Realizing My Hometown Isn't Home Anymore
I'm currently sitting on the living room couch in my dad's house in New York while he's at work. I'm back east for my annual summer visit, and I'm letting myself have a complete lazy day today. I was out late in NYC the last couple nights, so I need some me time to refocus and refresh, especially since I have my cousin's wedding tomorrow. Today is for relaxation, going through emails, prepping blog content (because I've admittedly been slacking lately), watching inspiring YouTube videos, researching things, etc. And I kinda just want to write and reflect, because being back in my home state always brings up feelings and self-reflection.
So, I went out in NYC with some of my high school girlfriends last night to a bar one of them loves, and it was so different from the LA scene(s) I'm used to. I was surrounded by (mostly) business professionals--men in suits and women in heels--out on a Wednesday night looking to seem important and successful, get noticed, and get their flirt on. I couldn't help but notice a lot of "peacocking," one of my favorite terms right now, because I've been seeing so much of it lately on both coasts. New York City (which I grew up right outside of) and Los Angeles (where I currently live) are both big cities filled with all different types of people-- business professionals, creatives, entrepreneurs, those questioning what they're doing with their lives. But I always feel like there's this expectation in NYC that I don't see as much of in LA. It's the expectation that you followed a standard path-- graduated high school, went right to a four-year school, graduated from college, locked down a (probably) corporate job, moved to the city (likely with some financial help from your parents) and are rooming with a high school or college or sleepaway camp friend.
Or, maybe that's more of a where I'm from expectation. I'm from Westchester, NY, a wealthy county a little bit north of New York City. No, not upstate. I'm from a very small bubble of a suburb, and the city was an easy train ride away.
There was always this pressure that was subtle when I was a kid but increasingly less subtle as I got older. You work hard, join clubs, play sports, take AP classes, and then you graduate from high school, go right to college, get a good job in the city, and live within ten blocks of everyone you've gone to school with from kindergarten to senior year of college, no matter where in the country you went to college. Okay, maybe that's a little aggressive, but that's honestly not too far off from how things went down in my town, and continue to go down.
But I went a completely different route.
I moved to Los Angeles at 18, right after I had graduated from high school. I didn't have any friends or family out there, or even really know exactly what I was doing, but I knew I wanted to be in LA and that I'd figure it all out somehow. I went from being a slacker in high school--more focused on acting and my volleyball team and getting out of my small town than I was on studying--to working my butt off at community college in Santa Monica so I could transfer to my dream university that I didn't have the grades to get into right out of high school. The idea of getting "the college experience" became really exciting to me, but I ultimately decided I didn't want to spend so much of my parents' money (or spend my life paying off student loans) to only end up doing what I could be starting earlier.
I'm coming up on five years of living out in LA, and although I still don't know exactly what I'm doing, I'm so damn happy. I've moved from one side of town to another, taken incredible acting classes, worked with insanely talented people, gotten my writing published on notable sites, had horrible roommate experiences, found a best friend in a roommate, made friends, lost friends, fallen in and out of love, questioned my decisions, stood by my decisions, cared for children I adore, worked a dreadful office job, got lucky as hell with a job that pays the bills and has provided me with a second family. I could go on and on. There's just so much good. Some bad, but so much good. It's taken me a while to truly establish a life and build strong friendships, but I've done it. And I continue to do it every day.
When I see people working 9-5 jobs they hate because that's what they feel like they have to do, it breaks my heart. Of course, not everyone hates their job, but so many people do. I'm a server at a restaurant. It's not what I want to be doing forever, but it challenges me, pays my bills, provides me with a work family of people I love, connects me to people in various industries. I can't complain.
So when I visit my home state of New York and meet up with my high school friends in the city I feel a little out of place. Not insecure or bitter, but definitely a little out of my element. Not only is the business culture not for me, but the city itself overwhelms me with all the cars and constant sounds and having to fall asleep to honking and skyscrapers. When I visit my friends and/or brother in the city and go with them to bars, I still walk around with the confidence that lives inside of me and try to have genuine conversations and break down the "cool" walls people think they have to have up, but there's this overwhelming feeling that New York isn't really home to me anymore. It's sad in a sense, but it also reminds me how much I've grown and that I've built a great life for myself in a city that was once so new to me. And I'm so proud of that.
Sure, I feel a bit of longing knowing a lot of the people I'm friends with all have their lives intertwined on one side of the country and I have my own, entirely different life and friends, on the other side of the country. Sometimes I feel like I'm missing out. When my friend tells me she's setting up business meetings and doing cool things professionally, a little part of me feels like I'm missing out on the type of life I could have had. But I almost immediately remember it's not the life I want. And I'm so grateful to have figured that out early so I can try and fail and make all the mistakes that lead me to my favorite moments and victories. I feel like I'm living in another universe than my friend, but if we're both happy in our respective universes that's cool as hell.
I'm figuring out who I am and what I want more and more every day. And I get to do it in a city that feels like home to me in a way New York City never has. New York will always have a piece of my heart, but it's not home to me anymore. I hope I get to call lots of different places and people home throughout my life, but right now, Los Angeles is my home sweet fuckin' home.