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My love letter to Stockton, sent from sunny Southern California – The Channels

I find it so strange that something we once despised at the core of our being can become something worth longing for, something worth resenting.

Growing up in Stockton, California, I was raised to hate it. All my life I was told that this was the kind of place you should definitely leave, and this ultimately determined the course of my young life. I remember being 13 and wanting nothing more than to escape the concrete prison disguised as a city that I had been trapped in my entire life.

In no time, I was an adult and the desire to leave was stronger than ever. I looked at every store, restaurant, and store that had surrounded me for the past 18 years and prayed that one day soon I would be able to leave it all behind me. I longed for the day when I could find a new home, new places to visit, and new streets to stroll.

My dreams became reality when I moved to Santa Barbara for college. I remember promising myself that I would never go home again. When new friends asked me where I was from, I simply answered, “Northern California.”

But after the initial haze of starting college passed, I lay awake at night staring at the ceiling of my two-bedroom apartment with a longing I just couldn't place. I realized that a part of me was missing and that part was my home – Stockton.

Anika Brodnansky beams for a photo with her two mothers, Susie Cosgrove (left) and Sharon Brodnansky (right). They're in the middle of a Sunday drive along the San Joaquin Delta in Stockton, California. (Courtesy of Anika Brodnansky)

When I left home, I realized that I had been wrong all my life. I don't hate Stockton. I love it.

I love every boring, monotonous aspect of my life there. I love passing March Lane Dog Park on the way to my best friend's house. I love my summer job that I once dreaded. I love taking my golden retriever on the same three-mile walk every weekend, even though he always finds his way into a mud puddle.

I love every restaurant I grew up at, especially the ones where I don't need a menu to order. I love the local grocery store in Lincoln Center that makes my favorite sandwich. I love the restaurant I ate at to celebrate my high school graduation and the one I ate at to celebrate my middle school choir recitals.

I love the people of Stockton who held my hand growing up. I love the old neighbors who feel like family, who taught me how to garden and sew. I love all the “aunts” who are actually just my parents’ old friends who have become angels in my life. I love my two mothers who gave me so much attention and care that I hope I can repeat it one day.

I love everything about Stockton, even the parts that stop most people from visiting. Stockton and the people who live there have made me who I am today, and I can proudly say that I wouldn't have wanted to have grown up anywhere else. No matter how far I've moved from the 13-year-old dreaming of something more, Stockton will always be a part of me. It will always be my home.

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Anna Harden

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