Wednesday, March 7, 2012

California Dreamin'

Because I just spent a few hours talking with friends and because I have yet to finish packing for my impending return to the Golden State, my entry tonight will be brief and not entirely eloquent. I apologize for this in advance, but I hope that you might still enjoy several of my many reasons for anxiously returning to my home state.

1. When I think of California, I think nothing.

The quote above is from an episode of Gilmore Girls in which Lorelai plays Luke's character witness for his divorce trial and to prove Luke is not out for monetary gain explains that he is a hermit and a minimalist. "When I think of Luke Danes, I think nothing."

When I'm returning to California, even after a long period at school far far away, it's always a pleasure to be back to a life of minimalism and quiet. California itself is not a place that exemplifies these characteristics, but "home" does. I've always found that home is a place where I spend more time than anywhere else feeling relaxed and losing my sense of time and space.

Everything feels so enclosed in my room in California. Sometimes when I was little I'd look out the window to see if there were other people in their houses because my world (my room) was so silent and isolated from humanity. But after a long quarter at school, this kind of solitude is an absolute godsend.

2. I can sing whenever, wherever and however I want to.

When I'm at school I'm much more conscience of who can hear me. When I'm in my room I've been trying to be more vigilant about the decibel of my television, the sound of the music on my laptop, even my voice when I'm on the phone talking to my dad.

One of my biggest sacrifices has been giving up my incessant penchant for singing. Since I was a kid, I've always been a shower singer. I purposely avoided bathing when my family was present in the house so that I could sing whatever song I wanted at whatever volume I wanted.

Now I have to set aside exclusive times for singing. Occasionally I hum in the shower - for anyone who lives in my suite, now you know who it is you've heard crooning through pursed lips the tune of "I'll Make a Man Out of You" - and my only real time for singing is when I'm blow-drying my hair.

I rarely even do that. Singing has become something to hide at school and it's one of the hardest facts of life when I'm away from home. California for me means freedom to fill my living quarters with Broadway show tunes and absolutely no remorse.

3. Driving in cars with parents.

The luxury of California is its greatest flaw as well. My hometown and its environs should be renamed smog city. Southern California is in general the kind of place you don't want to be breathing too heavily in because wherever you go there is either a Hummer or a Cadillac Escalade driving down the street. There are too many people with far too roomy pocketbooks who don't consider their carbon footprint as much as whether or not they will have enough DVD material to entertain the kids for the long ride to Disneyland.

It's ridiculous, yet one of the happiest parts of my time at home is practicing driving and getting to play passenger. I love that LA, which might be an inconvenient train ride away if my transportation was similar to what I have when I'm at school, is within relatively easy driving distance. I love that Disneyland is only 15 minutes away by car.

I love that wherever I go I can blast Fountains of Wayne or The Beatles along the way. And I won't be blowing out my ear drums with my iPod earbuds in the process.

It's the best and worst thing about California - the driving culture.

4. Feeling my happiest at the Happiest Place on Earth.

Main Street, U.S.A. (Summer 2011)
I've been blessed to grow up a short distance from the Disneyland Resort. While other kids might cite the local park or a mall as their backyard and playground at home, I've always considered Frontierland, Adventureland, Fantasyland, Tomorrowland and Main Street, U.S.A. to be my real figurative backyard.

When I go home, one of my greatest joys is knowing that sooner than later I will be headed to Disneyland. It's not even the spectacle that's the attraction - it's the comfort of being in a place that feels so warm and inviting and fresh and beautiful. Often I'll annoy friends by preferring to walk around the parks than go on rides. My dad and I will plan mornings to arrive right at park opening so we can go on a couple of attractions with longer queues then spend the rest of the early afternoon just wandering around and talking.

The way I determine if I love a place is by how calm it makes me and how far it removes me from the harsh realities of my overextended mind. Some cities like London make me feel this way. And while Orange County as a whole does not do much for me in the way of relaxation, Disneyland is a little slice of comfort in a sea of smoggy commercial and suburban life.

5. The family connection.

Last and actually most important, California is the place where my family lives and where I feel most welcome. Even when I leave behind my studies only temporarily with the thought of the next quarter looming overhead, I also leave with all worry fallen into a temporary abyss while I enjoy my freedom and comfort.

Some of the greatest things that the Golden State has to offer me are material things. I have the ability to drive, I have Disneyland within arm's reach, I have my own room and my own bathroom and my own shower. But my greatest gift when I'm home is that I am surrounded by people who care about me and who want and love to see me.

I have a great base at school, but it's nice to be home in California where I'm no longer dependent on myself for all of my personal concerns. Family are the base that keeps me feeling happy and healthy when I return - even if it's only for two weeks.

I really have so many reasons to be happy. California is already experiencing spring (maybe even summer) weather compared to the brisk Illinois temperatures. I will be returning to a comfortable home and few responsibilities other than to enjoy a few weeks off. But most of all I just can't wait to have that feeling of returning again. That feeling when you're done with finals and you're going home. It's truly priceless.

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