A very close friend of mine once told me that where you live reflects who you are. She said this after noticing that I had a tendency to move from place to place. If I applied my friend’s philosophy to where I live today, then she’d say that living in an unincorporated part of the east bay, in a town with no more than 20,000 people and where a rehabilitation center is a major city attraction, would probably translate that I have an aversion for organization, I prefer small crowds and I most likely have a drug problem. While most of this is untrue, my friend’s philosophy is not entirely wrong. Yes, in some cases where a person chooses to live can give an insight into his/her personality. Would a fashion forward stylist consider living in the country or would a recluse occupy a metropolitan loft? For the most part, we reside in places that makes sense for us, that helps us cultivate and manifest what is important.
But the tricky thing about human beings is that we change and evolve. What I wanted last year most likely isn’t applicable to this year. Where I wanted to live in my 20s is not necessarily the same place I want to be in my 30s. When I get married and have kids, would it make sense for me to live where a rehab center is just down the street? To a certain degree, I agree with my friend’s advise, but I question if there’s a more important angle to look at. Would it be more helpful that rather than analyzing why a person chooses to live where, that we focus on something else? Other wise, what does it say about me – a person who has moved at least 10 times in 10 years? Maybe I haven’t found a permanent home, but in the meantime I’ve learned a lot about myself during the process.
So in terms of living situations, I’m going to apply my own philosophy: picking a place to live is like picking a partner. We have a checklist of what we want. We enter with high hopes wanting a permanent outcome. We know it’s not going to be perfect, like relationships, we make compromises, we make adjustments, or we modify certain areas to make them more tolerable. But soon, we realize that certain qualities we once admired no longer seem that appealing and things begin to lose their luster. Then we find ourselves wanting to move on to bigger and better situations. Sometimes, like ending a relationship, we leave bitterly, sometimes gracefully, but we almost always walk away with having a profound understanding of ourselves.
For example, when I moved away to go to college I had a lot of opportunities to choose from. I was accepted to UC Davis, UCLA, Sac State and Sf State, all places where most of my friends were attending schools. Yet, I was 21 and rather than focusing on practical reasons, I focused on impractical reasons. I wanted to live as far away from family and friends and fully immerse myself in a place I had never been– which is why I chose San Diego State University. While it didn’t have as strong as an English program as UCLA, for me at the time, it wasn’t important. And like any new relationship, in the beginning months of my time in San Diego, I was truly enamored! I took in all that she had to offer– beautiful beaches, amazing weather, friendly people, delicious food, and a fun night life. After living up in bay area for most of my life, naturally all of San Diego’s urban qualities struck me. And I indulged in all of it.
But one peculiar thing happened to me in the middle of my stay in San Diego– I experienced a lot of personal trauma in a relatively short amount of time, which lead to a deep depression. I even gained about 35 pounds in the course of 4 months. I don’t want to get into the specifics of the situation because I’ll explain it in a later blog, but it was a sensitive time for me, one filled with a lot of insecurity, uncertainty and doubt. Worst of all, the people I depended on the most lived very far from me. Sure we spoke on the phone, but there’s nothing like genuine human interaction when you’re facing tumultuous decisions. It would have been a lot easier to get through the situation with a familiar support system because the friends and roommates I recently met just couldn’t suffice. I quickly learned that even though I was considered an adult and technically on my own, there were certain areas in my life that I didn’t want to face alone.
But I still didn’t move. I was curious to see if I was independent as I thought I was. In fact, in the apex of my emotional storm, I was quite impressed with how resilient I became. I began going to church. I sought counseling. I focused on school. I looked for ways to channel my frustration and learned that through prayer, reflection and determination, an inner strength can form. Having independence and being self-reliant are powerful things. And I probably would not have been able to see these sides of me had I not made the brave decision to stay and ride the wave. Also, it would have been my own chagrin to choose the easier route.
So while most people move to San Diego for the sun and beaches, my time in San Diego was a significantly different experience. I didn’t become the beach bunny frolicking on the sand that most people tend to become; my experience towards the end, for the most part was one filled with lamented feelings. Yet, my relationship with San Diego, is one that I would never change. When it was time for me to move on, I had mixed feelings. Part of me felt like I needed to give it a second chance, yet part of me felt that it didn’t matter. So much had been done that the only natural thing to do now was to move on.
