Editor’s note: This is the first column from the Register’s newest reporter, Maria Sestito. It will run every other week.

According to Urban Dictionary, “Everyone loves a Jersey Girl.” But, according to Katy Perry, Snoop Dogg and the Beach Boys, “California Girls” are where it’s at.

Well, guess what! I’m both (now).

I was listening to Katy Perry’s song the other day (it has grown on me through the years, although it’s never been my favorite) when it occurred to me that the only states that have common references to their “girls” are MY states – where I’m from (New Jersey) and where I’ve made my home (California). I asked around and no one else knew of any either (other than ONE song titled “Mississippi Girl,” which I’m not counting. Sorry, Faith Hill).

I thought this was interesting, especially since I’ve been questioned so many times about why I would move across the country, and why here. To me, it makes perfect sense – as a kid, you either dream of moving to “the big city” (New York) or heading west to California. If you can make it to either of these places, you’re a success. You’ve managed to get out of your hometown (that is if you don’t already live in these places) and you’ve made it big, or are on the verge of making it big.

Being from New Jersey – the Wawa-loving, no “Jerzee” accent southern half – I had the opportunity to spend plenty of time in New York as well as Philadelphia and Boston. And, although I love these cities, I knew that someday my adventures would bring me to California.

After graduating from Rutgers University, I moved to Jacksonville, North Carolina. It was close to the beach, but it was also a Southern military town with very few stores open 24/7.

That was when I experienced a culture shock. I went from going to school, working multiple jobs, interning and having a social life to nothing. Or to at least what felt like nothing.

I was lonely (even though I was a newlywed) and bored. I felt that I was wasting my education and the prime years of my life – every day I was job searching, every day I was binging on Netflix.

I tried to keep busy, and after a lousy waitressing job (not all of my serving jobs have been lousy) I bumped into a photographer for the local newspaper and, a week later, I was hired on as a photojournalist.

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My dreams were coming true – even if it wasn’t exactly where I thought I’d be.

Fast-forward to last October when I applied for this position. I had worked my way up to being the first reporter/photographer hybrid at the newspaper, but was recently divorced and still had hardly any like-minded friends.

I was looking for a new start, looking to get out of North Carolina and find a place where I could meet new people. A newspaper in not only California, but in friggin’ Napa Valley was hiring a crime reporter and I jumped at it.

I was hired while celebrating my 26th birthday – what a present. A few short weeks later, I made my trek across the U.S.

Now, every day on my drive into work I see the most beautiful hills, pass a few wineries and am greeted by (usually) clear skies. When I try to figure out what I’m going to do on my days off, there are so many more options than what I had before and there seems to be exponentially more (and different) people to talk to.

It is difficult to be away from my friends and family, but I was already doing that. But moving from North Carolina to California was not a “culture shock” like many people ask me. In fact, it felt like this Jersey girl was finally home.

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Public Safety Reporter

Maria Sestito is the Napa Valley Register public safety reporter. She covers breaking news as well as crime and courts. Maria came to the Napa Valley Register in 2015 after working at as a reporter and photographer at The Daily News in Jacksonville, NC. S