Monday, September 8th, 2008...12:21 am
Mission Beach Accomplished (5 years later)
Lately, I’ve found myself reminiscing quite a bit about my San Diego life. I moved there a few months after college and lived there for almost two years. This was triggered by a few events. First, my dad mentioned that September is the last monthly payment on our Jetta. (I say “our” because he generously took over the payments when I moved into NYC and also seems to be quite attached to the car in a Walter Mitty kind of way). It’s been five years and that’s a long time. Second, I moved to San Diego the week before Labor Day and always seem to think back to those first few weeks living out in California around this time of year. Finally, one of my former colleagues at OCSN (which became CSTV) posted a photo on facebook from one of our friday lunchtime basketball games and it brought back a few solid memories.
After I graduated college I wasn’t quite sure what to do with the rest of my life. I had blown off many of the banking and accounting jobs that seemed to be lay-ups for business school students and struck out on many of the consulting and marketing opportunities (plus the economy sucked at the time). On top of that, I wasn’t that psyched to follow the crowd and move into New York City. It seemed like this was the first time I could really choose my very own direction in life and I wanted to make that choice for myself. So, needless to say, I was looking for an escape.
I somehow found one in San Diego through a job offer at OCSN. It sounded crazy to my family, friends and the hotshot headhunter who guaranteed me that he would find me the perfect job. But this somehow felt perfect. I would get to follow my passion for college basketball (little bizarre I know) and turn my hobby (littyhoops.com) into a reality by taking a job in digital sports. I would get to be in California, a state that I had fell in love with while living their previous summer. Doesn’t everybody need to live on the beach at some point in their life? Finally, it seemed like a cool adventure. The more I thought about it the more I realized it would be crazy if I didn’t go for it.
I quickly learned that moving across the country to a city where I knew absolutely nobody was a far cry from the friendly confines of Ann Arbor, Great Neck or Murray Hill. My family begrudgingly supported the move but unfortunately the cushy financial support I received in college didn’t make the trip out west. Finding a place to live through craigslist in a city you know nothing about is a bigger crapshoot than apartment squatting in downtown Detroit. Finally, my first rental car, that I got on the cheap from some shady lot, overheated quicker than Ozzie Guillen in a press conference.
But I somehow knew it would all work itself out. In an amazing stroke of luck, I had learned that a girl I had met the summer before in Australia had just moved to San Diego. When I showed up at Marni and Jen’s doorstep that very next day I instantly had two great friends and a couch I would get to know all too well. At some point during that first month, as I was struggling to find a permanent place to live, nervous about a car that I needed to buy (how the heck would I ever pay 20K!), and feeling out my first few weeks of full time employment I realized that I was doing it. I was living life and it was exciting and nerve wracking and the butterflies in my stomach seemed to be jittering like a Tim Wakefield knuckball…and it was intoxicating.
Soon thereafter everything fell into place. I found a great little place right on the beach (not before I considered living with two gray-haired witches or a fifty year old sugar mama but those are stories for another post) and a perfect roommate that was down to explore a new city with me and destroy me in Madden anytime I was up for a good beating. I found a great deal on a Jetta, the job turned out to be legit, the ocean water warm, the sun perfectly consistently shining, the surfboard unstable for a chubby east coaster and a San Diego resident card that gave me access to the greatest public golf course on Earth.
Now, when I think back it seems like I was on one long vacation. Without many friends around I can’t say that I peeked all that often but I had an amazingly relaxing and enjoyable time. When you live on the beach, it’s tough to wake up and not feel great. Many mornings I would eagerly wake up, jump out of my bed to walk out my front door and stare at the ocean before I started my day. In fact, one difference that I often cite between living in San Diego and living in NYC is that feeling I had the instant I wake up. On my off days, I was at the beach, on the golf course or sitting by the pool at the boutique resort that was located on my street. La Jolla Cove became my favorite spot in the world and will forever remain my cell phone wallpaper. I hit up the Race Track, would shoot up the 405 to hang out with firends in LA, or head down to Tijuana for a healthy dose of trouble. I started rooting for the Friars and was a regular at the inaugural season at Petco Park. I learned how to dish out the fist bump after the pound, survive on a steady diet of fish tacos (much better than they sound), become deadly accurate with a horse shoe and became one with sand (in my cell phone, clothes, apartment, etc.)
