My family moved to the south Puget Sound when I was very young—aside from a few scattered memories of previous homes, I essentially grew up here. When I was five, we moved to Parkland, and while I tell people I grew up in Tacoma it wasn't until I was 22 that my husband and I got our first apartment in the city. I still remember the very moment I fell in love with the city. It was the summer I got my drivers license, shortly after turning 18—a friend and I were driving around exploring, and I wanted to see where Pacific Avenue went beyond 56th street.
As we came over the hill, I remember thinking "what is that?" (At this point I imagine that anybody familiar with the city of Tacoma knows exactly what I am referring to—downtown.) I was so excited as I got to the bottom of the hill, as we passed the high rises, the museums, the historic store fronts—I didn't realize something like this existed outside of Seattle.
Over the next few years, I explored Tacoma. I made it my home. I take a great sense of pride in knowing that I get to experience the city as it develops its own identity. I love watching the differentiation of different neighborhoods, and following the blogs documenting the growth of the city. I love transit, and I love public art. (And I won't lie, the occasional smell has grown on me.)
One thing I don't love, is when the conservative background of Pierce County rears its ugly head and influences design in the city. For instance, when the city approves for a private group to pursue installing a gigantic piece of art on the Tacoma Dome and people shit all over it. Or when the County Council approves a building that is equal parts huge, and inoffensive. Or when public transportation is being held back in the city by voters in towns that don't need it.
I feel a lot of Tacoma's problems come forth from its history of being second best. Sometimes I feel the citizens of this city are afraid to embrace its developing personality. They're afraid to let go of the dusty old image of a working class city that doesn't innovate—the city that let its downtown become a parking lot.
Tacoma isn't that city anymore. Tacoma isn't a city that needs to defend itself. Tacoma isn't a city that needs other cities to validate its existence. Tacoma isn't a city that should keep settling for second best.