Opinion

300 Miles Away from Home

I came from Carmel California. Born there 26 years ago, I spent my first few years in this Central Coast community. Life changes. Then after about 17 years, I moved out-of-area. After about 2 years abroad I returned to Cali in 2014. This began my more recent LA adventure. It feels like I already came a very long way.

Since moving to SoCal I lost a lot of connection to the old places, but I have gained invaluable new memories. It’s been a differential, complicated and amazing trip. One I came to appreciate.

Since 2016, my life flowed through a litany of changes and new experiences. One regret is not getting back into college, so far. Most friends and others I know completed their four-year before 24. But I feel life is about ongoing education, continual experience and newness. It’s not over yet for my school trips. I am currently interested in working with local education in my Burbank-North LA area. Will I pursue a path in teaching or science, or will I build a track as a career writer? Like many young Millennials and Gen X, I’m at a crossroads. (Also, being a Zoomer, I feel between gens.)

Expectations and unlearning them defined most of my teen years. I’ll cry as I write it, I know. 13 to 18 were some of the hardest lessons in my life. It seems this way for a lot of us – my generation has a lot of hard choices.

I did not expect to get through high school and I didn’t without heartache, difficult relationships and periods of loneliness. My teachers sometimes helped me but the school days were long and demanding. Many of us kids just don’t get with the process.

If I could go back and tell MyYoungerMe something, it’d be to love school more but focus on work and getting a car. I was all-school back then. Loving education and knowledge is powerful but so is balance. Since 16, I found academia is really not everything.

Medicine for the mind. Since 15, I had latent emotions or periods of anger or social bitterness amid a sea of mixed emotions. While most boys struggle with becoming men, I had autism and struggled with having social ground. People did not like to deal with me even when I was trying to fit in. Sometimes, I faced hardship coming to term with myself. Sometimes school can’t help this kind of problem.

After some emotional issues and depression, I was on pills. It took a doctor’s advice to ween off them. I believe you can be free of medicine if you have the right help and therapy. I did. That saved me from some difficult days, which helped me cope with toxic emotions and difficult feelings I had since earlier childhood and teen years. (I strongly suggest not even using medication unless a Doctor recommends it, and only then if it’s needed.)

Those terrible teenage years…

After 16, I got upset and difficult frequently. It’s like something shifted, a gear turned, and they say mine turns slowly. Life got faster than me, more aggressive or just pushy. Peer pressure is real too. We often pretend we are self-made and our views are deeply individual. Truth is, a lot of who we are, especially in younger life, are social. I feel social and external forces shaped me.

Peers and older teachers had a big effect on me. People I knew in high sometimes felt unfriendly, peers did not always like me, it could be difficult. I found, however, I was a bit toxic: I could be a part of the problem. That also took a while to realize.
Many boys and men suffer from negative or proud behavior, like lying, playing tough or bullying. We can be the bully. While some of my friends felt I was a problem, I felt pigeon-holed and mislabeled too. By 18, I had emotional and learning issues and some things boiled over. As a rising trends of hate and aggressive boy culture influenced my thinking, I realized guys need to be self-calming. Powerful self-reflection, family support, and college experience prepared me for life, if not that glistening golden career.

By about 2013, I learned some skills to help me self-calm and focus. I thought this would sail me through college and post-grad life. But you can’t always improve alone. My loving family and some friends helped me and I eventually had some therapy too. But it was a hard struggle between being a single parent only child son and getting into adult life without much social support. I beat myself up sometimes. I guess it’s important to reflect during these times.

By 20, it was a quiet storm. I defined my earlier adulthood, those key four years, as moody and semi-serious. Difficult and stoic, I was a young guy in a tough world in a country with things like political conflicts, drug culture, Hollywood Movies, and passing opportunities. I was an avoid and ignore type. For a while this helped me to grow and cope with life. But you can’t just ignore life and pretend real issues around you aren’t real.

By now I’m living in LA, over 300 miles away from my birthplace. It’s surreal at times.

LA and my Pasadena City College years showed me a lot about Empathy. I once argued about the definition of which with an older friend. Discussing and sometimes fighting with peers and friends showed me how to understand myself and relationships. I could push my views but it was better to understand theirs.

