“If you get the chance, take it. If it changes your life, let it. Nobody said it would be easy, They just promised it would be worth it. ” -Dr Seuss
I saw the above quote this morning while I was scrolling Facebook. It has been rumbling around in my head that I am going to have lived in Bellingham, WA for 5 years as of March 2023. This amount of time passing is, on one hand, unbelievable. I feel like I just got here. And on the other hand, it feels like I have lived here much longer as my whole life has changed so much since I made the big move.
If this is my first blog you have read I’ll catch you up a little bit on the last 5 years. I relocated to Bellingham, WA in March of 2018 after my children were done with high school. I had lived in Arizona for 30 years, and I was ready for something different. I was a single mom with a daughter at Western Washington University. My daughter was the only person I knew in Bellingham. My son chose to stay in Arizona with his father and friends, so I was on my own for the first time ever.
I have been a real estate agent since 2002, but unfortunately that job does not transfer. So I came here to Bellingham, knowing no one, and had to create business for myself in this new place. I took the first year to get to know the area, the neighborhoods, the outlying towns. I walked neighborhoods to get a feel of the community. I fell in love with Bellingham a bit more every day I was here. Eventually my business blossomed and I was selling real estate in this place that I loved, and I have never been happier.
Things have not always been easy for me here in Bellingham. Everything hasn’t been perfect, and I spent some time feeling lonely, scared, and overwhelmed. But today, almost 5 years after I pulled up with my dog Daisy and my cat Shy, I am happier than I have ever been. Bellingham has taught me several life lessons, and I would like to share them here with you.
I have always been the kind of person that has a few close friends rather than lots of acquaintances. I am a natural introvert and find large groups difficult. Living in Arizona where I hated the weather, the politics, and pretty much everything, I had let my friendships fall to the wayside. Now that I was living alone for the first time ever I needed people in my life. I made friends through my Facebook group Bellingham Living. I met people for walks, hikes, tours around town, and anything else that came up. I made more friends by being open to friendships than I had living in Arizona for 30 years. As an introvert saying “yes” to engagements is difficult, and showing up is even more difficult. But I did, I did show up, I said yes when asked to do something, I bought tickets to things I wanted to do and I invited people to come with me. I stepped out of my comfort zone and I made friends. The “Seattle Freeze” ,where it is difficult to make friends if you’re new to the area, has not traveled up north. People have been warm, welcoming, and invested in creating real friendships.
Gratitude is something I learned to really embrace once I relocated to Bellingham. I had spent so many years searching online to find out everything I could about living in the PNW, it was almost unbelievable that I was actually here. When I was lonely, anxious, or any other negative feeling I would say to myself, “Well, at least I’m in Bellingham!” Noticing small things like the wildlife, the green moss on trees, seagulls in town, or the charming brick buildings built in the late 1800’s always cheered me up. There are so many ways that Bellingham is different than Arizona, and I embraced each one of them and celebrated it! I was told time and time again by people that have lived in Bellingham for some time that my excitement about everything had really helped them to appreciate living in Bellingham as well. That made me happy, and I was grateful that I could influence people to see how special Bellingham is, and how lucky we are to live here. Gratitude works on anything, not just living in Bellingham, but living here has really given me something I am truly grateful for every day. Spring time is around the corner and I can’t wait to see the flowers popping up and pink trees. Magic, every day.
Volunteering my time has made me a better person. You may be able to tell by my previous blogs that I care about my community and I want what is best for all people. I started out my time here in Bellingham being a CASA, or a Court Appointed Special Advocate for children being removed from their family by social services. This was a very tough job, but also very rewarding. It ended up being too difficult for me (too emotional), but I highly recommend the position if you’re looking to help out families that really need an advocate. I then chose to volunteer with Homes Now, Not Later which is a local non-profit that houses homeless people in tiny home villages. This is where I met my husband as he was also volunteering for them. My husband has since started his own non-profit to benefit the homeless population of Whatcom county, Serenity Outreach Services, or SOS Bellingham. My daughter works for DVSAS, which is Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Services and they are always in need of new volunteers. Volunteering in your community is a great way to invest in the place you live, meet other like minded people, and basically feel good about yourself. There are tons of other opportunities than the few I have mentioned here, so find one that suits you and get out to do it.
