Routine: Santa Cruz, CA


Conventional, regular, typical, everyday.

It used to be that I traveled a fair amount, if even just traveling up and down Highway 101 or Interstate 5 to get from Los Angeles to the Monterey Bay. Now that I’m an “actual” adult, with a job to work and a boss to answer to, I have to operate within the constraints of that job. This means that the freedom of travel is a freedom that I can only exercise over 13 vacation days every year. I thought about it today on my way home, while driving my evening commute up Santa Monica Boulevard, just like I have most weekdays for over two years now. This is my adult life; here it is. When I lived in Santa Cruz, I didn’t have these constraints. Now that I’ve had a few hours to think about it some more, I realized a stark truth: There is a clear dividing line between my current, “adult” life and the life that I left behind in Santa Cruz. I have never spent a single serious day of my adult life outside of Los Angeles. This is a sobering thought.

Sure, technically I was an “adult” while I lived in Santa Cruz – I didn’t move here until I was 19 – but I was a student. There wasn’t a full time job, with full time taxes, full time hours, and full time responsibilities. If I wanted to stay out late on a Thursday night, I could do it with few consequences the next day because I rarely had class on Friday. At worst, I’d sleepwalk through my first class and I might not figure out how to conjugate an irregular verb in Spanish. If I tried to pull that off today, I’d be sleepwalking through the first three hours of work, and a lawyer might not receive a needed correspondence. Maybe I interpret an order from a co-worker incorrectly and I send the wrong E-mail to the wrong person. Maybe I don’t have a job to show up to the next day. Of course, I’m making several huge leaps of logic, but the message is clear: This is adult life, enjoy your stay.

Because of all of this, when I do have the option to travel, I take full advantage of it and I treasure it. And when I do get the chance to visit my hometown, even if only for a few hours as a detour on my way elsewhere, I jump at the chance. I got that exact chance last December, and I spent part of my afternoon in the same neighborhood in which I grew up. While I was there, I was reminded of exactly how much I miss the little things about my hometown – the same things I took for granted for 19 years.

It was the prototypical Bay Area winter afternoon: Chilly and cloudy with patches of blue sky and fresh rain on the ground. It was overwhelmingly comforting for me to see actual Santa Cruzians walking around in jeans, hoodies, and ski caps. That’s definitely not a common sight in Los Angeles in December. I took the only freeway in town to the only boulevard in town, crossed the only railroad tracks in town, and ate lunch with one of my best friends by one of the many beaches in town.

The cafe we had lunch at was at the end of the street that I drove down every day on my way to school from the ages of 16 to 19. The juxtaposition is striking now – That was my commute, and at the time it seemed so mundane: Here’s the lighthouse, here’s the beach, here’s the lagoon, here’s my [high school/college/internship]. Today’s commute still seems mundane: Here’s Santa Monica Boulevard, under the 405, past the theaters, into the city of Santa Monica, turn before Olympic, and pull into the headquarters of an internationally-recognized corporation. If you printed out those directions, filled in the details, and showed them to me in 2005, my 18-year old self would have been giddy with excitement. It still feels a little surreal writing it out and seeing it on the screen, but in practice, it just feels normal now. Santa Cruz is the exotic place now. I lived less than a mile from that cafe for nine years, and I had never eaten there before last December. Not once. As much as I used to exclaim at the sight of the stars on the Hollywood Boulevard sidewalk, I now marvel at the sight of the yacht harbor I used to pass every day.

As much as I don’t want to preach, please allow me this soapbox moment: The words I write tonight aren’t lost on me, and I certainly hope that if you’ve made it this far down the page that you can maybe take some sort of appreciation in the little things again. Even if the routine seems too typical and “routine”, open your eyes and ears and take it in. Even if it’s in vain, at least try to recapture the same wide-eyed wonder and unlimited hope you had on the day you started your job, the day you started your first day of college, the day you moved to a new neighborhood, or the day you started a new relationship. Tomorrow morning, I am going to try as hard as I possible can to remember my own words and enjoy the drive down Santa Monica on my way to work. Give it a shot.


Posted on February 4, 2013, in Bygone Eras and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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