In 2011, I booked a trip to visit a cousin of mine in California. Being a first timer, I had no idea what to expect of the west coast. I was born with a gypsy soul and have a vibrant hope for the unknown. Long story short: I had fallen in love with what is known as “America’s Finest City”.
I went into a mini depression when my first visit to the golden state had ended. As soon as I landed back home in Michigan, I told my parents that one day I’m moving to San Diego, and that one day the ticket would be one way. Each year after that, I continued to make visits to California. In 2016, I took a big leap of faith. I purchased my one way ticket to what I thought would be paradise. I was overjoyed that after years of day dreaming, I could officially call this a plan. In my short time I spent out west, I learned some of the most valuable lessons that will now carry me through in everything I do.
1. When you’re living in a vacation spot, you are no longer on vacation.
I figured out why San Diego (or California in general) is one of the countries top vacation spots. There is no denying the amount of beauty of what those coastal cities provide you with. The views are breathtaking. Guess what else is breathtaking? The cost of living. Being from the midwest, it made me cringe. I couldn’t comprehend the reality of “living” out there.
It blew my mind how paying $2,000 a month for a 1 bedroom apartment that was 700 square feet was normal. On top of paying a mortgage payment for a shack each month, the average person is working 2, maybe even 3 jobs to make their rent. Just the rent. Nothing else. In my mind, that translated to “So…I work multiple jobs to live in a shack, and have no time to actually enjoy the weather that I’m paying for.” No thank you. I was not okay with dropping that much for housing each month knowing that I could get so much with that money in ANY part of the country.
2. There are never ending barriers to living on the west coast.
Take the traffic for example. California interstates are no joke. The traffic in San Diego is no where near what Los Angeles folks deal with on a daily basis, but can still be as bad as the scenery is pretty. With California being an overpopulated state, that doesn’t help the 8 lane highways at rush hour.
I understand that city life equals traffic, but out there it has become unpredictable to how long it will take you to get anywhere. To get from point A to point B in my hometown, it takes a maximum of ten minutes at ANY time of the day. Talk about culture shock! I quickly figured out that I’m not a city girl because of my lack of patience and my obsessive compulsive behaviors to get everywhere on time.
3. I will hold myself to a standard of grace, not perfection.
I know I was very unprepared to move myself across the country. I packed 2 full size suitcases, a backpack, and my camera. My decision to leave as soon as I did was impulsive. I just couldn’t wait any longer. I was tired of my same old routine in a town I had lived in my entire life. I needed out and I wanted nothing more than to fulfill my desire of using my one way ticket.
In my time out there, I have never been faced with so many challenges in such a short period of time. I was alone in a city of over 3 million people and only a few friends to guide me. The job I accepted a few months prior had unpaid training. It should be illegal to have unpaid training in the second most expensive state in the country. That forced me to job hunt every hour of the day until something came up. I interviewed and applied for new postings each day. No luck.
Originally, I envisioned flying out to California, getting hired in somewhere in no time, find housing, and I’d be living off of coffee and sunshine. Boy, was I wrong. That’s when I realized I was very sheltered back home. Prior to moving, I was caught up in the lifestyle I thought San Diegan’s lived. Nothing had went in the direction I was expecting. At that point, I was too busy feeling feelings and overthinking about it.
4. Always be a work in progress
I don’t consider moving 2,300 miles away (and coming back shortly after), a failure. Actually, it’s the furthest thing from that. God made me realize that sometimes you need time alone in a pretty place to figure everything out. God made me realize you must ask yourself what is really important. He gave me the courage to build my life around my answer. Adventures are the best way to learn. You must embrace the glorious mess that you are, don’t feel guilty for doing what is best for you, and remember that decisions determine destiny.
5. You can take the girl out of Michigan, but you can’t take the Michigan out of the girl.
Your roots play a huge role in who you are, believe it or not. I found out that the perfect sunny climate and the flawless beaches didn’t bring me contentment like I had hoped. I was unhappy, lonely, and confused. I felt lost with out my people. My best friends. My foundation. The ones that push me to be the most successful version of myself that I can be and that keep me going. The ones that make me addicted to bettering myself. You are rich when you are content and happy with what you have. It took leaving Michigan and coming back to discover how “rich” I was. I’m now content. I feel free. That’s what I want to feel everyday of my life. Freedom. I’m smitten with the mitten.
6. You never know until you go.
We have all experienced something that has changed us in a way that we could never go back to the person we once were. This was that for me. My mom told me the day I decided to come home, “ You don’t owe anyone anything, and this experience was for you, and only you.”
A mind that is stretched by a new experience can never go back to its old dimensions. Don’t be ashamed of your story. It will inspire others to follow their heart, and maybe, even lose their mind like I did. Eventually, all things fall into place. Until then, laugh at the confusion, live for the moments, and trust the path unseen.