My mom once told me, in any new or difficult situation, seek to understand. I had to develop this focus on middle-ground thinking, kindness, and being real. Sadly, focus on being 100% with people can lead to other problems. I found myself being a bit confrontational, and a bit bold at times.

I was learning to empathize with my friends, my ADD friends, my BIPOC friends, family and peers I didn’t always like, people on my team I didn’t always receive respect from. It showed me a world of humanity. After college, a rocky transition and emotional time in my life, I felt lost. A few bygone years shaped me too. I spent some time back at my birth town. That’s when, like a big flood, it all came back to me. The memories of an older time hit me.

Carmel, my first home. In retro, it felt different. Would I ever really feel at home again? Having left it all behind at 17, being back at 20 felt different. I came back again until recently. At odd times I go back to Central Coast California… But the place I was born at will never be totally behind me.

We often live different places, move between towns or away from our hometown. Once I left, a part of me felt I could never return. The feeling you get when you’re leaving for good. Bye bye forever. Or, maybe I had to move elsewhere and part of me feared never coming back. I had a funny way of detaching myself from friends or community. Sometimes I felt like forcing myself to forget but it’s not like it was forever.

Now I live elsewhere, caught up in a land of hazy opportunities and smog. After coming back to California, I returned to the Monterey area. I drove back to Central California about 10 times. Each time felt a little more family. It’s a juxtapose to where I’m at now in LA. Older and sometimes repressed memories flowed back. I felt old feelings, relived old times, met with a few friends, and got hit with the nostalgia wave. To me, SoCal is a different way of life: hotter, more diverse, more competitive and sometimes conflicting, but much bigger and brighter, in ways. It feels like I will build a life here but you never know. The winds of change constantly blow. I might be out of state soon. Life has forced me to make life-changing decisions, and some have pushed me farther than I wanted.

Being in SoCal most of my time now, I often remember I’m so close to Disney Studios. I’ve been pursuing my dreams this whole time. Still wishing on a star. Despite frequent trips back, Monterey and Carmel are no longer my home. I guess I’m at a major volta in my own life.

While this article’s title is a reference to a twice-covered railroad song, I’m not sure who originally wrote it. Like many old songs and folk raps, it seems like it has no singular origins. *Officially, it’s the 1961 copyright of Atzal Music, Inc. Some of us remember the Joan Baez version or the cover by Bobby Bare. Having discovered it so recently, it seemed deeply lamentful, meaningful and relevant.

I found it cheerful too, in a way. Songs from many genres, cultures, and eras inspire me and we find solidarity and connection to the past and old memories via Music.

I feel my generation often loves music but we don’t always respect authors or singers, people who often depend on support. To me, this all relates to my social experience in LA, the deep music culture here, and how many people have musical talent. Recently again, I have bought tracks and supported local and upcoming Artists. To me music is a major social power despite not being my vocation.

Lessons from high school can prepare you for life. But that’s what they tell you. This is another part of my 300 mile reflection. Truth is, I’ve traveled 1,000s of miles by now – it showed me how far you can come, and I’m still in my 20s. Life is a longer road – enjoy it and learn from it.

I went to three high schools. Firstly, a Christian private school for one semester. While introductory to middle education, it didn’t seem like a great fit and I transferred to a public high for their STEM’s program. The Lord loves a scientist.

By my Sophmore year, I developed a greater interest in life studies. I first had this affinity in 8th grade. Some things grow on you. I expected to graduate from a Central Coast high school, yet life had other ideas. It became a stale experience of tough courses, difficult lessons and a feeling I was just a number. This is part of why students, young people overall, tend to lose scientific and intellectual interests. I feel school should reward scientific affinity.

After 2.5 years in a public school doing B average in AP courses at the STEM’s academy, I felt life was changing. I felt like I needed a real difference. A family friend invited mom and I to Florida to live with him and there I’d complete my high school, graduating an honorable mention student. It was like 8th grade all over again. I did not feel prepared for College so I took a drop-year and took two MOOC courses: MIT Biology and less dogmatic Anthropology (or an Intro to Anthropology). Biology and Anthro went as my major and minor in college.
3 years of California high and 1 year of Florida high taught me a lot, to be real. I valued Monterey High and MAOS especially. Perhaps not going to enough parties, not having tight friendships and losing out at the social romance game hit me. But I learned a lot, I took classes seriously, and I tried to form a study group. To me getting those grades and better recommendations was important. I just wanted some recognition. Being such an austere science major even in high, I only had one suit. Social plays and being cool wasn’t my dig. Maybe I needed to “get with the program.”

