When I was 17, I packed up my stickered Honda Accord and moved into the dorm of a private Christian school in Costa Mesa to pursue a degree in Music Marketing. It was the only school I applied to, so when I got in, it felt like all my teenage dreams were coming true. I was going to live near the beach, buy all my clothes at DeeLux (RIP Denim Bank), and get a degree revolving around the one thing that kept me sane the last 4 years – music.
I somehow convinced a nearby punk label to let me be their intern, burning holes in CD jewel cases and mailing out press kits for bands I was already playing in my headphones. Soon after, they put me on payroll, and I was well on my way to having it made.
Unfortunately, my private Christian school wasn’t as convinced that working at a punk label was living the dream, nor were they thrilled about all the chapels I had to miss for reasons like “Alternative Press interview” and “in-store signing.” After only one semester, they [kindly] asked me to move out of my dorm and not to return in the Spring.
I remember sitting in my packed-up Honda Accord for the second time in four months, listening to Jimmy Eat World’s Futures, wondering how my dreams crashed and burned so quickly. I loved everything about Costa Mesa and found solace in its budding DIY scene. It made space at the county’s edge for the kids who grew up in an episode of The OC and never really felt like they belonged.
Creepers or Rainbows, longboards or fixed gears, it had this way of intermingling coffee, punk, skate and surf culture that welcomed everyone. Guys in board shorts and guys with mohawks ate burgers together on the patio at In and Out. I went to hardcore shows in art spaces. I watched friends paddle out at sunset while I listened to Thrice on the beach. And I skated to class most mornings with a cup of Alta coffee in hand.
Costa Mesa had changed everything I knew about the dichotomy of prep and bro culture in Southern California, and what real, blended community could look like. And even though I was devastated that my dreams were seemingly thrown off course, I learned (even without school) that I was still exactly where I needed to be.
I’ve carried a little bit of Costa Mesa community with me everywhere I’ve lived since, as far as Orlando and Nashville. It’s important to me to keep supporting its local makers and DIY spaces, because they showed me that art and lifelong friendships can emerge from the unlikeliest of places. I found some of my oldest and best friends in Costa Mesa that fall – friends who are now scattered across the country and always within reach. And anytime I go back to California, I make it a priority to spend time in my favorite town.
We learn the most from people who don’t look like us, and we grow the most when we spend intentional time in places we normally wouldn’t. So get out of your routine this week to read in a different coffee shop. Get a day pass at a coworking space. Strike up a conversation with a local artist about their work (even when you don’t understand it). Pay attention to the people around you who run in different circles, and you might notice that their circles aren’t actually closed.
Because when our dreams crash and burn, we’ll need our local community to remind us to keep reaching for new ones.
This post originally appeared on BlackCat Moto's blog here.