The decision was a mercurial, bittersweet one. Like a partner, there were certain qualities about San Diego that I was not quite ready to part with. Yet, those attractive qualities did not out weight the fact that I yearned for a different home– one surprisingly that would be closer to the ones that I loved. And when I reflect on my time in San Diego, my home for several years, it’s a relationship where I saw different sides of me, and it clearly was a place of transformation. I’m very thankful for that.
Then there are homes, like partners, that have minimal of the qualities that you’re looking for, but surprisingly they end up being the most meaningful and memorable. This is how I feel about my current home– El Sobrante. It’s a place with some redeeming qualities–close to the freeway, close to SF and close to my parents. It’s very affordable to live here, and the town prides itself on local businesses and frowns on big cooperate chains. Yet, it’s El Sobrante, which literally means “the left overs”. And after living here for three years, I can see why it’s gotten its name. It’s definitely an old town, one with a hodge podge of stores and people with no salient architecture or culture. And the weather is temperamental; in the middle of summer, even though I live in east bay, on certain days I have to put on a sweater and socks. The wind is so strong that there’s never a time when I can enjoy the pool without shivering. And worst of all, there aren’t any organic stores or farmer markets within walking distance.
But ironically, when I reflect, this place is probably where I’ve grown the most. There’s been a lot of first times for me here—like the first time I lived with a boyfriend, the first time I became an active member of a church, the first time I jogged 7 miles along side San Pablo Avenue. And my appreciation for eating local, sustainable organic food was also cultivated in my modest kitchen, where I’ve tested recipes and made meals from scratch and cooked my very first Thanksgiving meal. And because I don’t live near chain stores, I’ve become a more conscious shopper supporting mom and pop stores– like the donut and bakery shop down the street or the pupusa place right next to the rehab center. Also, it was in my living room where I decided to take some time off from work to focus on my love for creative writing, where I started a blog and wrote a few short stories. But most of all, this is the home in which I happily became engaged and sat on my couch and announced the good news to family and friends.
So while El Sobrante is not my first choice for residency, I can say it’s been three very unforgettable years that have been filled with so many transformational journeys. Because of my time here, I’ve been more health concision than other time in my life, and I’ve developed the inner artist in me that I’ve neglected for many years.
I’ve occupied many rooms, homes and apartments and each experience has been distinct in their own way. But it’s safe to say that I’ve had two poignant ‘relationships’– San Diego and El Sobrante with a lot of minor relationships in between. My first real relationship with San Diego was a place that on paper had everything that I wanted, but where I was the most unhappy. Yet, I would never trade my experience for another because in the end I became a better, more independent version of my old self. Then, there’s my more recent relationship with El Sobrante–the one that isn’t the ideal choice, and on paper, doesn’t have the qualities that I would typically find appealing. Yet, it’s the one that has fulfilled me in so many ways and has cultivated a lot of the woman I am proudly accepting of today.
If my theory that finding a place is like finding a partner is true then for now I can safely say that I can stop looking. I think I’ve finally found a place that brings out the best of me. Albeit it’s an unconventional city to live where there’s a lot of room for improvement. But despite these short comings, like a partner, I’m willing to work around them if I know it’s the one. For now. I can look past living in a small town, where the possibility of drugs run rampant or where mom and pops rule the streets. Sure the summer wind is less than desirable or I have to drive miles for fresh produce. But El Sobrante has taught me some valuable lessons—like learning to cook, taking a chance on love and having the courage to pursue a dream. Perhaps living here and applying my friend’s philosophy would give an inaccurate impression of who I am. But like I said earlier, there’s a deeper message to take away in terms of living situations. And by applying my own philosophy– my partner, El Sobrante is a relationship that I’m curious to see flourish. And after a while, I might, with a little adjusting and compromising, be able to finally say home sweet home.
Pictures of my home……still in progress. But my living room is space for creativity and relaxation.
Here is a video of me in my kitchen (my favorite place in my apartment) on an online show hosted by Laura Vitale. I was so nervous!!! Fast forward to my actual segment 10:40:00 (tenth hour and 40th minute) the entire show was over 12 hours long. I wanted to share this with you because you can see me in my kitchen actually cooking.
And a song by one of my favorite bands…The Red Hot Chili Peppers as they share how much LA has been their “partner” and “only friend”. I guess I’m not alone with the sentiment of building a relationship in the city you live in.