Dearest San Luis Obispo (SLO),
This is my attempt, fifteen years later, to really, honestly tell you how much I love you. You’ve changed tremendously since I was last there in 2015. And at that time, you’d already changed so much from when I graduated Poly in 2007.
I don’t say that to imply your changes are bad in any way, it’s an evolution of the economy and needs of the City. I get it. But, you were a different place when I landed there in January of 2005.
I arrived at your beautiful coastal town as a 21-year-old with so much eagerness, and still in love with her first boyfriend ever. Leaving Sacramento for the first time this young girl was ready to experience something new. And you gave me that and so much more, but I knew that was going to happen. That is exactly why I chose you. San Luis Obispo was going to be special, I already knew it in my core.
SLO, you were where I learned heartbreak. I don’t think there is anywhere else I’d rather be during a breakup. I remember being extremely sad, but knowing it was the right thing to do.
SLO, you taught me that I never want to experience a holiday alone. Work will never supersede family and I needed to miss a Thanksgiving in Sacramento with my family to understand this life lesson. And it wasn’t even a job that would help my career, it was Staples. Yes, Staples!
SLO, you taught me to put myself out there. I was 21 transferring to a college where I knew like three people. Whether it was faux confidence or real confidence, I had a choice to make new friends and get involved or be sad and homesick. Immediately running for a board position in the American Marketing Association (AMA) and befriending the girl who kept asking questions in my first class was all serendipitous to learning to put myself out there.
SLO, your weird weather taught me that if you don’t dress properly, you can call your parents and ask to buy sweats at the campus store. I learned to love your cold mornings as the ocean fog would eventually burn off and then roll back in the evening to remind you of its presence near us again, for the second time in one day.
SLO, you let me experience college as I’d always seen in movies. I am forever grateful that my parents worked so hard so I could experience college the way I did. I worked because it has always been in my DNA to do so, but I also enjoyed life. I found a weird balance, but one that worked for lots of drinking, but also being responsible too.
SLO, you taught me a lesson in humility. Academic probation and my parents finding out about my credit card debt are not parts of the experience I like to talk about, but they happened. They taught me that no matter how bad I mess up, my parents will ALWAYS be there. That blessing is something so many don’t have, and I don’t take it for granted. And on yeah, Mom and Dad, I don’t ever think I told you I was on academic probation after one really party semester at Poly. I graduated, so all water under the bridge, right?!
SLO, you let me get that wild child out of my system. She needed to get out, even though she’d bring her back to Sac for a couple of years. Pirates Cove trips (IYKYK), VIP card at DTB, roomie rescues in Firestone’s bathroom, and so much alcohol are all part of the experience.
SLO, you let me grown through my own decisions. Some good, some bad. But I never felt constricted or held back in this city. I could apply for any type of job, ahem Staples, or I could not work and live on my loan budget. I could take a 400 level course in a completely different major and feel overwhelmed, but challenged. I was literally free to do as I pleased, within reason of course…well, kinda!
SLO, you reminded me I find strength in female friendships, but male friendships are extremely essential in my life too. Living with three guys was an adventure in itself, but also were the nights where I was with just the girls too. I had a great blend of both and equally enjoyed both. I’m grateful for the friendships I made in SLO, many of which are only maintained through social media and that’s okay, I love seeing their lives and families flourish!
SLO, thank you for NEVER once letting me get a speeding ticket while driving 400+ miles to and fro. Big Blue loved exploring your city and felt right at home, just like I did.
SLO, the taste of Firestone’s ABC burger and fries will forever be my favorite meal, but closely rivaled will be the breakfast bagel and blended mocha from the Nautical Bean. Food is my love language, so you know these flavors, tastes, and smells are ingrained in my brain and nothing brings me more joy than coming back to experience both. I’ll always remember coming home from the NB smelling like roasted beans, being both, intoxicated by the smell and also grossed out and wanting a shower, equally.
SLO, thank you for leaving me with no real regrets about my decision to come here. I was devastated when Berkeley denied me, but that was a blessing in disguise. Why do all the hard things always lead to amazing things? Another secret life lesson I learned in this process! I, annoyingly, tell people this all the time. I am so grateful I ended up at Cal Poly, even though it was my backup school 😉 There is nothing backup about this place, it has my heart through and through.
SLO, I love how quirky the City is. I don’t know what all the independently wealthy do to live here, but I need to figure out that secret sauce. I love that you still don’t allow drive-thrus, but that Taco Bell line at 2 AM is the WORST! I love how you surround the city with peaks waiting to be hiked, protecting the city like a secret little haven. I love your proximity to the ocean and how your weather reminds us of it daily.
Even now, 15 years later, as I drive down the 101 and we make take the last curve and I see the SLO signs my heart flutters as it did the first and tenth time I drove into the city. This small town, where kids from NorCal and So Cal meet to argue about which part of California reigns supreme (NorCal, duh), will always and forever HELLA have a part of my heart.
I didn’t want to say goodbye, like everyone who graduates, but it was important for me to do so. In that, I also learned a different lesson. Cities, people, and experiences are all part of our life for one reason or another and sometimes they are just there temporarily. SLO was exactly what I needed in my life at that time. I enjoyed the hell out of it and hopefully left it better than when I arrived.
I hope my heart always swells when I think about San Luis Obispo. Fifteen years later I immediately smile when someone mentions SLO and a wash of nostalgia rushes me. Lil asked if I’d ever want to move back. I told her maybe for like six months, but honestly, I wouldn’t. I want to visit all the time, but I don’t need to live here again. The 2.5 years I was grateful to live here was enough for my soul. I don’t need to relive them, because they were so magical, and HARD, but so special I’d never try to replicate it.
Now, if I could afford a beach home in Avila, that’s another story…
SLO, you’ll always be one of the loves of my life.