be calm. be brave. it'll be okay.

dorthy moves

to click her ruby red shoes

right in tune

with dark side of the moon.

someone, someone could tell me

where i belong.

be calm. be brave.

it’ll be okay.

There is a certain power in favorite words and phrases. You know, the kind that call out to you from a movie, a book, a song. Maybe it is a pop hook, maybe it’s a reminder to be better or to let it go. Maybe it is just a clever anecdote that temporarily causes your cheeks to glow, your lips to crease towards the sky - however brief the smile may be. Often these phrases are affirmations, words built to become tiny pats on the back when you need them most. They may be the phrase you repeat over and over again in your longest runs or your most challenging lift.

I didn’t realize the strength of a repetitive phrase until I stood on the incline 205 Spring Street in Seattle one early morning in August. Having just arrived in the city, it had become clear that living in the city would be much more simple if I (and my trusted steed of a Hyundai) were registered to the State of Washington. Alas, I had walked the 40 minutes to the Department of Licensing at the crack of dawn, hoping to make quick work of the change of state residence.

Boy, what an underestimation of both paperwork and laws…and lines.

As I stood in a line that stretched well down the road (covering just shy of a full block) I began to question what exactly I had thought would be simple about this process. In what quickly became a domino effect, my thoughts of the car registration gave way to a much more serious question, “What exactly was I expecting?” And this time, I knew that my thoughts were not simply asking about this whole license debacle. Here, my good friend and I were many miles from any sense of familiarity without a clear direction. Free in every sense of the word. What if you can’t get this license? What happens if they say you’re missing something? So far from home, no one can help you do this now, what if you can’t do this yourself? Every doubt I had about myself and my abilities came quickly to the surface as I began to wonder if maybe driving out here was a bit of naive choice. Suddenly, I heard the familiar sound of a Guster song break through the thoughts that were sounding alarms in my conscious.

“Be calm. Be brave. It’ll be okay.”

I’m not certain what planted the seed of this song in my head at that moment, but it was a much-needed respite from the onslaught of thoughts terrorizing my still groggy mind. I slipped out my phone and plugged in to play the entire song. I left it on repeat for the next 30 minutes as I waited to change my information. The line moved up the hill. Reaching the door and stepping into the building felt like a milestone. Suddenly, it was my turn to check off this to-do. Or so I thought.

While I could prove that I did in fact live in an apartment in the city, I could not yet update any records. My car was still registered under my father’s name. And in case you’re wondering, no, that is not something they handle. Suddenly, my worst thoughts seemed probable. Without that change, I couldn’t get a pass to park - I’d be at the mercy of metered spots, and the stockpile of quarters I kept in my car console. It might not seem like much, but at the time, all I could see was this vision of myself pouring all my savings into a void of parking and expenses. No wonder parking is the most stressful part of visiting cities.

Be calm. Be brave. It’ll be okay.

I had to wait until the next business day for the offices to open so I could change my registration. In between the moments I kept telling myself that this whole change of address and registration will be simple with the next step figured out. Once in the registration office, I was given yet another surprise. My dad can’t just sign the title over to me. It needs to be sold to me - which was a laughable offense considering this was the car I bought. Alas, the ball was out of my court. As I left, I called my dad and asked if he could sell me my car.

Be calm. Be brave. It’ll be okay.

In a few days, it’s become apparent that selling your car to yourself isn’t that simple. My dad will have to get it notarized - and I’ll have to pay two separate state fees and taxes - even if the car is “gifted.” Once again, I was proven just how little understanding of the world I had - and just how expensive it can be to do the bare minimum of parking in a place that you live. Once sold, the car’s title will need to be mailed to me, and I’ll need to trudge back to the office to switch the car over. Oh, let the trudging begin…

Be calm. Be brave. It’ll be okay.

Once I’ve got the car switched over, I was able to prove my residence and that I did in fact own the car I was driving - so I made my way to the licensing center, or at least the line to get in. It’s been a few weeks, but there’s no shortage of people trying to get in the building. So I wait, and I listen to that song, and I inch forward. Once I get in, I am finally awarded my license. A small feat that felt incredibly rewarding. Maybe from all the miles I had to walk just to get there - maybe from the simple fact that I hadn’t lost all my money to the parking services of Seattle. The journey was far from over, as now I needed to go back to the registration office to prove that I now proved to Seattle that I lived there - and thus needed a new license plate and parking permit. Another day…

Be calm. Be brave. It’ll be okay.

I made it to the same office just to find out that they couldn’t hand out the new plates. I’d need to go to Ballard to get that much-needed piece of automotive decoration. And a permit can’t go on a car not plated in the state - so I’d have to come back after that. I’d never know such heartbreak until that moment. It felt truly like I had tried so hard and got so far, but in the end it didn’t even matter…. They were kind enough to award me a temporary pass while I sorted out the rest of this journey.

Be calm. Be brave. It’ll be okay.

Within a week, I drove up to Ballard, confident in only the idea that at this point there was no more steps to this process that could be introduced that would at least surprise. “Sorry sir, you need to be 5’9’’ to get plates in Seattle.” Once I got my plates, I set out the next day for the final leg of my journey - the tiny sticker that would allow me to park my car on approximately 500 square feet of the city, for any 48-hour sections of time.

Be calm. Be brave. It’ll be okay.

I walked into the large elevator one last time, to zoom up to the offices where I could get my sticker of parking immunity. When I walked in the door with the last of the papers I needed, I felt like everyone in that office was cheering my name. I heard excited shouts of joy, I saw banners and balloons. I felt like I was 5’9’’ walking up to the desk to pay my final fee and get that blessed sticker. Of course, the only real noise was the occasional cough and sniffle - a must-have in any true office setting. At last, I was awarded my sticker and I walked home to place that trophy on my window for all to see.

Maybe getting a simple parking sticker doesn’t require any specific amount of calm-ness or bravery. But miles from home, in a land so new and large, it certainly felt like a lot more than just a sticker. Every time I hear the soft beat of the drums as “Come Downstairs and Say Hello” begins, I can’t help but smile at the thought of that little red trophy or the 13 trips it took to obtain.

Be calm. Be brave. It’ll be okay.