Recently October 1st to be exact, was my anniversary of moving to Los Angeles. 8 years, all of the 8 years found within my twenties. In which case you could call these “formidable” years. I grew up in a small town and then grew up again in a huge metropolitan city. Ironically I spent my anniversary with Los Angeles in my hometown of Niagara Falls; and while I reflected on the days leading up to moving,(in all thanks to that friendly Facebook Memories feature) and what has happened since I moved for good, I began to figure out whom I’ve become from memory, circling back to where it began.
I was 20 years old when I moved to Los Angeles from Niagara Falls, New York. In hindsight it was an impulsive move. Not very enthused to attend the local junior college, when my two years were up at Niagara County Community College I jumped at the chance to escape and to be somewhere, anywhere, other than there. This rush impulsion was the first step into me trying to be someone I am not. I applied to The Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising in Downtown Los Angeles and wanted to do my very best Lauren Conrad impression of life. I mean fashion school,really? I literally wore sweatpants and a ponytail everywhere I went and suddenly I found myself surrounded by rich blonde girls who wore 4 inch heels to pump gas. I was way out of my league, I was way out of myself. But I was determined to finish and figure it out, I was determined to make it work. I graduated from FIDM with a school made friend, a boyfriend and an internship at Nordstrom so maybe I could make it work.
I began working at Nordstrom and felt very comfortable there, I was a sales girl working off commission and with years upon eons of retail experience fit directly into the flow. Of course there were many things that I had to get used too, like moms spending thousands of dollars for their preschooler to go back to school. But these were just examples of the differences between where I grew up and where I was.
After a year or so working at Nordstrom I was promoted to Assistant Dept. Manager, I also moved into an apartment with the friend I had made at school and my boyfriend. I would like to label this the “dramatic years”, and lets be honest I was 22 and everything was dramatic, but really I was perfectly placed within my role as a 22 year old. I was recently graduated and trying to figure out exactly what I wanted to do while being stubborn enough to continue on. I struggled with the fact that my roommate was younger than I was and still wanted to party while I had to wake up at 7 am to get to work for an 8 hour shift. My boyfriend and I were continuously learning about each other while simultaneously learning about ourselves. But within that year while I was trying so hard to continue this facade of being someone I wasn’t, I finally started to see myself as who I was.
A little after I had been promoted Eric and I moved into our own apartment. It was our first apartment. We had nothing but a saucepan and $20, that we had to pay back. We spent our first Christmas in that apartment with a tree and lights to compensate for the lack of furniture and food, but we continued working and continued to build our little home with each other. It was around this time, while I was an Assistant at Nordstrom that my depression started to seep into every aspect of my life. My managers at work were constantly reminding me that I was and never would fit into the fashion world here in Los Angeles, and my lack of funds constantly reminded me what living paycheck to paycheck felt like. I no longer felt strong, I no longer felt empowered or ambitious. I felt like I was on autopilot going through the motions with no emotion attached to anything. I tried latching on to Eric for support but there was only so much support he could give me. I had gotten lost in this dream that was my life in Los Angeles and I had forgotten who I wanted to become. I look back on my years at Norstrom now and tell myself that if I was who I am now it never would have gotten that far, it never would have affected me that much. But then again don’t we all say that? Aren’t we all stronger retrospectively?
After 3 years of trying to fit into the world of Fashion I had had enough. I was done, I was over it and I was ready to figure it all out again. I was ready to be different, I was ready to figure out who the fuck I actually wanted to be. To do that though, I needed some time and because time isn’t cheap I needed money. I got a job at a restaurant and applied to the local community college. If my time in Los Angeles had a theme song it would be irony playing constantly in the background of every decision I made. It was however during this time working at a restaurant that I started to actually like the people around me. I found my coworkers to be relatable and as genuine as a bunch of non working actors in Los Angeles could be. And for once since moving to L.A. I was not only good at my job, but recognized as such. I could be myself while paying my bills and show my personality.
School on the other hand was a totally different experience, and I wanted it to be. I had such a rushed and negative perception of my first go at college that I really wanted to be involved during this second chance. Although I was excited about this new start, the universe still wanted to remind me that nothing I ever did was easy. At the end of my first semester at Santa Monica College I learned that none of the classes I had taken back at Niagara County would transfer and that my new college experience would be a full four years. When I learned this I sat in the counselor’s office and cried. Why exactly was I doing this to myself all over again? What the fuck was I thinking that this would be a good idea? Or that it would be different for that matter? That everything would just work because I had a shitty college experience as well as a shitty post college experience so the universe owed me a better one. The universe owed me nothing. Mostly because I expected it to owe me something and I wasn’t willing to change my attitude/energy. So I made the decision that if I wanted a better outcome from the universe I had to change my relationship with my own energy. I also had to figure out how to defeat my depression. I started going to yoga to figure out exactly what I needed to change. Yoga transitioned into a constant practice through the changing of jobs, seasons, and transferring to a major university. My first major, four year university; and just like my headstand pose, my energy slowing started to change and take shape.
Once I began my first semester at Cal State Northridge the desire to become immersed in the full college experience was back in full force. I wanted to join clubs, get straight As, sit in the front. There was nothing stopping me now. Not everything was an obstacle it seemed, or if I did meet an obstacle I was just better at adapting and adjusting; and that in itself was an accomplishment. My school spirit however last about two weeks. Although I did get straight As and sit in the front, I did not join any clubs. I did however privately worry about the future of America. College kids annoyed me to no end. If anything watching various younger versions of myself and my friends walk around campus wearing slippers, not doing basic homework tasks and complaining that life is too hard made me only want to figure out my own life even more. Even though I was only 26 while attending CSUN I felt old as hell, I now know what my parents feel like when they say “back when I was kid” and that is sad. As my two years at CSUN came to a close I wanted to be over but to never end. I found a great love for school, and maybe it was that I was finally engaged in a subject matter that never felt like school work or maybe it was because during this time I had finally embraced my introverted, nerdy self. I wasn’t constantly worrying about fitting in with the blondes and their high heels, I wasn’t worried about making friends or going to clubs on the weekends. I was happy to be at home writing papers. And while everyone around me thought that I was a little weird for liking a 10 page term paper on Friday night, I for the first time was fine with the fact that I didn’t care what they thought. I was finally becoming who I wanted to be, I was finally comfortable with what I was doing. And I really enjoyed not giving a shit.
And now here I am, post college grad and still waiting tables. But that is okay, because I am okay with where I am and what I’ve done so far. I’m not trying to be anything other than what I want and what I want takes time, it takes energy. Headstand is a level three pose and I am okay with working through level two. Eric and I still live in our apartment that we both grew up in, and maybe it’s because we are not done growing up.
Coming back to my hometown is always a great break from life in La La Land, but La La Land has made me who I am just as much as Niagara Falls has and who knows I may not stay with Los Angeles forever and that’s okay but after everything that Los Angeles has taught me, I can’t wait to see where else I have in store for myself.