I have an extremely difficult confession to make: I really liked LA. “Well, sure, Siobhan, what’s not to like? The palm trees? The sun? The beaches? The general aura of relaxed fabulousness? Or if none of those work, how about the fact that you were on vacation? OBVIOUSLY you liked LA.”
The thing is, the experience was wholly unexpected. I grew up (to simplify… see previous discussions on my lack of hometown) in Northern California, and promptly moved to New York City where Los Angeles is viewed as maybe the most evil place in the country except perhaps Texas. Therefore in spite of any hard evidence, I knew in the emotional/spiritual way that I didn’t like LA.
Sure, in the back of my mind I remembered enjoying multiple trips to Disneyland, a couple of middle school and high school state championship FPS trips (that’s Future Problem Solving, for those not in the know, which is a super cool academic competition thing that I was very involved with for 4-5 years maybe?), and a thoroughly enjoyable college visit expedition in the eleventh grade. But really, when it came down to it, I live in New York which is (arguably) the center of the universe, and had spent many an evening sophomore year getting into less than sober lighthearted but nonetheless intensive quarrels with my LA native roommate and her friends about whether the Bay or LA was better. Psh, like that’s a real question.
So well known was my “hatred” of LA that when I told friends I was going, their response – besides those who dwell in LA, who were very graciously excited or at least pretended to be – was “really? Why?” Actor friends asked if I was going to figure out if I liked it enough to move there, to which I promptly responded that I already knew the answer to that one and it was no. The simple explanation of “to go on vacation?” sufficed to shockingly few. Surely there must have been an ulterior motive for such a trip.
You can imagine my surprise then that everything that probably should have triggered my instant and instinctive hatred did no such thing. Rather I curiously liked Los Angeles pretty much from the moment I touched down at LAX. [I will pause here to comment that I’m mostly joking – clearly if I really expected to hate LA I obviously wouldn’t’ve spent money going on vacation there, but for the purposes of my story we’ll keep pretending.]
I spent five days in the company of dear friends both old and new, on beaches, outdoors, in numerous bars and more numerous restaurants, generally eating drinking and being merry on vacation. One easily understands how these things engendered a generally positive feeling about the city I was in pretty damn quickly.
This is the thing though. I have visited other friends at their colleges, and though it’s always fun and interesting, I hadn’t yet visited friends at any school I’d actually even considered, let alone applied to, let alone been accepted to in the case of USC (oops). Driving around one day, it occurred to me that it was sort of a phantom version of what my life might have looked like, minus of course the attendant responsibilities – but then I never considered those in early trips to New York either. And I found myself quickly coming to the conclusion that I could easily have been happy out here. Would I have been crushed at first that I wasn’t going to New York? Of course. But I could have made a life out here and enjoyed it and been happy and maybe not have ended up moving to New York until my middle twenties, if at all.
But – and here’s the part that if you are my parents I would like very much for you to stop reading, and/or please read without jumping to the immediate conclusion that I am giving up and moving back out here/there (I’m currently writing this somewhere over Kansas, so either pronoun is actually incorrect) – something else occurred to me. I could easily be, present tense, happy in LA. I can absolutely see what my life would look like. And some really, really appealing things about how my life would be easier – lower cost of living, slightly less competitive theatre scene, idyllic weather, and most importantly proximity to such a high number of friends and family – jump out almost immediately. I have a hard time shaking those. I know it has something to do with the idea of leaving 1) warm weather and 2) the end of my effectively two week vacation (including Memphis), but I found myself distinctly not excited to go back today.
Also, there were, as it happens, ulterior motives to booking this trip so many months ago. New York is an astonishingly easy place to feel lost and alone, and in January when I planned the trip and February when I booked it, I was feeling this in a biiiiiig way. I wanted to be somewhere that felt like home, somewhere where it felt like people still loved me and I was still important to them. Somewhere I could feel a little more like me, aka not so stressed and angry and unhappy.
Obviously all of these problems are things that were to do with me, and not New York. Also they definitely owe in part to the fact that as it turns out, I hate winter. That having been said, they don’t call NYC the concrete jungle for no reason. So the idea of getting out for a while, particularly to a place with warm weather and palm trees, seemed incredibly appealing
I have said on a variety of occasions, when asked, that I’m not opposed to moving back to California, I would just have to already have a job to do it. I still feel this way, and in some way this was good to prove that I could do it easily and not unhappily. I was, though, taken aback with how quickly I came to that conclusion. It threw me, I think, to realize that I had no real desire to get back yet – I can’t think of a time I’ve ever been on vacation that by the end of it I wasn’t at least a little ready to go back to my real life.
I’m going to chalk it up to duration, I think. Brevity may be the soul of wit, but I believe it’s possible brevity is also the soul of overly fond generalizations. I’m pretty sure that eventually, the lack of public transit and cabs and things open 24 hours and walking and tall business and urbanity would eat away at my sanity. But sometimes I feel the same way about the days at a time without sunshine and the lack of palm trees and (dare I even say it) nature.
It’s funny, too, because as I’ve also touched upon before I never considered myself a Californian until moving to New York. And I still feel a kind of spiritual homelessness, which I honestly mean in the most un-self-pitying way you can think of; I am one who is at heart always defined by being from somewhere else. I have been for my entire life. But I joked routinely throughout the week about being from New York – and though to others it’s just semantics, it’s an important distinction to me that I say from New York rather than live in New York. Which feels true in many ways at this point; New York is no longer where I live because I go to college there, it’s just where I’m making my life. It is where I am becoming from.
[Second disclaimer: I started this blog by wallowing and listening to songs about/that remind me of California and at some point decided it was wise to switch to songs about New York… apparently I’m very suggestable.]
Obviously, the solution is easy – become wildly wealthy and successful beyond all imagination, and go bi-coastal. That shouldn’t be too difficult, right?