July 2, 2012

Interstate 5

Sometimes you're born with an innate sense of direction. Sometimes this bothers most people. Sometimes you're sketching pretty dresses while driving merrily up I-5 and suddenly your direction senses tingle and you realize you've changed direction. Sometimes you look up from your sketch book, look around, and convince yourself that you must not have been paying attention during this part of the drive south. Sometimes two hours later you realize you're now on I-580 and are heading directly towards San Francisco at nearly 11 o'clock at night. So you decide to call it a night, bug your sisters to help you find a cheap hotel, and sleep like a rock on the most uncomfortable pull out couch you've ever laid on. And then the next morning you decide to bum around the city before you resume your journey north. And this time, you keep heading north.

(And I would give just about anything to see this production!)

I really love San Francisco. It's a beautiful, vibrant city, with a ton of history around every corner. It's filled with cheesy tourist attractions and hidden gems. Every time I go to San Francisco I hate when I have to leave. Sure there are things about it that I really dislike, ("hella" anyone?) but overall it's really a wonderful place. I realized that I feel like that about a lot of places I have travelled to. Riverside, Corvallis, San Diego, Portland, New York, London (though I have yet to find a flaw in Dublin, even the Gypsies were charming.). Every place you go there's going to be things you don't like. You just have to see what place has pros that out weigh the cons.

My whole life I have hated driving I-5. I much prefer the 101 where you get to see some of the most beautiful parts of California. It takes longer, it twists and turns, but it's really, really beautiful. As a kid I liked this drive because you could actually see something interesting while making the 2-3 day drive up the coast to Oregon. My dad is a fan of the 101 too, but my mom, not so much. She gets car sick, and frankly she's one of those people who just likes to get things done. She is definitely an I-5 person. but when you're 5,8, 10, 13, and stuck in a car with your siblings, the last thing you want is to look at what you are convinced are the same fields of Crop X for over 500 miles. It gets old very quickly.

When Abbey and I decided to take our trip South I had one thought in my head: get home. I didn't care how many hours we had to drive, how much gas we guzzled, I just wanted to be home, in that silly suburban house, surrounded by a mob of redheads, with a couple brunettes and blondes thrown in. I wanted a cup of coffee from my parents coffee maker (that I am pretty convinced is powered by unicorn magic because there is no better cup of coffee), I wanted to eat Chelsea's Chicken Verde, which is always better than mine, I wanted to feel the cold tile under my feet, I wanted to drink water that had to be filtered in order to be drunk, and I wanted to breathe in deep the scent of the Anthropologie candle my mother burns. Those were the only things I could think about. It had been a rough 9 months, particularly the last 6. The longest I have ever been away from home.

The funny thing was I felt weird calling it home. It was, and it wasn't. Corvallis was also home. I no longer felt like I was the new girl, I no longer needed to look up directions everywhere, I could navigate, I could make my way. And for the first time in a very long time I could see clearly exactly where the path I was on would lead. There were some bright sparkles on that path, a lot actually. I'm not going to lie and say I'm not scared of those, but I started imagining what life would be like five, ten years down that road. And it could be pretty freaking great.

I thought about all this as we headed south on I-5. We had Inn-n-Out, I got a sunburn on one arm, we navigated crazy drivers, all familiar things to me, new to Abbey. I smiled a lot as I made California jokes and kept my mouth shut when Abbey was a nice driver and let someone get over. I watched the crops pass us by and realized that I knew what each one was. A rice field, an olive farm, citrus groves. I smiled at each of the political signs posted in fields. Those farmers can sure get riled up (and rightly so).  Abbey didn't understand why some of them were so angry. "We grow something like 98% of the world's food. Getting water is kind of important to our economy, or what is left of it." I scoffed. I-5 takes you through the heart of California. It's not the beaches, or the forests, or the film studios, it's the real heart and soul of the state. Yeah it's hot, and the sun beats down and there is absolutely no shady drive, but those fields of pistachios and avocados are what really fuel our state. It's not the most beautiful path, but it is the direct one, and while it may not show you the things California is famous for, it shows the truth about what we do, who we are, and how we live. Suddenly everything I learned in California History in 4th grade came rushing back and I was seriously overcome with a massive amount of state pride. Sure it's got it's flaws, but so does everywhere.

After endless hours of being in a car I was suddenly home and giddy with excitement. Grace cried when she saw me, everyone else saw through my terrible attempt at keeping a secret. There were hugs, and cups of coffee, and plates of Chicken Verde, and gallons of filtered water drunk. A very wise person I greatly respect, admire, and adore once told me that I didn't hate California, I just had needed to find that out on my own. He told me that a few weeks before I applied to OSU. As I cockily defended my loathing he went on to say that that the problem wasn't where I lived, but that I was stuck, had no clear discernible path, and needed a change, so go, "You've found a solution to everything you think you want. Get it out of your system." I folded my arms, huffed, and just knew that I was going to find myself in Oregon. I would find my niche. I would blossom and plant roots, and would never want to come back to California ever again.

I was right, I would find myself in Oregon, I would blossom. I made a splash, made some wonderful friends, tried to start a war, changed protocol, raised some standards, failed to meet others, touched sheet music from the 14th century, doubted myself, was given something I didn't ask for, proved to myself and those around me that I'm made of some tough stuff, and ultimately felt more alive than ever before. Oregon has changed me, OSU has changed me, Magic Flute changed me, the people I met changed me, but the path that being here will lead to, that's just not what I want. Those shiny things along it are nice and all, but they were never what I wanted. I know exactly what I want out of my life and I know how to get it. Corvallis will always have a little piece of my heart, it will always feel a little like home. But it's time to move on.

I've spent most of my life trying to take the scenic route. Less concerned with where I was going as long as it was pretty and enjoyable along the way. There is honestly nothing wrong with taking that path, eventually you will get to your destination. But at some point I realized that taking the direct route doesn't mean it's not also scenic. It's just different, it's a little more grown up, a little more let's get sh*t done, and it can still take you to some pretty remarkable places. So in a little over two weeks I will pack my bags and make that journey one more time, but I'm not coming back. Not right now at least. I'm going to try out this new route, and see where it takes me. Maybe at some point I'll find it changes direction and takes me somewhere I wasn't expecting, or maybe it will lead me right back here. But right now it's time for me to go back home, to make my way there, to stop letting someone else decide what my dreams are or what my future holds, because the truth is I'm not riding in the passenger side, and I don't have to let anyone in my lane. I have to take myself to where I want to be, and no amount of backseat driving will change my mind.

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