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A farewell to SLO

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San Luis Obispo seems like the siren town of California: No matter where you are in the state, its dreamy scenery, irresistible cuteness, and advertised happiness snare you eventually. Well, here I am, happy victim of that siren song, and having been captured by whatever it is that makes San Luis Obispo so special, as I prepare to continue my education at UC Berkeley, I write to tell you what makes it so special to me.

I moved to San Luis from a dismal “suburgatory” outside of Sacramento. Immediately after graduating, I was more than ready to ditch the standard Leviathan-like social politics of that town to see what else the world was hiding. In just the first few weeks of living in this town, it was evident that I had settled (albeit temporarily) in a truly amazing place.  Now, 2 1/2 years later, there’s a lot I’m going to miss—but four things especially:

One: Cuesta College. I start with Cuesta, as it is the primary reason I moved here. In my high school days, I knocked community colleges pretty hard; in suburgatory, they are known as student sinkholes. A welcome surprise, Cuesta rose above the sinkhole prejudice I once held. Undeniably, you can spot commuter students who show up, zone out for an hour and 20 minutes, and split as quickly as they can upon dismissal. However, a different type of student can be identified just as easily at the college. Cuesta invites, educates, and produces some of the most interesting, driven, and inspiring individuals I have ever met—staff and students alike. Working as a student ambassador and tutor for the college, I witnessed a diverse cross-section of student and staff attitudes. It was through those portals and with that exposure that my deepest connection to the college was formed, mainly through fantastic friendships and partnerships. All of the staff (really, all of the staff) at that college is dedicated to its success. A communal sense of care dominates the college, and that is what keeps Cuesta together. I’ll definitely miss hanging around in the caf, leaving flurries of post-it notes for tutorial staff, and showing professors where to find free food during office hours.

Two: natural attractions. Let’s be serious: Everyone knows how beautiful the Central Coast is. Everyone has his or her favorite spot to hang, hike, eat, drink, surf, window shop, etc. Upon my move here, I would like to say that I have not taken any of SLO’s attractions—whether they be downtown, hiking, or beaches—for granted. Waking up to a view of Bishop Peak every morning always brings a smile to my face; the picturesque red barn and crazy squirrels on O’Connor Way are images that will always be with me; hanging at Hazards, sipping “manmosas” with a dear friend, and watching daring surfers will forever remain a favorite leisurely activity to me. Also, hiking Bishop never gets old (always from the Foothill side, duh). Whatever your fancy, you can find something practically perfect in San Luis to suit your needs. Alas, it is true: Another SLO resident announces that there really is something for everyone here.

Three: the people. The overall attitude of people who live in SLO is almost a marketable tourist attraction in itself. Most seem to share a feeling of perpetually elevated contentment, and everyone around them. I feel that my job has introduced me to this sentiment-sharing tradition. Happily, I have worked for about a year as a barista at Blackhorse Espresso downtown, and the constant interaction with the community (as well as exceptional espresso and special coworkers and friends) elevates my job from “just a job” to something I genuinely enjoy. Each workday, I see people coming together, meeting with friends old and new, spouses enjoying a ritualistic daily cup of tea, workers taking a break to play chess in the sunshine, and the list continues. In each assorted rendezvous, people come together to make someone’s day a little brighter (in my profusely optimistic opinion), and this sense of community, and a happy one at that, can be found all over this town. The people and this infectious chipper community help construct the last thing I will miss about SLO.

Four: how this town makes me feel. Whether I’m at school, at work, or simply just walking or driving around town, I feel I always have a faint smile on my face. San Luis has acted as an arena in which I can perform and thrive as the truest version of myself. To all you readers, whoever you may be, I can tell you with absolute honesty that San Luis Obispo has helped make me become who I am. At Cuesta, I’ve gained confidence in my abilities in academia and my work ethic. Around town, I’ve gained confidence in my ability to explore and truly appreciate what is around me. I feel confident in and extremely satisfied with all the relationships I have made and the wonderful friends I cherish. This feeling of happiness and confidence I feel could only be cultivated in a place as special as San Luis.

So, for all to see, there it is: what I’m going to miss about San Luis Obispo (apparently everything). Leaving this town will undoubtedly be one of the hardest things I’ve had to do at this point in my young life. However, when I move and meet new people, I will have the privilege of telling them I moved from San Luis Obispo—that I am from San Luis Obispo. Oddly enough, I am moving back up north: To Berkeley I go, to complete my undergraduate degree.

There, I will make just as many memories, I’m sure, but I’ll always be able to look back to the memories made here, as they are responsible for making me me. San Luis, it’s been awesome.

Keely Ann Pollock is a former Cuesta student and student ambassador and soon-to-be English student at UC Berkeley. Send comments via Managing Editor Ashley Schwellenbach at aschwellenbach@newtimesslo.com.

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