At the same time, Mission Beach is about as different from New York City as any two places in the lower 48. I went from a world of affluent hebrews to being the only one around at my office or at the bar at night. I found myself in a world where chest hair was replaced by multiple tatoos and career paths were replaced by no career paths. People just seemed to hang out ALL the time. They worked just enough and for the sole purpose to support their “hanging out” habit. In Mission Beach you don’t really want money as much as you want time. The beach is free, the weather is free and the drink specials are super cheap.
Moving away form my life in New York always stuck in the back of my head. The curse of being privileged by growing up near the greatest city in the world with an amazing family and a great group of friends is that it’s awfully hard to top. In the back of my head, San Diego didn’t just have to be a good time but it had to be better than what I would be doing in NYC, otherwise what’s the point of going to all this effort to live independently in a far away city away from your best friends and family? I think most of the time when I asked myself that question the answer was positive but it still seemed to always pop up in my head. It’s easy to look back and minimalize my mindset because I was only there for a short time. But at the time I wasn’t sure if and when I was ever going to move back to NYC and often tried to evaluate my life there vs. my life here.
Overall, the experience taught me so much about myself. I’m a pretty socially lazy dude and never really worried much about meeting people or making friends. But I was forced into exactly that situation. So what did I learn? Well, I realized I’m a pretty socially lazy dude. But I also realized I like to have a good time and be around other people who do as well. I like to try new stuff and can get along with just about anybody. For a New Yorker, I’m probably a bit on the laid back side but can always play the sarcastic and irreverent guy to witty perfection. While I probably prefer to blend into crowd with a group of friends, I’m also totally capable of being “that guy”. Everybody in SD knew me as Litty much as they did in college and even now. (Sportsvite might be the first times since middle school that I’m not predominantly known as Litty.) I realized I’m fiercely independent and that my own company is often all I need to be satisfied. People often asked if I was lonely or wondered aloud how I met people but I’m not sure what that even means and certainly never worried about either of those things. Most importantly, I realized I like to challenge myself and I hope I continue to do just that in my future.
I also learned that life in another world is not better or worse, just different than life in the world I was accustomed too. This was valuable for me to realize as I always wondered how I would fare outside of the cushy confines I was used too. Growing up, I often had a hard time getting over the fact that everything seemed to be handed to me instead of earned by me. I realized that the only thing that set me apart from a care free, happy go lucky blue collar dude was my own expectations and ambitions (due to my education, values and upbringing). More simply put: I would be able to hack it just about anywhere and be quite fine. Heck, I somehow survived living in a house with an Irish guy and an Italian dude who were both diehard Red Sox fans! I moved up the ranks at my job and carved out a nice little life for myself. I think that lesson helped me realize I should be proud of my own accomplishments and be even more thankful for the privileges and advantages I’ve had afforded to me in getting there.
I moved back to NYC to pursue an opportunity to work at CSTV (which had acquired the company I was working for). Just like it had seemed like it made total sense to move out to SD it now made perfect sense to move back to New York. I remember telling my family and seeing the delight in their faces that I would be rejoining them in their daily lives. I snapped back into a New Yorker pretty quickly (much quicker than I thought) but I think there’s still a little San Diego left in me (besides the fact that I’m now a huge weather snob). I hope at some point in my future I’ll get to live on the beach in Southern California again. I just cherish the mindset and the vibe. But if I don’t, at least I’ll have my experience in San Diego as a little piece of the puzzle that makes up me…
I was hoping to find a good photo that sums up San Diego . I realized I don’t have many photos at all (so SD peeps — please send me if you have any good ones) but this one gave me a chuckle. Me in my own little on the beach surrounded by people who were naturals at this!