A Show-Me Girl in Cali

Settling in the West has been the dream for many Americans since the colonization of this beautiful and complex country. Gold miners, hippies and people of Hollywood are all examples of individuals who have had their heads in Sunny Cali’s clouds. The enchanted idea that one’s life would become more exciting and worth-while once their feet touched California’s soil is simply intoxicating. It’s thrilling to believe in the possibility of magical circumstances and that one’s life can change for the better on the drop of a dime. Having packed up my 2005 Mercury Sable with as much belongings as I could muster, and making the thirty-four hour drive from Chicago to San Diego, all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, I’m here to tell you, your goals can be high, but you should be humble in your demands. I truly believe that anyone can make it here in California, having arrived here with only a hundred dollars left in my bank account, but a very crucial question to keep in mind is: how bad do you want it?

Arriving here, I couldn’t take in my surroundings fast enough. The mountains, the ocean, the bay, the hills, the clay shingles on top of homes and businesses, the surfers, the cyclists, the horses, the parks… I know in my heart I had made the right decision. My family and I had lived in Sacramento when I was in elementary school and we had moved to the Mid West when I was in 5th grade. I had lived my teen and college years in Saint Louis, Missouri, so I feel like I am also very much a St. Louisan. To be able to know the ins and outs of a city couldn’t be more fun, not to mention being accompanied by a sense of pride. I could tell you where you could get the best toasted raviolis, about Shakespeare in the Park on humid summer nights or that the Botanical Gardens offered an evening where you could bring in your own food and beverage and listen to bands play (only on Wednesday nights). St. Louis will always have a place in my heart, but yet I knew I belonged here in California.

The ultimate decision came when I had to look for a new job. I decided I would rather look for jobs in California than in Chicago, because if I had to work another serving job, even after graduating college, I might as well do it where I really wanted to live. When I got here, I felt excited to breathe in the salty air again. The waves enthrall me. They seem to balance out my life, broadcasting that there is a much bigger world out there and my stresses that I have acquired are such a small piece of the puzzle, if not tedious. Oddly enough, Round Table Pizza and Albertsons brought back nostalgia. The flowers along highway 5 were plush with vibrant purples and greens, which are my two favorite colors. I thought that I couldn’t get on a bigger high than that moment when I had finally arrived. I was right, because as I woke up the following day, having slept over at an old high school classmate’s home in Chula Vista, I had an anxiety attack. I had no inkling of an idea what the hell I was going to do or how I was going to survive. This massive, expensive and fast-paced state was all around me. I was hundreds of miles from home, without any family close by and I was pretty much dead broke. I was jobless. I was homeless. And I could not breathe.

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