I’ve always disliked that nickname for Los Angeles – “LA LA Land” – it implies this city is some sort of fantasyland where its inhabitants perpetually flit about with their heads in the clouds, in the relentless pursuit of stardom and success, jetsetting on flights of the imagination and building castles in the sky, while basking in the eternal sunshine of our spotless minds. Well, okay, perhaps there’s a little something to that assertion, on the surface, but that’s a topic I’ll tackle in a future post about what I consider to be the real Los Angeles.
Having spent the last 5 years living in a rough ‘n tumble concrete jungle and observing how Hollywood is perceived by the rest of the world, I can appreciate why folks might erroneously draw such conclusions. After all, it is particularly dreamy here in California – dynamite climate all year round; pretty people; clean streets; pioneering free spirits; health consciousness; cinema studios; silicon valleys; beaches, bays, forests, mountains; 500+ miles of beauty from head to toe! Can you really blame us for being so happy-go-lucky?
Disclaimer: I’m not particularly crazy about the abbreviation “LA” either, but I’m about to use it a whole lot because it does make for convenient short hand. Respectfully, this is Los Angeles, City of Angels! Otherwise known as: HOME.
Being back in Los Angeles this time around has been a literal breath of fresh air. The weather = absolute perfection = warm + sunny, blue skies + gentle breezes. So grateful not to be freezing my ass off back east right now! I love being back in my home, giving it some much needed TLC. I’m clearing out the cobwebs, re-discovering all the beautiful keepsakes I’ve collected over the years that I left behind in storage. I’m having fun doing a bit of re-decorating, making the house my own again. I’ve got so much more space it’s taken me a bit of time to get used to spreading my wings and inhabiting it fully. I had all the overgrown brush hacked away and am bringing my garden back to life – planting succulents, resurrecting the compost bin, sowing the seeds of my vegetable & herb garden, giving patio furniture a fresh coat of paint. I’m getting buff from all this diggin’ in the dirt. My skin already has a lovely sun kissed glow and it’s only March! Hummingbirds buzz through the yard daily, gracing me with good juju as they suck nectar from the birds of paradise. It’s so gorgeous and peaceful here, my little slice of heaven.
I am home again, in my comfort zone, but it’s fresh. It’s weird to be back in the city where I grew up and feel like we’re strangers. I don’t know if this or that is still open. There are all these new places I don’t know anything about. It’s a disconcerting feeling, especially since I pride myself on having my finger on the pulse and knowing exactly where to go. LA feels at once familiar and yet rather alien. But that’s exactly what I wanted. I always said if I ever returned to homebase #1, I’d want it to be my choice, on my own terms, and for it to feel brand spankin’ new again. Mission accomplished.
How fortunate I am to be able to take a time out; to take stock, re-group, and contemplate what’s important to my soul again. I made a decision to put myself first this year and follow my bliss, take my passions off the back burner and place them squarely in front of me. What are my priorities? What do I really want to create in this space and in my life? What do I most want to do with my time and resources? LA affords me the ability to marinate in these questions for a spell and focus on the task of re-inventing myself for this next stage of the game.
I just enrolled in Marie Forleo’s B-School – a sassy, no nonsense online business and marketing class for women entrepreneurs – so I can really hit the ground running and get super pro-active about developing a new business plan + lifestyle that’s in alignment with my current interests. I’m ready to put into practice all these ephiphanies I’ve been having about my work, art, and life. I can already see how much NY got inside my veins and how that go-getter drive is manifesting now that I’m back.
Thrilled as I am about all the positive shifts taking place, one of my oldest, dearest friends called me tonight to ask, “Are you happy back in LA?” Apparently, my recent FaceBook statuses may indicate otherwise. Yes, of course, I’m happy. But her question did strike a nerve and I found myself trying to reconcile the conflicting complexities of my simultaneous desire to be both present in LA and back in NY.
