NPR logo Elizabeth Wahl's CA Reclamation

What's Your CA Dream?

Elizabeth Wahl's CA Reclamation

In this installment of "What's Your CA Dream?", Elizabeth Wahl tells of bucking the trend of the California exodus and moving back this summer to to reclaim my California dream.

My family is bucking the trend of the California exodus. We're moving back this summer because of me, a 45-year-old mother of three. I want to reclaim my California dream, which means getting off the freeway, out of the car, and back into a suburb with a small-town feel, good neighbors, good public transportation, and good public schools.

Huh? Yes, for three years I've lived in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and despite living up to its reputation as a slow and easy land of ma??ana, I now spend my life in the car. But what really killed the New Mexico experiment was finding that living in an older part of the city meant spending down college savings to send the kids to private school. The alternative would have been to choose what I see as the suburban nightmare — gated communities, conservatives, and even more traffic.

In the end, moving to Albuquerque and giving my job cost us close to $100,000 a year. I realized I was not really a stay-at-home mom, and the day I finally told my husband I needed to go home, I found myself singing in the shower, and he said he'd get me back to California if he had to doing the moving himself.

I don't regret this experiment, and I also realize how lucky we've been in the timing of our moves. We arrived in California in 1987, bought a house in 1996, and we've spent almost twenty years there building a close network of friends and colleagues. Our experience is the exception, not the rule.

For me, the California dream is not so much about economic opportunity or breaking conventions as it is about community— people who work hard but also find time for friends, conversations that aren't just about the kids soccer game but also about politics, the environment, and the next great project we want to undertake—whether its starting a company or a new program in the public schools. That's the dream I found in California and the reason I'm going back home.

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