Happiness Is The Company You Keep

As I walked to the bus stop the morning of Thursday, November 16, 2006, I called my dad. He and my mom were on vacation in Florida. “You’ll never guess who I had dinner with last night,” I told him. “Not in a million years.”

“Who?” he replied.

“Andrea Betza.”

My dad nearly dropped the phone on the beach at that moment. I’m pretty sure I inherited my good memory from my dad. He remembered my nursery-school sweetheart, who prior to November 2006 I hadn’t seen in 20 years, just as I had.

I met Andrea in Bright Horizons Preschool in 1985, when we both were 4 years old. We “graduated” and moved on to separate kindergartens in 1986. My family moved from New Hyde Park, New York to Syosset, New York, a distance of about 15 miles, in 1987, and that was the end of Andrea’s and my friendship. It wasn’t until 2006, when I looked her up and we later met, that we had had any contact. In 2006 we both lived in the First Hill area of Seattle, closer to each other than we had been in the mid-1980s, and over 2,800 miles from that starting point.

Andrea’s and my reunification was the most extreme example, but I’ve had many other chance encounters with people from my past since I moved here. A couple of months before I looked Andrea up, I was buying a sandwich when I ran into a student in a class I TA’ed at Carnegie Mellon in 2001. At that time she was working at Microsoft. Shortly after I started at Amazon one of my old TAs from 2000 worked on the same floor as I did. (I recognized him; he didn’t remember me.) Andrea’s coauthor on her now-defunct Lesbian News blog was another CMU classmate, Gail, who was also living in Seattle and who I also hadn’t seen since we graduated. At an alumni gathering in Pittsburgh, I met up with Derek, another classmate, and through a series of progressively more granular questions, we realized we lived across the street from one another in Seattle.

Across the street from me in a different direction lived Maggie, who I hadn’t met since we were both at CMU’s radio station WRCT in 1999. (I was the News Director, then I resigned a semester later because I was too busy, and I later learned that nobody ever accepted that resignation.) In 2010 I had referred Paul, a mutual friend and college classmate, to fly to Seattle and interview for my team at Amazon. Paul, in turn, reintroduced me to Maggie at dinner the night before his on-site interview. Paul didn’t get the job, but he did reconnect me with a great young woman who lived within 100 feet of me. Maggie and I continue to hang out six years after Paul introduced us, although we live a little further apart now.

Living in the real-world nexus of my social network has its benefits. I had met Mike in Pittsburgh through his roommate Justin; at the time, Justin was pursuing his Ph.D. at Carnegie Mellon and Mike was an undergraduate at nearby Duquesne University. Justin and Mike had met on The Palace, a graphical chat network, in the ’90s. Mike had moved to Seattle for graduate school at the University of Washington, as had Kayur, an undergraduate classmate of mine at CMU, before I moved to Seattle in 2006. At Mike’s wedding in July 2014, I mentioned to Kayur that I had applied to Tableau but that I hadn’t heard back from them yet. Kayur then put me in touch with his friend and UW classmate Dan, who ended up hiring me to work at Tableau — on a team with an engineer who Kayur had advised while she herself was at UW.

Living in such a vibrant, participatory community as Seattle’s Capitol Hill leads to some interesting social connections as well. For example, for each of the last three years I’ve helped my condo building participate in Seattle Night Out, a free block party event to get neighbors to know each other. At a separate social event in Fremont, near my office, a woman was handing out samples from Theo Chocolates. She lives on Capitol Hill as well and recognized me from Night Out. I’ve had similar encounters around town with people I know from old teams at Amazon, Sunday meetings at the area’s Steelers bars, and even people I recognize from their work at local businesses.

I’ve been very fortunate to have spent over 10 years living in a city of opportunity and growth, surrounded by great spaces and by great people. I hope to be here as long as there’s opportunities forme to improve my community, my company, and myself. Thanks for reading this yearlong series of articles.

This is part 10 of 10 Years, 10 Things to Love, a yearlong series commemorating my 10th anniversary of moving to Seattle.