? Not only would I be moving farther from them at a time when travel is risky, I knew the closest people in my circle would insist on helping me through the process. And what normally amounts to jokes about the misery of packing being compensated with pizza turned into a potential life-or-death equation.

Still, I already lived a few hours from my family, and we’re supposed to be staying away from each other anyway, right? Maybe, I told myself, forced social distancing because of geographic distance could be what prevented someone from getting sick, if, after months of lockdown, a seemingly innocent visit would have been too hard to resist with only a couple hours between us?

Ultimately, an old friend and my mom convinced me that I needed to keep looking for a new job if I really was unhappy, pandemic or no.

I always say I don’t believe in fate, but what happened next was certainly at least compelling. A job that sounded so perfect for me, in a city that I’d never considered, but that somehow seemed equally perfect for me: an assistant city editor at The Spokesman-Review.

I’d applied for jobs and even been offered a few, but there was always something that gave me pause. Other than the distance from my family (nine-plus hours, according to Google, that somehow turned into 13 once moving day actually came around), this opportunity didn’t.

I’ll speed past the dramatic part where I’m soul-searching on a beach, under a face mask, brooding over how I could possibly say yes, considering all the obstacles, and how I could possibly say no to the life I really wanted just because the timing was terrible.

At the end of it all, I decided to move to a city I’d never even visited, and leased an apartment I’d never seen in person, during a pandemic.

I worked in the office for a few weeks in the beginning just to get situated. It’s awkward and, frankly, just weird to meet your new colleagues (the ones I have met) while wearing a mask, but I knew what I was getting into.

Spokesman-Review night assistant city editor Alayna Shulman is pictured walking to the S-R building during her first week on the job in September.  (Karen Gordon)
Spokesman-Review night assistant city editor Alayna Shulman is pictured walking to the S-R building during her first week on the job in September. (Karen Gordon)

I’ve been working from my (new) home since early October, and by now, I joke that it’s hard to know if time is moving strangely because of the pandemic or because of the move.

How is it that just a few months ago, I was stuck in a rut in the same town I’d lived for the past decade? That barely a year ago, I was working daily from an office in that town, writing stories about how the “novel” coronavirus wasn’t likely to impact our everyday lives?

Being in a new place during the anxious days of a pandemic hasn’t been easy, but it also hasn’t been as bad as I thought it could be.

I’ve always been pretty introverted, so, in a strange way, being new in town when everyone is staying home anyway was the perfect way to adjust to the overall change without feeling unique in my isolation.

I’ve created my own rituals, like driving around to tour my new city while listening to music, or just thinking, all the while keeping a running list of the places I want to try when it’s safe.

As sad as that may sound, I see good in it, too.

After all, the weirdness of this move has made me more excited to start living a normal life again than I would have been if I’d stayed in California. And even more excited to start my new life than if I’d come into it under traditional circumstances.

Would I recommend moving somewhere new during a pandemic? It’s certainly ideal to wait, if possible. That’s just common sense, not insight.

Do I recommend waiting no matter what, though? Even when an opportunity comes up like the one I had?

I said I’m not a risk-taker. But, considering what I did, maybe I just see risk a little differently. Maybe some of us prefer to save up the courage we would have spent on small, everyday risks for the big, scary ones that really count.

The work I want, in the place I want, even in the time I don’t …

This one counts.

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