It’s an unseasonably cool August morning in Sacramento. At a time of the year when the morning temperature at 8:00 a.m. is usually approaching, or already in, the 70s, today it has not even reached 60 degrees yet. The high today will be a very comfortable 86 degrees. Today’s high and low, in an odd sort of way, are a reflection on my time here in the California state capital. Comfortable. That time, however, has come to an end – for now. I moved to the Sacramento suburb of Fair Oaks in the summer of 2004; I purchased my home here a year later. Since leaving the home I grew up in many, many years ago, this is the longest I have ever spent at the same address. Soon, a new family will occupy that home (as my tenants) and I will have a new home 2,200 miles away. This move represents all that is good in the world, but was partially facilitated by much that is bad. Leaving Sacramento tomorrow morning will be bittersweet, but the fact that it is tells a story that I could not have foreseen nine years ago.
I never wanted to live in Sacramento. Growing up in the sleepy town of Los Altos, nestled snugly in the heart of what became known as “Silicon Valley,” I have lived in suburbia most of my life. While I do not nor have I ever lived in what could be called a “big city,” I have been close enough to San Jose, San Francisco, San Diego (briefly in the early 80s) and now Sacramento to make me realize that it would never be for me. Nice places to visit, but… And as the suburbs that I have lived in became more and more populated, and as traffic became worse and worse, and as “regulations” became more and more stifling, the suburbs took on the same character that made the cities so unattractive. Added to that, California’s Central Valley, generally, and Sacramento specifically does not have a plethora of geographic diversity. True, there are some local attractions in terms of the local lakes and rivers, but the valley is typically flat - really flat. Even with the grandeur of the nearby Sierra Nevada Mountains (where I actually lived for a few years before ending up in Sacramento) to the east and the Pacific Ocean to the west, Sacramento is only a good place to travel from, not to.
Yet, I have grown to love it here. I have established deep relationships with a great number of people who live here, the type of relationships that turned into life-long friendships. More than that, Sacramento has become my second “home town.” While I am not from here, many of my friends are and through them my ties run deeper than the time I have lived here. It is in Sacramento that my life quite literally began again. My academic achievements began here and were completed here until I maxed out at an MA degree from California State University, Sacramento. To earn a doctorate in my field of study I would have to look elsewhere. The question as to where was largely left up to the institutions to which I applied and the answer came in a letter of acceptance from Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge – almost exactly 2,200 miles away from home. For the past two years I tried to maintain my home in California while “commuting” to Louisiana, but the most compelling reason to continue keeping a foot in two states so far apart has literally evaporated into the nothingness it, apparently, always was. I am now free. It was not how I wanted or envisioned my life to be at this moment – it is a different kind of freedom – but it is freedom all the same.
Tomorrow morning I will start my drive with a trailer holding just a few of my possessions. Most of my furniture and other belongings will stay in a Sacramento storage unit for the next two years. After that, who knows where I’ll end up. I hope that I will be able to move back “home,” but home might well become someplace else. The decision will be based on the job market after I have earned my Ph.D. For now, Baton Rouge will be home and I expect that when it comes time to leave there, it will be just as emotional. I have already established relationships there and with my commitment to make it my home – putting down roots, so to speak – I will form bonds that are equally strong. Part of what took me so long to establish these relationships in Sacramento is that I knew (or thought I knew) that it would never be “home.” I was wrong. While I do know that Baton Rouge will not be a long-term home, that does not mean it can’t be equally “home.” Indeed, a home really has nothing to do with “where” it is, but it does have everything to do with who is there. There are very few people in Sacramento I won’t ever miss and, to be perfectly honest, hope I never see again, but the vast majority of people here – even those I have never met, but especially my friends – I will miss dearly. They are why Sacramento is home.