For most of 2012 and 2013, I could barely read anything about Highway 1 or see pictures of the Golden Gate Bridge without bursting into tears. This was odd because I rarely cried. At 26, when my beloved husky Jake practically died in my arms, I just sighed. For this trip, I packed a travel pouch of tissues.

I also packed my DSLR, lovingly nicknamed “Big Bertha.” Among a long list of creative outlets I’ve let fall to the wayside, my photography hobby has solely rested on my iPhone. In my small carry-on bag, I jammed in running shoes, Big Bertha, a few sun dresses and set out for the West Coast.

I expected to get my heart broken.

After over a year of making excuses, I finally went back to California.

I was anxious, like seeing a high school sweetheart after years apart.

Except I never had a high school sweetheart, all the boys in my town were dull.AR

One foot out of Nebraska already, I landed in the Bay a nervous wreck. The days were filled with drinks and dinners with the people who mattered the most to me, hikes on dirt trails to the ocean, morning buns, yoga in a giant cathedral and $4 cups of coffee.

One afternoon I sat alone at a cheese shop in The Mission, gorging myself on a locally-made artesian triple cream and sipping on a carefully selected California Red when I realized: I love California but I missed my Omaha friends.

Before, the city felt like a handsome man I was dating who would never love me. This trip, the city felt like a beautiful woman I was dating. But I’m not a lesbian. Something was missing, despite her charms. My heart ached, but it did not break.R

I cried a little. Standing outside my old apartment, getting pushed by the little Asian grandmothers trying to get their shopping done, I put my hand on our front gate and peered into the courtyard. Life has changed so much, it felt like I had been gone a lifetime. The cute man-children from Boston who lived next door were long gone, my room in my old apartment had been taken over, new oranges grew on the tree outside. I only had half an hour to spend in my old neighborhood, so I waked away and let the feeling slip by.R

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Pinto is a delicate & delightfully lightweight theme built for writers, journalists & photographers.