Thursday, March 14, 2013

Lost in Los Angeles

Move to Los Angeles on a dream carried by one phone interview and the inherent certainty that you're meant for something better than a small town in the South. Shove all the things that you think matter most to you in your compact car, only to find that it doesn't fit. Repack and give the rest as farewell presents to your friends that actually showed up at one in the morning to say goodbye. Spend two amazing weeks on the road with your best friend across the country. Sleep on stranger's couches because you don't want to pay for hotels. Pray that you don't die, get raped, or kidnapped and held for ransom. Call your mother every day to reassure her none of these things happened.

Realize that you're in L.A. as soon as the freeway traffic comes to a screeching halt. Grab the keys to your new apartment that you've never seen before, to finally meet your roommate that you've never met before. At long last arrive "home" to realize that you're not actually home at all, but in a strange building filled with strange people, perched on a hill. Dread the day that your best friend leaves to fly back and when the day does come, truly feel alone.

Find a night job as a hostess at a restaurant that you're pretty sure has only hired you because you're Asian. Push yourself to work this job and the unpaid internship 14 hours a day, 5 days a week until you crash on your bed every night from exhaustion. Keep yourself constantly busy so you can forget how much you miss your friends and family. Try to make more of a conscious effort to meet and hang out with people from work and your apartment building. When you have moments of self-doubt, tell yourself, "This is temporary— you aren't going to be working at a restaurant forever, and you will find new best friends."

On your days off, you try to explore your surroundings and let the city sink in. And after a while, it does. You eventually learn how to parallel park and read the street signs, even though your fear of driving never really goes away. You memorize the Metro routes and give up your seat to the disabled and elderly. You discover hiking, yoga, zumba and make an effort to eat healthier because that's the L.A. way. You get used to beautiful weather every day, but still miss the rain.

After three months, you find yourself no longer with an internship or restaurant job. You promise to yourself that come the new year, you will never again do another internship or food service industry job ever again. You feel settled, but not content. You spend your days at different coffee shops applying to job, after job, after job. You notice that no matter what time of day, the coffee shop is always packed. Have a sinking suspicion that no one in L.A. actually has a real job either. Begin to toy with the idea of what a "real job," even means, and find yourself applying to receptionist and secretarial positions in the hopes that it might turn out like The Devil Wears Prada.

Months go by and you feel like you're passing your days in mediocrity and routine. Find that you have grown tired of the hustle of Hollywood, the stench of the crazies roaming the streets, and the carefree lifestyle of Los Angelenos. You despise the sexism of the entertainment industry, the hypocrisy of the hipsters and the selfishness of the artists trying to "make it." You even start to question the loyalty of the people that you've met, and compare them to the friends you have at home. You grow restless and despite trying to remain optimistic, you can't shake the panicked feeling that you might never find the mythical job, or the dream. Wonder if your standards are too high, that you need to swallow your pride and settle for something lower.

L.A. has turned you insecure, awkward and selfish. Nothing phases you anymore because you live in the land of the ridiculous. You judge everyone because you constantly feel judged in return. And in spite of living in one of the biggest cities in the world, you feel more alone than ever. You stay, however, because you can't return without having anything to show for it. And deep down you know that if you go back to that small town in the South, you'll be even more unhappy. You also know that it's not the place that makes you unhappy, it's the uncertainty— and that's okay, because everyone will go through this in their life. You know that it'll pass and one day you will look back and it will all seem so small, in the grand scheme of things. This is merely a rough patch on the road to success and self-discovery.

So here you remain, lost in Los Angeles.

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