Seven years ago, around this time, I was planning. I was living in a townhouse only a couple blocks from the Waconia Lake located in a small town in Minnesota. There was 7 of us living in that two-story town house that summer 7 years ago. I had just graduated with my bachelors in interpersonal communication. I was working with two of my best friends and roommates as an admission counselor at my college. Lots of phone calls. Many coffee breaks.
Seven years ago I was dreaming of picking up and moving all I knew and understood and driving across the country to San Diego. Somehow I roped my college roommate, Janice, into this extravagant adventure without the slightest idea of how we were practically going to make this all work. I believe we shook hands one day (probably in our pajamas…it was very official) on our commitment to move to San Diego. And that was that. We packed as much as we could in our little cars and made the long drive out to San Diego.
In its beginning, dreaming stages, San Diego to me was magical and stunning. It was a spot I had vacationed to with my family. It was where my mission trip had debriefed multiple times after working at an orphanage in Tijuana. It was full of sparkling beaches and exotic palm trees. It was entirely counter-cultural to the Midwest and it evoked my curiosity and wonder.
San Diego though, however grew hard. Picking up and leaving all my friends was difficult. Now I was a flight away from my family, not just a day-long road trip. I left my Christian college bubble that was an anchor for me. I felt floaty in San Diego. Like real floaty. I had come very used to having multiple best friends and many good friends. In San Diego I had Janice. And thank goodness I had one friend. Without her things would have looked very different for me. Connecting with people post-college was nothing like the college community and dorm life. It was strange and weird. It was like I was still learning how to date romantically but in some ways I had to re-learn how to become friends with people. It was awkward. I never knew how close people wanted to become and everyone seemed to have a secret-San-Diego language I knew nothing about.
San Diego was hard for a very very long time. Years actually. Sometimes I hated San Diego. Sometime I would shout about moving across the country. Sometimes I would get so fed up I would blame all my problems on San Diego. San Diego was so dumb and hot and full of traffic and tourists!
When I look back on The Hard I remember so vividly the heat. It was suffocating. I was always sweating. There are so many things I could remember about what was difficult in my transition but the heat is what feels most memorable in some ways. It’s like the heat was turned up in my life. I was being refined and it felt like hell.
In San Diego I experienced a lot of not-so-good firsts. I experienced gut-wrenching heartbreak. I dealt with being anorexic and body obsessions. I dealt with awful chronic foot pain that was so debilitating that all I wanted to do was lay down on my bed much earlier than necessary to stop the aching. Some of the new friends I made, I lost. God felt far even though I would pray and sit in church each Sunday. I encountered paralyzing panic unlike anything I experienced previous in my life or since. I experienced the loss and death of a good friend.
I made some pretty non-nurturing choices during this time like not eating enough and drinking just a little too much. I was working seven jobs at one point, straining and draining all my physical and mental energy. I felt like I had to stay frantic and busy to feel good enough. I chose clubs and bars to frequent and it made me feel numb but only for a second. I know bars aren’t bad intrinsically, Scott and I like to grab drinks with our friends on occasion, but at that time though, I felt unbelievably small and fragile and didn’t even know it. The bars did not nurture me the way my soul craved. It left me with a dead end. If you’re lonely, you won’t find what you need at a bar. It’s that simple. You just won’t.
Part of me doesn’t even really know why or how but I just stayed in San Diego. For one, I was determined to finish up my master’s degree. But I think another part of me really wanted to give San Diego a fair shot. I just leaned in a little bit closer. I whispered to San Diego so that no one could hear, hey you, I’m not giving up just yet.
And then I started to have some other very-positive-firsts in San Diego. I graduated with my master’s degree in Marriage and Family Therapy. I became a therapist. I got engaged. I had a wedding. I married my best friend. I honeymooned in Italy. All beautiful and shiny firsts. I found a new church and a huge mob of artistic, smart, creative, and warm friends just when I needed it most.
I found a neighborhood I loved and a coffee shop I adore. I recovered from my eating disorder. I learned that deep breathing was a super power.
A lot of people were skeptical of my choice to move away from my Midwest roots out to San Diego. A lot of people made comments about how “liberal” and “crazy” everyone was. They told me I was going to live with all the “fruits and nuts” and then they would laugh at their own joke. People told me it would be easy to lose my faith. Whenever anything bad happened to me, people seemed eager to blame it on the city I lived in. Bad burrito? That’s California’s fault. Financial strain? Blame it on San Diego. (but seriously this IS San Diego’s fault) Boyfriends who hurt you? Standard southern California problem.
Now that I think about it’s a bit irrational to believe all those statements. And every state has some reputation or joke. Most people have good intentions. But being a Midwest girl, who grew up in the church and had “conservative” and “republican” and “modesty” closely attached to what Christianity meant to me, I, too, felt skeptical of San Diego and all it’s “wildness”.
You know what I encountered in San Diego?
Yes He was here too.
With all those crazzzzy liberals.
I know I was surprised too.
God just doesn’t seem to be limited by where we think He should reside. God just takes up every corner and space of the whole earth.
I am so grateful.
San Diego leaned right back at me. San Diego’s heat didn’t exhaust and irritate me like it did previously. San Diego nurtured me in a way I didn’t know it could. It showed me friends that became family, a church that felt like an actual neighborhood potluck, it gave me Scott. San Diego gave me recovery and in many ways, gave me my body back. In a lot of ways, San Diego hasn’t changed that much. Let’s be real. It’s temperature stays around 70 and in the summer it can still reach a scorching 90. It still has the beach that glimmers and the palm trees that sway. I’m still obsessed with the Thai food and the Pho here.
When I think about San Diego I think about growth because I can’t separate the two. San Diego symbolizes growth to me. San Diego is where I grew.
Growth is so so SO painful sometimes. It goes on and on and on.
And sometimes you want to throw in the towel and yell
SCREW YOU GROWTH!!! I PICK THE EASY WAY!!!
Which we all know, really, isn’t the easy way in the long run.
Growth is like that. It brings THE HEAT.
You lean in and it leans right back.
You give it some attention and it will give you attention right back.
Growth isn’t a genie in a bottle like we all wish it were. It feels brutal.
But growth always takes you somewhere and it always takes you somewhere good. This I know.
Thanks San Diego for all the growth.
P.S. I am still a Midwest girl. I love the land, the space and emphasis on values and being friendly. I’m also a California girl now too. Which I guess means I’m WILD and kinda crazy. #thrilled