Most of my Monterey memories are of places and school days. It’s still a few chapters in life I’ll never forget. I miss it sometimes but the past is past. Being back here reminds me of change, how life goes on, and how experiences and where you live changes. Nothing stays the same.

Finishing out of state concluded this chapter in my life. I finished high and it felt like the solid block of hard ends it was. My Florida school teachers were tough, diverse, smart, and sometimes hard. I think they needed to understand us better. But I also didn’t always participate in school events or clubs, options I’d value eagerly in college. I often have this retrospective syndrome. Graduating High in a one-year Senior year situation felt so difficult. Maybe I regretted not finishing in MAOS.


But I also felt like I had few friends. Eventually, I forgot a lot of my time in Florida. Mom and I moved there during a tropical storm. We moved out during the warm part of a subtropical spring. It was life and times under intense heat, global warming, and a lot of beaches and sun. My family referred to it as the unending vacation. That’s what is was like.

Me, graduation day. Florida. 2013. It was both a solid achievement and a game-changer. I was getting on, growing up. I’d never feel quite like this again. Since ’13, life has had ups and downs, but it’s been a ride.

Since 19, I found it’s all-too-easy to push hard and push people harder. But this forcefulness or social aggression doesn’t always = a magic life formula. It can be pointless, and even self-harming. I had moments of anger and emotional grief during high school. After I felt my anger hit in waves, I was sad or micro-emotional more often. And yes, I had these micro-aggressions: moments of spite, dislike or nasty thoughts. While my college peers had jobs, dated, lived life, and found success, I struggled with about 50% of students. We were the throwers, the struggle students, the undecided peers, and for me: the biologist wannabe in need of much more counseling.

It’s like a kind of twilight in my life. I found college to be all too much like high school. But I had to learn dignity, patience and acceptance, often coming to terms with failures and gossip. I had to let go of my feelings.

I feel if I had worked more with my peers and found the right friends, true peership, That would’ve saved me. Being alone, the introverted extrovert, I had terrible anxiety. Anxiety and inner aggression began to run me. Therapy helped me with systemic anger problems, breakdowns, sadness, and feelings of social distrust. Emotions can be problematic. It’s about balance or tolerance: I had help, support, and sometimes myself to help me.
A local church group also took me in, gave me more to do, and reminded me to let God into my life. I learned to have a little Faith.

I’ve struggled with moving around a lot, probably six times since back in California and three times after my dad passed. By 20, I saw myself as very bold and a bit conservative. I went to struggle and fight with my wrong attitudes and harsh combative side. A lot of experiences with new friends, older pals from school and Facebook taught me deeper understanding. (I kind of wish more people had this maturity. Many of us take decades to reach it.) You don’t need to turn every disagreement into an argument.

Liberal feminism got me off the streets of mental dysthymia. I can safely say, leftist and popular femme views Helped me focus on writing, social studies, culture and anthropology. While less hard-science than biology and chemistry, it was a social and deeply human part of me (that) developing only improved me. A lot of non-school and post-college relationships added to my views too.

After 24, I was more able to minimize angry moods, handle social confrontation, push-back against true unkindness and lies, stand for women and their needs, and stand up for the victims of disaster, racism, and social abandonment. This was the fruit of my high school and college times. I just wish America was more fiscally liberal.

We need to pay people more for being good, least doing good seems less like a job and more like a drudging slog. I did not get much for supporting Democracy and shaping up. Many people I met were trapped in similar “money is more important” grinds. With our world the way it is, good deeds and volunteer work must be more important. Come on admin, pay us! This trend shows how little humanitarian, volunteer, local, and community service matters to the economy. It’s critical my generation makes this shift.

But this is important. After 24, I was more understanding. It took a while but new friends, new changes and so many experiences caused me to reflect. I looked back and was very happy at where I’d come. How far and how much. At 25, I felt I didn’t get my dreams, my goals did not come true, but I did have anecdotal wealth. Time and school have to count for something, right?

