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Thank you for being the place where we could exhale, our chance to stop seeking and start expanding.
Faced with religious discrimination in our homeland, my family left one country only to face racial discrimination in the next.
Before you, California, my family was constantly moving from place to place, country to country, in search of opportunities to live more freely and more fully. With you, we could plant roots without feeling tied down. With you, a home feels like freedom, an expansiveness, an embrace.
Your beauty is breathtaking—wherever I turn, there is an opportunity to stand in awe of your nature. To be with you is an inspiration and reminder to live with the same grace, beauty, and expansiveness you possess.
I was raised in your Inland Empire, with the San Gabriel Mountains at my back. They were my anchor and an easy reminder of which direction was north. In the winter, I would gaze up at beautiful snow-capped peaks while lounging below in the valley, enveloped comfortably in the warm sun that sweeps across your desert and your coast.
Growing up, I was a perpetual tour guide, proudly showing off your majesty to a constant stream of relatives visiting from around the world, some of whom ended up settling here themselves. I enjoyed getting to know you all over again as I squeezed everyone into our Chevy station wagon to go on the next California adventure. I loved hearing my grandfather whisper, “Allah ki shaan” (God’s glory) every time he witnessed yet another of your natural wonders.
At the age of 18, I ventured to your north for the first time. The Bay Area was foreign and familiar all at once. The air felt different. You could escape into nature in a way you often couldn’t in Southern California, where the glitter and madness of sleepless cities could swallow you up for days at a time.
Since arriving here more than 30 years ago, I’ve left you only briefly. There’s no place I’d rather be. From all the places I’ve lived—from your Mediterranean-inspired southern coastal towns to your capital of Sacramento, and now the foggy, futuristic Bay Area—your scenery changes but your spirit remains the same.
With the range of experiences you possess—different cuisines to savor, natural beauty to explore, diverse perspectives and cultures to interact with—the whole world can be found here in California; a lifetime of wonders is all here. And dreams of California can be found across the globe. You’re a beating pulse on creativity: The entertainment and innovations created here are recognized around the world.
California, thank you for being my anchor, my adventure, my home, and my dream. Thank you for inspiring me and reminding me to live with grace, generosity and a deeper sense of wonder.
With love always,