Many people ask me why I love Seattle so much. Sometimes, I even hear disapproval in their voice. Especially when it comes to my folks. There is one thing you need to know about us people from Hamburg in Northern Germany: We are beyond proud of our home town, and there is no doubt in “Hamburgers'” minds that our city is the most beautiful of all cities. (It really sounds bad in English to say “Hamburgers”, especially since I am a vegetarian!) We even have two different names for people from Hamburg: native-borns and borns. If I remember correctly, the born Hamburgers are the ones whose family members up to grandparents are all from Hamburg. Without exception. And the native-borns are the ones who just were born there. Only to give you an idea what snobs we are!
Yes, I do love my home town. However, I feel as if Seattle were my real home. Even if that means I am getting tarred and feathered on my next visit to Hamburg. I mean, of course, my friends and family whom I miss dearly will always come first if I had to make a decision as of where to live, but if I could, I would rather have them all live in Seattle, so I could have the best of everything. So what’s special about the “rainy city”?
Of course, Seattle has plenty of great attributes: its variety of neighbourhoods includes everything from Scandinavian to Asian, but what makes it even better is its closeness to so many beautiful places: Within an hour or two you can be by the ocean, in the mountains, in the rainforest or in the wine country. Seattleites are extremely friendly, very polite, and the least pretentious of all people I know. (The downside is that they are also the least fashionable people I know, but oh well…) Well, I could go on and on, but I really don’t want to drag any more tourists to Seattle. Of course, I realize that there are plenty of cities who might offer the same advantages, maybe even more. Maybe I would love those cities just as much, but I doubt it. Because my love for this city goes beyond. As my friend the wise Miss N. puts it: “Seattle is a transformative city.” At least for me.
I just got reminded of that while browsing through the latest edition of Yoga Journal. One article caught my special attention: It deals with false-identification, or asmita in Sanskrit. If you are interested in yoga philosophy, you should definitely read it. The article is about how we sometimes identify ourselves with parts of our lives that change. E.g. you might refer to yourself as “teacher” or “mother” or “beautiful” or “successful”. If those circumstances change, we often feel like our whole life is falling apart.
However, there is a part of us that never changes, our true self. Yet, we often ignore that part, because we become so attached to the image we have created of ourselves. To connect with our true self, the author recommends “Find a place where you feel comfortable, nurtured, and supported and that you associate with feeling like your best self. If you cannot find such a physical place, think of a place or a memory that you associate with this feeling. It might be a spot under a tree you loved as a child or the memory of playing a favorite game or riding your bike.”
And that’s exactly what happened to me when we started to build our new life in Seattle. Some of you may have read my post about homesickness where I talked about my difficulties with settling in. After weeks, or rather: months of misery I did exactly what Kate Holcombe suggests: I dived back into my childhood, remembering what I used to love, and I found out that at my core I hadn’t changed at all. And just connecting with this inner child helped me find inner peace and happiness.
For years, I had been trying so hard to be someone else. To be stronger, tougher, less vulnerable, but the truth is I am still the same that I used to be when I was little. Seattle helped me to see that it is OK. That the world needs all sorts of people, that we can’t be all the same, that there is no “normal”. I am not sure whether this could have happened in any city, or whether Seattle played a special role because of its very unique people. But it doesn’t really matter. The fact is, that it was Seattle that let me remember and discover my true self again.
I remember this afternoon in a little bakery on Bainbridge Island (huh, so now my Seattle friends even know why I am so attached to Bainbridge!). I was sitting under the blossoming cherry trees crying because I felt so lonely and homesick, and it was exactly then that I suddenly dipped into my childhood memories and realized that there was a part of me that remains the same no matter what happens on the outside. And after some time and hard work where I tried to shift my view of the world and re-discovered the things I loved to do instead of the things I thought I was supposed to do, I had this unbelievable feeling of strength, like nothing could ever hurt and haunt me anymore, for my core would always remain untouched.
That’s why Seattle plays such a special role in my life, and I will always, always keep this little bakery on Bainbridge Island in my heart, no matter where we might be living in the future.