At twenty- two I was given the opportunity to take "the road less travelled by and that has made all the difference." I was given the unique opportunity to leave everything I knew and move to California. While I learned countless things while in the Golden State there are ten cliche, but crucial life lessons I still remember to this day.
1. The World is a Small, Small Place
Bakersfield, California is precisely 2,010 miles from where I sit today. So, naturally I expected to walk into a new place where no one had seen snow, had tasted fresh sweet corn, or had tasted the deliciousness that is Portillos. I was scared, but ready to take on this new challenge. Then, my principal mentioned there was another Eastern Illinois grad that had been hired... at the same school. Thanks to facebook we were able to contact each other. Not only did we attend the same college, we graduated in the same year, had some of the same friends, and knew many of the same people. After a twenty minute conversation she and I decided to go all in and lease an apartment together as roommates. So here I was, 2,010 miles from home, with a girl who not only had seen snow but actually walked the same paths to class, sat in the same classrooms, and visited the same establishments as I had. Turns out the world is much smaller than I ever knew.
2. Keep pursuing your dreams, no matter what
As a bouncy, optimistic, recent graduate I was sure I would love teaching. I was bound to save the world, one angsty teenager at a time. What I encountered was much different than what I thought. As a first year teacher and yearbook advisor I was in over my head. I was overwhelmed by the 27 faces staring up at me on a daily basis, confused by the conflicting messages I received from admin, and frustrated by the lack of support I sometimes felt. At the end of the year there I wondered if I was meant to be a teacher. However, after leaving after my first year I longed for every single feeling I had during that first year. The tears and laughs alike raced through my dreams. This experience taught me that I do have that passion and could not imagine doing anything else.
3. Pizza can make everything better
There was nothing better on a Friday night, after a long, hard week than a greasy disc of dough with every vegetable imaginable covering its surface. It was always a good night when my roommate and I decided it was long overdue to order our favorite pizza (which usually consisted of no more than a week). The first bite would spread a warmth through my body like no alcohol could. With two slices of that pizza I was ready for the week to come.
4. There is nothing more purifying than the ocean
While Bakersfield, California is not near the beach as I was told it was only two hours from the beach. I grew up going to the beach, but had never lived near one. The drive through the mountains to get to the coast was like a passage way into bliss. I am someone who does not like a drive more than fifteen minutes. That drive though was one I looked forward to. Not only was it beautiful, but it led to a place of serenity, beauty, and purity. Being at the beach was a way to escape anything and everything and focus on what lay ahead. The salt water on my face, the sand crusted on my toes, and the rocks stuck in my shoes are uncomfortable memories I dream to have back.
5. Don't judge a book by it's cover
The high school I was hired to work at had a reputation of being one of the roughest in Bakersfield. It was located in a place called Oildale and I was told good luck whenever I told anyone local I was working there. However, I quickly learned that the staff and the students there were not the nightmares so many described. Instead I was immersed in a culture of learning, positivity, and school spirit. I learned then that you must not take things at face value. Instead, you must experience them for yourself.
6. Mexican food and sushi are life
Before moving out to California I had only sampled sushi. My Mexican food knowledge only went as far as a quesadilla. However, living in walking distance of two sushi places and at least three Mexican restaurants changed all that for me. The smooth, creamy texture of sushi, interrupted by a deeply satisfying crunch is a sensation I could live many months on. The spice and flavor packed into one tiny taco was a meal I would request as one of my last. These two things continue to provide me with most of my nourishment. For nothing can come close to these two cuisines. Now, all I have left to do is try the Sushi Burrito. Maybe one day.
7. Starbucks knows what it's doing, and their siren logo proves it
When you get a new job you are excited about all the money that is suddenly coming in. It's like pulling a slot machine and hitting jackpot every other Friday at 10 am. However, with this money came the belief that I could stop at Starbucks every day to consume a five dollar drink and a four dollar breakfast sandwich. Needless to say I did not save very much that year. Their siren logo is the perfect metaphor to how much money they manage to suck out of their consumers without a single guilty thought crossing their mind.
8. Some things are actually priceless
Coachella is one of the largest musical festivals in the country. It is also one of the most expensive. However, those dust covered days taught me that some things are just too good to pass up. Seeing bands I had never heard of, sleeping in a tent in the middle of the desert, and waking up to see the sunrise were priceless experiences. I will save you from the MasterCard list of what I spent because the money I paid to attend this concert can not even come close to the life experience I gained along the way.
9. Everyone has an inner hippy
Every time I came home while living in California my friends commented on how my dress, attitude, and speech had changed. They insisted I was turning into a hippy. In high school and college I was about as far from a hippy as one could possibly get. This was a 180 degree difference. But I guess it just shows that everyone has an inner hippy. It just needs to be let out.
10. Be happy with being you
All my life I worried that who I was was not okay. In California I learned that I am good enough. Moving here was a clean slate. No past judgments, nothing to lose, and nowhere to go but up. While fully accepting that I could let me true personality shine I gained some truly amazing friends who not only accepted who I really was, but encouraged me to show it. They also helped me figure out that my friends back at home were some truly exceptional people as well. I am eternally grateful for these amazing people who I still regard as some of the most incredible people I have ever met.
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