I wrote this piece back in May of 2020. Dug it out this morning and decided to publish it with a few edits. It’s an ode to Seattle and what it meant for me when I lived there. I miss you, Great Pacific Northwest!
I want to just write about Seattle today.
It comes as no surprise that I used to hate Seattle back when I was attending dental school at the UW. Hate is probably a strong word, but yeah, I did not like it at all. My plan had always been to move away from Seattle after graduation. Why? Because, I had family living in California, it only ‘made sense’ to be closer to them. Why move to a foreign country where you don’t know anyone and choose to then live in a city where nobody knows you either? For a girl from sunny Dubai, getting used to the rainy and overcast days in Seattle was a little tough, but surprisingly that wasn’t the worst thing. I actually welcomed the pleasant climate, snowcapped mountains and lakes in Seattle. I think it was just me missing my family back home in Dubai, and then the other family I had in California, that made the initial months so difficult. My boyfriend, now husband, was in California too at the time, so traveling to the Bay Area was something I was always looking forward to.
Micro aggressions I faced as a brown skinned dental student at the UW, though to be expected, obviously didn’t help either. I had more than one patient be disrespectful, and a particular incident that was so overwhelming that I had to report it to HR. The patient was later dismissed from the school. However, when I look back at it now, it wasn’t even that that upset me about Seattle.
I was 25 when I moved to Seattle. It was the first city in America that became home to me. I was an immigrant, still learning the ropes, figuring out how to communicate, and finding my position in the new world. Everything was foreign and unique to me, just the way I was to everything around me. Place me in any city and I would have probably felt just the same. I realize that now, but I didn’t know it back then and blamed Seattle for a lot of my typical newcomer challenges.
I remember thinking in my early days in Seattle, how cold and unwelcoming people here were. How hard it was to make friends and organize game nights, or hiking excursions with others. Now I can see that people were probably just as shy as I was. That does not make them cold. I notice a world of a difference, in my own feelings towards the city, when I become the first to smile and say hi to a stranger across the aisle at the grocery store.
Its only now that I’m a practicing dentist living in the heart of city that I realize everything Seattle has to offer to its residents, and to me specifically as a young dentist, and as a writer. I see that Seattle is the home to so many dental study clubs; Kois and Seattle Study Clubs were born here. When I started a business study club so that my friends and I could learn together about the business side of dentistry, it provided me with purpose and commitment. I saw how much my friends needed that, especially during the pandemic. Institutions like the Washington Academy of General Dentistry put on an impressive display of continuing education webinars that were free to all dentists (this year). These speakers and hosting organizations gave us the gift of CE (continuing education. It really touched my heart to see our Clubs in Seattle leading the way for the rest of the country. When you’re out of a paycheck for two months thanks to the pandemic, being able to take free CE means a lot.
As a writer, being just a few blocks or a quick drive from some of the most beautiful bookshops and libraries in the city was comforting. Even just walking past Hugo House, Central Library, The Elliot Bay Book Company or Ada’s and smelling coffee being brewed outside of Storyville and Espresso Vivace filled me with joy. I don’t think I could ever walk past Espresso Vivace and not order a cappuccino to go. I also think that I only went to see my chiropractor in downtown and paid for the ridiculously overpriced parking lot across Pike Place Market, only so that I could enjoy a few moments of peace with a cuppa hot joe at Storyville. And the ‘surprise’ free hot chocolate cake slice that was offered to all patrons at the right time of day!
We have reached a point now where my husband and I have completed some of the best hikes the region has to offer. However, we are still left with so many more wonderful places to see. Glacial lake hikes, mountain tops, lush green walking trails, the list continues. When you’re in the PNW the list will be endless.
I feel very privileged to be able to drive under 30 mins and find a beautiful hike, or a walk, or have the opportunity to climb up the mountain to get a great view. There’s very few places around the world that you are able to do that, and it is something we absolutely love about Seattle.
The other day we visited the Seattle arboretum, while it was at its peak of bloom. Beautiful hybrids, hibiscuses and hydrangeas all around, it was a true treat for the senses. I had to take off my mask to smell the flowers because the smell was so good!!!! I heard my husband mention, ‘how come we don’t visit the arboretum for a walk, it is literally a few minutes away from us’. It was true. However, I replied, ’how many people get to say that they ran around a lake every day, which we do? We should be so grateful for our lake view.’ Not only was Seattle green and lush, but many of us also have the opportunity to witness the majesty of Lake Union daily. Spread like a crystal blanket in the middle of the city.
Sometimes we are presented with a unique opportunity to reflect and introspect on our lives. The pandemic was it, for many of us. I started enjoying Seattle a long time ago but during the pandemic, the beauty and warmth of Seattle made it impossible for others not to see its value too.
One of my dear friends messaged and said she wished she was in Seattle during the quarantine! And I believe that statement to be true. I’d rather be here than anywhere else.
Seattle might not be a city everyone dreams of moving to. It’s not San Francisco or NYC. Many people who move to Seattle might also not grow to like it as much as I do. But I do know one thing for sure. Once I’d decided to welcome it in my heart, it welcomed me back, that’s all I care about. And that’s all that matters in the end really. Seattle is home.