Ever since I was a wide-eyed junior transfer into UCLA, I’ve made this trip at least four or five times a year. Sometimes six. At first I’d fly through I-5 armed with a few mix CDs that I could sing along to in order to keep me awake. I don’t miss the drive, nor the inherent loneliness of bombing up and down an Interstate freeway with only Boyz II Men and Usher to keep me company. But I do miss being able to sing with abandon for a long stretch. It’s therapeutic, to pretend for hours that I have the vocal range to wet panties and get money, but now I exclusively fly to Los Angeles. It’s funny how my feelings for LA have changed since I made that switch.
My love for Los Angeles has weathered a little. There’s a patina of disillusionment on my thoughts of LA, which comes with removing one’s self from the faux responsibilities of college and the very real consequences of adulthood. I once loved LA for what it represented – a formative time where some of my happiest memories were spent drinking soju from green bottles and screaming into microphones. There was that one time when I oversalted my soup and ended up vomiting pure crystals on the sidewalk. There was another when I navigated through a fistfight to meet friends at a pool hall that no longer exists. But going back now just represents an era that I can never return to. An era that some of my friends are still in.
I envy my friends. The stubborn dreamers, the ones who couldn’t compromise their futures the way I have. I know why I’ve done what I did. I know that I’ve made the right decisions for my career to fit my current circumstances. I can’t afford to be this stubborn dreamer, someone who throws words at a wall, hoping that one day I can make something that I can live off of. But when I see my friends doing the same, it does make me jealous. I’m also proud of them, of course. Much more proud than jealous, of course. But I don’t know if I’ve ever told them how jealous I am of them, of how much I want them to succeed, to thrive, to become legends, because I never even tried to.
This love for LA, it’s irrevocably changed. It still exists. Nostalgia still washes over me when I see the street signs of Koreatown. Wilshire, Alexandria, 6th, Olympic, Vermont, Western.
I like to think it’s been replaced by this comfort and attachment I have to San Francisco. But I’ve already written at length about how that comfort and attachment is linked to a city that’s shifting away from its original allure. My love for this city has also weathered. It has been, and always will be, my home. My love for my home will never go away, though it’s no longer a home than I recognize.
There’s no longer a home I can recognize.
All I have now are beds that I’m comfortable sleeping in, friends that I’m blessed to still connect with, a family I’m blessed to still have, memories that teach me everything…but the one overriding lesson that drowns out the others is this – I’ve changed because everything around me has as well.
It’s not a good or a bad thing. It just makes me wish I could go back to those days when it felt like things made sense. But I know that they only make sense now because I’m looking back, not forward.