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For the first time in my life, a splash of alcohol smoothed away the sharper edges of pain instead of heightening it. After a week of tears and stress and worry, with one glass of whiskey and one California-crafted beer, everything melted away into a quiet, forgettable corner of my mind.

I made it through six goodbyes tonight without a single tear. I hugged the same people over and over, and each person whispered an iteration of the same thing in my ear — ‘Goodbye for now. I’ll see you again soon. I’m sure of it.’ For once, I didn’t fight my coworker friend on an escort to my car — I looped my arm through his and we laughed our way four blocks over to the parking garage. At the stairwell door, he tried to send me away with heartfelt well wishes; I dug my palms into my eyes and cut him off: ‘I haven’t cried in two days, and I’m definitely not about to start again now.’

I have found unexpected parts of myself over the last four months. I am so much more than I ever expected. I am brave. I am strong. I am fiercely independent. I am quiet. I am a powerhouse. I am curious. I am anxious. I am self-aware to a fault. I am comfortable in my own skin.

I have savored California, down to the final moment.

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