Sunday, February 9th, will mark the one-year since I returned to Los Angeles, also referred to as the west coast, the best coast, the city of Angels, El Pueblo Nuestra Señora la Reina de los Angeles de Porciuncula, variations of that last one, and, well, I think you get the point. I would like to take this blog to recognize how absolutely grateful I am to be back, living, in such an amazing city – a city full of culture, diversity, night life, ideal weather and again, I could go on for days but the point is that the moment David and I crossed the Nevada border, driving by the “Welcome to California” sign, slowing down just enough so that I could snap a quick photo of it, I felt a sense of elation and excitement like never before. Little did I know that that green and white sign would stand for so much more than a geographical indicator.
I have a newfound appreciation for things that I once truly and knowingly loathed. Hollywood, for instance – I took for granted its atypical, flashy skyline as one drives southbound at sixty miles per hour down the 101 freeway. I presently find it awe- inspiring, something to be explored that violently awakens my keen senses. Furthermore, traffic doesn’t bother me nearly as much as it did four years ago. Driving in this city where statistics state that there are two cars to each Angeleno is actually something I enjoy – so much so that I drive to Los Feliz from the Valley to watch movies in a theater and to get my car hand washed. For those of you that are not familiar with LA, this basically means that instead of driving down the street a few blocks, I hop on a freeway and commute almost eight miles over the hill “into the city,” braving likely heavy traffic.
In addition, I enjoy going to places frequented by tourists – for example, The Griffith Observatory happens to be one of my very favorite places in the entire world. I no longer allow the sometimes annoying tourists who do not know how to walk on the right side, or drive for that matter, inhibit me from enjoying this city’s countless offerings. At the Observatory, the expansive views are spectacularly unparalleled and peaceful nature surrounds you while a bustling, sprawling city is undoubtedly alive with its twinkling lights, heavy smog, skyscrapers, palm trees and lush landscaping. It’s the best of both worlds and those worlds become a tad smaller from atop that hill as one looks out over all of the unique and vibrant neighborhoods that make up this vast melting pot.
On a clear day, particularly after it rains, one can see all the way to the Pacific Ocean and feel the sunshine’s brilliantly warm rays casting their reflection in the sea salt waters. Trust me, it’s worth the twenty minutes or more it may take to find a desirable parking spot and the uphill hike to get to a point where one can observe – pun, intended.
When David abruptly and enthusiastically suggested we move to Los Angeles, we were in the backseat of my best friend’s husband’s car, hurtling down the Pacific Coast Highway, the gorgeous Malibu surf on our right and the Santa Monica Mountain range to our left. After demanding, with tears in my eyes, that David not “play with my emotions,” I eventually suggested that we stick it out a few more years on the east coast but I am glad that we moved our lives across the country. We did so last February with the intention of bettering our life together and our life actually went the opposite direction of better. My life has improved in so many ways that I often find myself behaving like those obnoxious assholes that go around stating, “I love my life.” But I do! And I’m not ashamed to admit it! I recognize how fortunate I am that I was living in Los Angeles, California when my marriage came to an unforeseen ending, when I lost one of the loves of my life.
I was in New York when both of my parents died and that was difficult to say the least and to put it mildly. In conjunction with adjusting to a completely different and much faster paced lifestyle, meeting and making new friends and dealing with homesickness, I was confronted with the immortality of the people who had raised me. One’s topographical locale certainly makes an impact in juxtaposition to life’s inevitable trials and tribulations. In other words, it’s not always simple to make lemonade when one is handed lemons.
Does this mean that I don’t think I would have remained so strong or became so confident in my self worth had David and I still be residing in Brooklyn during our split? No, I know I would have. It means that the severity of the struggle would have been dissimilar, perhaps more drawn out and the necessary comfort would not have come so easily or frequently. That’s not to disregard the amazing friends and support I am blessed with and immensely grateful for in New York, but the foundation of support here in California was laid long before I met David, long before I trekked my self, my cats and my possessions thousands of miles across North America. The groundwork of my life was solid well before I chose to consume it with another person that I mistakenly deemed “my everything.”
That hunk of metal that is the “Welcome to California” sign remains as a beacon of hope and inner happiness. It’s touchingly symbolic of my life’s progression; of all of the adventures I have had the privilege of being a part of, even the often times tumultuous one with David. That sign is a welcomed reminder that my life is my own, to do with which I please, and no one – not David, not my Mother, not a single other soul – is “my everything.” I design the adventure, I choose to make a left turn, make a right turn or a U-turn – I decide where my happiness lies and how broken I become as a result of any given hardship.
As the Golden State’s sign became a physical blur that Saturday morning, one year ago, I grinned from ear to ear and my heart was bursting with fantastic joy! Today, it is a tangible memory forever captured in the lens of a phone’s camera and when I look at it, I feel a healthy sense of pride and of deep gratitude for everything that it represents to me – family, friends, security, lifestyle, beauty, exploration, wonderment – home.