Five Years

The first day of the quarter is tomorrow, marking the beginning of my sixth year in graduate school. I've been thinking a lot about the wonderful experiences I've had in the past five years.

I moved to Davis, California in September of 2009. My mother helped me set up my first apartment and we bonded while building furniture from IKEA and drinking, as always, Diet Coke. The day my mom left, I cried. And cried. And cried. I had never been so far away from home, so permanently. When I got back inside my apartment, after watching my mom drive down and away on A Street, I picked myself up. It was time to get going. To push through. I went to the Co-Op, became a member, and bought some organic, gluten-free delicious foods. Purple bell pepper.

That first quarter of graduate school was hard but I came in with a good group of people. They were immediate family, with support and advice a plenty. But by October, I was so homesick, that my mom bought me a plane ticket to Salt Lake. I went home, made caramels with my sister, and realized that home was still there. My mom had told me that home would always be there. It was a very comforting trip.

I spent the weekend dog sitting for my friend and she let me borrow her car. It was November, the month of the crush. I drove around Napa smelling that incredible, intoxicating smell. This was California. Adventure. Good food with real, fresh, local ingredients. Suddenly even the grapes I drank had a home. Zinfandel. Coincidentally, in my friend's apartment complex were LDS Missionaries. While I was not LDS, they were a little bit of home -- quirky, strange home -- right here in a new place.

Life was school. Worked hard, worked late. I had a lot of camaraderie. Good, good people. But it came time to apply to PhD programs. The decision came down to two. One in far, far away Alabama and the other one right here. While the school in Alabama had some incredible opportunities, I knew I couldn't beat having a great advisor and living in the best place in the world. So I finally decided on Davis. As soon as I told the other school, immediately I knew, I had made the right decision. Knowing where I'd be spending the next 3-4 years of my life meant I could do something I hadn't done seriously in a long time: Date.

My first, only, and last online date was with Sean. And from the beginning it was perfect. Sean figured me out quickly. I need adventure. Not necessarily big adventures but I love experiencing the novel. Immediately my life became frequent trips to the Bay Area, sushi and hole-in-the-wall Mexican, and soon I fell not only in love with Sean, but with the de Guzman family.

I moved here as an agnostic and fell in love with Christ and His strange little church. Two and a half years of learning and discernment, I became Catholic. Which now only seems natural.

I've become a more confident researcher and maybe a better one. I've gathered a good selection of professional experiences. After years of being unsure of what I wanted to do once I got out of graduate school, I now have a plan and the pieces in place to make it happen.

In five years, things have come together for me. I saw it all happen this summer. I worked an internship in sexual health, where they were flexible enough for me to take off for a wedding and honeymoon of my dreams. My Catholic wedding was attended by those friends who made living to California and being in graduate school a pleasure. My family, supportive at every step of the way, was there. We drank California wine, ate avocados, and spent the next day on the beach, toes buried in the sand.

It has been a beautiful five years in California. A lot of hard work but a lot of pure joy too. Good friends, true love, and community. Good food, places to be, and sights to see. There have been rough days, weeks, and months. It has all been worth it to be here and to find myself in this place with my love, family, and my friends. But I still tear up as I think of cooking those purple bell peppers alone, my mother on her way back to my home.