I’m not ready to talk about why I’m moving back to New York. I don’t fully understand it myself yet. There’s something about living in that city that is different from any other, the vibrancy that everyone talks about when they visit that they say they would never be able to handle every day if they stayed. What I am ready to talk about is what I’ll miss most while I’m away. I want to feel my feelings and say goodbye to LA.
Los Angeles is my hometown. My family immigrated to the United States of America in 1997 and took over the lease of a small one bedroom apartment that my great-grandmother was holding for us in West Hollywood. In 2008, my freshman year of high school, we moved one final time a stone’s throw away to a larger two bedroom apartment. I graduated high school and moved across the country never expecting to live there again. Nobody expected the COVID-19 pandemic.
March 2020 was the longest month in recorded history. From my shoebox apartment in Manhattan, I remember every finite insignificant detail of every wretched day of that ceaseless month. March 10 my partner and I ended our relationship of four years. March 13 I bought a Nintendo Switch anticipating to start playing while in lockdown. March 14 I ate breakfast with a friend from Belgium at Jack’s Wife Freda and walked around the West Village avoiding everyone. March 15 I realized we were in for a long haul. As cases doubled every other day, my mom, living alone in the same two bedroom apartment since 2008, started calling to see when I was moving back from New York to LA. March 26 my mom called to tell me that her dad, my grandpa, had a stroke and was hospitalized in Russia. After she hung up I broke down crying. March 27 I was on the first flight out of JFK to LAX. I am forever thankful to my friend V for calmly and rationally talking me through the decision to move back to LA.
I called Los Angeles home from March 27, 2020 to October 16, 2021, for 1 year, 6 months, and 20 days. In a sense, Los Angeles will forever be home to me. I’m learning that I’m lucky enough to have two homes: one where my loved ones are and one wherever I am. Los Angeles was a respite for me, a safe haven. When the density and closeness of the concrete jungle that is New York turned into claustrophobia, paranoia, and panic, the sprawl and wilderness of Los Angeles offered me safety, solace, and structure.
Los Angeles was the perfect place to endure the pandemic if such a place exists. It has ample access to the outdoors: parks, oceans, mountains. There’s so many of them that even when the state closed down the beaches, there was no way the cops could enforce it across the 840 miles of California coastline and pulling over somewhere along the PCH in Malibu to breathe in the crisp salt of the ocean was always a viable option. LA is a better city to be locked down than NYC.
Los Angeles was also the perfect place to reacquaint myself with the world. When I got vaccinated on April 13, 2021, a switch flipped in my brain: I wanted to make up for lost time. Old friends came out of the woodwork to hang out. Friends I’ve known for half a decade but would only see when I was in LA visiting family became close friends and their friends became mine. I forged new friendships and strengthened old ones. The vagueness of invites that permeates the chill, flakey west coast culture was comfortable to me. I decided when and where to show up while considering my covid risk tolerance. In a world of uncertainty and chaos, I found comfort in imposing control over my own circumstances and defining my own guidelines.
I took advantage of the ambiguity and started to experiment with the things that were uniquely mine: my values, my hobbies, my career, my friendships, my gender, my sexuality, my appearance. I picked up paragliding and ran off a cliff. I switched teams at work. I started opening up to my friends about my feelings. Who would have thought that talking about your feelings does not inflict burdens but instead nurtures closeness and love? I got a mullet, painted my nails, and lasered off my facial hair. I made decisions a week before they happened. To that effect, even my move to New York that I had been thinking about for months, came together less than two weeks before I boarded the flight. The fluidity of Los Angeles made that possible.
When I say goodbye to LA, I say goodbye to its people as well, my family and my friends. This is not the first time I’ve picked myself up and moved from one coast to the next. I’ve jumped coasts regularly ever since I left LA for college on the east coast a decade ago. With the knowledge that I’ll be back, I’m conflicted about whether I’m saying goodbye or goodbye for now. All I know is that I want to continue exploring and experimenting. Thank you LA for everything.