My time in California has come full circle.
It’s truly hard to say goodbye to an area and community that I have embraced and considered home; however, after a lot of reflection and talking with family and friends, I’ve decided that I will be leaving California at the end of June and heading to the city of Philadelphia so that I can live closer to family.
I would be lying if I said that I wasn’t nervous or anxious to leave. It’s funny, over the past five years I’ve continuously preached to students the importance of stepping out of their comfort zone if they hope to grow. Living a in a growth mindstate means not being afraid to fail. I meant what I told them because most of my time in California was spent outside my comfort zone, acclimating to the new people and places. But over the last few years, I grew comfortable, and I’m extremely grateful for that. And now it’s time to leave, without being afraid to fail.
Spending six years in the Golden State taught me much more than I ever anticipated. I learned about humanity and the role of a community. I learned about how to make a name for yourself when you move somewhere as a nobody. I learned how much passion young adults have and how they are more than capable to create positive change for our future.
I learned how vital it is to be a lifelong learner.
Before moving here, I had never been to Ventura County, never published an article or wrote poetry, yet I was eager to explore the West Coast like the Beat writers back in the 50’s. Then I spent six school years living on my own, bouncing between Ojai and Ventura and up and down the West Coast, all the while forming friendships and creating experiences that I will forever cherish.
Writing and photography became a major part of my life. Both were easy to do alone. My Happy Friday email chain originated in 2013. My website was up and running by 2015. Not So Simple was published in 2018. How time flies.
But in order to fully appreciate where you are at the moment, I had to look back and thank the people who helped me get here.
Carol Hoffer and Ricardo Olivares, thank you for hiring me all the way from New Jersey. I am forever grateful for everything you two did for me while I was at Villanova. You two had your own unique styles, and I appreciated all of the wisdom you passed along to me over the years. I hope I was able to make both of you proud.
To all of my students, thank you. I didn’t know what my class would morph into when I was given the freedom to create my own curriculum; however, I can say without reservations that it was an absolute joy and pleasure to walk onto campus and into Austin Hall 9 each day. I loved the content. I loved working with each of you. Y’all are family! You’re all ready to make a difference, so trust yourself and speak your truth.
To my basketball team. Most people don’t know this was the longest job I had at Villanova. Six seasons and I can say that we truly embodied the mantra play hard, have fun. I’ll miss cruising the sidelines and encouraging each of you. Sports have much to teach us. Teamwork, commitment, and perseverance are only a few of the skills I hope you took away from our time together. Thanks for always keeping it real. Family on 3….
To my colleagues, specifically the English Department, you pushed me to be a better teacher, and more importantly a better person. I will miss your friendships. I will miss our car rides to Asilomar and our ever long meetings where our conversations were always thought-provoking and entertaining.
For my friends in Ventura- specifically Meta Street- you get the love. I leaned on a lot of you for support when I was looking to find my identity. I didn’t know it was possible to love a community so much. 1228 was home. And luckily home meant being with my family. And family is a bond that will never be broken. Our barbeques, celebrations, and late night conversations in whoever’s apartment are ones that I will keep etched in eternity (or at least my notebooks).
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Before I finish, I want to share a paragraph from a recently published article from the VC Star on my class because I think it truly highlights how we can not only help communities in California, but to an extent across the country. (“Ojai Teacher Uses Homelessness as a Lesson in Compassionate Communication”)
As a communication and speech teacher, Galetto has encouraged his students to use communication skills to reflect on the plight of the homeless, to listen to the stories of others and to become actively involved in helping their community…"I just want them to be active agents of change. I want them to go out and take their communication skills and make a difference," he said. "The skills I wanted to hammer home were listening to each other and trying to understand someone's story — using your language to be compassionate, using your language and your actions to make a difference."
Using our language and actions to make a difference is what the world is about. Together, WE did that. With the Thomas Fire Fundraiser, friends and family from the East and West Coast were able to raise over $9,000 that directly went to families who lost their homes. Not So Simple chipped in another $2,300 for the homeless. That’s the power of people coming together. That’s the power of being conscious and compassionate with our communication.
Now it’s time to take that energy to Philly.
I planted roots here in California, and although I am uprooting them as I head east, I hope I’ve planted enough seeds to create long lasting change in the community. (That’s why the last section of Not So Simple is titled “Planting Seeds for Change”)
I’ll be back. I came to California in 2012 looking for adventure, and that part of me is still alive. And now this adventure called life is taking me closer to my initial roots.
I will continue Happy Friday. I will continue to work in education. I will continue working on my second book. I will continue to speak my truth.
I will keep in touch, and I hope you do the same.