Like many people on the East coast, I always dreamed of living in California. The Golden State promised warmth and sunshine, beautiful beaches and a healthy, active, outdoor lifestyle. We visited several times during my childhood, and I was always enamored with California. My parents never fully understood that deep seeded desire to move west. When I was applying to college, I desperately wanted to visit Pomona College, a small, liberal arts school in southern California. Instead, my college search was restricted to schools within driving distance of home, which included tours of New England and Pennsylvania colleges. I chose a small college in Massachusetts, managed to endure the long, cold winters, and had an excellent, college experience. Still, I fantasized about one day moving to California.
In my early twenties, I finally had that opportunity. I was offered a job in San Francisco and relocated from New York. At last, I would have the chance to live out my dream. Each morning, for five years, I literally pinched myself to ensure I was not dreaming… I really did live in this beautiful, soul-warming place. And, after pinching myself, I began my day with a four-mile run through Crissy Field, along the bay, towards the Golden Gate Bridge. This daily run filled me with a huge sense of pride and purpose. Afterwards, I treated myself to a steaming hot coffee and freshly baked raisin bran muffin from Babycakes in the Marina. Life was good.
Ultimately, I moved back to the East coast, married and raised my family there. But I remain a California girl at heart. So, when it was time for my own children to look at colleges, and both were considering California schools, I was fully prepared for them to head west. Fortunately, my husband and I agreed that four years of college provided an opportunity for our children to experience life in a different part of the country. We did not geographically restrict their search, and instead encouraged them to select the college that felt right. My daughter selected a university in the South, my son chose a school in Northern California.
Like me, my son clearly has the “California gene.” Not everyone has it. Some of my East coast friends have this special gift (it’s kind of like having dimples- which I do!), and feel California in their souls. Others are surprised that we would allow our son to go to college so far from home. They smile politely when I explain my relationship with California, but these friends don’t really understand. And that’s fine with me.
My son definitely gets it. We just visited him for parents weekend, and could see that he is thriving in the healthy outdoors and sports/fitness-oriented lifestyle. I, too, have recently had a “second chance” to live in California, this time for a month… and, fortunately, during one of the worst winters on record in New York. But, just to be clear, the promise of California goes far beyond the weather.
To love California is to embrace a lifestyle of openness and friendliness. To achieve an ideal balance between seriousness and fun. To naturally smile and greet those you pass on the street… and to strike up conversations with strangers everywhere you go. To delight in the natural beauty surrounding you, from nightly beachside sunsets to mountainside hiking trails, just minutes from home. To feel healthy, fit, relaxed and stress-free. Every day. To marvel at the selection of fine wines available in the supermarket! To be able to watch the entire Oscars broadcast on TV without falling asleep, because it ends by 9 p.m.! (Okay, I’m exaggerating… I still fell asleep before the broadcast ended…)
I may be dreaming… but, if so, promise not to wake me!