Four years ago today, on July 18, 2013, I moved to California, and in the time that's followed, I've become more "me" than I knew was possible. For me, California is a Promised Land, a place I loved visiting and dreamed of moving since a young age. I am so grateful to this state, and today I want to share some thoughts about what living here has meant to me and also what it's like to move far away from a place that I also love, my home state of North Carolina. Fair warning, this post gets super sappy AND deeply personal. But I think it's important to share what's on my heart.
My first home in California was in Berkeley, where I moved to attend law school. From the beginning, I planned to stay in the state after graduation, and I only looked for jobs in California during the summers of law school. I got a lot of questions from people back home of "so when are you moving back?", but I knew in my heart that I was meant to stay. Even though I was (barely) old enough to drink alcohol and be considered an "adult" when I moved to California, I just felt like this was the place for me--somewhere I could fit in, see myself starting a family, and go to the beach as much as I wanted. I didn't know it yet, but living here would grow and change me, quickly.
A whole lot has happened in the four years that I've lived in the state (three years in Berkeley and one so far in LA). At age 21, I had already fallen for Grace, but we had only hung out one-on-one once, and I had no plans to see her again. This state is where we actually got to know each other and became "us." I also got my law degree, took the bar exam, and became a lawyer since living here. It really does seem surreal that all of that could have already happened, because it feels like the blink of an eye.
It also feels surreal that in those four years, I adopted a dog who changed my life, held him as he passed away suddenly, and brought home a new pup, all with Grace by my side. If you'd told me in July 2013 (when I barely even knew Grace) that would all happen in the span of four years, I would have never believed you. I would have hysterically laughed, too, if you'd told me I'd start a blog about those experiences. No way.
There have been SO many good things in these four years. There have also been hard things. People (and pets) who have passed away or faded from Grace's and my lives for one reason or another, times of stress and uncertainty, and rocky changes that come with life transitions. But being able to weather them, and clinging to faith and the unwavering joy of knowing that we have been given so many good things to look forward to, is in part due to a dose of magic that I think comes from growing up and choosing your new home. For both Grace and me, that new home is very far from where we grew up. I still struggle with that.
But in an unexpected way, moving away from North Carolina helped me to crystallize the lessons I learned there. It also allowed me to accept my identity as a Southerner in a way that I never would have were I still living in NC. For me, being from the South means that I strongly value family, traditions, and hospitality. It taught me (and I'm still trying to learn) to always be gracious, polite, and consider others' feelings. It also instilled in me faith and gratitude from a young age. I am so lucky to have grown up there. And yet, it wasn't right for me to stay. I could write a book about the reasons why, but ultimately, I wasn't able to find peace in my heart back home. Another way of putting it is that I always felt "different" in a weird way in North Carolina, and in California, I have the chance to feel "different" in a good way.
All that said, I LOVE and am so proud of my home state. I love going back and visiting. If I'm lucky enough to have children and start a family one day, visiting North Carolina (and my parents' house in Virginia) with them would be hugely important to me. It will always be bittersweet that I live here, so far away from my family. I think I'm talking in circles now, but I hope I'm conveying a little bit of why and how I can be 100% sure that I'm meant to live in California and also long for my home state in many ways. I consider myself a Southerner and always will, but today, I'm counting my blessings that I've made my home in the golden state. I just can't wait to see what else it will bring me.