I moved to California with little more than clothes and my itty-bitty car, which my sister and friend had so strategically packed with said clothes (I’m worthless at packing, so I will forever be grateful that these two lovely women did the job for me). Moving with so few of my things has led to several necessary trips back and forth to various stores in the area, purchasing all the things I need. From groceries, to hangers, to a proper shower cap, my many life requirements have left me spending FAR more money than I would have liked to spend in double or even triple the amount of time. There is one thing, however, that I refuse to spend another cent on for months and months to come.

The county I live in, and apparently much of the rest of the Bay Area as well, has decided to make a grand, green gesture, by getting rid of all the plastic bags in stores. The only options shoppers such as myself, now have upon arrival at the checkout counter is to either pay ten cents for a paper bag or purchase a reusable bag, usually donned with the logo of the store that has recently been mandated into environmental consciousness. I actually really love the concept and I am fully and totally on board. There seems to be just one problem. I never, NEVER remember to put my reusable bags back into the car after I have unpacked them. I immediately realize my blunder as I step into the store, but at that point, my bags are still lying in some corner of my house and I just end up buying another bag or two before I exit the establishment. Due to this dilemma, I have now purchased a number of reusable bags more suitable for a large, hearty, hungry family than a single woman attempting to cut down on her sugars and carbs.

Plastic bags, or the lack thereof, aren’t the only things that are taking some getting used to. My sister still rolls her eyes at me as I pronounce all the city and street signs I see with a Spanish accent… the way it seems to me they should be pronounced even though “everyone else” butchers them using awful, American accents. The freeway exits don’t have numbers. Therefore, I spend much of the time I’m driving wondering if I’ve already past the point I need to be watching for. I also have to be diligent about when I do and don’t need cash since there isn’t a Chase ATM on every corner like there was in Chicago.

When push comes to shove, those are just the small things. I stop myself from referring to Chicago as “home” at least once a day as I think about the friends and festivals that used to be just a train ride away in the midst of the season The Windy City does best. I seek to learn the differences between Medicaid (which I am familiar with) and Medi-Cal (which I am not) as I stumble through California’s unique take on providing mental health services. I scramble to find a welcoming church that values having conversations on diversity and justice as much as my church did in the Midwest.

Despite all of this, the move feels right. I’m valuing the time with my sister even more than I imagined possible, the sunshine perfectly coupled with a breeze and beautifully absent of humidity is proving good for my soul, and the freedom of not having a million things scheduled at all times seems to be mellowing me out. What was supposed to happen, happened, and even in the moments I feel stretched, I can tell this change is good for me.

All that to say, I’m a far cry from “normalcy,” whatever that is. I don’t know how long I’ll have to spend in California to re-wire almost a decade of “normal” in Chicago. I’m also not sure how long it will take me to remember to bring those stupid reusable bags with me to the store! Judging by the fact I loaded my bag-less ground beef and cucumbers directly into the trunk of my car this evening, it could take a while…