I miss taking the bus from New York City to Philadelphia. I miss watching the cars pass below me as I lean back in my stiff chair and close my eyes. I miss watching New York grow small in the distance, the gray sky an ever-present fixture on the East Coast. I miss opening up a book and knowing that in just two hours, I'll be enveloped in the arms of Home. Of Wawa coffee and my cat cuddling me, of laughing then immediately fighting with my sisters, of the actual smell of autumn. (Fall has a smell and you can't get it out here in fabulous Los Angeles, but it's real and it's over there just 3,000 miles away.)
Sometimes I feel like I'm treating LA badly. Like I'm the terrible boyfriend or girlfriend in the situation. And in so many ways I always feel like I'm cheating on the East Coast. Because truth be told, I love it out here. I love falling asleep on the beach in the middle of the afternoon, the warm sun causing my skin to redden even though Thanksgiving is less than a month away. I love hopping out of my car when I get to work and seeing the Hollywood sign when I look up. I really promise that I love it. But my heart is constantly torn between the here and now, and the what always was. It's like no matter how much I commit to LA, in the back of my mind I'm always thinking about Philly and NYC. They're always back there, lingering in my mind and tempting me and as a result, LA gets the baggage.
Why do we glamorize what isn't ours anymore? I think about Philly and New York now and all I can remember is everything good. It's like when you break up with someone and after the initial power-surge of "YES I AM INDEPENDENT AND AWESOME AND AM GOING TO WAIT UNTIL SOMEONE LIKE RYAN GOSLING WILL PURSUE ME!" fizzles out and you start to realize how much it hurts when you break up and all you can think about is all the good times. You forget about the insecurities and anxieties and fights and that underbelly pit of dissatisfaction. You forget about the moments when you were alone and wondering if there was something better out there - you forget it all and you can only focus on how badly you wish you had it back.
We are always different, no matter where we go. I am noticing this the older I get. I am changing. It is a scary moment when you look back at yourself and you truly realize how much you've changed and sometimes in an especially scary moment you don't necessarily recognize who you've become. What I'm trying to say is I don't think we will ever feel completely like we belong in any place at all. If I thought I belonged in Philly or NYC, I wouldn't have dropped everything and moved out here with literally nothing but a push from God. I wouldn't have left every single person I love and I wouldn't have moved out here and experienced the single most difficult and scary year of my life.
But now I'm here. And I don't necessarily think this is it. I don't think living here in Los Angeles is the end all be all. I think I'm here for a reason and I love it here and I'm staying here, but at any moment I think God could tell me to go somewhere else. I want to be open to that voice. I want to listen to that voice.
We can drive ourselves crazy trying to get back to the past or dwelling obsessively on the future. I can't tell you how many moments I'm driving or waiting in line for coffee and it hits me like a brick to the face - "What am I doing?" It hits me every time I see another friend get engaged or married or get into graduate school. Because while all of these people my age are getting Master's degrees and falling in love, I'm still sharing a bedroom. I'm scraping by with a lot of student loans and I'm crawling up the longest ladder. I don't own an ironing board. It's those stupid little facts that get to me and I can't let that happen. The same way all of these people seem to have their life together, I know they struggle too. We all have our battles - we have to know that and accept that and know that no one's life is going to be the same.
I have to remember that. My story is different than my sister's. It's different than my mom's and my best friend's. No one is better, they're just different.
So at the end of the day, I can listen to a song that reminds me of Philadelphia and I can maybe cry a little and feel homesick because it's not easy. It's not as simple as jumping on a bus and driving for two hours and then being home. So I can sit here and feel the ache of missing the East Coast...but then I can let it go. I can breathe in where I am and I can marvel at how AMAZING it is. I can see the beauty in Los Angeles. I can sit with friends on the beach and feel calm, I can sit in a diner and write, I can run and run until my lungs hurt and the wind is whipping my face and I can feel so small in the huge scale that is everything.
I always disagree when people say you can be in love with more than one person at the same time. I don't like that thinking, but I think I can maybe understand when I think of it in terms of cities. Because I am so in love with where I came from, but I'm so in love with where I am now.
This is the song that started it all - VALENCIA, WHAT ARE YOU DOING TO ME ON A SUNDAY NIGHT?
"Philadelphia makes me feel HOME."