I'm moving away from Seattle this year, to LA, likely in the fall, barring any unfortunate circumstances that would make this impossible.
Here are a handful of things I've learned since I decided to move to California.
1) Seattlelites hate Los Angeles.
2) I am not yet past the age where people scowl a lot and ask me why I'm doing any and everything I'm doing and what exactly my plans are. And, what's more, I will perhaps never get past that age.
3) You're allowed to move for love (though it's frowned upon as risky), a job (if it's an amazing life-changing job that pays well), school (if it's a school people have heard of and respect), or for some sort of medical/family emergency. Moving to a place just because you like it, and it's warm, and you have some friends there who you really like is an unacceptable choice and one that garners endless disapproval and head shaking.
4) Seattleites hate Los Angeles, and really want to tell you about it. It is possible that they also love Los Angeles and wish they were going there. It is also possible that they feel somehow judged by a version of Los Angeles that they made up in their mind after watching too many episodes of 90210 and Nip/Tuck. (I have only watched the pilot of both of these shows. I consider that that is enough.)
5) I am ill-prepared to be a real adult most of the time, if not all the time.
I've wanted to move to Southern California for a long time I think. There was a time when I was in high school that I was looking exclusively at the Claremont colleges and daydreaming about going to school in a place that was at least 90% stucco. In the end I didn't even apply because enough people told me that really I hated southern California and it was miserably hot and did I know it was filled with smog and everyone was terrible and superficial there and as a welcome greeting they make you get Botox and a boob job and the damage to your soul is irreversible? So I applied other places instead and then Yale said it'd be okay if I wanted to show up there for four years, and I said "you're kidding me, right?" but then they weren't, and so I moved to the northeast.
When I graduated from Yale, I thought again that maybe I would like to move to California, but then the majority of my school friends and my older sister moved to New York, and suddenly it seemed like maybe New York was the best place in the world because it's New York! And it has everything! And everything is open all the time! And Jon Stewart loves it! And I like seasons and the northeast was a very nice home for me, and I already knew that I loved New York. Other benefits of moving to New York included not having to get a driver's license, and being able to be mean to people right out in public if I wanted instead of being passive aggressive and fake nice to people all the time, which is the Seattle special. I visited New York and the people working at JFK thought I was coming home. I took the subway and saw friends and ran around and went to street fairs in Brooklyn and saw plays at The Public and felt very cool and chic. And I thought about New York for a long time. I still think about New York. I really, really love New York. The one, and really only, true downside to New York is simple: I do not want to live there.
So I stayed in Seattle because I didn't know what the fuck I was doing or how I would afford anything ever because everywhere is expensive and far away and nowhere has everyone. This is the one real downside to everywhere: someone you love lives somewhere else.
As I've mentioned before, I love Seattle. I love the Pacific Northwest. Very much. We share a name with Kanye's baby, and we have clean air, and water, and trees, and mountains, and so many health food stores and bike lanes that sometimes I think we're imaginary. I love how almost everything in Seattle is a little underground and hipster-y in a way that feels appropriate and organic. Even when it isn't. And I loved growing up here. My childhood here was full of parks and creative dance classes and learning how to walk on a deck in the woods. There will never be another city that I love the way I love Seattle.
But last spring, on the brink of a lot of big changes in my life, I had a breakdown about this city from which I can't recover. I realized that among the many things about Seattle that I had always known but never noticed, was the fact that it is not a diverse city. It is a city where most of the people are white, and the ones who aren't are very much segregated into the more far away neighborhoods. It is a city with a large homeless population, much of which is black, and some of which is related to me. It is a city where I spent 18 years believing that by virtue of being black, I could not ever be beautiful, or popular, or seen, and that feeling is still in the air for me here.
The first time I went to LA, I only spent 6 hours there. It was the summer after my sophomore year of college, and I flew into Long Beach and met my friend, who was in LA for school, and together we road tripped up the coast back to Seattle. She picked me up at the airport and we drove back to her campus, which sat on this insane looking bluff. Her school was all white Spanish-style buildings, and stucco, and palm trees. It was like walking into the college brochures I'd swooned over in high school. It was like being in a dream.
The second time I went to LA, I was there for several days with my good friend from college. We stayed at her brother's apartment and got studio tours and wandered around Rodeo Drive and did all the very tourist things to do around the city. We laid out by the pool and laughed about how it was snowing in New Haven. We ate brunch, and we went to rooftop bars in Santa Monica and I eavesdropped on girls rehashing horror stories from their Tinder dates. And I thought, I do not belong here, and I do not like these people, and I do not want to leave.
The third time I went to LA, I already knew I wanted to go and live there. I went with my friend as a birthday present to myself, this past January. And I went and I didn't tell anyone that I already knew I wanted to go and live there. People asked if I was scoping it out and I said, "God, no!" the way you're trained to do when you live in Seattle and anyone asks you if you like California at all. But I knew.
I like to say I feel about LA the way I once felt about pop music: I love it, but I don't want anyone to know how much I love it or how happy it makes me.
It's an odd thing to feel at home in a place that isn't yours. It's odd to feel at home in a place that is not designed for a person like you, a 24-year old black girl who doesn't yet know how to drive. To want to go there and try to do something that is going to be exceptionally hard, and maybe impossible, and maybe will ruin you. It's odd, and there are days when I look at myself in the mirror and try to talk me out of it, because, more than odd, it is potentially the stupidest decision I've ever made.
But still, it is one I am making. Because I am tired of the stale feeling of being stuck that I have in Seattle. Because I am tired of feeling stunted and ugly and invisible. Because it is warm there, and some of the people I love are there. Because it feels like a place I don't want to leave. Because of the bluff and the ocean. Because of the tourist bullshit. Because it scares the shit out of me. Because it is spray-tanned and broke and weird. Because it is racist in a new way. Because it is bad in a new way. Because it is amazing in a new way. Because when something feels impossibly hard and everyone says not to, I want to do it. Because I want to do it. Because I want to. Because I want to.
Because. I want to.