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I never would have predicted that I would miss Redlands when I went off to college. Having lived there my entire life, I started counting down the days until I could move back when Drake was still just that dude in the wheelchair on Degrassi.

Redlands, affectionately called “Deadlands” by the town’s growing population of angsty teens, is small, humdrum and completely unlikeable for anyone with a semblance of adventure.

Yet, towards the end of winter quarter, I began to miss it. To feel nostalgia for high school and summer nights and being a kid.

I couldn’t wait to go home for spring break.

Day 1, Sunday: My mom and I drive from campus back to Redlands and during the ride we talk a lot about me. What I’m doing, where I’m living, how I’m feeling. Releasing all of those thoughts, the ones that flood my brain at 2 a.m. as I stare at the ceiling instead of falling asleep, transforms me into someone possibly more prepared for Irvine this quarter.

I meet up with my best friends from high school later, friends who were not as hasty as me in leaving Redlands. They keep asking my questions but I can’t bring myself to answer them; I want to listen to their stories instead.

When I see Fariza and Marinda again, I am no longer the weirdest one in the friend group. We say and think on the bizarre end of the spectrum. David Bowie, outer space, model Sen Mitsuji’s Instagram. At one point, Fariza and I conclude that most likely aliens have already come to Earth. That, to them, “we are the aliens.”

Day 2, Monday: Because the phrase “broke college student” is more than an excuse to not give money to Greenpeace, I end up at my mom’s office today to get some extra cash. Driving through Redlands in the morning, before the temperatures get too outrageous, puts an unexpected smile on my face. My town, despite its narrow-mindedness and lack of entertainment, still has some visual appeal. Beautiful historic homes, enchanting trees and plants, stunning blue skies. Perhaps the whole intention behind making the town so boring is so that people will instead just stop and look around more often.

Day 3, Tuesday: Living less than a mile from my high school, I decide to walk over and pick up my sister, a sophomore. Also, I want to visit my US History teacher, who grew into more of a friend than a teacher by the time I graduated. Walking over, listening to The Brian Jonestown Massacre, the nostalgia I feel is more acidic this time. Like everyone, high school sucked for me. I spent those four years plotting my escape and keeping my head low. I saw the newest generation of high school horror stories in action, from the pretty, peppy volleyball players at practice to the edgy punks trying to smoke in some unseen corner. They all stare at me: I don’t belong.

Of course, my old teacher picked today of all days to get a substitute.

Day 4, Wednesday: I do finally see my US History teacher. Out of everything he said, what sticks with me most is his affirmation that out of all of his old students who have come back to see him, I am one of the few who seems truly happy in college.

Day 5, Thursday: Mom and I watch this movie, Salvador, about a journalist who reports on the revolution in El Salvador during the 1980s. Seeing it and being reminded yet again of all the ethical queries within journalism makes me wonder why I want to be a journalist and why anyone would. I think the former question is more universal. Why does anyone want to do whatever it is they do? Money, security, love, talent — does one reason have more merit than another?

Being home, I am forced to analyze myself and my goals like this. It is all anyone here wants to talk about. Because friends and family rarely see me now, they have to catch up and try to know everything I’ve done in the last three months. They want answers to questions I haven’t even begun to ask myself yet. Maybe all this is a signal that I need to start asking them.

Day 6, Friday: Having to leave Redlands and return to Irvine reminds me of that Hemingway quote, “slowly at first, then all at once.” Like always, I wish I had more time. To have watched more movies, seen more friends, read more books. I wish that spring break had been more productive.

Even by just being in Redlands for break, I feel like a completely new, recharged person entering spring quarter. When you are stuck in an uninspiring environment, you must look to yourself for that inspiration. Stepping back into my life in Redlands for the week, I could better measure how much I have grown since moving to Irvine.

After graduating high school, I thought I knew exactly who I was, what I wanted and where I was going to go. In the last two years, all of that has changed and I can see now how different I was then. More than that, though, I accept that all of those changes have been positive, that I’ve become more content with this version of myself.

Spring will mark not only a botanical rebirth but also a personal revival. I’ll make music, do yoga, read for fun, drink lots of water, study hard but not too hard. Hopefully I can do everything I’ve been telling myself to do but haven’t actually done yet. Hopefully.

At one point during our drive to Redlands on Sunday, my mom jokingly said to me that I am the “daughter of Nostradamus,” the predictor of bad futures, i.e. my cynical father. Or, as we cynics prefer, “realistic.” But maybe I should give idealism a chance.

 

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