In a few months I will have lived in California for eight years. That’s only one year less than I lived in New York. Even though I’ve been here a while, I’ve always considered myself an East Coast person at heart. A transplant. A Masshole/New Yorker just kind of living among the free-spirited, easy-going Californians—something of an outsider.
But something happened this week that triggered a realization: over the last eight years, a slow, subtle transformation has been taking place. I’m becoming a real Californian—and I’m not sure I don’t like it.
After my pseudo-failed epidural injection, a kind of desperation took over where I was willing to try anything—even alternative methods I previously dismissed as hippie hocus pocus. So I reached out to some of my West Coast friends who’ve been talking up essential oils and was immediately bombarded by positive testimonials and a kind of “welcome to the club” orientation. A coworker friend brought me a couple samples and I applied them immediately. I was dazzled. They aren’t a cure, and the pain is still there, but I could see the benefits. My headaches are gone. My sinus pressure is relieved. I’m more alert. My desire to snack (out of boredom or just plain sadness) is suppressed. And the pain is muted, dulled.
Suddenly I found myself talking up essential oils to my other friends and family and I stopped in my tracks. Good God, when did it happen? When did I become THAT GIRL FROM CALIFORNIA? The one who does yoga and eats organic kale chips and quinoa and goes on hikes and says that things are rad?
I think it started the minute I got here and realized how beautiful this part of the world is. I wanted to explore, to hike the trails that lead to the beaches, to taste the wine that’s practically grown in my backyard. I found myself researching “clean eating” and drastically changed my eating habits within the first couple years of living here. But I just saw that as making healthier choices as I got older, not adopting the California lifestyle.
Next, I found that my drinking habits were changing. My California friends did not drink as heavily and as socially as my East Coast friends and family. When we get together, we’re more likely to drink tea and coffee than beer and cocktails. We play board games, run 5k races (well, not me, but I would if I could), visit Star Wars exhibits at the Tech Museum, or just chill at each other’s houses and watch our kids play. I think I can count on one hand the amount of times we’ve been to the bars together. Again, I thought this was just a product of growing up—and part of it is—but another part has a distinctly West Coast flavor. I can’t picture my New York friends hanging out and drinking tea on a Saturday night. Just not gonna happen.
When my insomnia started rearing its head during grad school, I bought lavender-scented spray and meditation CDs. I took melatonin (more natural) instead of hardcore sleeping pills. I settled in for a bath and a good book.
And now that I’ve exhausted all that Western medicine has to offer, I’m sitting here with my essential oils and looking up Feldenkrais classes and acupuncture specialists in the area.
Guys…I think the transformation is nearly complete. I’m a real Californian now. I’m….gulp…almost…actually….happy.