Letter to My California Dreamer: Chasing a Second Chance at the California Dream

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Listener Andrew Birling in Yosemite in 2005, during his first shot at the California dream. (Courtesy of Andrew Birling)

For our series “Letter to My California Dreamer,” we’re asking Californians from all walks of life to write a short letter to one of the first people in their family who came to the Golden State. The letter should explain:

What was their California Dream?
What happened to it?
Is that California Dream still alive for you?

Here's a letter from listener Andrew Birling to himself:

Dear Andrew,

You’re a little over a year into your second California dream, and other than occasional commuter frustration, it’s been amazing. In 2005, the first time you moved here, it was for the man you had been seeing. You were captivated by the relaxed California vibe, the chance to leave those Midwestern winters behind, and the promise of a relationship and everything it brings. It was the chance at a new start.

Andrew and his mom at Gamble Garden in Palo Alto, 2008. (Courtesy of Andrew Birling)

But after that relationship went south in 2010, you went back to Minnesota. You made a yearly pilgrimage to California after moving away, but that only increased your desire to return permanently. A graduate program left your mind unsatisfied, and your pockets empty.


Along the way you lost both parents. And you realized that though you were born and raised in the Midwest, it still didn’t feel like home. Four months after your mom died, on a long weekend in San Francisco, the clearest idea of what you should do next came to you: leave your career, leave Minnesota, and pursue a new life as a teacher.

Your Minnesota friends vacillated between supporting your dream and wanting you to stay. Friends in education talked with you about the pros and cons of teaching: long hours, and little pay. But you knew in your heart that working with kids was what you wanted most — their energy, their honesty, and the joy that they bring to everything they do.

Andrew in Monterey, 2010. (Courtesy of Andrew Birling)

After a super long process of considering whether you wanted to overhaul your life or not, you finally took the plunge. In August of 2018, you drove your car cross-country, and began working as an associate teacher while pursuing a teaching credential.

When school started and you met your class of third-graders, you knew you finally found what you were looking for: a new passion, and a new sense of purpose. Now, a year later, you can’t believe it took you so long!

Andrew with his 3rd grade students during his first year of teaching. (Courtesy of Andrew Birling)

Today, you’re working with a Kindergarten class and it’s even more amazing. Their curiosity and trust in you have your brain working in a way it’s never worked before. Your students are fascinating, your classes are interesting, and the amount of time and energy you spend on both is draining and satisfying.

And as you drive to the school every day, your eyes beam when you see the skyline of Oakland, the bay beyond it, and San Francisco beyond that. The first time you moved here, it was for someone else. This time, it’s for you — and you can’t believe you’re getting a second chance to live your California dream.

Keep dreaming,


We’d love to see your letter to your family’s California Dreamer. Maybe it was a parent, a great-great grandparent or maybe even you were the first in your family to come to California with a dream. Fill out the form here and share your story with us!