For most of my life, I’ve only lived in one place.
I grew up, lived and went to school in Watsonville, California for as long as I can remember. But when I was younger, my family and I moved to Aromas, a very small town a short 15-minute drive from Watsonville. Both are about two hours away from Berkeley.
Aromas is so small it doesn’t even have a stoplight and the only bus station going through the town was removed years ago.
Watsonville, on the other hand, is best known for growing, harvesting and producing a majority of all of the strawberries consumed in the United States. It’s also where Martinelli’s is made and manufactured.
Located on the central coast of California, in Santa Cruz county, Watsonville is largely Latine, mostly Mexican, immigrant and working class.
Despite being the major producer of strawberries for the country, people have no idea where or what Watsonville is all about. When introducing myself and saying where I’m from, I always have to follow it with “it’s near Santa Cruz.”
I didn’t always love Watsonville. When I was younger and my family would visit San Francisco for a Giant’s game or a weekend trip, I would think “this is where I want to be.”
I still feel that way about San Francisco, but more and more I find myself missing Watsonville and Aromas. I usually feel homesickness in waves, but lately it’s been a tsunami.
I miss Watsonville and being a short drive from the beach, driving past the rolling fields of strawberries and raspberries, seeing the vibrant murals around town depicting my heritage and hearing Mexican music being blasted from cars.
I miss Aromas and being surrounded by trees, hearing the frogs and crickets when falling asleep at night and being awoken by the sound of crows cawing and birds chirping. I miss my dogs, my cats and breathing in fresh air.
Living in Berkeley is a stark contrast from these things that I find myself missing so much.
When I first got here I quickly became overwhelmed. The busy streets, sirens always in the near distance, the not so fresh air and hardly any nature, at least not how I was used to.
Although I wanted to live in a city when I was younger, I think that it was just because it’s so different from where I grew up. Now that I’m experiencing what living in a city is like, I’m starting to find the beauty in it.
Sometimes I miss the quiet of living in the country, but I’m finding the quiet moments here too.
In the early morning walking to my 9 a.m. class, in the late night when it’s too late to be out and too early to be awake, visiting Sleepy Cat Books to pet Lyla the sleepy cat and on rainy Sundays preparing for the week ahead. It’s a different kind of quiet than home.
As the final song of Phoebe Bridgers’ second studio album, Punisher, croons, “Romanticize a quiet life/ There’s no place like my room.”
Bridgers wrote that line about how she goes on tour and wanted to have a garden when she gets home, but now she’s home and there’s still no garden.
To me, that line is representative of my freshman year at Berkeley. I do all I can to romanticize life here, especially the quiet. But what I need is not always quiet.
If I’m being honest, I’ve been struggling a lot this past semester. Often, “the quiet” means staying in my room, but as someone who struggles with depression and anxiety, staying in my room is the worst thing I can do, but I can’t always handle how loud the city is.
I’m working on finding the balance.
Sometimes what I need is to go to a concert and scream until my voice is gone, go out to a party and dance with my friends or sit on a bench during the busiest time of day watching all of the people on campus walk by.
When I’m here in Berkeley, I want to go home and when I’m in my hometown, I want to come back to Berkeley. I think that’s part of growing up.
I don’t know where I belong yet.
When talking to a friend she said, “home in two places.” Those simple words stuck with me. My idea of home has been split in two; it’s all so terrifying and exciting at the same time.
I recognize how extremely privileged I am to be able to have Watsonville and Berkeley, to be able to feel this inner conflict.
I’m lucky to have two homes that are so different, but in beautiful ways, the same. Two places that I love so deeply.