Growing up on the east coast, I always wanted to visit you. To venture to a foreign exotic land and bask in your palm trees and mountains and a neighboring ocean not named Atlantic.
Forget visiting; I could have never imagined one day living within your 2000 zig-zagging miles of gorgeous borders.
Upon actually living here, I could have never fathomed leaving.
Four years ago, I set sail on a new adventure.
At 23, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. Had I known the emotional cost, I might not have done it. I might have stayed on the east coast and continued living out a passionless existence.
But I suppose that’s why God often doesn’t show us the next page. He knows we’d chicken out if we saw only the tears and travails of tomorrow.
Sometimes, He just tells us to jump. If we’re wise, we will follow His prompt and jump headlong into the unknown. For this introverted isolated messed up Christian, my jump launched me 2300 miles westward.
Before 2010, I’d never ventured west of the Mississippi. I had no concept of “Texas” or “Rockies” or “Pacific Ocean.” I couldn’t wrap my head around being three whole hours behind the rest of the world. How would I watch “live” TV?!
And then, suddenly, I knew. I knew all of it. Began living it.
Since the start, I was in awe of California’s mountains. Whether I was journaling in the park or driving to Walmart, all I could do was look into the horizon. I’d just sit there staring, trying to digest the sight of rising falling mounds of mystery.
Every time I glanced outside my window, I was distinctly reminded of this bold new place. A bold new story.
The first time I saw the Pacific Ocean, my breath was quite literally taken from me. Standing high above her from my aunt and uncle’s apartment balcony, I thought her gorgeous beyond any other waters. So similar to her Atlantic brother and yet so very different. The way this west coast sun shimmered off her surface, these massive cliffs lining her lively shores.
I used to hate the beach. California made me love it.
But beyond a beautiful backdrop, I found myself living and breathing a vibrant painting within. I moved in with some beloved brothers, I uncovered a love for youth and tutoring, and I got baptized as part of my first authentic church community.
A decade ago I couldn’t have fathomed ever living in such a place like southern California. But I really couldn’t have fathomed ever experiencing such a bountiful, healthy life here. Anywhere.
California taught me that dreams can be realized. Especially dreams that we don’t fully dream just yet.
I knew I wanted a new life when I first moved here, but I had no concept of what “new” looked like. Now, I do; now, I can’t imagine never having found this new. Looking back on the last four years, that concept, that dream is even more breathtaking than my views from Griffith Observatory and San Pedro combined.
I’ve now lived in California for four years. I have learned and grown more in these past four years than I did in my four years at college. California, not college, has taught me about life. About jobs and groceries and credit cards and books and blogs. About people.
California has taught me about community and friendship. True community and genuine friends who will bring darkness to light and catch your gushing tears and hug you and hold you when you feel utterly unlovable. Precious people who will silence the invisible voices you’ve heard all your life.
In many ways, I can’t believe I’m actually leaving California. I can’t believe I would turn my back on her after all she’s done for me. Given me.
And yet even as I leave, I hear her whispering to me:
“It’s okay. I understand. You’re chasing another dream, and I am what dreams are all about, after all. I get dreams, and I get you. I’ll be here when you need another dream to dream. Now, go.”
And as I wipe my shirt sleeve to my eyes, I slide into my driver’s seat and do as California says.
I go. I drive. I run.
Damn. What a ride.