Los Angeles, California is a city who has garnered many nicknames since its inception in the 1840s: Hollywoodland, City of Stars, La La Land, The Big Orange, City of Flowers and Sunshine, The Entertainment Capital of the World, Tinseltown, and many more. The most fitting name, in my opinion, is The City of Angels. Not only is this nickname the origin of the actual city's name, but it is an accurate representation of my observations of the unique inhabitants of this coastal gem.
As I was getting ready to move to Los Angeles about 5 years ago I got some advice from my Grandfather. He traveled the world as a memeber of the United States Air Force and one of his stops was California. "California...", he said with a sour taste and a West Virginia southern twang, "...that's the land of fruits and nuts, and they call it that for a reason."
"Great! I'll fit right in!", I said with chipper irony.
New York City was always my dream city to live in, but I used this chance to move with friend to Los Angeles as an opportunity to escape my 22 years of mediocrity in West Virginia. I knew it wasn't going to be my dream city but I also knew it was a city where dreams came true. Frankly, I was ready to start living some of those dreams.
Besides my grandfather's thoughtful remarks, I had also heard a great deal of other negative attitudes towards California, and Los Angeles in particular.
"It's a city FULL of narcissists!"
"People in LA only care about becoming famous!"
"Everyone in California are dumb surfing bros!"
"Hollywood is a town that will pay a million dollars for your body, and a penny for your soul"...It was true in her case : /
"If you move there you will become obsssed with being in the entertainment industry, and won't care about your family."
These ideas crept into my mind and placed a veil of disdain over a city I had never even seen.
My initial observations of the people of Los Angeles where all over the map. They were contradicting in almost every way. I had never met people so friendly, in West Virginia you don't say hello to people you see on the streets, even though you know almost all of them. Simultaneously people seemed tough and scary here. The people seemed happier as a collective whole, unlike the sullen folks of appalachia. At the same time I saw people struggling to survive in a city that was unforgiving in it's privation.
My first year in LA was rough by any standards; I worked four jobs at once, I lived in the middle of nowhere, my car fell apart, and I struggled like I never had before. Even through these tough moments I had this feeling of excitement. I was finally in a city where things were happeneing. I saw celebrities almost daily, I met cool people from all over the world, I took in landscapes that I had only seen on postcards...it was all worth the struggle, for a while anyway.
After that first year things got easier, but that veil of Los Angeles disdain was still floating in the background of my mind. It wasn't until I actually had time to sit and think about my surroundings, after finally being able to afford to live with only two jobs, that I began to question my life as a Californian.
Im not sure exactly what sparked my desire to get out of LA, but I know many factors came in to play. First was that I felt like my dreams were unobtainable and unrealistic, for the first time in my life. Every other person I met wanted to do the same thing as me, and there was no way I could ever be better than them. I began to get disgusted with the word "Actor", and wanted nothing to do with that title. All of the things I loved about being an actor felt dirtier on the west coast. Since this is the land of entertainment and I no longer wanted to be associated with that business, not that I ever really was, I began to think this city was not for me.
Secondly, I started to find my friendships were lacking in any depth. It felt like my friendships were made up of Instagram likes and VIP booths. I missed those simpler connections I had shared in my small town life. Although I admittedly felt strongly connected to some people who I felt had admirable qualities I was drawn to, I also found it increasingly more difficult for me to watch them live out their dreams. I felt jealous, not only because they were working hard to fulfill those dreams, but also because they hadn't become jaded. Jaded, like I was realizing I had become.
Finally, the dating scene in LA was beginning to make me feel more and more unworthy of love. The only men who seemed to be attracted to me were possible serial killers or men Narnia deep the gay closet. Everytime I felt like I could have feelings for someone, those feelings were immediately met with stalker like behavior, or even worse...ghosting. I felt I could never be happy with the men LA was offering. I didn't feel successful enough to date anyone of substance, and I didn't feel attractive enough to date anyone who was available. In this la la land where 85% of the gay community could model for Calvin Klein and 75% of them are as successful as Calvin Klein I felt like finding my equal was damn near impossible.
I moved to Austin, Texas to have what I was calling a "trial run" at a life I thought would better fit my newly found desires. Working a job that had nothing to do with acting, and getting back to relationships were people didn't live there lives only for their dreams of stardom.
I had a lot of fun in Austin, and met a lot of amazing people, but I was disappointed to realize that those problems followed me to a different time zone. I still had this feeling of sadness and regret for not living out my dreams, even when I wasn't around millions of people trying to accomplish the same dream. Also, my dating life was at an all time low. I realized that my stressors in life weren't connected to a city, but part of me. Moving wasn't going to fix anything, and I began to miss the perfect weather and excitement of Los Angeles.
I semi-reluctantly headed back west, trying to forget the reasons I left to begin with. After a short speed bump of a transition things fell back into place. The friendships I once considered shallow seemed deeper then ever. The industry I considered gross was more magical then it had ever been. The men who seemed impossible to find happiness with became attractive in a way I never noticed. Los Angeles felt like the home I have always wanted.
I began to explore the city in a way I never did before. I opened myself up to the many eclectic experiences Los Angeles has to offer. Since moving back I have been surprised by this town more each day.
This shift in my views became even stronger in this recent election. The name of sanctuary city took up a whole new meaning in my head. I became aware of the passion for humanity, and the feeling of togetherness that the community of Los Angeles has.
Attending the Women's March here in LA, was a cherry on top of the coming home sundae. I got to observe a group of diverse humans who cared, not just about their experience in the world, but the freedom granted to everyone. I was so privileged to witness the unity of the residents of a town that I previously thought to be a group of people who worried about only their individual successes. People came out in record breaking numbers, to show how deep this city feels for all of its inhabitants. They came out with messages of strength and love, not with fear or hate in their hearts.
I felt proud to be a member of the large LA community, and to be a Californian. I felt a pride in my city that I had never felt before. Even in the aftermath of that march I still feel this pride. I see people everyday expressing messages of love and acceptance. I see the leaders we as a community are electing. Leaders who are fighting and will continue to fight for equality and justice. I see the hope in the people of LA, hope that our fight will make a difference.
I am aware this city is nowhere near perfect. We have a tremendous problem with homelessness and gang related crimes. We are covered in smog with the endless traffic daily slowing down our city. We are struck by a drought and the perpetual worry of earthquakes. Taxes are high and living expenses are even higher. I still meet those people who only care about becoming famous and talking to the people who can better their career. I still feel that jaded veil creeping over my new vision of this city. We have so many obstacles to overcome in this city which is growing rapidly in both population and problems, but we have so many people who are ready and eager to face those obstacles.
Some refer to this place as the land where dreams come to die, but in my case it is where my dreams came to be reborn. It is where I found love, acceptance, and hope for a future of unity. The allure of this city is sometimes dirty, sometimes beautiful, sometimes inspiring, sometimes tough, and even on that rare occasion...sometimes a real life Hollywood ending.
Thanks for reading. Make good choices, and be safe with your bodies.