When I was a child, I thought that I knew what love was.

It was simple: pancakes on a Saturday morning, lazy days by the pool, and frantically pedaling a tiny water craft at Poway Lake during vacation. This city…in a country...will always remind me of a love as peaceful as the glassy surface of puddle left by the rain; one that you try your best to avoid when you're late for class and the last thing you need is to barge into the room with a big mud stain on your jeans.

It's not that simple anymore. See, I used to think that a small town like this makes you feel one of two things:

  1. Itchy to hightail it out of here as soon as you turn 18

  2. An intense, deep-seeded loyalty to stay forever.

Goodness knows that I’ve seen tons of the former(#1) flock to our SoCal neighbor, L.A., for school, work, marriage… and I remember being in 3rd grade, sitting on the floor of my classroom, listening while a Poway native—her family was one of the first to set up shop here—described how to make butter and bread from scratch. She definitely subscribed to the latter(#2), and even her clothes were reminiscent of a much, MUCH, earlier time.

Even though I’m almost thoroughly convinced that we have the meanest middle schoolers around, I…kind of…thought that I fit into the latter category, too.

Rationally, there’s not much to complain about; Poway’s 20 minutes from everywhere, employs a few of the best teachers that I’ve ever met, and has the potential of fulfilling anyone’s white-picket-fence-say-hi-to-your-neighbor-on-the-way-to-work-grab-a-quick-organic-coffee-on-an-old-time-picturesque-street-complete-with-victorian-houses-and-a-veteranarian fantasy.

...

What? No one else dreams about that?

Well, imagine my surprise when now, faced with the idea of actually venturing beyond the San Diego County borders for four whole years, I feel neither of the two. Could it be that the idea of continuing my education is just so grandeur that I’ve foregone my childhood Leave it to Beaver visions of the future? Or is it just that my last outing, which left me faced with a wall of obnoxiously perky teenage girls playing “Bigger or Better,” was the kicker to lift the enchanted veil?

After some serious soul-searching, interrupted only by a fit of cupcake baking, I’ve decided that I’m definitely not itchy to leave. But I also don’t have the same need to stay that the bread and butter lady had from 3rd grade. Things have changed.

I still love the lake, and the pool, and especially pancakes on Saturday. When I think about my hometown, though, I can't help but remember all of the turbulence below the surface of that peaceful, glassy puddle.

It’s true that walking around Poway is an entirely different experience from walking around Downtown. The busyness, the change, occurs so obviously in Downtown. It’s easy to prepare yourself because you can see what’s coming. In Poway, tiny alterations to your life—just little hems here and there—can occur with you hardly noticing a stitch out of place. Before you know it, your life’s a whole new dress. Then what do you do?

I guess you could look for some sort of sign--a signal that it's safe to proceed. You know, I used to listen out for the train whistle from Old Poway Park on the weekends. I’d say, “My train’s leaving without me!” Of course, back then, I was joking. When I finally got around to riding the train, it was much faster than I initially estimated. Despite the lack of seat belts, it seemed safe enough.

This town’s different than I remember it being while I was growing up. I still love it, and I’m adult enough to know that it’s probably not the town that has changed so much. Twenty years from now, I’ll probably look back and be reminded of the simple, peaceful love that Poway inspires in young people. The one that I thought I knew.

But I did know it.

I really did.

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