I have to admit before I relocated to Bellingham I was quite the slug. I hated the heat of Arizona, so I hid indoors and was not very active. When I got to Bellingham I wanted to walk every trail, hike every mountain, and learn everything about my new home…on foot. I had my pit bull mix Daisy and we would set out every day to walk somewhere new, explore a new trail, walk downtown or Fairhaven, and try to really wrap my brain around everything my new home had to offer. I walked rain or shine and soon found my favorite places to go. Whatcom Falls is top on the list, and so is walking downtown or Fairhaven and people watching and exploring all of the boutiques and different locally owned shops Bellingham is known for. I have gotten stronger and in better shape now at age 52 than I was throughout my 30’s and 40’s. It took me a while to be able to handle some of the more moderate trails, like Oyster Dome, and I may have practically died trying to do that one right after I arrived in Bellingham, but I didn’t and now it doesn’t scare me a bit. I have also kayaked a few times since being here, and want to do it more. I also plan on taking some yoga classes. People are active in Bellingham and it is easy to find groups for anything you’d like to do.
“Everyone in Bellingham drives a Subaru.” You hear it all of the time. Though that certainly isn’t true, there are an awful lot of people that do, including myself as of about a year ago. If you have large dogs and like to take them with you, Subaru is great. I barely knew anything about Subarus 5 years ago, and now I am an owner just like so many other Bellinghamsters.
When I first arrived in Bellingham, I was less than pleased to hear that people from Bellingham call themselves Hamsters. I made the mistake of saying something about it in Bellingham Living, and let me tell you I came close to being cancelled! I have since come to embrace the Hamsters that we are, and wouldn’t want it any other way.
Love is a crazy word to use in a blog about a city, but I truly have learned how to love since moving here. My friends, my new husband, and even the city have taught me what true love feels like. No one and nothing is perfect, but if you have the right mindset to focus on the positives you will find yourself really falling into love with who and what surround you. Bellingham has made that easy for me as I have learned her rythmns living here for five years. I love the four seasons we experience every year. I am waiting patiently for the pink trees to dot the landscape, both shocking and beautiful in their color. The daffodils are up, and soon the tulip season will be upon us as well. I still think perennials are magic as I didn’t get to experience those in either place I have lived before, (Arizona and Hawaii). Summer will bring the endlessly long days where it stays light until 10pm and there is so much to do in town. Fall is gorgeous, and I even love the cold dark days of winter. I appreciate the people in my life and the full life I am living since starting over here 5 years ago.
Homelessness in Bellingham
This will be my first time touching on this very volatile, divisive topic in my blogs. I had almost no experience with the issue of homelessness until I volunteered with Homes Now, and met my husband who had been working with this population for some time. Homelessness is not just an issue in Bellingham, but it is a significant issue in Bellingham. High rental rates and incomes that didn’t increase along with the rent have led to many housing insecure people becoming homeless. Bellingham has one shelter that provides 200 beds a night to our houseless neighbors. Unfortunately there are many more people living on the street, in the woods, and along our banks than The Mission can take in. There are 3 tiny home villages in town that house another 75 or so people. This is a wonderful solution to getting people off the street, but finding places for the tiny home villages to sit has kept this from growing. I have learned that there are many reasons people are homeless, and to not judge anyone before I know them. There are lots of possible solutions to helping the homeless population get housed and back on their feet. Unfortunately these solutions require City Council members to buy into them, and so far there are not any solutions on the table to work on getting the many people living in tents and doorways housed. I have hope that solutions will present themselves that City Council can get behind, and we will become a progressive city in the way that we deal with the most fragile among us. Living in Bellingham has taught me to see the homeless people, to assess them for obvious needs (like shoes, a jacket, a hat) and to do what I can to help out.
Bellingham has shown me so many things, and I have changed, and adapted, and might I even say transformed to being the person I am today. I am more appreciative, much happier, surrounded by love, and excited to get up each day. From its natural beauty to its cool downtown and adorable Fairhaven, Bellingham is the place for me.