The move to Los Angeles was the 15th in my life. Packing bags, boxing up memories, sorting out the junk and starting over. The diaries I wish I had kept over the years were whittled down to two or three (out of countless). A memory box with letters, dried flower leaves, gum wrappers, and my favorite pair of jeans or two are going, going, gone. The physical move from one place to another is only a small part of the adventure, although it takes you through your past. You look at each piece of clothing with different eyes: whom you met when you wore it, what you did, and wonder if you’ll ever miss it… or them. You don’t! The separation of the physical belongings is very eye-opening. And it’s the part that I remembered most of the time.
Taking the first steps in new territory is exciting and scary. When I first moved into a Spanish “residencia” in Madrid (with 26 Spanish girls), I didn’t dare to walk further than from my place straight to class. I then ventured out to grocery shop, and peeked into different roads, figuring out that I could’ve easily walked those three stops instead of taking the stinky metro. Although Madrid’s subway system is absolutely perfect – there is no place in that city that you cannot reach with el metro.
The development that you have no control over, and it just kind of happens, is establishing a routine. You learn how to take care of yourself. Sometimes isolated, other times… not. At the Spanish place, timing my bathroom schedule when I lived with people (especially with 26 Spanish gals and 3 bathrooms) became a challenge all on its own. What time you leave the house to go to your job/class, which route you take, who you meet there, when to take lunch, what to do afterwards, just happens.
It’s finding a new circle of friends, or not even friends, but people you can at least hang out with or confide in, that’s really challenging. At least for me. But they are there – and you find them. You go out with people and with some you click, with others, you really don’t, and you figure it out quite quickly.
Moving to LA was easier for me than moving to Madrid. Spain felt like an escape I needed, whereas the US are something I want-something that feels like home (or as close to home as it gets, if it exists). I really wanted this and did everything to make it work – in Madrid, I did too, but not with the same passion. Still, it took me about a year to feel “at home” right where I am. Although I worked for it, lived from paycheck to paycheck and very helpful parents whose support I don’t want to accept, but had to and am happy that they are able and willing to offer it – it’s all part of the process and worth it in the end. You wait for each paycheck, eat your lunch on the floor until you can afford a couch, a TV , and a simple coffee maker – it took a long time, but I guess that’s normal if you’re starting over. And I like a challenge!
I also like this place… this city, and the people in it. Not everything and everyone all of the time, but in general, it’s as twisted and comforting as I had hoped it would be.
The definition of “home” becomes vaguer the more you move or the more you start over. I met with a wonderful group of German girls a couple of weeks ago (and hope to do so again soon), and one of them perfectly verbalized her (and my) reason for being here: You’re here because you want to be here. Nobody forces you. Nobody holds a gun to your head and says “you have to make it” – it’s completely voluntary. But the ambition… oh, the ambition. It really is true what they say: If you put your all into it (your thinking, your being, your breathing), you will find your reason for being in a certain place – that’s just how it is. And I’m very happy and grateful to finally be part of it.
It’s an enormous gratification to know that you’ve finally found a place called home. It is what you make it. It doesn’t just happen. I’m not sure if LA will be my last home- at this point, I’m hoping it will be. I’m excited to see what else I can find in this city… And I’m very optimistic. It feels right. For the first time in a long time.