A Chattanewbie Looks Back on Her First Year

Just a little more than a year ago my family and I moved to Chattanooga. We actually moved in July, but it took us until November to really get settled and recognize (and accept) our new reality. The enthusiasm with which I approached our move initially vanished as I realized the challenge of making friends in a city like this. After stewing in my loneliness for a few months, I committed to figuring out what my new home had to offer and where I fit in. I’m still figuring it out, but I love my new home and can’t imagine leaving. I thought I’d take a minute to share some of the things I love about Chattanooga.

First, no other city in this region can compete in terms of natural beauty. It ain’t called the Scenic City, for nothin’, folks.

Seriously, I fully expect to die from being distracted by one of the ten natural wonders I get distracted by while driving each day. The sunrises and sunsets are the most spectacular I’ve ever seen. The way the clouds hang in front of the mountains. The fog. The fall colors. The perfect blue skies reflected in lakes in the summer. The way nature surrounds and entwines with the city itself. All of it delights and overwhelms me every day.

Next, I love actually living in the city rather than merely being part of a teeming metropolis.

I like to think of myself as a city girl, but really, in Atlanta, I lived the life of a suburban girl who spent time in the city, when she felt like dealing with the traffic. In Chattanooga, I actually live in the city and can walk or bike almost anywhere I need to go. Big Box stores require driving to the ‘burbs, but within walking distance of my house lie all of life’s necessities. Or at least many of them. I have Publix and Whole Foods; three or four clothing boutiques including my favorite, Backstreet Betty’s. We have an ice cream shop, more restaurants than I can store in working memory, three coffee shops – one with gelato – a home goods/gift shop or three, a pet groomer, a great pet store also with a groomer and bath stations, three awesome city parks, hair and nail salons, and too much other cool stuff to enumerate.

Then – and this goes hand-in-hand with the city’s natural beauty – I love the easy access to outdoor activities.

Admittedly I haven’t quite taken advantage of them all like I wanted to, but adventure awaits! This summer I started exploring some local trails. I can walk to Stringer’s Ridge from my house so I’ve definitely explored it the most, but my kids and I have loved taking our dog up to the Glen Falls trail on Lookout Mountain and splashing in the waterfall pool there. And we have so many more to explore! Plus, with multiple waterways, from the beautiful Tennessee River to the many lakes and North Chickamauga Creek, opportunities abound to explore my burgeoning interest in kayaking and stand-up paddle boarding. Chattanooga has also built a reputation as one of the most bike-friendly cities in the South and is the first place that has ever made me consider getting a bike. When I eventually get a bike, I plan to check out the Bike Commuting 101 class offered by Outdoor Chattanooga, a part of the city parks and recreation department.

Of course, living the life of a Chattanoogan can wear you out, too.

From civic engagement with groups like the Metro Ideas Project or a group like Chattanewbies which seeks to connect those new to Chattanooga with each other, along with the dozens of festivals, literary events, races, concerts, film screenings or the other family-friendly events here, it feels as if we always have something to do. I have had to learn to pace myself.

Finally – and I saved my favorite part for last – I’ve met some truly incredible people here.

Fun people, smart people, amazing people doing wonderful things. I’ve made great friends with moms from my sons’ school; with women from the Intention Collective I joined to find inspiration; with people I met through my husband, through social media, and especially with other women I got connected to through this blog. I’ve met women who want to make our world better through creating a more equitable society and by fixing our schools; and women who collaborate to bring public art to our city. Some have become treasured friends, some just inspiring acquaintances, but I’m certain I’ve met more new people here than I ever would have had I stayed in Atlanta. It took longer than I imagined or hoped to make friends and find my place here, but now that I have, I’m not sure I would have it any other way.

If anything – and I know this sounds sappy and clichéd – living in this gorgeous nature preserve of a city really has taught me everything happens in its own time. As we enter the season for giving thanks and celebrating our blessings, I can easily say I’m grateful to live in Chattanooga.

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