I have lived in Los Angeles for over a year, as of August 15th. The anniversary passed with little fanfare, since both my roommate and I were working at the time. Much of the last year has been spent working, or worrying about not working when we didn’t. In spite of the worry, the work, the clogged sink and the parking tickets, it has been a good year. For the first time in a very long time, possibly twenty four years, I feel like I am at home here, like I will be staying.
LA is by far the strangest city I’ve ever visited, let alone lived in. It’s huge, ever expanding like a 1950’s movie monster. A five block walk can take you from a mansion to a cardboard box to a penthouse apartment to a man selling oranges from his car. I walk dogs in Los Feliz and see chicken coops next to a BMW. Yesterday, a coyote came down from Griffith Park to wander past an artisan cafe at eight in the evening. Everyone is on top of each other and absorbed in their own little world. We have a doughnut shop on nearly every street corner, despite being the home of an industry obsessed with being thin. We live next to an ocean and worry constantly about a drought. Our lives are contradictions and change at the drop of a hat.
I love it. It’s loud and bright and mean but there is always something going on. Most importantly, it’s filled with people who came here to do something. Whether they’re going to top the billboard charts, win an Oscar or just become a citizen, people come to California, to Los Angeles, because they have goals. So many people just stay where they are, wishing to have something without making any effort to get there. I’ve spent so much of my life wanting to be somewhere else, to be doing something else, moving just so I would be somewhere else and then dreaming about the next place. It’s a privilege to stop and enjoy exactly where I am.
This is the third longest I’ve lived anywhere, longer than the three months I interned in Washington DC and the four months I studied in Mysore. In another three years, I’ll have lived in Los Angeles longer than I attended The University of Iowa. In another 18, I’ll have lived here longer than I lived in my parent’s house in Denver. I loved Denver, and Iowa City, and Mysore and DC, but they did not feel permanent. Much of my childhood was spent day dreaming about the future, where I would go and what I would do once I had the time and resources. I always knew I would attend college out of state. to figure out who I was without the safety net of my family and friends. It could have been anywhere but I chose Iowa because it was reputed to have the best writing program in the country. I didn’t get into the writer’s program but I did learn who I was in those years. For the most part, I liked her. I took her along with me when I left for Mysore and DC. Each place taught me more about myself, what was essential and what I could leave behind whenever I packed a bag. I gained knowledge and strength with each knew experience and by the end of my time in DC, I had a goal.
In Washington, I interned with Voice of America, a news service the US government provided to countries where dictatorship or lack of infrastructure did not allow for wide spread, competent reporting. There I got to play with cameras, report on my own stories and learn about the role media played in the world and in my own life. I realized while I was there that TV had always been a comfort to me. When I first moved to Iowa, I watched every episode of South Park to cope with missing my friends in Colorado, and I met my group of friends after bonding with a girl in the lunchroom over Will and Grace. In India, watching old cartoons helped me relax after a long day in a new place. During the darkest parts of my Depression, TV kept me alive. Literally, my logic for not committing suicide was that I wanted to see what would happen on Supernatural. In DC, now on anti-depressants and almost making television, I decided that was what I wanted. I wanted to write shows that would reach people all over america, to tell the stories that needed to be told to those who needed to hear them, like I had.
I told all that, condensed, to one of the senior producers at VOA. She said if I wanted to work on fictional shows, I would have to chose either New York City or Los Angeles and get a job out there. As anyone who has spoken to me about weather knows, I would not survive a New York City winter. I chose Los Angeles.
There was another year in between where I stayed with my parents and saved up as much cash as I could, along with my current roommate, one of my oldest and dearest friends. Without his support and the continued support of my other friends and family, I would not have made it out here, let alone survived a year. Their encouragement helped me find a job, helped me push myself through the various mundane trials and tribulations of young adulthood and kept me from worrying too much. When I do get worried, my roommate reminds me that we are doing more for ourselves and our futures here than we ever have in our lives.
He’s right. There’s no rush. There will be many years in Los Angeles, many trials and opportunities. LA is wild and fast and difficult to find your way through, literally and metaphorically. It’s not a place I would want to visit, but rather the place I would like to stay.