Maybe it’s because this is the longest I’ve been away from you, or the fact that in a few short hours I’ll be boarding a plane headed straight for your sunset. But I’ve been thinking about you. And I’ll admit that I’m missing you.
For starters, I miss your more temperate weather! The south does not hold back; it is relentless with humidity. Unlike you, who tends to hold it close, choosing only to reveal it every now and then to remind us how great things usually are. So thank you.
I miss your steady neighbor, the Pacific. She’s vast, in reach and depth, but also with the influence she has on the lives of so many. She keeps showing up, providing both recreation and relief from the relentless sun. And she’s there for those who seek a little more. Peace from the continual sound of her waves. Energy when those same waves come crashing down. She’s a silent companion — a therapist of sorts — offering an unyielding presence at any time of day. How’d you get so lucky, with a neighbor as cool and loyal as the Pacific? I’m envious.
I miss the variety — in landscape and persons. I miss how at once there are the towering Sierras covered in snow and miles of sunny, sandy coastline. How you can be home to so, so, so many different people from (quite literally) every walk of life. Like those brilliant minds up north who work tirelessly, keeping us all connected through technology. Or those who follow their dreams and reach for the stars in Los Angeles. The vagabonds who spend a lifetime trekking between the two. But mostly the laid-back and friendly folk further south who understand the significance of a simple “hello.”
And in that same vein, I miss the very people who make it home.
I miss my family. Mom, dad, and Pearl who are still in San Diego. My sister who lives in Chicago, but will forever be cut from the same cloth as her West Coast family. I miss my grandparents — my grandfathers who are buried just miles from each other in Los Angeles, and my grandmothers who are strong as ever. Aunts, uncles, and cousins.
I miss my friends. My soulmates. Those who have remained closeby since childhood. Who lasted the stress and complications of growing up. Those who lift me up as I flourish, and grasp my hand and hold tightly when I begin to fade. Those who I can share a drink with, wake up alongside with a fuzzy head, and laugh without judgment about the night before.
I miss it all, I do.
But California, don’t get a big head just yet! Like the rest of us, you are far from perfect.
You are crowded. Probably too much so. And though this is likely your biggest flaw, you show no signs of slowing your growth. It’s a shame, really.
I wish that one spot (you know the one) didn’t have to succumb to development to appease the flood of newcomers seeking out their share of the longed-for “golden state of mind.” And, while we’re at it, I wish that your roads were less about a million cars. But I guess that might be a tall order.
You’ve also let Mother Nature walk all over you. I understand there are larger forces at play here, but it doesn’t make me any less sad for you. I wish that wasn’t the case. I wish I didn’t have to watch you burn from way over here.
And the cost of living!? Whew . . . I guess that’s a direct reflection of your draw. You’re beautiful, so you come at a price. Is that how it works now? Or are you trying your best to discourage outsiders? If that’s the case, it’s not really working to your advantage, and you’re making it really hard for us locals (who love you dearly) to stay. Either way, it’s a shame.
All things considered, the good will always outweigh the bad, at least in my mind.
When it comes down to it, I guess I just want to say thank you.
You gave me so much. You gave me an immeasurable amount of love in the form of those family and friends I mentioned above.
You gave me a sunnier state of mind — and yes, that’s something I genuinely attribute to the 20-something years spent in your constant sunshine. I don’t doubt that it somehow altered my chemical makeup.
You gave me all of the experiences that shaped me into the person I am today. Experiences full of triumph and heartbreak. Experiences that made me feel rage, fear, sadness. But countless more that made me feel truly happy.
More than anything, you gave me a place I can call home. And proudly so.
You gave me a destination. An end-point. A goal. Even when life is its most trying and the journey is uncertain, I always know in my deepest parts where I will one day end up. And it’s back to you, California.
I’m sorry that I booked a one-way flight away from your marvel. I left because I am searching for something. I’m still not quite sure what the something is . . . it hasn’t revealed itself to me just yet. But I’m hopeful.
I guess the old saying rings true in this instance . . . “it’s not you, it’s me.”
I hope you understand that I left always planning to return. And one day, I promise you I will.
Until then, thank you. I owe you. And I love you.