Bright Lights and the Big City (I’m Moving to LA)

I was conceived in Los Angeles. My parents grew up there, and when my mom was just a few months from delivering me into this world, she and my dad moved up to Sacramento where I was born and mostly raised. I grew up with their stories of beach bonfires and friends with houseboats, and maybe that’s part of why I’ve always been drawn to LA. But on my first real visit as a kid, I fell in love hard.

I was eleven. It was January but it was seventy-five degrees and sunny, blue skies and tropical breezes. For someone who hibernates when the temp drops below sixty, this alone was heaven. But the ocean. Oh, the ocean—shades of blue from cerulean to teal, and even in winter, not so cold you couldn’t dip your feet while sinking into the sugary white sand beaches stretching for miles. It was still California, but it was different from the raging seas up north that I grew up visiting, the icy winds and freezing water, beaches carved into the cliffs so they are shorter and flanked by huge rocks. And the light. It’s different in So Cal. Brighter. It’s like the air itself sparkles.

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On that first visit, people seemed happier, lighter, artsy in a way that felt more free and less serious than I was used to. I was down there to perform in a huge conference with my choir, and my childhood dreams of acting and singing professionally were more than whispered hopes down there—they seemed like real possibilities, like warm winter winds, created by the right combination of timing and location. The whole city was wider, bigger, looser, shinier; all the things LA is supposed to be, but I didn’t know that. I just knew I wanted to come back.

W and I have moved five times in the last seven years. Each time that wasn’t for a job or school we’ve talked about moving to LA. But we didn’t know anyone there and it was too expensive and wouldn’t it be weird to just pick up and move somewhere because it seemed like a great place during visits? Fast forward four cities and still, nowhere has felt like home to both of us, and we don’t have kids or jobs that can’t be done from anywhere, and we know people in LA now and it’s still expensive, but we are a little less poor, so, why the hell not at least give it a try?

So after driving by close to eighty apartments and touring about twenty five (!) we have signed a lease. It’s a third floor unit with great western views of palm trees—and maybe even on clear days, the ocean—about four miles from the beach. We can walk to pretty much anything we will possibly need in just a few blocks—banks, gyms, restaurants, groceries, coffee shops, drug stores—and are a longer walk from a farmer’s market, bookstore, and more shops and restaurants. In fifteen minutes I can be at the ocean, and unlike up here where I’ve driven all the way to the beach and had it be too cold and windy for me to spend more than ten minutes out of the car, most of the year it will actually be warm enough to enjoy it.

Am I nervous? Sure. It’s a big city, a fast-paced change from our sleepy town now, but that is part of the draw. More restaurants, things to do, places to go, people to meet…I’ve spent the last two years sort of quietly and I’m ready to jump start a new phase.

And, still, every time I’m down there I fall in love again with the light and the palm trees, the ocean so close, the bright tropical flowers and vines hanging from everything, the succulents with their thick green spikes, the smell of sand, the endless blue sky…I can’t believe I’m finally going to live there. The eleven year old girl in me has her hand on her hips and is saying, “It’s about time.” My dreams of professional performing are history, but branching out into different writing forms sounds like it could be an appealing part of this new phase. Who knows? The possibilities down there are sparkling on the horizon, shimmering on ocean-blue waves of light. It’s time to dive in.

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Inbetween: The Limbo Before the Storm

I’m home. I’ve been traveling so much for book events over the last few months that after the Pacific Northwest leg that ended about a week ago, I was so looking forward to being home. No more readings for almost six weeks. Finally, a chance to rest.

But. (There is always a but, right?)

I’ve been feeling weird since we returned. Maybe it is a resistance to getting back to normal life, because I’m not sure what that means for me anymore. Maybe I need to decompress after all the socializing. Maybe I just need some time to digest the last few rollercoaster months of life-changing events. Yes. But it’s also more than that.

I feel lethargic and restless at the same time, like I want to get out and do something but am feeling too blah to get off my ass and go. I want to both start new things and curl in on myself and ignore the world. Limbo. A feeling of suspension. We are hovering over this big decision about possibly moving to a new city, again, and what I really want to do is decide so I can move forward. I’m the kind of person who needs to know what the next step is and then I’ll make it happen. There are so many important chunks of our lives up in the air right now—where we’ll live, what we’re going to do for income, if we can buy a house—I have a shaky panic in my chest all the time, a lack of grounding that makes me constantly off-balance. I feel lost and unstable and unable to commit to anything, so I just get stuck in this space of doing nothing except fantasizing about moving to LA, buying a house near the beach, and getting everything else I want.

I want to start a new business running private creative writing workshops. I want to start seriously selling my handmade cards. I want to own a home; to stop throwing money away on rentals that always have things wrong that the landlords don’t care about fixing and aren’t ours to improve. I want the ocean to be a part of my daily life. I want to live by an ocean that isn’t always freezing. I want to be around more young, smart, interesting people, and more writers. I want to be part of a literary community that isn’t subject to the transitory nature of graduate programs. Oh, and I want to work on my second book. And my third and fourth eventually. I want to settle into a stable and fulfilling and generally happy life—three things I’ve never had at the same time—and just be.

I know I need to work more on being present in the here and now, but I feel like these wants don’t stand a chance until I know where we’re going to be for the foreseeable future. We’ve been talking about moving again since we decided a few months ago that our small town wasn’t a place we wanted to live long-term. We’ve moved five times in the last six years—for jobs, for schools—and have yet to find a place that feels right. I want to be settled.

Each time we discuss where we might be happy, Los Angeles comes up, and I think it could be a really good fit for both of us. So I want to make a decision. Like, right now. If we are going to move to LA, I will make it happen, but I need to know. We are going down in the next few weeks to scout neighborhoods but I wish we could go tomorrow so I could start making plans. I feel like that limbo might be shifting, and I’m excited to see where we go as we move forward.