I couldn’t wait to get the hell out of Los Angeles by the time I left in 2012 after over 10 years of calling it home.
My biggest complaint about L.A. is the heinous, constant traffic. It’s terrible and it’s a regular topic of conversation in L.A. Few cities in the US compare.
I moved to San Francisco full of hope and relieved to live in a true walking city. No more daily near-death incidents on the freeway! No more road rage! No more wondering why everyone in a BMW seems to drive like a tool.
By the end of the my second month in San Francisco, I was pretty depressed. I had no friends, the job wasn’t what I thought it would be, my apartment building is old and seems to have no noise insulation whatsoever. I pay what’s essentially a mortgage to hear my upstairs neighbors’ every elephant-ine moves and sometimes entire conversations (sadly, nothing interesting).
In a very dense city of close to one million people, I felt lonelier than I have in a long while.
Around the same time, I had to head back to L.A. for my dear friend’s bridal shower.
It was exactly what I needed.
Three months in San Francisco allowed me to see Los Angeles with new eyes again.
When I picked up my rental car at LAX, the agent asked , “What kind of car would you like? Do you want a car that gets good mileage?”
“No, I don’t care about that! Which is the fastest in this class?”
He pointed me toward a cute, gray VW Jetta with a V6 engine Sorry, Earth.
As I sped toward my old neighborhood, in the warm sunshine, with the windows open, letting the breeze circulate, singing at the top of my lungs to a song on Power 106, shaking my booty in the seat, I felt so at peace. On the freeway. On the awful 405 freeway that I’ve written scathing yelp reviews about and I felt at peace.
It was comforting. I missed the benefits of solo time spent in my car. I can’t sing at the top of my lungs in my current apartment – everyone would hear. I still have my car, but I drive so rarely these days. I didn’t realize how important that personal time was.
The palm trees were as gorgeous and magnificent as I remember thinking they were when I’d moved there over a decade ago.
I thought: the sun really does love this place! How can it be so impossibly beautiful, warm and bright?
A friend who’d lived up in Berkeley for undergrad warned me when I told him I was considering San Francisco, “You’re going to miss the weather.”
“Yeah, yeah, I know, everyone says, ‘the weather is so amazing.'”
I liked it, some days even deeply appreciated it, but, I realize now just how much I took it for granted. I really think the sun sets up camp there and just visits other cities from time to time.
The trip went by in a blur. I met up with former co-workers and other close friends, including my older friend J___ who is almost like a surrogate mom to me. We, the bridesmaids, pulled off an excellent bridal shower and made the bride happy.
I’m so glad I went back.
I released the pent-up emotion that had built since I moved to San Francisco. Being back in L.A. made me feel normal. My friends’ warm welcomes reminded me that I I’m not alone. I am loved. That I am someone people want to befriend.
I understand Los Angeles. I once functioned as part of the city. A sense of inclusion in your city is more important than I ever realized.
When I left L.A. that weekend, I said and felt something that I so rarely did in the time that I lived there: “I love Los Angeles!”
I love that in a city largely ruled by the entertainment industry, we clap as the credits roll at a movie’s end.
I love that there is so much amazing food of all types of cuisines.
I missed the unique/break-the-rules/bold/relaxed/trend-setting fashion. I forgot how seeing the way others dressed inspired me to push beyond my fashion boundaries.
Was it my imagination or did some of the guys get cuter since I left?
I miss the train-wreck-style “entertainment” of high-speed car chases.
I liked that I didn’t see hipsters every.where.I.looked. Hipsters have their own neighborhoods in L.A.
Hearing people argue about which eatery in the city has the best Mexican food never stops being amusing.
One thing that hasn’t changed: I still hate LAX.
I knew I didn’t want to move back though. At least not until I give San Francisco at least a year. Even then, I left Los Angeles for a reason and I didn’t make the decision lightly. Moving back might feel comforting at first, but eventually the same elements that made me want to leave will probably arise again. It hasn’t been the easiest move, but I know that the experience is good for me.
I really needed that trip. I needed a reset. I needed closure with Los Angeles.
When I returned to San Francisco, I felt reinvigorated.
I owe Los Angeles an apology. I didn’t appreciate it enough when I lived there. I spent most of my 20s in L.A. and I will forever be linked to the city via my memories.
I now find myself protective of Los Angeles. I will defend it.
It’s not the kind of city you can live in for a year, or even three years, and think you get it. You cannot possibly get it. The city is huge!
If you’ve only been to Hollywood, Santa Monica and Venice, you probably don’t know Los Angeles. What about Echo Park, Monterrey Park, Baldwin Hills, Burbank, Studio City, Leimert Park, Pasadena or Highland Park?
There’s an ad that plays here in SF, sponsored by Discover Los Angeles. I used to think it was beckoning me to return. A female voiceover says – and I’m paraphrasing:
Just when you think you’ve seen all I have to offer, there’s more.
Thank you, Los Angeles. I owe you a lot. Now, it’s San Francisco’s turn.