California, Here I Go

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I've always thought it unfair that I was born in California because it robbed me of my American birthright -- discovering California for myself.

Because that's what California is, right? It's the place people go to, not the place people are from.  

My mom escaped from a cloistered Iowa farm town to sing in the People's Park of 1960's Berkeley. That's an American story. I grew up playing in the hills of Marin County, and now my commute takes me by the Golden Gate, which I sometimes remember to notice. That's no kind of story at all.  

My whole life, I've cursed my good luck. Is it too much to ask to grow up in a no-name backwater, aching for and then finding California freedom?

So I've decided to take matters into my own hands. In two weeks, my girlfriend and I are moving to Massachusetts. My goal is to become a real New Englander. A real New Englander who knows, deep down, that he doesn't belong on the East Coast.  


Last month, after visiting rural Massachusetts, my girlfriend and I decided to drive to Boston. She fell asleep after I assured her I could find the freeway to the coast. Two hours later, she woke up and asked why we were still in the mountains. "I don't know," I said. "But don't worry, I've been driving west to the coast the whole time." It turns out that in New England, the nearest coast is to the east. Who knew?

I figure it's just a matter of time before the people living with me back there -- my future wife and kids -- won't put up with things like that anymore. Nobody will laugh at my jokes. The way I dress will raise eyebrows. I'll unknowingly ignore long-established social norms.

Eventually, the kids will beg my wife and me to move somewhere I'll be less embarrassing. And then we'll pile into the car, and I'll assure everyone that I can find the freeway to the coast. This time, my instincts will point us in the right direction. We'll drive and drive until we see water, and then I'll know that I've found home.  

I will have finally discovered California for myself.  

With a Perspective, I'm Soren Tjernell.

Soren Tjernell  is a middle school English teacher and proud graduate of Novato High School's Class of '98.