'Go west, young man': An epiphany ten years later

Ten years ago today I decided to move to California.

It was an epiphany that came to me during my Environmental Studies lecture. I was sitting in the balcony of Macbride Auditorium, doodling and writing in my journal about taking a road trip over the summer. Graduation was weeks away and I had no clue what I was going to do after college. What the hell could I do? I had wracked my brain and soul-searched all semester and had not figured it out yet. Maybe a road trip would help.

Colorado, I thought, drawing the state and the Rockies. I could explore the mountains and mesas, take time to rediscover the state where I was born. Or I could go farther west, to California. I draw the state and a possible path from Iowa. I could visit my uncle and hang out at the beach, listen to the waves, watch the sun set into the ocean. It’d be awesome.

Of course, I joked to myself, why visit when I can just move there?


The proverbial light in my head turned on and the darkness of uncertainty was gone. I stopped writing. An electric charge shot through my body. Holy shit — that’s it! I thought. Move to California!

It was an incredible moment, one that has shaped my life ever since. Though sometimes I wonder if I would have been better off going elsewhere, perhaps Boston, I think moving to California was the right choice. I explored and experienced a lot, gained a great friendship, and am still holding jobs I got in the Golden State.

Though my love affair with California did not last, and living on the West Coast spoiled its romanticism — at least in certain ways, and not permanently it seems — my time there changed my life for the better. I matured there, became the man I am today there. I started running seriously, became a vegetarian, bought my car, started writing about beer. I read a lot, wrote a lot, traveled a lot, and watched many beautiful sunsets from the beaches of Santa Cruz and Huntington Beach. Living and thriving two thousand miles away from everything I knew gave me a lot of confidence. It also taught me the value of family. I would not have been able to find my footing on the West Coast without the kindness of relatives — and their spare bedrooms and garage lofts.

The epiphany I had ten years ago today turned out to be much, much more than just a post-college plan. It was a life-altering realization.

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