It is 16 years this fall that I packed the car and headed west from a town on the Pennsylvania-New Jersey border.
Not sure if it was watching too many Brady Bunch episodes as a kid and always dreaming of living in that cool house they had, watching the movie Fast Times at Ridgemont High one too many times, or my disdain for winter weather. Heck, it may have been all three.
Whatever it was, I had this fascination with moving to Southern California one day as a kid. That dream carried through into my high school and college years, then when I began life in the workplace back east.
Finally after tossing and turning on the decision, I pulled the trigger on the move at age 30 and away I went.
With 90 percent of my possessions loaded in a moving truck, and the rest of them jammed in my car, I hit the freeway and began a week-long journey to California.
In the process of such a move, I left behind family, a full-time job, security and more. In turn, I was getting no guarantees of work, living in an area where I knew no one, and lots of questions with few answers. On the bright side, there was that Southern California weather that always looked so appealing.
So what were some lessons to be learned from this experience? Among them were:
Lesson #1: Be prepared for some setbacks
Nothing typically goes the way we plan it, heck that might actually be a good thing. If everything fell into place just perfectly, we might just find this world a little too boring for our tastes. It is the setbacks and challenges in life that define who we really are and what we’re made of.
Lesson #2: Avoid the naysayers
Whether it is out of jealousy and/or the fact they were too scared to do it themselves, don’t let others get you down when you take such a big risk in life. Other than my parents full support, I had plenty of people telling me I would last at best six months in California and would be returning home soon. I don’t want to say they didn’t care about me, maybe it was just they thought I was irrational for making such a move or would be disappointed when all was said and done?
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Lesson #3: Remember why you’re doing this in the first place
Any adventure in life takes fortitude and the willingness to stick it out. There are plenty of opportunities to throw in the towel when taking risks, but is that what you really want? I’ve always lived by a simple adage that goes…. “Quitters never win, Winners never quit.”
Lesson #4: See the light at the end of the tunnel
As I made that cross country drive into the unknown, there were always opportunities to turn around and go home. You have to see the big picture in life and not just live the moment, especially when those moments are challenging. Taking months to find a job, bills piling up, no familiar faces around etc. can prove challenging for anyone. Remember, though, what is your ultimate goal and can you see it taking place?
Lesson #5: Reap the Rewards
They say you have to live through some tough times to enjoy the good times. While I do have some belief in that thought, it doesn’t mean life has to be pure hell before you get to the good stuff. When some good things do come along, appreciate them because you earned them.
It has been over a decade now since the packed car left the driveway of my parents’ home one fall morning and I’m still in Southern California.
I’ve been through a divorce, a job layoff, several relationships, some tough financial times and more.
Through it all, not only have I had the support of the best parents a guy could ask for, but I’ve had the support of one other person: me.
Whenever things get a little rough, I remind myself of one thing, I’ve lived my dream. I don’t say this out of arrogance, but how many people get to say that in this one life we get? For me, the term regrets isn’t a part of my life.
Whether I’m in Southern California one more day, 10 more years, 20 years etc…. I could die tomorrow at peace knowing that I got way more out of life than I ever could have dreamed of. Oh, yes, I got my dream too!