Opinion: I love California and California loves me

Geographic Conflict
Tobias Lodish/The Occidental

I’m from the south side of Minneapolis, a tight-knit community within a big, sprawling city. Or what I thought was a big, sprawling city until I came here and got asked “Minneapolis? Where is that again?”

Los Angeles, by comparison, is huge.

A few days ago, I was driving in one direction for what felt like hours and I remember my friend telling me, “We’re still in LA county, by the way.” That blew my mind! And yet, that is exactly what I was looking for — rich culture, a diverse city full of opportunities and boundless talent.

Coming from Minneapolis, so many things drew me to sunny Los Angeles. I wrote my Oxy supplemental essay about my uncle’s childhood here in Highland Park. His stories about skating on the Occidental campus, the secret spots he’d find on the hill, nights playing pool against Oxy students in the local pool hall were only just that — stories. That was until I began looking for schools and realized his stories could be my everyday life.

Having been here for just over two weeks, I already have those stories to call my own. Not everyone would say these things are really that unbelievable, but I’ve made a point to remain in awe of everything here that makes me happy. I don’t want to forget how lucky I am to be here, and how I don’t have to act like everything around me is normal.

I’m still entranced with the fog in the mountains, the same ones that are only a 13-minute drive from campus. The fog up there is like a magical mist — it turns real life into a dream. In this dream, I’m listening to emo music I’ve never heard before as the cold (yes, I forget that cold exists here) wind blows through the open windows of a friend’s 1999 Toyota Avalon. As we take sharp but smooth turns around the bends of a mountain I don’t even know the name of, I try not to wake up.

Walking down York Boulevard, my friends and I talked about how venturing off campus into places we’ve never been before feels just like unlocking a new chunk in Minecraft. Similarly, when I drove through the fog, I took in a whole chunk of a world that I knew existed but had never seen before. And now, all of a sudden, it’s yours, it’s mine. It exists to us now. How incredible.

For some, California is also a sanctuary, a place where people can escape the dangerous laws of their home state and receive the care they need. California was the first state to implement refuge laws to protect transgender youth. This means that not only are local Californian youth protected, but so is anyone who travels to California seeking medical care for themselves or their family. This is true as well for anyone seeking an abortion. In California, laws exist that allow undocumented immigrants to drive legally. Liberal states like Minnesota and Massachusetts often look to California for guidance when developing laws like these.

When looking at colleges, I took into account the political environment and diversity of the surrounding communities. Moving somewhere that I’d have to regress politically was truly not an option for me. If you’ve never had to think about the political climate of the place you were moving to — or like me, you’re coming from a place that is liberal — you are very lucky. We tend to take these political freedoms for granted. Being here at Oxy, in the City of Angels, it almost makes me forget that there’s a whole ‘nother world out there. In more ways than one, it is a privilege to live here.

To be clear, I’m not saying that we live in a dream world, or that Oxy is perfect or that hate doesn’t exist here. However, I urge you to stay in awe of this amazing place we live in.

The dazzling views should never get old. Be grateful for the environment that we’re allowed to call our temporary home. Politically, we are spoiled compared to those in so many states, although access to abortions, healthcare regardless of our gender identity and equal opportunity for immigrants should be the norm. Weather-wise, it’s obvious how lucky we are, and it’s easy to forget that this ever-present sun isn’t ordinary. Every day I say how great it is to be able to be outside and take in the sun. I’m almost looking forward to the month of winter break, where I’ll get to snap out of my delusion and into the freezing, dark, dry place that is Minnesota winter. It’ll make coming back to LA feel that much better.


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