Tag Archives: California lifestyle

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10 Years in California

redwoodsWhen I was a little girl in Massachusetts, I often played in the woods with my neighborhood friends, climbing over moss-covered stones in the cool, damp understory to collect earthy trinkets and play adventure games. The boys loved whooping and hollering among the trees, taking refuge in the dim light when the hot summer sun had been beating on our backs all afternoon.

But I was always anxious to clamor back into the light.

My favorite spot was in The Field, 99 acres of wide open spaces and rolling hills across the street from my house. I’d climb to the crest of the highest peak and look out over the town, watching the sun set behind a purple-tinted Mt. Wachusett. There, I was content. There, I was free.

In New York City, I was back in the woods. Adventure happened left and right among the tall skyscrapers that blocked out the sun. It was a glorious nine years in the prime of my young life, full of possibility, full of energy, full of culture, full of people—but I was never quite content.

Exactly 10 years ago today, I moved to California “temporarily.” I leased a small bedroom from near strangers (who have now become two of my best friends). My goal was to work on my dance books while establishing myself as a freelance writer who could tackle more mainstream topics—and I did so by working as a stringer for a few local newspapers.

Of course, I didn’t need to move to the west coast to do that. But I fell in love with a man from California and I figured it couldn’t hurt to experience his world for a little while before we settled back down in the east.

Ten years later, that temporary arrangement has become decidedly permanent. I knew very shortly after I met Alex that I loved him. And I knew very shortly after I came to California—with its wide open spaces and rolling hills and endless ocean views stretching beyond the horizon, and bare, numerous mountains that look like the scruff of a Shar-Pei—that I loved it here too.

beachIt didn’t hurt that my first few years of living in California were in the quaint and dreamy seaside town of Monterey, where I lunched on calamari and clam chowder while listening to sea lions bark their orders (instead of bosses). Big Sur was just a hop, skip, and a treacherously winding cliffside drive away. I strolled though local art galleries in Carmel, watched surfers compete for wave space with the whales in Santa Cruz, took a mud bath in the hot springs outside of Yosemite, and sipped wine in caves, farmhouse wineries, hilltop vineyards, barrel rooms, and cellars from Paso Robles to Napa Valley.

I toured castles, huffed and puffed my way up steep city sidewalks, got drunk at an aquarium and spoke in a Jamaican accent to a sunfish, went to grad school, bought a home, had a baby, bought a second home, got lost in a corn maze, adopted a kitten, hiked across freezing creeks, up redwood-strewn trails, and down into hidden beach coves. I made friends, lost friends, lost babies, and gained a whole new family.

Now I live in Gilroy and work in Silicon Valley, where I’m challenged every day but I’m not burning out, and my future is full of wide open spaces and rolling hills, where I walk hand-in-hand with my husband and son in a place where I’m content, a place where I’m free, a place in the light.

A place I now, 10 years later, can finally call home.

wide open field

 

I Just Might Be a Real Californian Now

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?

salad
This arugula, quinoa, and almond salad was not just healthy, but delicious.

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.

beach
My idea of a perfect day.

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.