I Fell In Love With San Diego

Besides being of a West Indian upbringing, I am a West Coast baby. I was born in Tacoma, Washington on March 17, 1979, but moved to Germany after a year.

My father was in the army so my family and I moved around for he next four years. Afterwards my parents, brothers and myself spent our childhood years in the neighborhood of Corona Queens, NY. At the age of 12 we moved to Maryland and this is where I’ve live for the past 23 years of my life.

I honestly didn’t like MD (not even a little bit) from the first day I arrived. It was April 1991 and I stepped into a new 5th grade class at Chillum Elementary School in Hyattsville, MD. I appreciated the greenery but the majority of the people…I didn’t and still do not relate with to this day. That doesn’t go for all of course. I’ve met wonderful folks here. The funny thing is, in most cases, they are not from this area.

It’s simply a different mentality.

Although I’ve settled here after having my son followed by two daughters, 12.5 years ago, my spirit still isn’t at rest in this area. In other words, I don’t feel like I belong . I can hear the words of Aloe Blacc’s song in my head, ‘Wake Me Up’.

Last year, March 2013, I submitted a proposal after receiving an email that the American Society on Aging is seeking presenters for their 2014 annual Aging In America (#AIA14) conference.

First of all, I’ve never heard of ASA but after doing research I truly appreciated the mission and knew my book, Feminine Transitions, fit perfectly into the category of aging. Even better, the conference takes place in San Diego, California, where I’ve wanted to visit for years. I wrote about it in my previous blog, ‘Feminine Transitions Goes to California‘.

To my pleasant surprise, I received an acceptance and congratulations letter in August 2013 and happily accepted.

I flew into San Diego Airport for the conference on March 10, 2014.  I arrived late at night and therefore did not see much except for the city (where I stayed). Given that, I wasn’t immediately impressed, but the energy felt so right. This is a feeling I truly cannot explain.

Before my trip, I also connected with several organizations to do book talks and signings including the Women’s Museum of California, LGBT Women’s Resource Center of San Diego and World Beat Center.

My poster presentation, on March 12 with #AIA14, was received very well. Throughout my presentation I had large crowds viewing, commenting and even crying (with joy) about my topic ‘Embracing Our Natural Beauty As We Age’. The feedback was positive and the attendees appreciated the fact that I’m promoting self-love and acceptance in a world full of ads doing the exact opposite.

Alyscia Cunningham poster presentation at #AIA14. Feminine Transitions:
Alyscia Cunningham poster presentation at #AIA14. Feminine Transitions: Embracing Our Natural Beauty As We Age.

The energy was just the same at my other events, each unique in it’s own way. Starla Lewis, the Co-Curator of “Beautiful, Brillant and Bold: A Celebration of Black Women” exhibit at the Women’s Museum of California, volunteered to come out and help me that day. What a huge help it was. Author Anthony Browder suggested I connect with her before going to San Diego. Connections, connections, connections. I love it!

It wasn’t until Thursday, March 13, when I drove my mom to Barona Casino, did I finally get the chance to experience a real view of San Diego outside of the city.

Alyscia takes a self portrait while headed towards Barona Casino.
Headed toward Barona Casino. Only 5 minutes away.

For the first time in my life I feel in love with my environment and was enticed with all five senses.

The sight of the mountains moved me. The smell of the fresh ocean air grooved me. The sound of tranquility soothed me. The breeze caressed my hair and skin smoothly. I got a taste of San Diego and fell in love truly.

Alyscia's selfie
Alyscia takes a selfie on the way to Barona Casino.
selfie of Alyscia Cunningham
Self portrait of Alyscia Cunningham. #Selfie

Later that day Kristy Salazar interviewed me at the Women’s Resource Center. After our discussion she spoke about reading that same previous blog I mentioned earlier, ‘Feminine Transitions Goes to California‘, and how much she related to it.

