It surprises me how much I love getting out of the city. Growing up in a teenie, tiny town on an island, I always longed to live in a massive city filled with endless things to do and thriving opportunity. Now that I do live in one, my life just doesn’t stop in it and I get so caught up in the hustle & bustle of Seattle. I’m still learning how to slow down and be a bit easier on myself in terms of self care (i.e., by taking more breaks, etc.) and have been having so much fun exploring Washington with my baby. And by my baby, of course I mean my car! 🙂 It arrived nearly a month ago, and has been fantastic to finally have here with me at last. Having the ability to leave city limits to go wherever I want to, whenever I need to is quite liberating!
Last week, I drove to Bellingham on my own. I needed a haircut from my long time hair stylist there (who, by the way, is amazing and totally worth driving an hour and a half for!). But I also wanted to take a break, catch up with one of my favorite friends, and see a familiar place that I admittedly, sometimes forget.
I shamelessly blasted old music on the way in my car that I used to listen to while I was a student at Western Washington University several years ago. The songs brought back a lot of old memories with a tinge of nostalgia. But it was also difficult to even fathom that I ever lived in Bellingham since that chapter of my life feels like forever ago. I am no longer the same person I was when I lived there. So many things about my life have changed since then: my hopes, my interests, my goals, and most importantly, myself.
I was 17, and 3 weeks fresh out of high school when I first came to Western Washington University as a dance major for my first quarter of college. I celebrated my 18th birthday at Western that summer, I met one of my best friends in the dance department, and I worked with an incredibly supportive triple threat of a mentor/advisor/boss on-campus who I am fortunate to still keep in touch with today. These were just some of the positive highlights of my time living in Bellingham during my first 2 years of adulthood.
Western was also a place where growing pains hit me hard. I didn’t understand why I felt so empty there, and why I wasn’t completely fulfilled in Bellingham. Before I knew it, I began to acknowledge that the environment did not suit me and my needs best. But it simply didn’t make sense to me back then. I wrote a quote on my dry erase board in my dorm which kept me going through my transfer process. It read, “In the end, everything will work itself out.” I never erased it, and took the dry erase board with me when I transferred to the University of Washington (UW) in Seattle. It still stands in my apartment today, and I definitely believe that means something.
During my trip to Bellingham, I saw my memories carefully tucked away in little pockets of the sleepy town. I find it so odd that when I returned, I vividly remembered how I felt when I lived there. I recognized my old dorm room, the (now ironically closed) Korean restaurant my first boyfriend took me to, and the shopping mall I religiously went to every weekend when I wanted to be in the most urban-like place in town. Revisiting these places filled with my memories felt so surreal, and yet so different in retrospect. All the emotions of that chapter in my life came flooding back to me. It reminded me, with fondness, of my former self: what I used to do and who I was 3 years ago.
People ask me if I would change my journey of how I got to the UW, if I could. While that’s a very understandable curiosity, people don’t realize how much personal growth I endured during my transfer process. Transferring forced me to take a hard, honest look at myself and what I wanted out of my education and life. Western did not fit my needs or desires, but the empty void I felt there sparked my motivation to fulfill it somewhere else. Had I not gone to Western, I would have never found UW. I would have never grown so much personally, academically and professionally had I not had the need to seek out the place where I truly needed and wanted to be.
I grew into a better, stronger version of who I am and developed the courage to move on to UW, which went above and beyond in giving me the experience I needed and I wanted so badly. The challenges Western gave me made my time at UW more meaningful than it otherwise would’ve been. While I chose to leave Western, that doesn’t mean it didn’t leave a significant mark on me. I grew up in so many different facets at Western, and that means much more to me than people assume.
I had been wanting to come to terms with my past for a long time now, and genuinely being so happy to be in Bellingham again made me realize and appreciate how life always comes full circle. Transferring was the biggest risk I took during my college career, and I find great comfort and happiness in knowing that it ended up being worth it all. And I wouldn’t change how it worked itself out for the world.