“Los Angeles, I Am Yours/California Stars”
In the fall of 2010, a feeling that had been quietly rising within me for some time finally became too much to ignore. In a brief moment of courage and/or insanity, I decided to walk away from a prospering career, amazing friends, a loving family, and life in the only state I had ever known. My reasons for making such a decision were numerous, but I ultimately made the decision to answer some profound questions about myself. I needed to know who I was and who I wanted to be. I needed to discover some truth and test my limits. I needed to build a life lived on my own terms. At the age of 27, I no longer thought I could discover those things in Oklahoma. In my mind, only self-reliance could deliver me to some sense of truth. Six years later and at the age of 33, I have come to the sense and acknowledgment that I was correct. The greatest test of my short life has delivered the most fantastic results. Now, with someone standing by my side, we find ourselves needing this kind of test once again.
Living in Seattle and working in Kent, I discovered new friends, work, organizations, and adventures.
My Pacific Northwest friends have become my family. Not a day passes me by without thinking about those I loved who are still back in Oklahoma. Every day, I miss out on weddings, anniversaries, birthdays, and family gatherings. In the last six years, the telephone and social media have become a window into a world I no longer get to experience on a regular basis. In an effort to fill this void, I made new friends. The people who I have met here couldn’t have been kinder or more welcoming. They’ve welcomed me into their homes, invited me to eat at their table, cried with me, laughed, and helped me celebrate. They were friends and family when my friends and family couldn't be here. The love they gave me is immeasurable. My solemn hope is that I have been half of what they have been for me.
My work at Kent Youth and Family Services has been the most important of my life. In six years, we’ve raised nearly $1.3 million from 2,000 donors and impacted the lives of nearly 1,000 youth and families. Those are numbers, stories, families, and faces that will stay with me wherever I go. The impact I have had on them pales in comparison to the impact they have had on me. Beyond the actual work, I must thank my fellow employees, especially my boss, Mike Heinisch. For six years now, I haven’t been directed. Rather, I have been mentored, encouraged, and challenged. I was made to feel like an equal and a valuable part of the KYFS family. For those lessons, I will be eternally grateful. To my KYFS family, you have been there since day one. You have offered a shoulder to cry on, countless words of advice, and appreciation. Again, it is my solemn hope that I was able to give half of what you have given me.
The organizations I found myself a part of have had a profound impact on me. As I publish this, I find myself as the President of the Rotary Club of Kent, Chapter Adviser for the Beta Beta Chapter of Pi Kappa Alpha at the University of Washington, and a board member of the South King Council of Human Services, as well as Theatre Battery. When I moved to Seattle, I made a conscious effort to give back to my community. I wanted to use my time and talents to make a difference. In my mind, my work at a nonprofit wasn’t enough. I needed to practice what I preached. These organizations have provided that opportunity. They have groomed me, shaped me, believed in me, and prepared me to be a better leader. Beyond the experiences, they have given me some of my best friends in the world. Honestly, leaving them is the hardest part of this decision. I can’t help but feel as if I am abandoning them and leaving at a critical moment in time. Despite how I feel, I find solace in the knowledge that all of them existed before me and all will stand long after I am gone. My solemn hope here is that I made a difference in their lives because I know they have transformed mine for the better.
My adventures in Seattle were without compare. The majesty of the Olympics and Cascades will inspire me for the rest of my life. I will never ever forget hiking amongst their trees, streams, and mountains. They changed me for the better. My activities outside of work here included hiking, photography, reading, writing, cinema, and much more. Here, I found new passions and opportunities. Each one of these experiences made me fall in love and discover new things about myself. Being in love with who I am wasn’t necessarily a feeling I always possessed back in Oklahoma. In Washington, I found like-minded people, I came out, and discovered Buddhism. I advanced my education and gained a Master’s degree. I’ll never be able to repay what this state and its people gave me. Honestly, I wouldn’t even know where to start.
Finally, I fell in love in Washington. Without a shadow of a doubt, I want to spend the rest of my life with Brandon Reaves. He is the first thought that enters my mind in the morning and the last thing as I fall asleep. I would do anything to make him happy. I would move to Los Angeles for him. When he said he needed something new, a new life, new schools, new friends, new chapters and to start over, I could relate. Those same feelings led me to Seattle. I firmly believe we all deserve a chance to begin anew, test ourselves, and discover hidden potential. Within Brandon, I see someone who can one day be a fantastic executive chef. He can own restaurants and contribute massively to the culinary world. In fact, when I think of his potential, it takes all that I have to contain my joy and pride.
So, when Brandon hinted at needing a change of venue, it set off a year’s worth of conversations. We’ve discussed family, friends, work, and commitments. We’ve discussed the process of moving and starting over. We’ve discussed how to keep our relationship strong and thriving. We’ve discussed my needs, as well as his. We’ve discussed it from every angle conceivable. Then I remembered some advice my mother once gave me. She once told me that we are given certain opportunities in our romantic relationships when we will be asked to support our partners no matter what. They may need to move. They may need a new job. They may need to go back to school. They may need to start over. They may not be able to put what they need in words but we are tasked with supporting and saying yes if we possibly can. Remembering my challenges before moving, I have decided to say yes. Los Angeles, I am yours; the California dreams will be attempted by me.
Leaving the aforementioned behind isn’t easy nor is it a decision we make lightly. But I would do everything in my power to put a smile on my partner’s face. His happiness is mine. I also know Seattle and its people have given me everything I need to do this again. While it is impossible to say goodbye without some sense of loss, I will do so knowing all that has been given and all yet to be received. All I can say now is thank you from the bottom of my heart. Every person I have met here will always be with me. For that, I am eternally grateful.