The California Factor — one HSU student’s Golden State identity















By  Kelly Bessem

California contains a mecca of different people and experiences that shape the identity of those who live within it. Gregory Moskowitz, a 22 year old Humboldt State Business student, described how California has influenced who he is today.

“My California identity is really based on the Bay Area and the whole social justice movement,” Moskowitz said.

He noticed when someone from his diverse group of friends in San Rafael, California were treated differently and recognized that there was progress to be made. Now at HSU, he feels like he’s ended up where he’s supposed to be.

“This isn’t the standard business school or a place that you expect to do business,” he said. “Even if I’m out of place, anywhere I’d go I’d want to do business.”

Top business school or not, coming to Humboldt State took him out of his comfort zone and made him more decisive.

“Before I came to Humboldt I didn’t know who I was or what I was doing,” he said. “Being here and in college I really had to evaluate what I want to do.”

This was an important part of Moskowitz’s self-discovery since he’s largely had to shape his own California identity. Though he grew up in the Bay Area, his parents had moved there after living in New Jersey most of their lives. He often looked to his friends and their parents to form his opinions. The considerable amount of time he spent at day camps exploring a wide variety of the Bay Area had a particularly big influence on him and allowed him to make friends that became like family. He also commented on the influence of San Francisco music and culture.

“No matter what you like, there’s always something for you to do in the Bay Area,” he said.

The first thing that Moskowitz’s friend Lily Syfers, a 21-year-old HSU student, noted when asked about her perception of Greg’s California identity was his Bay-centered musical ties.

“Greg is analogous to Mac Dre, aside from some superficial things,” Syfers said.

Mac Dre is a renowned Bay-area rapper that is often heard emanating from Moskowitz’s record player, one of his more favored possessions. This exemplifies what Syfers described– Moskowitz’s generally laid-back, open-minded disposition.

“He really likes the fine side of life, and is often found listening to his record player and drinking rye whiskey,” Syfers said.

Moskowitz has recently been indulging in all that is whiskey– how it’s made,.the different tastes, and what constitutes a really good bottle. He doesn’t like to keep the “California Dream” of chilling and indulging to himself though.

“[Moskowitz’s] hospitality shows his self-respect and respect for others,” Syfers said. “He’s the type of person who will give you cookies that he made from scratch and pour you a glass whenever you stop by.”

Moskowitz’s perception of the chill, laid back California attitude contrasted much of what he experienced at home.

“Being from Jersey my parents were a lot more confrontational, blunt, and honest,” he said. “Californians are less confrontational and would rather not argue.”

Moskowitz’s parents were also very conservative in politics and traditional in their views. His parents grew up devoutly religious, his dad in a Jewish synagogue and his mother in a Catholic church. They drove across the country with all of their belongings Moskowitz’s dad was offered a job with Merrill Lynch banking. His parents embraced their new start and love the Bay Area, but retain their viewpoints. Many of their friends have opposing viewpoints but they typically choose not to discuss politics. Typically liberal issues such as legal marijuana are simply not things that they’d like to get involved with. Moskowitz has formed his own opinions on such issues.

“Good weed, nature, and some friends that were planning on attending Humboldt State influenced me to come here,” Moskowitz said.

In addition to all of those Humboldt perks, the relationships he’s had while up here have helped him to grow a lot as a person. Good and bad, they have helped him to take initiative and really put time and energy into achieving something.

“Not every part of your life is forever,” Moskowitz said. “But this is definitely a unique and beautiful part of my life even if it’s not where I’m going to end up.”

This resonates the general sense of impermanence that many Californian’s feel. Most residents have parents or grandparents that immigrated here, or even immigrated themselves. Like Moskowitz’s parents moving cross-country to the Bay area or Moskowitz himself seeking Arcata, the inclination to pursue new places as a way to realize life’s full potential seems very Californian.  

My grandparents all converged in Long Beach, CA because of the good weather, freedom, and  opportunity that they associated with California. Though all four of them originated in different places, none of them ever left California– they found what they were looking for within the state. There is intense pride for being a Californian, with the entire state more so than a locality being appreciated as home.

Like Moskowitz, many Humboldt State students haven’t totally figured out where they will end up. At least it can be known for sure that if none of us ever find a town, city, or heck– a pile of rocks to call home for good, we’ll always have California.


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