I do wish I could build more for younger people, and help more people avoid the falls and struggles I went through. Human kindness saved me from some of the worst. I pray we practice more generosity in our own life and for the good of others.

Final Statements on Now and Then. 300 miles from home, living in LA, I see some of the same problems now as then. But the Change did occur. It’s easy to forget how much happens until we measure it and draw comparisons. We don’t always like to but it puts it in perspective to a large degree.

To me at 12, America was a middle-class biased country of mostly (70-80%) White people. I saw our country as a free market semi-capitalist nation of some diversity. I also blamed Obama for some changes in my life which I learned were local and personal. Life is not all about you or your people. Our perceived people.

Being “whitish”, waking up from ‘being white’ is hard. I also got accused a lot even when being naïve or innocent – there’s little excuse to be ignorant, or, to extent people to be ignorant to problems.

America may have been white in 1800 but diversity, Inclusion and human rights Increased since then. While I was never racist I had some conservative and whitish views. People even at 16 should seek to know themselves, where they fit in, and how we can all fit together. We should grow up to be aware.

I’m glad America isn’t 100% white or 100% Anglo. I’m also multi-ethnic with Jewish and Native roots, sadly suppressed by our largely White and Black mainstream. But the voices of Chicano writers, Asian performers and actors, Black and Native voices and artists, and many Scientists and Scholars of all backgrounds make LA a fine city. We can also come together in other ways. As America changes, California becomes more brown, people become deeper and often smarter, we can solve the real issues. Climate warming, local smog, traffic, infrastructure, money, poverty, lingering racism and inequality. We can solve it with love and education.

I believe my generation should love each other, our Elders and the younger people enough to respect differences, tolerate, and build a kind society. Radicalism, corruption, and hate can’t survive in a fair society. Los Angeles can be a fair society leaning towards social unity. This is when communities and people see each other as potential friends instead of potential rivals or separate. We are all different people, sometimes from countries 1,000s of miles away, but we can’t let our cultures divide us. I believe in Us.

Personality progress, personal progress.

I guess this is how my time comes to this point. Now, I’m a freer person and filled with community love. LA, its rich variety of cultures, people, and places, helped me out of my shell. I feel a sense of community.

10 years ago I was still suffering from my dad’s passing and a hard reality of difficult life. Most of my friends had divorced parents, family tension or peer pains. I knew it all. But instead of being part and party with bad emotions, conflict, issues and pointless trouble-making, I stepped back.

Then I got the help I needed and I wanted to reciprocate it. Doing good and getting help are related. We can be the healer and need healing. We can do the work and be the employer. Many people including me also specialize. I’m an intellectual and I prefer art and writer’s groups to unions and guilds. But I’ve had to do hard manual work too, often to sustain.

Do more and you will find what you’re good at. I can’t stress it enough.

I have come a long way, way more than 300 miles. But here in North LA county, I am over 300 miles away from home. We can move far away from our hometown and almost forget about where we’re from. To me this is just the way people are. But I also get homesick from time to time.

After all this time, and so many thousands of miles, I’m deeply affected by CoVid and the Trump years especially – I have come a long way and some hard changes and new social attitudes put me at odds with Friends and family. It’s not like we just come through the years with more than we start. I often believe life is a long lesson about learning how to let go, but it’s also a lesson in love and acceptance. “Tolerance” is not the right attitude, finding common ground and appreciation is. What is truly wrong in our local area, what can we do to fix it, should we go into College and seek that Degree, is it worth it? All I can say, I have come far and at this time I’m at a crossroads.

Finally, I’m happy to see so many places, to go to San Francisco and New York, and Britain during childhood years. I am happy to be in LA despite this intense heat. It’s not until you’ve spent years away from your first home that you feel a sense of being out of place. I might never find that true North. But I’m also about being a leaf in the wind, accepting the changes and forces around me. Being God-centered and a deeply loving person, I also seek to see the world around through the filters of love and mercy. My home town is different. LA is different. Things aren’t how they used to be… but they aren’t bad.

Sometimes better is not what we want, it’s not at all what we expect. However, I feel many of us want it. We want change and we will make it, but how we handle things and how we treat each other is everything. No matter where I am, I always remember where I came from, and I know it’s not about where I’m from but where I’m going. Hopefully somewhere nice and where people help each other do better as a community.

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