August 1st marked two years in San Diego. I still catch myself telling people I’m new to San Diego — partially because the time has gone by so quickly and partially because I am always hanging on to newness because newness doesn’t have roots. Historically, I’ve been very scared of roots.
I am regularly told that I don’t belong in San Diego — many times it comes up when I’m talking about my love for New York.
Yes, San Diego couldn’t be further from the city I once beat my hands bloody to the pavement to call home, but in plenty of ways, that’s exactly what I needed. I often say that Colorado grew me and New York shaped me. To follow that thinking, I suppose San Diego has smoothed my rough edges. I have told myself I needed to be hard, to not let emotion in, to not be vulnerable. To be hard, tough, is to be strong — and I wanted to be strong. At so many times in my life, the alternative to being strong was not a desirable outcome. For so long, I prided myself on that hardness — and part of me still does.
But, what I’ve realized, is that if anything I am a hard candy with a gooey center — a center that oozes out when broken. I’ve ignored that center for so long because my surroundings didn’t cater to gooey centers. Too much hardness will break anything that crashes into it — whereas too much softness will absorb it all. San Diego has forced me to be okay in my softness — to feel pride in it the way the same way I wore my hardness like a badge (even though it’s not always something to be proud about).
I have days when I am certain I will outgrow San Diego and I will pack up my bags and cats for a more expensive city — with taller skyscrapers, more noises, and inconvenient living situations, in hopes of a career that will launch me further.
Around my first year anniversary, I began to look for jobs farther north — trading sunny weather for lush Pacific Northwest forests. I was ready to leave San Diego for several reasons. The first year wasn’t unbearable, there was a lot of good, but I hadn’t found what I was looking for — though I didn’t know what it was I was looking for. I felt stuck and discontented.
Something changed when I got back from Europe. Part of it has to do with someone I cut out of my life. The other part was that things started to feel like they were falling in place. I started to find work opportunities that challenged me and had a clear connection to my future goals. I grew closer to the friends I had, realizing just how much they meant to me, how much they supported me, and how much they taught me.
Then I have days where I think I could maybe find a corner in San Diego to call home for the future. On days when I think maybe roots aren’t so scary. Maybe a home where I can paint the walls and drill holes without fear of safety deposits. There are days I think maybe San Diego will find a way to grow with me. Or to keep giving me something I didn’t know I was looking for.
And there are long streaks of days where I’m pulled so strongly to a life of remote work, renting homes for months at a time around the world.
I guess I am saying I still don’t know — I’m still looking and searching and open to the future. But in the present, I’m grateful to San Diego. I’m grateful for what — and who — it has given me. I’m grateful for the softness I wear on my other sleeve now.
Maybe I don’t seem like I belong here fully, but there is a part of me that does. And right now, she is happy.
And to be happy, I’ve found, is one of the most challenging things in the world. So if all I am is happy in this moment, then right now, that’s enough.