Shawn and I are about a month into our new life on the West coast, and a lot of friends have been asking me how I like it here. My answer is always: “It’s Great! I love it!” because, well…I simply don’t have the time (nor do they) to sit down and explain my whole array of feelings about it. The true and short answer is that my feelings about the move are great, but mixed.
Just yesterday Shawn and I were talking about this, and I’m pretty sure we feel roughly the same way at this point. The “oh-my-god-we-are-finally-here” honeymoon is over and the real feelings are starting to move in like so many storm clouds. I have a tendency to hold in my feelings, but I think it affects Shawn in a more outwardly obvious fashion. As he explained it to me, he’s been feeling sort of “blah,” and as a result he’s been unmotivated to do much more than sculpt and watch television. It’s hard to get him to even come out for a walk or go to the movies. He knows that he made the right decision to move out here, and he knows intellectually that his feelings of homesickness and uprooted discomfort will pass, but it still bothers him at the moment. It doesn’t even matter that he grew up here. The friends we have known for a dozen years are 3,000 miles away. Our families, our favorite restaurants, roads and highways we are able to navigate without help from technological devices, they are no longer things we can get to without a pricey plane ticket. And although we thought the decision through for several years, no amount of sureness and careful planning can circumvent that feeling of having been transplanted into such an unfamiliar section of the world.
I love San Diego, and I have no doubts in my mind that I belong here. In a very general and sweeping way, southern California people are more like me than New England people are. They’re…sunnier. More calm and trusting. Open-minded. They like to be outdoors a lot more, and are healthier in many ways. To them, life is less complicated. Of course, I’ve made some great friends with all of these qualities back in New England, but here I see people like this just about everywhere I go.
This is a beautiful place to live in, as well. Yes, of course there’s those several hundred miles of beaches and ten months of summer each year, but it’s a little deeper than that. We have mountains. Everywhere. In the next town. In your back yard. I’ve seen views from places less than ten miles from my home that stop my breath and make me so thankful to be alive that it’s almost like praying. There are bunnies and lizards, coyotes, hawks and deer everywhere, and there are even a couple of bats that like to sleep in our palms. There is a myriad of trees and flowers all around me that I’ve never seen before, like eucalyptus and olive trees, cacti, three types of palm tree, and several decadent, bright florals that I can’t yet name. There is so much sky that I don’t know what to do with it, except feel really, really small. And it’s blue…all the time. I know that these things are all novelties to some people, but I’ll never get tired of seeing the beauty the world has to offer. And this is one incredible place to see it from.
But upon my inevitable exit from that sweet, rose-colored honeymoon phase, I’ve found myself mixing old home comforts with the new ones. I put the same books on the same book shelves and kept most of the old knick-knacks from my cubicle desk in the Boston office. I work the same hours every day and go to bed around the same time at night because routine comforts me. I listen to radio stations that play the same seemingly incongruent mix of 80’s hair band, 90’s alternative and Mumford and Sons that populates my iPod. I pump Florence + the Machine through my earphones during runs because the sound of it reminds me of winter long runs back home. I spend as much time as I can keeping up with my friends back home, texting them, reading their blogs and watching their lives unfold on Facebook. I make the same recipes and shop for my favorite food brands.
But even still, the unfamiliar has crept into my bones and caused a melancholy sort of homesickness that will take me some time to recover from. I am eternally in love with the sunshine but it is so strong here that it sometimes feels alien, as it leans heavily over my shoulder during an afternoon run. I have become a friend of shadows, darting from one to another and seeking the rare tree cover that was so prevalent in New England.
I miss the tall and shadowed forests of trees, and I miss the smells that the air carried in – the scent of fresh life. Wet grass, rich soil, pine. Here the air smells heavier, spicy. It’s so different, in fact, that it was the first thing I picked up on when we arrived.
In this heat I have learned the usefulness of house-cooling window blinds, which were previously a nuisance to me, always keeping out the precious light of day. I’ve learned to appreciate the cooler air, as well as the hot summery days. That’s something I didn’t exactly expect to happen.
But I have also embraced so many things quite seamlessly. I relish the prevalence of runners, bikers, dog walkers and lots of other folks getting exercise and enjoying the day. I appreciate the wider roads and freeways, the fresher produce, the prolific Starbucks stores and Mexican restaurants. I can’t stay away from the beaches, and the thought of driving only twenty minutes to one puts a huge smile on my face.
The trails here are achingly beautiful; moreover, they feel so much more like real trails to me. I don’t know why, could be all the books and blogs I’ve read with photos of western trails have shaped my own internal definition of what a trail should look like. They’re dustier, more sandy and dry. The hills are astounding. And, surprisingly, I have found myself seeking out hills during runs, rather than shying away from them. It’s as if I’m finally making peace with them.
I miss my friends back east. Some I miss so much that it’s difficult not to cry a little when I think of the vast new distance I’ve put between us. At the same time, I appreciate the few friends I have made since we arrived. Friendships are important to me. I don’t need many, but I enjoy nurturing the good ones.
Working from home has been a blessing I didn’t quite expect. I mean, of course I knew it was going to be awesome to be able to work in my pajamas. But would I thrive working this way? Could I keep motivated and stay happy working outside an office environment? I didn’t know. But what I’ve learned is that working in my home suits my personality much better than working in an office. I like having my own space, and the relative quiet helps me focus better. I like being able to start work early and end early, or work later if something comes up in the morning. I can get to my work files at 8pm on a Sunday if I think of something, and I can go for a run on the beach before it gets dark. It’s like I’m always working, but also never working. This is an ideal situation for me. And for my employer, who gets a happier, more motivated employee out of the deal.
Overall I can see myself slowly becoming a much more centered individual, with more balanced priorities and a healthier outlook on things. Almost everything is better for me here, but I still need to get used to it, give it all time to sink into my soul and start to feel like home again. And that’s okay because I’ve got lots of time.
- Eye of the Storm (barefoot-monologues.com)
- My Adventures in Walnut, Iowa, and Why You Should Move Cross-Country Before You Die (barefoot-monologues.com)
- 14 Things I Will Miss About New England (barefoot-monologues.com)
- 16 Things I Won’t Miss About New England (barefoot-monologues.com)
October 8, 2012 at 11:39 PM
I love this post! As someone who is considering a move to Ventura County within the next year, I’ve often wondered if I would miss the abundant trees and muddy trails in Oregon in exchange for the sun drenched, dusty paths of California. You really hit home on that “melancholy” feeling of being in a new place.
October 9, 2012 at 7:10 AM
Thanks for reading! I definitely do get that melancholy. But I sometimes think it’s more about missing “home” than it is missing New England. I mean, I will always be more at home in a forest just because I grew up in them, but whenever I climb to the top of a big hill here and see that view, I forget all about that homesickness. It’s worth it.
October 24, 2012 at 8:28 AM
Wow!! We really do have similar lives! I HAVE to meet you. Welcome to San Diego! You’re brand new to these parts. I am about to hit my 3 year San Diego-versary next week! Have you found some favorite trails yet? Have you run up at Torrey Pines? Gorgeous views! Los Penasquitos Canyon? Both great places!
October 24, 2012 at 10:03 AM
I am desperately in love with Torrey Pines, but I’ve only gotten out there once. It’s just far enough away from me (in North County) that I can’t get anyone to go there with me – and I can’t find it by myself. haha. I have spent a lot of time over at Lake Hodges and around Escondido, there are some truly gorgeous heights up here. But I’m thirsty for more trails! I’d love to meet you. Find me on Facebook! 🙂