When I was in high school, I was the totally cheesy, completely cliché, high school girl who just “didn’t belong” in San Jose. I felt San Jose was holding me back. San Jose had absolutely nothing to offer me. In fact, I felt like San Jose was the most boring place I could possibly be in that moment, yet I couldn’t leave it. When college application time came around, my mom made me apply to San Jose State as a safety school. She told me that I could still live in the dorms, and I could still have a college life. But, let’s face it, the only way I would have ever gone to San Jose State, was if someone dragged me through the doors while I was kicking and screaming. So, after getting accepted to CSU Stanislaus, I packed up my car and drove 1 hour and 45 minutes to……. the Central Valley.

I have no idea what my 18 year old self was thinking. How could an extremely conservative, dusty little town open up my eyes and make me feel the sense of belonging that I had so desired in high school? The closest mall was 30 minutes away, the obnoxious train would wake me up at all hours of night as it went by, there are more churches per square  mile than anywhere else in California, everything closes by 9 o’clock, and the summers are hotter than hell. However, there is something about this dusty little town that charmed me into accepting it as home. I fell completely in love it, and didn’t even realize it.

In Turlock, I found that there are days when life seemed so hard that all I wanted to do is sleep. However, I found more days that were so wonderful that I hated to think that I would have to sleep because I just wanted to be awake and soak up the happiness that surrounded me. For the first time here, I met people who deeply interested me. For the first time I learned how to be truly independent. I learned what it was like to work a minimum wage job, what it was like to do my own grocery shopping, sign my own papers, travel, stay out as late as I wanted, and do whatever pleased me. I got to be selfish. I got to go after my dreams, and nobody else’s. It was an amazing feeling. I made myself “belong”.

Today I turned in my 30 day notice. The time has come for me to graduate and say goodbye.  I have 29 days left in Turlock. 29 days left in my apartment. That’s it. Most people have told me I am lucky to be getting out of here, and honestly, I know they are right. I don’t think the life I imagine myself living in the future would ever be a possibility in Turlock.

However, between graduation and moving, my feelings get confused. On one side, I can’t wait for this last 29 days to be up, on the other side, I never want these last days to end. Somehow, the prospect of leaving this dusty place, my home, seems incredibly sad. I know that I am leaving Turlock to move on to bigger and better things in life. I know that even better years are coming my way. I know that no matter where I live, I will always have good days and bad days. But these last couple weeks went by very fast and I was not quite ready for it.

The life I found in Turlock was so much better than my high school self ever imagined. I don’t want my college years to end. That would mean a true end to study abroad possibilities, the end of college life, the end of my own apartment, the end of Turlock. No one ever told me this is what graduation really feels like. How incredibly hard it would be to leave school. To leave the life that I created for myself. How incredibly difficult it is to really grow up.

But, I guess you never really are ready for the next step, you just take it, and hope for the best. These past 5 years have been full of some of the greatest experiences I will ever have. I can’t believe that it has come to be the time that I have to say goodbye to them. It makes my heart ache, and my eyes start to water. The only thing keeping my head up, is that now, I get to say hello to a whole new set of opportunities.

Turlock will always hold a special place in my heart.