As much as I hate to admit it: I'm the new girl.
A lot has changed in Ventura since I left: new restaurants and shops have popped up out of nowhere, friends who lived with their parents now own homes and have kids, the beaches we used to ditch class to go to now are now filled with new youths (who look 12, I AM OLD). Sometimes it feels like the streets have changed directions and I can't remember where they lead (like the staircases at Hogwarts in Harry Potter). There are now homes where open fields used to be and the hills by the high-school make-out spot are now a beautiful botanical garden and hiking trail called Ventura Botanical Gardens.
I mean, not like I know anything about high school make out spots or anything. Not like my best friends and I didn't drive our cars up to the top of that hill, flash our brights at cars and play "Let's Get it On" at full volume back in our high school days. It's not like we still tell that story when we're a few glasses of wine deep and laugh has hard as we did in high school or would still do it to this day....or maybe have done it again when we all reunited last summer for a girl's trip.
I am 31 years old (32 next month) and I still think that shit is hilarious.
The Botanical Gardens is one of those things that popped up while I was living in Atlanta, and after hiking it once it's already won my heart. It's a slow and steady climb to the top of the Botanical Gardens hike, which ends up being 2.5 miles all together and has a lovely view of the ocean which makes you forget that you're going to call this a workout when you're eating burritos later. There are a few twists and turns, a few times when things get a little steep and once you get to the top you might find yourself wondering how the heck you're going to get down. But, it's fun. It's an adventure with a side of stairs that will make your ass feel like its on fire. Oh and did I mention the view of the ocean and the entire city at the top? Totally Instagram and Snapchat worthy.
I wasn't a hiker when I was growing up in Ventura but now that I'm back I find myself wanting to be outdoors more, trying new hikes and learning about the local plants and flowers. I might love hiking....I might just love the trail....either way I might be a new girl in more ways than one.
It's weird being the new girl in the town you grew up in. It's like knowing everything and nothing all at the same time. It's like I know where I'm going but not knowing quite how to get there; like my brain just can't connect the same dots it used to connect six years ago. It's like hiking to the top of a really big hill: not quite sure where you're going, but knowing what the view is going to be spectacular when you get there. It's tiresome and a little frustrating at times, but it's always an adventure and I find myself falling back in love with the place I grew up.....and all the newness among all the old familiar things.
If I'm being honest though, it still feels surreal; this whole being the new girl thing. Most days I still feel like I'm on vacation and have to rush around to cram everything in before I have to get back on a plane. Sometimes I have to remind myself to slow down because the only "goodbyes" I have to say are ones said at the end of the night as we all head home, not at an airport or with an undetermined return date. Sometimes I get embarrassed when I have to ask for directions or use Google Maps to find my destination, even though I've been driving the same streets since I got my license. But I'm slowly finding my way, both around town and in this new chapter of our lives. I'm also embracing new, fun ways to explore the city and be active.
Which is why we will be hiking the Botanical Gardens trail every weekend from now until I lose this pesky 12 pounds and beyond.
Being the new girl is a lot like hiking the Botanical Gardens: a slow, sometimes confusing climb, but also an adventure I'm choosing to embrace. Eventually, those stairs will become less painful to my ass and the the streets will become less difficult to navigate. Slowly I will become a local again. It takes time, this whole "settling in" thing. Until that happens, I'm really enjoying discovering my city again.
Enjoy a Saturday with us at the Ventura Botanical Gardens!