Gonna drift to the great wide open
Gonna set my spirit free
Wont stop until I reach the ocean
Gonna break these chains holding me
This weekend I had the fortune of meeting up with a couple buddies of mine from the east coast. Paul and Nick were in Sausalito working on a documentary for a week and invited me up for a night.
Sausalito is just north of San Francisco, over the Golden Gate Bridge.
In the 16 months I have lived in California, I had never crossed the bridge. I saw it for the first time just a few months ago when my friend Dan came out to visit.
I drove up Friday night after work and a much-needed workout and joined the guys at their hotel.
It was a Holiday Inn Express, but it was a Holiday Inn Express in Sausalito. The ocean and bay are visible. The hills are a deep green, at least this time of year. The bridge.
I have a few friends from the east coast that have made the unique journey to west. Paul, Nick and Lino are in Hollywood. Jeff and Diana are in Long Beach. Nicolle and Steve are in Los Angeles. Kyla is in Hollywood. Derek is in San Francisco. Ralph is in San Francisco. Shawn is in San Francisco. Kheifer is in Portland. Milena is somewhere between Los Angeles and San Diego. Rachel was in Redwood City, but has since found her way back to New York City. Mike is in San Jose, for now.
Those of us who have made the cross country trip have joined an elite fraternity of men and women who have pointed their compasses west throughout the years: from the California gold rush in the 19th century, the Oregon trail pioneered by men and women in covered wagons, the dot-com boom and so on.
The reasons we have decided to uproot and head for the Pacific have been rooted in one of two different notions:
The first notion is that something is pulling us out here. A new job or the promise of new opportunities, a girlfriend or boyfriend or significant other, the sunshine, the ocean, the weather, the breeze.
Something is drawing us in. We can’t escape it. Once our mind has found that notion, there’s no stopping it. The gravitational force of the west coast has taken over our body, mind and soul.
We begin planning. Saving money. Looking at residences. Looking for jobs. Checking the weather.
It’s snowing out our window but it’s sunny and 75 in our mind. We’re already there.
The second notion is that something is pushing us out.
It’s not the west coast specifically. Just anywhere but here.
I’ve had the good fortune to join this fraternity, but this dynamic – the push and pull – has captivated me. It’s black and white. I think of myself and all my friends who I’ve joined or have joined me and think the same thing.
Were you pulled west or pushed?
I’ve been fortunate to catch up with most of my fraternity friends in my time in California so far. We start out reminiscing of times back east, but the conversation always moves towards the journey we shared – at different times, using different routes, but shared nonetheless.
The one common thread through all our stories has been this: someone already in the fraternity helped us along the way or when we got here.
Helped us in the sense that when we look back at it now, our journey would not have been possible without them.
A couch to sleep on for a night. A place to store some of our belongings until we found a place. A hot meal, a cold beer, a hot shower. A friendly, familiar face that reassures you that you can make it. A smile from 3,000 miles away that calms your mind.
People in our fraternity understand the tribulations of the trip: the toll it takes on your body, mind and spirit. They’ve gone through it. They’ve come out on the other side so much stronger and are ready to stabilize your journey.
Then comes the talk of why.
Some stories are black and white. “The ocean was calling me.” “I had a job waiting for me.” “My boyfriend and I just had to do it.”
“I just had to get out.”
In these conversations, I’ve told my story both ways. I can articulate compelling arguments for both sides.
The majority of these conversations – these arguments – have been silent, hidden. You feel the same way. Torn between the push and pull, making excuses, justifying, building and destroying arguments. Your story is more complex than anyone else’s.
There’s always the story you tell passionately, romantically. The story you tell your loved ones, business partners, friends. You begin to believe the story as the absolute truth, but you know there’s another side to it.
I wanna swim in the sunshine.
Every day find a way to face my fears.
Perhaps you were pulled by the sunshine, the ocean, the opportunity and that’s why you did it. The argument is compelling and indisputable.
Perhaps you were trapped, lost somewhere along the way and had been being pushed for months before ever hitting the state border.
Perhaps it doesn’t matter at all. As soon as you do it, the world becomes so much larger than you ever thought it would be, but also so much smaller and accessible.
Perhaps it’s not black and white at all. Perhaps the biggest moments of our lives happen under an overcast. It’s not sunny, but it’s certainly not a downpour. The clouds cast a shade of gray on your horizon: your shade of gray.
Are you chasing or being chased?
DAY 17: WHEN I SEE THIS BAR DAY 16: DEAR MOM DAY 15: IF I WON THE LOTTERY DAY 14: ON CATS AND DOGS DAY 13: ANSWERING YOUR QUESTIONS (PART 1) DAY 12: MAKING MY WAY BACK TO CLEVELAND DAY 11: ON FIRE DAY 10: ON CONNOTATION AND DENOTATION DAY 9: ON THE TIME I BROKE MY RIBS DAY 8: ON THE FOUR UNDERSTANDINGS FOR A HAPPY LIFE DAY 7: DEAR ERIC DAY 6: ON WHY YOU’RE HAVING TROUBLE DATING IN YOUR 20′S, LADIES DAY 5: ON SUNRISES AND SUNSETS DAY 4: ON PARADISE DAY 3: ON SMOKE AND WHISKEY DAY 2: ON HOW CLOSE I WAS TO NOT EVEN GOING TO COLLEGE DAY 1: WHY I’M WRITING EVERY DAY FOR 40 DAYS