You may have noticed that this blog has been updating Monday through Friday for awhile now, you may wonder about the sudden burst of content. I sort of wonder about it myself. Given that I don’t know what I’m doing, I do know my motivation, which all stems from a conversation I’ve been having with my amazing boyfriend Ben for several months now. As many of you may know, Ben is from Western Oregon, and he misses it terribly. As a born and bred Los Angeleno, I never thought I would want to live anywhere else. During the time I spent as a kid with my father and his family in Eastern Oregon (they’re really two different states), the time I spent in East LA County in high school, and the time I spent in college in Orange County (check out my blog about moving back to LA) I learned that I did not enjoy places that weren’t Los Angeles. I thought that it would never change, that I everything I wanted was in LA.
The beach is 15 minutes from my house, the mountains are 30 minutes. Within an hour, I can drive to any one of a number of amazingly beautiful or inspiring locations from the naturally occurring to the entirely man made. I can buy anything from any culture or lifestyle, at nearly any time of night or day. Los Angeles is amazing, it really is. It will always be my first home and it will always have a special place in my heart. But as much amazing stuff is everywhere around me, I don’t see it. I don’t experience it or enjoy it.
I don’t go to the beach on certain days or holidays because it’s a nightmare. A 6 mile drive that normally takes 15 minutes turns into a half an hour of lurching the car forward amid a mass of weekend beach goers. Trying to find parking is a chore that you usually have to pay for the privilege of doing, and any restaurant has a wait of 30 minutes. Once you get to the ocean, there’s trash and people everywhere, and when you decide to go home you have an hour of frustrating walk back to the car, fighting traffic back home before you’re back at your house. The same goes for any destination in Los Angeles. Everything costs money, and if there’s even a little traffic you double your commute time.
The work of driving through traffic an hour to work and an hour back every day leaves me drained. I usually insist that Ben drive us everywhere over the weekends, because I have become a person who doesn’t like to drive.
When I was a baby, the car used to put me to sleep. I went on countless road trips with my dad and my grandma growing up and they are happy memories for me. I feel an attachment to my car, I used to love being in the car, but that has changed. I get angry when I’m in the car now, even if it’s a weekend and I have nowhere to be. I’m constantly listening to audiobooks and podcasts to keep myself distracted from the traffic all around me.
I’m starting to think that, even though it’s the perfect geographic location, LA is not my cultural home. The traffic, the noise and the crowds meet with the Hollywood influence, and the weirdly glad-handing social practices to create the perfect douche bag factory. My priorities in life are not to make money, or achieve status, which is good, because I don’t have either. But in this environment, I feel like I’m not able to take time for the things I do find important: my friends, my chosen family and myself. It’s difficult to exercise when every work out has another 30 minutes tacked on for commute. It’s hard to see my friends when they are all an hour drive in traffic away, or even the closer ones don’t see me because I am too tired from driving all week or all day. It’s hard to just walk outside when my neighborhood, while filled with good, hard working people, is not a pretty sight.
We can’t afford to move someplace nicer without endangering our safety (there are some really nice houses in gang territory) or lengthening at least one of our commutes (most likely mine, which is already long). If either of us made any less money we wouldn’t be able to afford our lives, it’s only this year that Ben and I have manged to collect any semblance of savings. And our luxury items tend to run towards organic foods rather than expensive toys, although we both do have tablets, we’re working on old computers and wearing Target or Thrift Store clothes.
We’re both working like dogs, and for the most part, we both enjoy our jobs. We have great co-workers, work on fun projects that we enjoy and learn from, and are relatively respected in our offices and in our respective niches of the industries we work in. But is that enough? This is the conversation we’ve been having the last few months. When you work your butt off Monday through Friday, frequently working extra hours or on the weekend, and you don’t get paid very much and at least you enjoy what you do, but it leaves you unable to enjoy your life outside of work, is that enough?
Maybe if every work day wasn’t lengthened by two hours of mind-numbing traffic, and maybe if every time we wanted to go anywhere we didn’t have to get in the car and drive out of the ghetto to do so, I could say yes. But the conclusion I’ve come to over the last several months is that it’s not. Not for the long term.