E.T.

emma, nina, mom, kel
Emma, Nina, Mom, and Kelly at Brick+Mortar

The last two weeks before I move is a total whirlwind. I have so much to do, so much to get done, and then all of a sudden it’s here and gone in the blink of an eye. I really can’t believe it.

When I moved to California, I was excited and terrified. And of course, incredibly sad to say goodbye to my family and friends in New Jersey. Now, leaving California, it’s a different kind of sadness. Leaving New Jersey felt like I could finally leave behind this idea of myself that I didn’t want to be. I felt like I could finally grow and change and be anything I wanted to be, and nobody would look at me weird or tell me to stop. Now I’m saying goodbye to the people who allowed me to do that. Not only did they allow it, they encouraged it and supported it. I feel like I owe something to these people and this place and I haven’t had the chance to repay them. I just don’t want to say goodbye.

Saying goodbye is hard. A lot harder than I thought. I have so many tears I don’t know what to do with them. The first come in Topanga, when I have to say goodbye to the Robinson family. I’m not expecting it – I guess because I hope that I’ll get to see them one more time, but as I’m saying goodbye, I realize, this might be it. Hugging those little boys for the last time is hard enough, but realizing that I won’t be seeing Rich and Tara for who knows how long hits me like a ton of bricks. One minute I’m smiling and the next minute I’ve burst into tears. I don’t know how to thank them for everything they’ve ever done for me, from the first minute I arrived in LA until now. Sam and Finn are my most favorite little people on the planet and I’ve been so lucky to watch them grow up. It’s devastating to know that I don’t get to continue to do that. I know there’s FaceTime and I know we’ll stay in touch, but it’s just not the same as coming over to the house to watch them play and read them books and see them wake up from a nap.

Two days later, Jackie and I have our going-away party at Brick. This is the absolute best. It’s pretty incredible to have Kelly and my parents there, too. It’s so much fun and I’m so happy that it’s hard to remember why I’m here. This is goodbye. I hold it together pretty well tonight. I think because I’m trying to talk to everyone and get in my last time with everyone that it’s more the people around me who are crying. Tonight is also my parents’ last night. They leave the party early (not too early – they’re a couple of party animals tonight) but as I put them in their Uber, I can’t help but cry. I don’t even know why. It’s so weird. I see my parents a couple of times a year. And it’s fine. But this week, every goodbye feels so sad. It’s overwhelming.

Anna Rose gets a little choked up at the party, but it doesn’t last long. We’re having too much fun. She asks Steve, “Why are you taking her from me?” But I know that AR couldn’t be happier for me. After all, she’s the one who told us from the very beginning, in Mexico, that “distance means nothing.” And she was absolutely right. After Mom meets her, she tells me, “I loved her before I even talked to her.” That’s the kind of presence AR has, and that’s the kind of person that she is.

Nina is totally fine, but we know we’re going to see each other one last time. She just started working at Tao – this huge, Asian fusion restaurant. It has locations in New York and Vegas and now LA just had its grand opening. They’re having five days of a soft opening for friends and family, and she invites me and Steve. Of course, UNC makes it to the finals and the game is on the same night (Steve went to UNC and is a diehard fan), so I leave Steve with Matt and AR at a bar, and meet Nina, [her] Stephen, and Emma, at Tao. The place is absolutely gorgeous. Stunning. Red everything and massive Buddha statues everywhere I turn. Nina hands me a small photo album. It’s basically the story of us. It feels like we’re in middle school and it’s my birthday – I love it. We laugh the whole meal and enjoy quite the array of delicious food. But now it’s time for me to leave. We’ve just finished dessert and it’s already past 10pm, which isn’t late, but Steve and I have to Uber back to Long Beach and get to bed at a reasonable hour because tomorrow is our last day to pack. And we have so much to do. I tell Nina I have to go and she says OK. I stand up to say bye to Emma, but the little weirdo runs around the table, away from me, and informs me that I’m not leaving and she’s not saying goodbye. Emma’s not one to get emotional, so I just laugh as I actually start to chase her to give her a hug. In the meantime I give Stephen a hug goodbye and look over to see tears streaming down Nina’s face.

Nina! C’mon! I wasn’t expecting her to cry. I don’t think she was either. It hasn’t really sunk in for either of us that this is it. Emma finally gives in and lets me hug her, then I’m already crying as I lean down to grab Nina in a bear hug. We tend to express our love for each other by yelling at each other, telling the other one to ‘shut up’, and definitely saying, ‘I hate you’ (we are from New Jersey, after all), but now through tears it’s nothing but our honest feelings. Because I do love her. My friendship with Nina was unexpected. One day we were co-workers and friends, and suddenly one day we were best friends. I don’t remember what exactly the moment was; I just remember that I needed a friend and she was there. And she always had my back. And she always will. Nina is the least judgmental person I’ve ever met. She’ll never make you feel bad for something you’ve done – there are much more rational and helpful ways of moving forward. Sure, she’ll make fun of me. All the time, actually. But it always comes from a place of true friendship and love.

I never thought I would leave California. After about three months, I knew it was my home. The weather, the people, the possibilities. LA truly brought me back to life, or rather, into a life I didn’t know could exist for myself. And then I met Steve.

It’s making me realize how great change is. I love moving to a new place and starting fresh. It’s good to shake things up a bit. Charlotte is a charming city and I’m looking forward to all it has to offer. Starting new feels good. Really good. I need this. California will still be there, which is the same thing I said about Jersey when I moved across the country five and a half years ago. What lies in store for me in Charlotte? I don’t know. It’s incredibly exciting, and while I am sad to leave LA and my friends and I can’t seem to stop crying, the future fills me with some kind of unknown happiness. And I can’t wait.

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