California: A Personal Essay

Originally written in April 2017.

I have a love/hate relationship with California… but mostly Los Angeles.

How many times have you probably heard that? Well, if you actually have heard it, then it’s most likely from someone who was born and raised in California. We seem to be both its harshest critics and sing its highest praises. There is nothing more beautiful in my mind than a sunny California day, but there is also nothing more frustrating than the traffic in Los Angeles. I speak from the perspective of someone who grew up in Southern California and who spent the majority of her life in Los Angeles. Maybe I should re-title this “I have a love/hate relationship with just Los Angeles,” but I like being dramatic and saying California. 

It started when I was in middle school and my mind started to take notice of the places around me and how different it seemed to be than the time I would spend in Connecticut with family or when we would go on family trips to various places in the United States. I could see a difference in attitude, style, and feel the difference in weather. As much as I love that temperate weather during the summer, I love even more the fall that I have seen on the East Coast or the winter that I have spent in Paris and the spring that I have felt literally anywhere. There is reason number one for my feelings of love/hate—as stereotypical as it is—I miss the change of seasons.

My dreams of going to university on the East Coast began in middle school when I saw my friend’s older sister—who I tried to emulate in every way—leave for New York University. Thus, that became my ultimate goal; go to school on the East Coast, preferably in New York. When that didn’t quite pan out and I ended up at the singular West Coast school that I applied to and still within Los Angeles County, I promised myself that I would fulfill my next goal of studying abroad for an entire year. So I did, I left Los Angeles in the summer of 2012 for an internship in Vancouver, followed by a year abroad in England. I had never felt so free, completely like myself, and wholly proud of my accomplishments. When that year ended, I was so happy to be going back to Los Angeles for my final year of university, but I soon found myself craving to escape again.

After graduating, I quickly found many ways to separate myself from Los Angeles and get away from the place where I grew up that was quickly becoming one of the places that I most disdained. I traveled with a friend, then worked on organic farms for four months, came back and worked for a year, then left again for the past two years in France. The longer I have stayed away and distanced myself, the more I have felt an intrinsic love and appreciation for the county that I was born and raised in. There is something so charming about what almost appears to be a naivety throughout Los Angeles. It is without a doubt beautiful, it is more often sunny that cloudy, and you never have to worry about owning a proper coat… which I didn’t until I moved to England for a year.

Now I am coming to the end of my time in France and facing the possibility of having to return to Los Angeles, but I am not sure if I love it or hate it more. I push against the idea of it so often, that I feel like I should hate it. I guess on the surface, I do hate it, but we have such a past together that makes me deeply love it. After living in a couple of countries with such old histories though, there is something new that is driving me back to Los Angeles and it is not the consistent weather, access to millions of yoga studios, or proximity to “the business.” I am drawn back to Los Angeles for its unique history, which tends to feel like a mystery (a rhyme!) for many who were born and raised within its wide boundaries. 

Although it is nowhere near as old as other cities, it has a rich history brimming with architectural beauties, plenty of interesting stories, endearing diners, and lots of terrain. If I were to have to move back to Los Angeles, as much as you might hear me complaining or shedding a tear for feeling like I have ended up back where I started, you won’t find me kicking or screaming because there is still such a Gold Rush treasure trove (figuratively speaking) to be found within the expansive confines of such an annoyingly nonchalant and dreadfully marvelous place. 

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