I’ve spent my life trying to get closer to the ocean. Our family traveled to Ventura and Venice on weekends, trying to escape the near-desert heat of L.A. in the summer. James and I met in San Luis Obispo, where winters were too cold and summers still too chilly. (Bluest skies we’ve ever seen, though.) When we first talked about where to move after college, we explored the SoCal coastline from Redondo to Newport, touring overpriced studio apartments without even as much as a job offer.

Finally, it came down to where James got a job—in the dry desert of Palmdale—and soon after we decided to settle in Santa Clarita, a bit west of there and coincidentally, my hometown. We still dreamed of the beach, especially on those heat-spell nights when we couldn’t afford to blast the air conditioner and we had to take three showers just to be cool enough to fall asleep.

James would take weekend trips to the beach, to play piano as a street performer in Santa Monica or to surf in Malibu. We could pretend we lived there for a day, but the joy was often crushed by gruesome traffic on the 405 on the way home.

Now, here we are, almost one year in Carlsbad. I recently found a poem I wrote 8 years ago about our future together, in which we move to a “crummy apartment by the shore.” By the shore, yes. Crummy apartment, also yes. But paradise requires some kind of sacrifice, namely in the form of square footage or workmanship quality.

There’s something so cleansing about the ocean, and the waves never cease to get me out of my ever-thinking head. But the real beauty of living at the beach is something I never considered: the weather! Almost every summer day (and most winter ones) hovers consistently around 70 degrees. If it gets too hot (and by that I mean 80 degrees), there’s a cool ocean breeze that blows through our apartment.

The weather in Carlsbad has a profound impact on the quality of life here. It’s hard to be miserable when you can get clean, fresh air all year long. One of the first phrases Baby J said was “Out Go,” and this shows how much time we spend outside.

People are more friendly here than in L.A., and I’m pretty sure this is because they are happy about the weather. (They may be just as happy on L.A. beaches, but they are certainly more uptight.) A consistent weather forecast lets you put at least some of your worries aside. Neighbors are more apt to leave their houses and therefore more likely to form a welcoming community.

Last weekend, James, Baby J and I walked the length of Carlsbad State Beach to a pseudo-secret beach accessible by a tall staircase. We didn’t find the tidepools we were looking for, as the tide wasn’t low enough, but we did see a fragile sea star in a little girl’s bucket. On the way back along the boardwalk, we talked about how we had achieved one of our goals: to live in a place we both felt was paradise.

While we may never be able to buy oceanfront property (*fingers crossed*), and the city lacks real “culture,” our first year in Carlsbad represents a step together in the right direction. We’ve had too many ups and downs this year, as James builds a business and Baby J asserts her 2-year-old independence. We are so happy, though, to have started a new life here in a wonderful community with cool neighbors, gorgeous weather and other happy families.