I’m aware that I frequently complain about where I live, when many would kill to live in Southern California. The sunshine alone is reason to want to carve out a space here; 284 days of sun and a mere 26 days of precipitation is a hard statistic to beat anywhere else. There is also the proximity to the beach, which I have always taken for granted because I’ve never known differently. Additionally, the ethnic diversity makes for a pretty fabulous mix of restaurants. We can virtually eat in a different country every night of the month, if we so desired.
Lately, I have been enjoying the beautifully temperate weather before it reverts back to summertime scorchers of 90+ degrees. With every breath I inhale fresh jasmine, sweet peas, lavender – the scent heady as I walk down the evening streets. Once summer revs into full gear, the lovely springtime fragrance will burn off and all anyone will be able to think about is popsicles, cold showers or a dip in the ocean.
However, these benefits come at a price, as many will be quick to point out. Disgusting suburban sprawl has always topped my list of grievances against the area. One can drive for hours on congested highways past dirty tract houses and ugly McMansions without spotting something with any visually redeeming characteristics.
Also, the culture in the L.A. area exudes a quality I couldn’t put my finger on until I began traveling. This quality always made me feel like I wasn’t quite human because I didn’t care about the same things as everyone else; namely, money, fame, gossip and eternal youth and beauty. Not everyone holds these values – they just seem to be principles most people absorb in the air, or water, or vapor from the general proximity to Hollywood. That is how a region’s culture operates.
When I started to see more of the world, however, I finally realized what this characteristic was: shallowness. I hated being associated with such a quality, and have been trying to escape – unsuccessfully – to a place of more substance for years.
Despite feeling like a perpetual outsider in my own hometown, I try to remind myself how lucky I am not to ever shovel snow, or tolerate months of humidity, or deal with Vitamin D deficiency. I can shop organic if I want to and eat Vietnamese pho one day and have a delicious Greek salad the next. I can read on the beach if I have the time and I can always find a decent cup of coffee. My specific city is a bit more hippy-ish than most in the south land, which I love. This particular suburb banned plastic bags in 2012, there are more independent yoga and dance studios than you can shake a stick at, and a thriving small business community keeps the cultural arts alive in my neighborhood.
I am lucky. Even with my cynicism and constant escape attempts, I have to remind myself to just relax and enjoy the good things the city offers, especially since I am stuck here for the time being. There are a million places I would hate to live – at least this place doesn’t require me to keep my opinions to myself.