East coast wannabe

dear east coast,

I’ve had a crush on you since I was 14. Or at least that’s the age I remember really starting to like you. I was sitting in the back of a rental car driving through the green tree lined highways of Virginia. It was a family vacation/reunion: my grandparents took us to explore Virginia and DC – we saw Colonial Williamsburg and Jamestown, walked along the hot and humid streets of DC, admired the monuments, took pictures in front of the Lincoln memorial. We visited Jefferson at Monticello and George Washington at Mt. Rushmore. It was a great trip.

I loved how green you are. I still do. I loved the different kinds of eateries like Waffle House and that Carl’s Jr. (which I refuse to step into) is called Hardy’s. I loved the history, how so much of what I read in history books was staring me back in the face. I loved the brick houses, I loved walking at night catching jumping frogs and having to take a second shower because it was still crazy humid.

This isn’t the first time I’ve written about my crush on you. When I moved back home to California after college, I wrote about saying goodbye to you, the home you had become to me over the past four years (it’s somewhere on blogspot). I came back to California not knowing where I was going or what I was doing.

Don’t get me wrong, I love California. It’s always been home to me. Despite the traffic on the 405 and my desire for more vibrant displays of fall colors, I think this state is pretty great. I never worry about an icy driveway and I can run outside year round without multiple layers. There is healthy food in abundance – farmer’s markets almost every day and hipster coffee shops within a short distance. Delicious Mexican food eateries are on every street and you can usually find a friend who has an avocado or lemon tree. I can bike to work and even wear jeans when I get there. I sometimes run along the beach during my lunch break or do stadiums at the city college that overlooks the harbor.

The real reason I moved back to California was I wanted to be close to family — and I think it’s one of the best decisions I made. Massachusetts doesn’t have my sisters or my parents, Washington DC doesn’t have the elementary school down the street from my parents’ house, or the two hour car drive to see my Grandma or my friends I play soccer and eat dinner with every Sunday night. You, east coast, with all of your beautiful and small states, are not my community anymore. Maybe there’s some sadness there, because for four years, you held my community tightly. It was a beautiful thing.

I still miss you, east coast. The crush is still there, the butterflies of excitement when I step off the plane to meet you: in Boston, or Maryland, or wherever is next. The interconnectedness of the major cities from DC to Baltimore to NYC to Boston amazes me. The accents, the life style of not having a car and taking public transportation everywhere, the colors of fall and crocuses and cherry blossoms in the springtime, the politicians walking on the street across from your own office, the protesters gathering in public squares. You’re pretty awesome and you’ve shown off enough times to keep my attention.

But I think there’s also a part of me that was happy to step off the plane at LAX last week knowing that I was coming home to the other coast – the one that holds my immediate family, my community. I came home knowing that during the week I was going to see my grandma who was visiting my mom, and we were going to eat dinner together and I was going to get to hug her again after less than a month since our last visit. I came home knowing that next week I would be playing soccer at the park, that my job was waiting for me to respond to emails and phone calls.

There’s a sense of belonging here in California for me that I have always had, but it’s become even more defined as an adult over the past three years since moving back.

East coast, you hold many of my dearest friends — they make me proud, make me want to be more like them. These friends are brave and courageous, they work in bustling cities and think about poverty and international development and gentrification. I wish the coast divide wasn’t so significant. I wish it didn’t require hours on a plane and lay-overs in cities across the country. I wish we lived closer. There’s always going to be an ache when I think of the distance and how many text messages it takes to have a long phone chat to catch up. But I also appreciate how the distance makes the reunions that much more special, the conversations in person that much more meaningful. Take good care of them, please.

You’re a good crush to have, east coast. I don’t think the crush is going anywhere anytime soon, but right now, I’m happy your sister coast is the one I call home.

Love,

Alyssa

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