Thursday, October 19, 2017

Strangelove: how I learned to stop worrying and love Los Angeles

Loft Cafe is still pretty mellow on a Saturday night - unlike the rest of Koreatown. Many of the same restaurants we passed on Friday night at 10:00pm are lively and busy at 9:00pm on Saturday night. There are three groups around us here, one party of four, one couple, and a pair of friends. They are all speaking Korean, so the content is nothing I can decipher, but the music of their language inspires my words. If I relax my mind, just a little, just enough, I will feel like I’m back in Seoul. And it will feel as natural to me as anything else. That is the treasure of a lifetime of traveling abroad: you get used to being without your language. You get used to not understanding the crowds. This doesn’t intimidate you, worry you, or make you feel estranged. The fact of your not understanding is as natural as understanding.

I moved to LA at the age of 17 and left at 21. I am now 29 years old. As an adult over a decade older a great deal mightier and more mature, I am realizing that finally untethered myself from Los Angeles.

I didn’t need LA for money. My job and revenue were coming from somewhere else.

I didn’t need LA for love. I already fell in love and had been happily coupled for seven years.

I didn’t need LA for status. I had already proved myself to myself. Who cares if these people don’t notice me, or like me, or are impressed by me?

I can now walk past a long line of perfectly-dressed people waiting to get into a nightclub and feel no envy as I pass by in my flats and hoodie. I don’t care about looking like them, I don’t care about befriending them, I don’t hope to find a partner among them, I don’t hope to find a profession among them, I don’t hope to find my ego among them.

I can appreciate the beauty in the clothes and style of the people around me without the jealousy that accompanies it.  I can appreciate the music of a hundred languages around me, and I can be comfortable in not understanding. I don’t have to find an apartment or a job or get from one place to another. I can live my favorite life here and savor things as I want to savor them. That is the beauty of vacation, when my responsibilities are only to myself and I am the master of my fate. This is perhaps the compromise between the exotic and the familiar. I cannot experience a vacation this rewarding in other place (like Iceland) because I do not know them well enough to know what I like there. I have not been there long enough to find myself there. So everything is trial and error. But in LA I have a history, I have experiences, I have a map. So when I go I can follow my footsteps right back to my happiest memories, and create new ones as well.

- Loft Café, 9:45pm, Koreantown, January 28th

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