Hungry Haley

it's more than food

My Big Decision

Haley Hansen

I remember three years ago in July when I was driving up to San Luis Obispo from my parents’ home at the time in Orange County. The freeway shoulders became this lush green collection of trees. I peeked at my favorite beach spots visible from the freeway. The gorgeous rolling green and brown hills seemed to always welcome me back from wherever I came. I’d smile my biggest every single time.

In that moment, I knew I was home. I cried, of course. I walked in the front door of my apartment to see all my roommates and best friends gathered in the living room, laughing, and now welcoming me home. I called my mom to let her know that I made it safely… home. She knew from the intention and warmth in my voice that I really meant home.

For the two years that followed, I imagined my life here after college. Where will I open my cafe? What jobs and learning experiences will I encounter before I can reach the grand opening of my own dream cafe? Which of my friends will be around, and which will I have to call to come visit? Who will become my new friends here in town?

I didn’t ever imagine leaving. Sure, about ten months ago I made the quick decision to move back to Minnesota, but that was before I took the time to explore job opportunities here. So I changed my mind - and let me tell you it was NOT easy to do so - and planted myself here. New apartment, new roommate, new job, new daily life and routine, some new friends, too. My five-year plan, including my boyfriend at the time, was well thought out and I felt confident and happy… for the most part.

Family life in Minnesota took a sharp turn down an unfamiliar road when my grandpa passed pretty suddenly. Two three-day trips to Minnesota in just three weeks took a toll on me, but not because of the flying. For the first time, I felt like a part of me was leaving home each time I flew back to California. I just filed those feelings under the “I miss my family” folder and continued planning my California life. After all, I have friends who feel like family here, right? I have Grace and I have Jake, and I have friends throughout California, too.

But, Grace is leaving in a month and Jake is no longer in the picture. And those other friends are at least a three-hour drive away.

When my confusion and fear of the unknown began to sink in heavily, I’d drive to the beach to my decision-making spot (I did this almost once a day for two weeks straight) and mentally bounce back and forth between my options:

1) suck it up here. stay. work. try to make new friends. trust that something will come along.

2) go back to Minnesota. move. live with Mom and Dad for a little while. try something new.

this is my decision-making spot, also known as the beach, also known as my favorite spot in SLO.

this is my decision-making spot, also known as the beach, also known as my favorite spot in SLO.

I didn’t make a physical list of the pros and cons of staying here in California vs. leaving for Minnesota (sorry, Mom). I didn’t really ask anyone, aside from a few essential people, for their advice in making this decision. I didn’t spend weeks thinking about it all because there was a moment when it just clicked. There was a moment when it all made sense that YES - I do need and want to go back to Minnesota. YES - there is a reason that each time I leave I feel like I’m leaving more than just my birthplace.

I’m leaving my loved ones, and they play a huge role in making home actually home. I’m so incredibly lucky to call my parents my best friends (especially since I’ll be moving in with them hehe), and that they welcome me home with open arms (and open kitchen and bedroom!). Not only that, I’m blessed with a huge family to come home to and celebrate life with.

Some difficult decisions stood in the way of this big one, and a few barriers still stand that I’ll have to take care of before this whole thing can actually happen. Though I didn’t know it a few weeks ago, I need to be by myself right now. I need to make my own decisions in my own places. I also needed to explain to my boss (vulnerability and courage required in great amounts here) all that has been going on, and even though I cried through the entire explanation, he understood and wants the best for me. Together, we are working on filling my position and a few others throughout the cafe before I leave. I also need to find someone to take over my lease, and fingers crossed that I can do so before October.

Logistics are the only things that stand in the way of me, my parents, and a full three day road trip out to a new beginning in the good ol’ state of Minnesota. Home. My heart is set. I am so, so happy.

I will miss San Luis Obispo - there is no doubt in my mind this will be a difficult goodbye - but it will always be a home for me. It’ll always be here and so will the cherished memories and friendships I’ve created as a result of the adventure to SLO five years ago. Change is scary, but change can be really good. I’m learning that. Finally.