I went out to dinner with some friends last night, including a girl who’s from my hometown and shares the same Alma Mater with me: Cal Poly. She’s out here visiting her grandmother, who in one of those small world coincidences, lives in Winston-Salem. Anyways, we hadn’t seen each other for years, and it was fun to catch up. She was filling me in on the latest happenings in San Luis Obispo, a.k.a., the true love of my life. My happy place. I can’t describe how much I miss(ed) that town hearing her talk about it. It’s a deep ache that never seems to quite go away.
She asked why I don’t go out for a visit—I haven’t been back there in 2½ years. The simple answer: It would destroy me. I know that sounds weird, but I know if I went back to see my friends there and spend a long weekend, my heart would shred, bleed, and splatter all over. I would come back here, to a town I don’t mind living in, and I wouldn’t be able to function. I would catatonically bump into walls and make weird wailing sounds. My six years in SLO were a period of my life that indelibly shaped who I am, what I enjoy, and what I seek.
If I loved it that much, I know it seems strange that I moved away and won’t move back, or even go back for a visit. SLO’s a weird town that way. Unless you’re effing insane, everyone who goes to college there adores it and tries to extend their undergrad education into the 5-6 year range. Inevitably, the students depressingly realize the cost of living prohibits them from ever living in an apartment or house with less than five roommates, and they’ll never be able to pay off their student loans by working at the local surf or bike shops. So they move. But you talk to any Cal Poly alum who has moved away, and he or she will get the same wistful, teary look when remembering SLO. Fuck yeah, they’ll say. That town was awesome.
I moved away three times and came back twice. It’s a strange town because it’s almost so perfect it becomes boring, and you realize maybe you should venture out into the real world, get a job that uses your education, have your heart legitimately broken, marry someone you don't truly love, get yourself into a constraining mortgage, and look forward to your job like you look forward to a root canal. Because it’s the American way. You’re not supposed to be able to surf every morning, live in a place with a perfect climate, insane biking, gorgeous mountains, and a vibe that is impossible to describe. You need to be properly miserable for a while and put your college degree to use.
I left the third time because I wanted to live on the East Coast. The SLO ennui had grabbed me, and I felt l needed some pains and/or challenges in my life. So I said goodbye to my most favorite friends and drove across the country. I’m glad I’m here, I’m glad I’ve had this NC adventure. I know it’s not a permanent stop for me—it’s a venue for me to add experience to my resume and build that “character” you can’t seem to come by when you live in utopia.
In my dreams, I go back. In my dreams, it all works out.