I woke up in Vegas and thought, “today is the day.”
It was the day I have been looking forward to for three years.
Despite being slightly “tired” from the night before, I was up early and on the road.
I arrived north of Los Angeles in the early afternoon. I wanted to get a good look at the entire city before I drove the coast down to Laguna Beach.
For most of my afternoon I wound up in the right place at the right time. I accidentally walked right by a fantastic view of the iconic Hollywood sign, took a wrong (but very right) turn onto Hollywood Boulevard, and then inched all the way through LA.
It was when I crossed the Orange County line that everything started becoming very real. I was about to see one of my sorority sisters, Debbie Rockwood, who encouraged me to head out to the west coast my sophomore year of college!
This spunky beautiful red-head had me turned upside down when I met her at our sorority alumni event. She told me, "Erika, you need to come see the coast!" And from then on, I knew I had to.
I was not surprised to find her home was something out of Better Home and Gardens. To top things off, I was welcomed as a part of her family the moment I stepped in the door. Let me tell you, that is an amazing feeling after having been alone for almost an entire week!
Debbie immediately introduced me to her 19-year-old effortlessly-beautiful daughter, Lilly, and together the three of us were off for a picnic on Laguna Beach!
Debbie and Lilly got several giggles out of my excited gasps every time I would see something especially beautiful along the coast.
They really lost it when we pulled up to the beach and I let out a shriek when I saw the biggest wave of my life coming straight for several children in the water. Apparently that’s normal at a real beach!
The three of us found the perfect location for our sunset beach picnic. While they laid out the blankets, I snuck away for a moment. I wanted to complete the final goal of my trip. I needed to step into the water.
As I inched closer and closer, I could feel my heart starting to calm rather than race, which was surprising! One big wave crashed right in front of me and I waited for the water to quickly rush my feet.
It was cool, just as I expected.
I looked around and everything in that moment was so bittersweet. I thought back to three years ago. I wanted to go to California and do something different. I wanted to test myself.
At the time, I was 19 year old, I was an unhappy nursing student who had just recently gone through a breakup and was confused about what I wanted to do with my life! Some of that sound familiar?
I was going to do everything I could to get to and stay in California forever.
Now fast forward to today, and I have my whole life to return to! That feeling of being so lost and not wanting to go back home was completely gone.
I was always so bitter that I didn’t get to go to California when I wanted to, but it was never up to me.
I completed this journey exactly when I was supposed to and it all made sense when I felt the ocean water.
I walked back to a miniature picnic table to find my new girlfriends already opening up the food. We talked and told stories about our lives and California. We sat on colorful blankets and snapped as many photos as we could of the cotton candy sky before the sun disappeared beneath Catalina Island.
My company was incredible. Debbie even packed champagne in a can to celebrate my achievement of making it to the coast all by myself! I was happy to toast to that one!
But I will say, I especially enjoyed Lilly. Lilly is undoubtedly the most ideal yes-girl. Hell, for most of the night I was playing follow-the-leader to her!
She was light-hearted, fun, and poised. At one point she grabbed my camera and said, “let’s go take your picture at the rocks!” So, right behind her I went!
Lucky for me, we even got a few pictures together.
We ended the evening driving around downtown Laguna and eating ice cream in heart shaped bowls back at the house (courtesy of Mr. Rockwood).
The talking and storytelling continued on well into the night, until everyone grew tired.
Lilly and I went upstairs to her room for bed and the first question out of her mouth was, “Do you like the Real Housewives? I think it’s coming on next.”
I almost died of excitement.
Together Lilly and I watched The Real Housewives of Orange County in Orange County, until our eyes could no longer stay open. That was a pretty cool moment, even Lilly could agree.
It was the evening I had long awaited and it wasn’t anything that involved a lot of bells and whistles. It was simple. It was real. It was beautiful… and now, I think it’s time I go home.