I find it hard to believe that it has been four years since I made the choice to leave Humboldt County, and take a chance on living in Southern California. I often feel like I blink my eyes, and another year passes me by. I close my eyes, and I can still see the snow covered mountain range off in the distance outside the window of the place I was working in Fontana, CA. The sounds of the local freeways, and smell of oil and gas still feel trapped inside my ears, and nostrils. It’s like no matter how far I walk, if I turn around, the memories are following me. I know that I do not want to return to that place. On the occasion of my recent visits to the Inland Empire, I cruised through those former places I once frequented. It was good therapy, and I realize I had been so far away from home.
The five months I spent living in Riverside, CA were not a product of careful planning. In fact, to say planning had a hand in that episode of my life is laughable. I look back now, and can only think of the word “reactionary” to best describe this particular point of my existence. It was not quite a year since I had moved my then recent ex-girlfriend to Eugene, OR. She accepted a job there, and I used that as my ticket to scuttle our already sinking relationship. Once she was gone, I spent several months in the house we had shared. I was struggling to afford the place myself, but the idea of getting a roommate never entered my mind. I kept trying to make ends meet. The stress of an uncertain future made me vulnerable. By the start of 2006, I was not sure what the hell I wanted.
Just as 2005 was ending I met two women through the convenience of Internet communications. Both of these women lived in the Inland Empire at the time, and that was just a coincidence I stumbled into. I met the first one during Thanksgiving of 2005. We hit it off, but I did not feel a romantic connection. As we parted ways, the woman who my readers know better as Bratty committed to being friends. Bratty also had the privilege of meeting Jess prior to our Turkey Day visit. Jess was the other woman who I was corresponding with. At the end of October I had made plans to travel to Riverside to meet Jess. Since Bratty and I were to be only friends, I did not change my plans to see Jess. Bratty had her doubts about Jess, but I wanted to see it for myself.
During my vacation at the end of December (’05) I traveled to Riverside, CA to meet Jess. We hit it off right away. In fact, I was to be on vacation nearly two weeks (unusual for me), and I spent something like ten days with Jess. I remember my last day of that vacation. I was leaving So Cal like at 3 a.m. because I was driving all the way back to Eureka in one day. She cried as she hugged me, and I really thought it was special.
I returned in February (‘06) to spend Jess’s birthday with her. It was then that I made a decision that I had not thought through. Back home I was struggling to make ends meet while living in a home that was too big for just me. I was alone, and at work I was flirting with burnout. All the elements of rashness came into play. Jess wanted me around more, and I thought it would be easier for me to uproot. So it was settled, in one month I would be living in Riverside. Leaving Humboldt was not so hard after all.
What would my friends say? What could they say? Mr. Pat clearly did not want to see me just up and leave. However, he knew better than anyone that once I decided to leave, it was not an item for discussion. Pat knew I had already thought it through, and that I left out input from other people. He came to realize that this was something I had to do. I don’t know if he ever realized just how impulsive my decision was, but he knew that when I said I was leaving, it was not negotiable. Everybody else followed his lead, and prepared for my exit from the scene.
I was so sure that a change of scenery would be good. What I failed to realize was how it would do me good. After the honeymoon died down, Riverside became a foreign country to me. I was “Humboldtized”, and the So Cal lifestyle was no longer appealing to me. As soon as Jess and I started to have strife, the feeling of being on an island so far from home crept into my mind. The summer heat combined with the immense number of souls living so close together was going to make me crack. Of course I realized that home was 250 miles north of San Francisco by a small, but beautiful bay. I missed my friends, and my old job. I had to travel over 600 miles to figure out what was important in my life. I just wanted to go home.
So I returned to Humboldt County just shy of six months after leaving to live with Jess. My friends spared me the “I told you so…” barbs. In the span of a lifetime, five months and change is not a long time. However, in that finite moment in my life I at last learned to look out for my own happiness. Of course this homecoming did not go off without a few glitches.
I am happy to be back, but the after effects of my time on So Cal still echo to this day. Due to the sacrifice I made to accommodate Jess, I returned to Humboldt a bit more selfish. I do recall adopting the creed that “IT is ALL about ME”. I am prone to derailing relationships as soon as I feel that I am sacrificing too much. Oh yeah, and my now legendary apathy arrived when I returned from Riverside. If you don’t care, how can you get hurt?
So it was not all Ice Cream and Puppies when I returned. For what it is worth I am where I want to be, and that suits me just fine. Four years later, five months out of my life still weighs on my mind. Here’s to not going down that road again anytime soon.