NPR logo Matthew Howe's California Dream

D2D California Dreaming Series

Matthew Howe's California Dream

Over the last several weeks, we've asked Day to Day listeners to share their vision of the California Dream. Fame, health, satisfaction, blue sky or innovation—what defines your California Dream? Is the economy forcing that dream to change?

We've been sharing listener responses both on-air and here on Daydreaming. But then we noticed a curious thing: Some of you were writing in to tell about leaving California behind. On today's show we talked to some people who have given up on the dream, and we'll be sharing some of their stories here on the blog. In this installment, Matthew Howe tells of finding his home in California-only to leave it behind.

For me, the California Dream was one word: home. Growing up in Florida people kept telling me that I was a Californian and didn't know it. Perhaps it was my aggressive optimism, my sense of human dignity and justice, my questionable (and yet keenly personal) sense of fashion - I may never know. However, when I found myself at graduate school in the Bay Area of San Francisco, the meaning sunk in - here were my people. A deeply multicultural community. Progressive values taken for granted as the rule, not the exception. Public transportation that actually works. These earthy things that rose above sea level - I think they're called "hills". Perhaps most importantly, my first Berkeley experience of a woman with a purple mohawk playing the accordion in the street. I had found home, and what a rare and special currency that was. The South had never felt like "home" to me, more like an awkward extended stay at a distant third uncle's, and to be suddenly immersed in something so different, so complementary, so, well, "me," was a breath of fresh air. I never wanted to leave.

So, four years later, I left. This may not sound sensible, but hear me out. I felt really comfortable in San Francisco. Perhaps a little TOO comfortable. As wonderful as it was to effortlessly be myself, there was no motivation to stretch outside of that comfort zone. I also wondered why all this good "California" stuff taken for granted here seemed limited to the state borders — shouldn't someone carry it to the other 49? So, off I went into the wild world. Having found my nest, I could finally outgrow it and learn to fly. Besides, some of us actually LIKE weather.

If you'd like to share your story of finding (or abandoning) the California Dream, use the contact page provided here.

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