Earlier this week, I got to thinking more about something that I had omitted from last week’s post, the one about Davis (so you might want to read that one first if you didn’t already).
When I was in Davis last Sunday afternoon, I briefly ran into a guy who I knew from the church I attended when I lived in Davis. He and I lost touch after I moved away, but we got back in touch about a year ago. When he saw me, after saying hi, he asked, “What are you doing in town?”
It’s a perfectly natural question to ask when you see someone in your town who used to live there but doesn’t anymore. If I were walking down the street in my own neighborhood, and I saw someone I know who used to live here but has since moved out of the area, I would probably ask the same thing. But what was curious about this was that it highlights one of the interesting things about Davis that I mentioned last week: while statistically, Davis is part of the greater Sacramento metropolitan area, located just 15 miles from downtown Sacramento, Davisites often think of their community as its own little world.
I didn’t think of myself as being out of town. It was only going to take me a little over half an hour to drive home. I know lots of people who live on the same side of the Sacramento River from me, but about equally far from me as this guy, who wouldn’t have thought of me as an out-of-towner if they saw me in their neighborhood standing at a salsa bar waiting for someone who was using the ladies’ room. Furthermore, I am in Davis quite often. I have friends there who I have met through my dancing and board game groups, who sometimes invite me to parties. I return to the UC Davis campus several times a year, for football and basketball games and Picnic Day. In fact, I was there again in the time since I started working on this post, for a football game (the Aggies won, yay). In my mind, a trip to Davis is not a trip out of town.
There are a number of possible reasons for this mentality among Davisites. Being a university town, Davis draws many people who did not grow up in the greater Sacramento metropolitan area (as I was when I moved there in September 1994). Unlike many other communities near Sacramento, which all run into each other and even extend into adjacent counties, Davis is surrounded by farmland, separated from West Sacramento by six miles of open space and flood bypass. The progressive political slant in Davis also seems to lead some individuals to think of a distinction between themselves and residents of other more conservative communities. But this is not what I wanted to write about today.
The whole experience got me thinking about how my life is so spread out geographically. My social life extends across three counties, and my work is in a fourth county. And, more importantly, very few of the people I spend the most time socializing with live within 10 miles of me. My social life started moving away from my neighborhood in 2008, when I started hanging out with dancers, and after leaving my job in 2014 and leaving my church in 2015, I really have very little left in my neighborhood other than my house. This geographical separation makes it much more difficult to make, keep, or participate in last minute social plans. (Davis, for example, stands in contrast to this, as there do not exist two points in Davis that are more than 10 miles apart.) I can’t make plans during the week without advance planning, and even then I can’t always do things without sacrificing sleep or things that need to be done around the house. When I make plans at the last minute, it is equally hard for friends to come all the way down here. The most recent time I invited people over at the last minute, six people showed up, which is two or three more than I expected.
So what do I do about it? I don’t know. I don’t know if I can do anything about it, other than accept it and make the most of what I have. If I move closer to work, I would be moving even farther from my social life, to a smaller town that seems to be dominated by families with roots in the area. If I move closer to friends, I’d be moving farther from a job that is going well, and I’d have to go through the hassle of selling the house. Making new friends closer to home sounds like the obvious choice, which could also tie in with looking for a church closer to home*, but my area is mostly families, and the churches around here are mostly family-oriented, so it is not as easy as it sounds. I haven’t figured that out yet.
(* I am currently not actively looking for a church closer to home. The church I’ve been attending for the last year is about 13 miles from my house.)