As I may have mentioned before, I had quite a few pen pals in high school. These were all people who lived in another part of the state, or another state, some of whom I’d never actually met. My first real boyfriend was one of them; he lived in the Bay Area and though we were “together” for a year, we only saw one another about six or eight times during that year. I didn’t have a lot of friends at school or in my town, so most of my socializing was done through letters or over the phone.
Many of my current friends are people I met through the internets. I married one of them a few weeks ago; you may have heard me mention it? We spent the first year and a half of our relationship living in two different states, seeing each other about once a month or every other. It was a difficult thing to do, maintaining our relationship primarily through IM and phone conversations a couple of times a week, but we managed it.
I say all of these things because I want to make it clear I’m no stranger to long-distance relationships, whether those be friendships or relationships of a more serious nature. My Oldest Friend and I haven’t lived in the same state since we were 17 years old, yet we manage to maintain our friendship across distances, sometimes truly great ones (she’s lived in Belgium, Germany, Mexico, Australia, and Washington, DC in the last ten years, and she currently resides in Southern California). Quite a few guests at our wedding were people we hadn’t seen in person for years because we all live in different places. Luckily, these days it’s easier than ever to maintain relationships with people across great distances, what with blogs and email and such.
How do you maintain a relationship with another state? Our 10 days or so in California for the wedding (during my favorite time of the year, mind) brought up all these feelings I’ve been bottling up for a while, about how much I miss the Bay Area. It was really difficult for me to leave in some ways, because I know we won’t be back until August (well, late July for me). We have a trip to Southern California in June during which time we’ll be seeing some friends and family, but it’s not the same. The wedding was an amazing, glorious day capping off a week of festivities, but since then I’ve felt like I want that day back, I want more time to spend with all those loved ones who I rarely get to see, and never all in one place at the same time. And while I can maintain relationships with friends and family, I can’t “stay in touch” with an entire region, with a season, with that feeling of belonging and familiarity.
During my five plus years in Denver, I’ve gotten to know Colorado pretty well. Thanks to my job, I’ve traveled all over the state, seen some beautiful and amazing things, climbed mountains, and stayed in brothel-like hotel rooms. My preconception of what Colorado was like (as in, before I became more knowledgable about the geography of this part of the country) was very different than the reality. Colorado has a lot to offer, both in things to do and see and in opportunities. Yet every time we go back to California, I feel like I’m coming home – to my family, to where I grew up, to the place that feels like ME. My sole coworker we invited to the wedding was unable to attend, but I sent her the links to the flickr photos because she wanted to see them. Her remarks afterward, in addition to being so amazed by what wonderful photos everyone took, was that the pictures looked like ME – like the wedding was in a place where I looked and felt like I belonged. I’d never talked much with her about my decision to leave California or how much I miss it, but I found myself with my jaw hanging open a bit when she said that.
Of course, California isn’t my home anymore. My home is with my husband and my kitties, wherever they happen to be. Right now, and for the past five years, that’s Denver. I like Denver. But it isn’t California.
Much of our disposable income over the last few years has gone toward traveling, primarily to California. Luckily, there are cheap airfares between Denver and the Bay Area offered by a few airlines (and I hope this continues). But we want to be able to do other things with our money someday. We’d like to buy a house. We’d like to go on more big trips. And every trip to California, even when we have free places to stay (thank you, people who let us stay with you!), costs a big chunk of change. There have been times when I’ve wanted to throw caution to the wind, to just buy a last minute fare to California for a weekend. And then I remember that we have other things we have to think about, like paying rent and bills and eating. And when we do go to California, we schedule our time down to the minute in some cases, making sure we make plans to spend time with as many people as we can during the few days we’re there. I think it will be better now that we don’t have to do wedding planning while we’re there, but there are still a good 20 people we’d like to see (friends and family members we both have in the area) when we come out to the Bay Area and there’s no way we can see everybody each time.
Someday, I hope we can afford to live in the Bay Area. We often talk about what would happen if we won the lottery that we never play, and our stock answer is always the purchase of a house in the Berkeley hills, first thing off the bat. Because if we could afford to, we’d move there tomorrow. Well, not really, we’d wait until Dan was done with school, but then we’d go. Unfortunately, we’d likely never be able to buy a house if we did that. So instead we talk about moving places like Portland, with more affordable housing that are closer to California. And I dream about the Berkeley marina, and eating Specialty’s chocolate chip cookies in San Francisco, and spending Quality Time with so many people I love.