“…I left my comfort zone and opened myself up to new experiences.”
“Don’t worry, Mom and Dad, I’m only going to be in California for one year.” Those were my last words as I skidded out of my parents’ gravel driveway in upstate New York. My car was stuffed with clothes, appliances, lots of music and a ragged surfboard I had bought in Narragansett one summer. I had lined up a teaching job as a special educator for fifth and sixth grade and was ready to work and play. As miles became memories, I soon found myself at destination’s door: San Diego. Growing up, I had always stolen my brother’s issues of SURFING Magazine and knew that one day I would make it to the West Coast.
I lived in San Diego for seven years and within the first year, I found my dream career, my future husband, three bridesmaids, a new perspective on life, and the best burritos in Southern California. What more could you ask for? I fell in love with the people, the land and the lifestyle. I lived in four different places in Pacific Beach, and worked in a school, a restaurant and a coffee shop all within a five-mile radius. I got around on my bike, skateboard or by foot and rarely even moved my car from its parking spot. I met new people every day and was always greeted by someone who had the time to say “hi” and the care to be courteous. There was no rush, no demand and no pressure to cut life short. This, to me, defined living.
Among the daily successes both with students and on my own, I managed to find time to enjoy the outdoor lifestyle of San Diego. Torrey Pines and Sunset Cliffs will forever be my favorite places to feast on amazing scenery while breaking a sweat. Time and time again, Taco Surf in Pacific Beach provided the best burritos at any time of day. I learned Cholula is good on just about everything that has cheese and that buying the small bottle is just a bad decision. I went through six birthdays, six school years, three cars, and two bikes in this outstanding place I called home.
I was living life to the fullest, but over time, I began to miss being part of the milestones and important events happening to my family and those I loved in New York.
After an amazing journey, my fiancé and I packed up all our things and hit the road. We were sad as we pulled away but knew that we could always come back. Our good friends gave us a parting gift: snacks, magazines and Pacific Beach T-shirts to wear along the way. We had the time of our life driving across the country, stopping at places we never knew existed. We left our “family” in San Diego to be with our family back East; the second-best decision we’ve ever made.
Life is full of chapters. When I am 95 and look back, I will remember this as the chapter where I learned the most about myself and what I wanted out of life, because I left my comfort zone and opened myself up to new experiences.
The Pacific Beach T-shirt reminds me of all this. I am passing it on, because I will always have the memories, and I would love to share them with others. I have a new life now with family and friends in Boston and have brought back everything I need, along with old values, virtues and traditions for another amazing road ahead.
Thank you Nikki for sharing your awesome story. We've repurposed Nikki's donated shirt and created "Story Tags" like you see below to be sewn on new elovate.us t-shirts. Each shirt has a story. We believe the more we share the more we'll be connected.