I mean, it’s only been 7 weeks. It takes time to re-adjust. I just spent the last 5 years in NYC living a totally different existence. I didn’t even return home once in the last two years. I barely left Manhattan at all, for months at a time. NY got her hooks in good and when you’re entrenched, it regularly feels like you just can’t pull yourself away. Opportunities crop up lightning fast, so many irons are constantly in the fire at once, if you dare leave, you just might miss something. Or so I told myself.
I won’t lie. My head and heart are still very much in NYC. I miss walking the streets; the electricity in the air; my friends; my favorite spots to drink, dine, and daydream. Hell, I even miss the damn smells. I had a dream the other night that I was getting on an airplane, thinking, “I can’t believe I’m going back so soon!” Another dream a few nights later, had me navigating the maze of Manhattan, desperately trying to get home because I forgot to pay my rent, a whopping $2000/mo. When I finally walk through the door, I discover a tiny, windowless, empty room. I have no belongings because I’m too busy busting my ass at work to actually furnish it. NYC literally haunts me in my sleep.
I guess this transition would’ve been easier if I hated NYC. But I don’t. I still love her. I’m straddling the US, metaphorically speaking – one foot’s back in LA, the other’s still in NYC, and doubts about whether I made the right choice continue to linger.
I do still wonder if I should’ve given it more time. I started searching for apartments in Brooklyn before I left, thinking perhaps that charming, slightly quieter borough might be the answer to my chronic dissatisfaction. Searching NYC apartment listings is a super depressing exercise, especially when you’ve lived elsewhere and are able to draw comparisons to how much more bang for your buck you’d get anywhere else on the planet. That last ditch effort at apartment hunting truly tested my power to maintain a cheery outlook. I give myself credit for doing it fairly diligently there for a while, but day by day, I slowly lost faith in my amazingly fortunate real estate karma and ability to manifest yet another flexible miracle, rent-stabilized abode.
I’d already moved 3 times in the span of 5 years while living in Manhattan. I no longer wanted to live in someone else’s place with their ugly ass furniture while they were indefinitely out of town, and run the risk of being kicked out again once they decided their adventure elsewhere was over. Nor was I keen on living with 3 roommates, for which I’d still have the pleasure of paying at least $1000/mo., after living alone for the past 19 years. As a freelance artist, I don’t make 20 times the amount of rent that most NYC landlords insist upon to even consider your application, and the hooping jumping required to sign a lease is utterly absurd!
Brooklyn does indeed rock, and I very much wanted to join the community at 3rd Ward, and have the experience of living there too before I left NY for good, but when reflecting upon what I really envisioned for my life in the long run – spacious living, studio space, travel, warm weather, having a child – I just wasn’t convinced that Brooklyn was really the answer to my prayers either. When I began to think that relocating across the country would be easier/more appealing than moving across the river, I knew I was done with NYC. Once that decision was made, a huge weight began to lift from my shoulders… sort of.
Saying goodbye to NYC was no cakewalk. In those final days leading up to my departure, I walked the streets choking back tears, visiting all my favorite places, one more time, for now. I seriously wondered how I could make the decision to leave a place that I loved so much, the city that was now my home away from home, with so many friends who’d become like family to me. But I just knew I had to. Sometimes love isn’t enough. I may be a romantic, but I’m also a pragmatist. My current apartment sublet had become an unbearable daily onslaught of threats, bullying, and stress, and I no longer had the will to fight. It was simply time to let go and move on.
You can be certain about a choice you’ve made and also have doubts; mixed emotions and why-if-onlys will still fuck with your head. As such, my LA re-entry has been a bit of a rollercoaster. At first, I breathed a huge sigh of relief. It’s finally over now. I’m home. I can relax. I settled in, enjoying the creature comforts of home and the abundance of natural beauty, but I also continue to long for all I left behind…
Have you ever made a gut-wrenching decision to let go of something you still love? Are you torn between two people, places, or things? I’d like to hear your story, so please leave a comment below. If this post resonates with you, share with a friend, and be sure to SUBSCRIBE (in the top right hand corner of this page) so you can receive all my freshly pressed posts directly to your inbox when they go live every week!
Coming up next: exploring my bi-coastal-curiosity and what happened when I decided to return to NYC…