There is a video of me as a five-year-old, being asked by an off-camera voice about my future. I’m asked what I want to be when I grow up, which I confidently answered, “I don’t know what I want to be when I grow up, but I know I’m moving to California!” Whether it be the Beach Boys records my parents played on loop, or the intriguing life of the “Saved by the Bell” kids, but five-year-old Marci knew she was moving from her small Ohio hometown (population 862!) to the West Coast. Nearly 20 years later, that little girl’s prediction became reality.
Two months after I graduated with my Masters degree from Bowling Green State University, I packed up everything I owned and moved to Los Angeles to start a residence life position at beautiful Loyola Marymount University. My friends joked that I was “living the dream” and the Associate Dean who interviewed with classified me as a “risk-taker.” Neither one of those seemed to totally fit my experience of moving away from everything I had ever known. New foods, new vocabulary, new ways of transportation, new student population, new friends, new institution, new job, new apartment, everything was new and it was awesome!
Until it wasn’t. Until I realized being three hours behind everyone else in my life was hard. Until it became increasingly difficult to keep up with friends from grad school who had been a huge support system, but now were scattered all across the country. Until things at work got hard and I realized every single friend I had was connected to LMU in some way. Until my grandmother passed away and I was *thisclose* to not attending her funeral because a last-minute, cross-country flight was astronomical. Until I was only able to go home once a year for Christmas. Until friends visited me in LA and couldn’t stop complaining about the smog or the traffic or the gas prices.
When I was job searching my second time, I had a choice to make. Was I done with California? Was I done with the insane insurance prices, nearly bankrupt government, or living under the constant threat of nearly every type of natural disaster? Or did California have more to give? More sunshine, more ocean, more cultural diversity, more opportunities? I wasn’t done with California and it certainly wasn’t done with me, but I was going to do California differently. I moved 300 miles north to Santa Clara University and branched out more. I made the 45 minute drive into San Francisco at least once a month. I connected with former students and old friends who had no connection to my day-to-day work. And I still made friends at my job. I left the office at a reasonable hour more days than not, got a puppy, and actually had a life. I was happy. And then it was once again time to job search and I once again had a choice: Was I done with California?
This time, the answer was yes. There are people who say I wasted my time making professional and personal connections in a state that I may never live in again. I once again uprooted my life, packed up my stuff, and made the cross-country trek back to the Midwest. Those naysayers could not be more wrong. That state is where I discovered myself and realized I could rely on myself. It’s where I leaned into ambiguity and uncertainty. It’s where I lived the questions instead of demanded the answers. It is where I made lifelong friends and saw enough sunsets over the Pacific to last me a lifetime. It’s where I discovered the soul of two institutions through the driven and hard-working students, who don’t just talk about social justice because its cool, but actually work towards dismantling systems of oppression. I found myself in California and could not be doing the work I’m doing now without those seven formative years.
So if someone calls you unrealistic or a risk-taker for uprooting your life, tell them to call you in seven years. They might regret calling you unrealistic, but you won’t regret taking that risk.
This post is part of our month-long series #SAmobile, a look at the stories of SA pros who picked up and moved for their career. This series is about the struggles, the successes, the hurdles, and the emotions involved in such a life changing decision. For more information, see the intro post by Juhi Bhatt. Check out other posts in this series too!