For my high school graduation present my father, sister, and I went up to California for a week to visit my cousins. The last time I went up there was when I was about five years old and our family had gone to Disneyworld. Of course, I remembered Disneyworld- after all, it’s the most magical place on earth- but as for the rest of California, I was only left to wonder. When we arrived, it was like stepping into a different reality. Let me tell you…on the sign that says Welcome to California there should be italics under it that says Beware of June Gloom! It was cold, windy, and fog was everywhere.
But the scenery was amazing. The vast mountains overlapping the radiant sky gave a whole new meaning to Forest Gump’s’ famous phrase, “I couldn’t tell where earth stopped and heaven began”. Everything about California was intriguing: the fact that cactuses weren’t growing in pots but in the actual crust of the earth, the fact that with every breeze there was the scent of salty seawater, or the fact that I was within an hour’s distance from the Smith family. Being such a big fan of Jada Pickett Smith’s, HawthoRNe, Will Smith’s, Seven Pounds, and Jaden Smith’s, The Karate Kid, I was about to whip my hair back and forth like Willow Smith and then run to the end zone and do a victory dance like her brother Trey!
But one intriguing fact gave way to some unwanted confliction: there are so many burrito joints (El Reys in Camarillo) that there’s no point in keeping a diet. The sad part about it was that the smell of the seasoned meat and freshly made tortillas was so inescapably strong that I had to physically hold myself back from passing the threshold of the food sanctuary. But, towards the end of the week, the self-consciousness faded away because spending time with family and friends required nothing but the most genuine serenity and relaxation that I could give.
That is, until I saw something that would change my perception of life forever. As my sister and I walked down Main street in downtown Ventura for a day of shopping, we happened to walk passed a homeless woman with her hand outstretched, begging for money on the sidewalk. Reaching down into my pocket I handed her some change and then proceeded to walk. A few minutes later, I noticed another homeless person, this time a man, standing at a pedestrian crossway holding a sign that pleaded for food and money. Throughout the day this reoccurring situation left lumps of sadness in my throat. And at those moments I felt deceived. What Arnold Schwarzenegger and the hand full of celebrity residents failed to tell me was that there are so many homeless people in California. But I guess the places where celebrities cultivate, like L.A or Malibu, allows them to escape reality. They also failed to tell me that the sales tax is not only through the roof, but it’s beyond the clouds, past the ozone layer, and surpassing the pearly-white gate that leads to heaven. This harsh view on the economic status of the world taught me to value everything that the past and present has given me.
When the time had finally come to return to Maryland, I not only took back with me the accepted food baby situated at the lower half of my stomach, but also the life lesson acquired from the haunting memory of each homeless person’s eyes as they threw away their pride for the sake of survival.
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