I’m from California. That’s usually the first thing people learn about me, after hearing my name and my class year. I think my Bay Area roots say a lot about me — they’ve shaped my passions, my dreams and my worldview. But without moving to New York for college, I never would have realized just how important my home is to me.
St. Helena, my hometown, is the touristy heart of the Napa Valley, about one hour north of San Francisco. With a population of 5,800, it’s the kind of place where no one misses the Annual Pet Parade or Friday night high school football game. It’s also the kind of place that could drive a girl to have senioritis as a freshman. If there was one thing I learned in high school, it was that I needed to get out and go far, far away.
I don’t remember exactly when I knew I wanted to go to college on the East Coast. But I do remember the source of my Yankee yearnings — Gilmore Girls. Yes, as corny as it sounds, a teen dramedy inspired me to trade in my 72° Novembers and Rainbow flip flops for Halloween nor’easters and Ugg Boots. I imagined a snow globe of a community, like the show’s charming Stars Hollow, where the leaves on the oaks and maples turned vivid crimsons and fiery oranges before falling, and where I could actually feel the sensation of snowflakes on my eyelashes instead of just hearing about it in songs.
All I can say is thank you to the WB for giving me Rory Gilmore and a dream that brought me to Hamilton, New York. The leaves? They’re more breathtaking than a Los Angeles soundstage could ever let on. The snowflakes? I liked those too, until I wiped out in front of Stillman approximately 73 times my freshman year. I still haven’t learned how to walk in the snow. Small cultural things still surprise me, even after two and a half years as an unofficial Easterner. Boys wear powder blue seersucker shorts and salmon blazers? They call Ro-Sham-Bo “Rock, Paper, Scissors?” Where are all the skateboarders?
In all seriousness, becoming bi-???coastal was one of the best decisions I made in my life. I’ve met hundreds of people who could not be more different than my high school classmates. I’ve been lucky enough to visit cities like Buffalo and New York, and go home with many of my closest friends for our shorter breaks from school. But most of all, I’ve become fiercely proud of being Californian, and each time I return I fall a little more in love with my home.
Truthfully, I didn’t really appreciate California, and especially not my hometown, until I left. But now, every time I land at SFO, I almost burst with excitement over spending a week, a month, or a summer in the land of Bay to Breakers, the hyphy movement and countless aging hippies. There’s just so much about home I love: Cy Young winner Tim Lincecum leading the Giants to (sporadic) victory in China Basin, reunions in Berkeley with my wonderfully insane co-workers from the Lair of the Bear summer camp and walking my two dogs through the vineyards near my house, to name a few.
Journalist Lincoln Steffens best describes how I feel about the Golden State: “I never felt the warm, colorful force of the beauty of California until I had gone away and come back.” And so, while I will continue to savor every moment I have left in Hamilton, I know that come 2010, sweet home California will be waiting for me.