Last night I drove the quick 12 minutes to an apartment on Stanford's campus--I have a group of friends here in California that I refer to as my "book club," which is true, but we also hang out a lot more regularly than our once monthly gatherings to drink mimosas and talk about the book we all decided on together the month before. Really, they're just my friends--"the girls," as they so often become called. There are five of us and we meet for barre classes or brunch and sometimes dinner and, of course, to watch The Bachelor and/or The Bachelorette.
I've been really lucky to find these groups everywhere that Rob and I have lived so far. My amazing friend Daci, who also had a blog and reached out to me when I moved to Minneapolis. She and I became good friends and I still love and miss her to this day, but the thing I always remember with gratitude is how quick she was to throw me into her own circle of friends, inviting me to Marissa's house to watch The Bachelor, even though I didn't know anybody or really understand what The Bachelor was. (I still refer to the rose ceremonies as "getting voted off.")
Before I even realized it I had a group of girlfriends in Minnesota, people who met for brunch and had summer cookouts and then a few months later all huddled together to watch Love Actually with apple cider and caramel vodka as the snow fell. We went to a hipster butter-churning aerobics class at the Walker Art Center and put our butter--freshly made and wrapped ever so simply in wax paper with a bow of brown string--back in the car before going back into the museum to laugh over cocktails. (You can leave groceries in your car all day if it's winter in Minneapolis--you basically live in a freezer.)
Then we moved to Charlotte and I made some of the best friends I'll ever have. Charlotte didn't feel like home at first, and for a while I wondered if it was really where we were supposed to be. Then we got a dog and I met Corri, who also rescued a pup from South of the Bully. Ender and Beefcake became fast friends at Sycamore Brewing that day and so did Corri and I. And then there was Paige and Siobhan, who kept my new-city-Bachelor-watching-group alive. Paige and I used to spend long evenings together at my house last summer, letting our dogs play in the yard as we ate tacos and chocolate or randomly ran out for Dairy Queen Blizzards in Plaza Midwood. Corri and I always managed to both want pho on the same days, so we'd meet for lunch or end up at Lang Van for dinner after a long day of hanging out, first getting coffee and then lounging around at her house with the dogs or drinking beers somewhere with a patio.
Nothing felt more like home than that, and it was because of them.
A lot of my friends here are connected to Stanford in some way--either they are grad students themselves or they've moved here because their partners are in law school or getting their Ph.D., so most of them live on campus, which I really enjoy. Finding parking is sometimes a nightmare but I love walking across campus and feeling that academic nostalgia that always reminds me of my time at Longwood and Hollins, and somehow even more of living in Charlottesville while Rob went to UVA. You had to do your best to start a life, but you were in such a liminal space--between classes and semesters ending, summer internships and possible future job opportunities--a lot of the time you just had to work hard and dream up the rest.
Last night was a bit of a first for our little group: no Bachelorette, no book, no brunch, just five women in a living room catching up before one of us leaves town for the summer. The rest of us will continue to get together for our things, but we have our group text chain and our inside jokes to hopefully keep us all connected over the next few months.
I'm the first to admit that California hasn't really felt like home to me so far, but as I walked back to my car to go home to my husband and our pup, I felt at ease. Sometimes I forget that we have not just family but friends here too; and I don't want to take that for granted for another second.
This morning I woke up to that unmistakable smell of summer: fresh-cut grass and sunshine and the anticipation of a nice big iced coffee. We aren't packing up and leaving until fall like so many students at Stanford right now, but I still felt that excitement--the promise of something new, an exciting season ahead, or maybe just a sleepy summer of weekend pool time, taking Ender to the park to run, finally some Game of Thrones and, of course, more reality television with my friends.