There’s a memory I have, of a road trip I took after I graduated from high school. I’d convinced some friends to pile into the backseat of a ’98 Camry and drive down Highway 1 to wherever it took us. I just wanted to escape, but I didn’t want to do so alone. And so we drove, for three days.
Often, we’d stop in small coastal towns to eat cheap beach tacos or watch the sunset over bluffs we’d never seen before. I remember looking out over the vast expanse of Los Angeles while stuck in traffic, and I could hear my friends asking me which CD to play next. In the glove compartment was a mixtape I’d burned. We’d often listen to it while smoking weed in the parking lot behind Target, or when we’d pile into my Jeep and go beach camping. I put it in wordlessly, knowing I didn’t need to ask, and smiled. We had no money, no real plan for where we were going or what we’d do when we got there. But in that moment, I didn’t care.
Recently, my husband and I had to abruptly leave our home in the Bay Area during the very early days of the shutdown. He was among the first to lose his job, the first week in March, and we hadn’t saved enough to survive on a single income. Since, we’ve been sleeping on a spare mattress at his mom’s house, somewhere in Southern California, along the route I’d first traveled with my friends.
For the first time in my adult life, I’m not living in a city. There’s more space around me than I’ve ever had, large, spacious sidewalks and sprawling suburban streets nestled on the far outskirts of the Santa Monica Mountains. I’ve taken up long, lonely walks in my free time, meandering through the empty expanses around my temporary home. Lucky, I have a dog to keep me company now, Penny Lane, who we’ve been taking care of while we’re here. When my husband’s father was still alive, he’d walk her often. That doesn’t happen anymore, so I’ve done what I could to take up her leash in his stead.
While packing, I found that old mixtape I’d burned. The tracklist was fading, but I could make it out slightly through the tears that blurred my vision. I hadn’t thought about it in years, lost to the endless shuffle of moves I’d made in my early 20s. I’ve been listening to it more, with my own updates to the mood it sought to capture—restlessness, endless highways, melancholy, suns setting over mountains you’d never seen before. The sort of tracks you’d listen to as an earnest, try-hard teen, unsure of what the fuck you were ever supposed to do with your life.
When my friends and I finally reached Newport Beach, nearly 600 miles from where we’d started, it felt like we’d reached the end of the world. I remember standing on the pier, watching the water turn from blue, to orange, to a deep, near crimson pink. My foot was still tapping along to a Best Coast song we’d been listening to in the car. I didn’t care that the world was more uncertain than it’d ever been. I could still do anything. Now, I’m doing my best recapture that feeling, one walk with my dog at a time.
You can listen to my playlist here.