She then surprised me with a beautiful birthday cake dedicated to my achievement. As excited and appreciative as I felt in that moment, I was also overwhelmed with joy.  I felt so appreciated. Thank you ladies!

Starla Lewis gives a lecture about the role of women at Women's Museum of California in San Diego, CA.
Starla Lewis gives a lecture on March 11, 2014 the wisdom of womanhood at Women’s Museum of California in San Diego, CA.
Kristy Salazar, Alyscia Cunningham and Sheena Whitaker
Kristy Salazar, Alyscia Cunningham and Sheena Whitaker at the San Diego LGBT Community Center;Women’s Resource Center.

After commenting on the fact that I am a new hiker, Lee – in the audience at the Women’s Resource Center, offered to take both my mom and I, hiking and on a tour of San Diego.  I was so grateful for the opportunity. Not to mention, how wonderful it felt meeting a stranger and becoming a friend.

Lee and Alyscia Cunningham after a short hike in Point Fort Loma, San Diego, CA.
Lee and Alyscia Cunningham after a short hike in Point Fort Loma, San Diego, CA. We met at the Women’s Resource Center that night before and she offered to take me sightseeing and hiking. Loved it!
Lee and my mom at Point Loma Tidal Pool in San Diego, CA.
Lee and my mom at Point Loma Tidal Pool in San Diego, CA.
This little crab was busy cleaning.
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A scenic view of La Jolla Cove. The seals were taking a sun bath on the rocks.
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This lizard is a true model. Instead of running she/he stopped and took a pose.
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I love palm trees.
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La Jolla Cove in San Diego, California.
Seagull sits by the coast in San Diego, CA
Solitude is golden.
A seagull takes a rest right before sunset.

The hospitality and support was undeniable and I wondered why people left here and moved to DC (I met quite a few Californians within the past year who happened to move to the DMV area). Of course everyone has a different environmental need. My desire was to remain where I was at that moment. All I needed was for my husband and children to pack their bags and meet me there. 🙂

My only option now is to overcome the fear of failure realistically. I’m human and have no issue admitting that I sometimes question my decisions.

How am I going to move when money is tight? What about my home in Maryland? Are the schools good for my children (who are all very creative)? Will my photography, publishing and construction businesses thrive? What if I’m not successful?

So many unanswered questions.

One thing that resonated with me while in Cali was the large number of homeless people on the streets. The reality of the strict mortgage laws California withholds is obviously a serious matter. There was no statistic. They were all ages and races. I thought to myself, anyone can become homeless. If I wasn’t adamant about keeping my home seven years ago, that could have been me.

Think about FEAR – False Evidence Appearing Real. We all experience it at some point of our life. The beauty is letting go and going into the directions of our dreams…fearlessly.

Alyscia Cunningham  Courage Photo
You can never cross the ocean unless you have the courage to lose sight of the shore.

I’ve put it out there and prayed for guidance as always. All I can do now is see where the wind takes me. I planted the seeds just to make sure.

We all have our own journeys to travel. The blessing in it is discovering our passions and growing wholistically through it all. I turned 35 years old last week.   I am a strong, determined, talented and confident women and truly appreciate the changes that come as I grow older.  As difficult as my path has been, particularly in the past seven years, I’ve realized the blessing in being who I am as Alyscia.

Unapologetically Me.

I have much traveling to do. San Diego, know that I will return to you.

Image of the sunset at Sunset Hills in San Diego, California.
Sunset at Sunset Hills in San Diego, California.

I offer an immense thank you to everyone who contributed to my fundraiser. All of you made my trip possible.
Dad, Mom, Grandmother, Grandfather, Anita Kamienski, Aunty Janet Fortune, Ebony J., Erica Tyson, Evelyn McKenly, Jeff Brooks Photography, Juanita Smart, Tamara Lumpkin, Trista Hendren, Karima Amin, Lane Cobb, Necilia Jones, Uncle Lyndon Brown and 4 Anonymous contributors…THANK YOU!