two years in l.a. (perpetual)

I’m listening to VNV Nation’s Perpetual right now, which has achingly sweet chords in the dinimished-minor-to-major-fifth shift patterns I’m just addicted to, and I’m having one of those terribly happy moments, where I think about everything that’s right in my life.

I realized yesterday that it was my Los Angeles Anniversary: two years since I came down over the Tejon Pass, south on I-5 to L.A. I’d spent a week on the road getting here, through Seattle and Portland, along the Oregon coast from Tillamook down to California, south from Eureka along the CA-1 to San Francisco. I spent three days in the Bay Area, a night in Fresno, and got in on May 30th, 2004, to stay with my adopted aunt, my mother’s best friend from high school for a couple nights, until I could move into what became known as Casa Mar Vista.

I knew that the move to L.A. was the right path to take, at the time, and two years later, I’ve never doubted that. I’ve never regretted moving here, or leaving Vancouver. L.A. pushed me to grow up, to expand my own horizons, to see the world differently. I had to teach myself the city in order to understand it, and I changed in the process. I had to see a lot I didn’t want to here – poverty, misery, urban destruction – but it forced me to open my eyes beyond the perspective of the middle-class white girl from Canada.

But when I read a few blog entries from my earliest days here, I blush. I had such a different expectation for myself then, and I’m not proud of it. I spent the first year and change I was here trying to shift myself into someone who’d been popular her whole life. I went to the beach to get a tan on weekends. I read chick lit. I went to clubs or to see acquaintances’ bands on weekend nights. I blush because I am embarassed at how quickly I tried to change into some sort of All-American Girl. And worse, I told myself I wasn’t bored senseless doing all those things.

I’ve done a lot of introspection year to date, for 2006. Part of that is because the last time I really turned myself inside out was in November, when I had to really look at myself, flaws and all, and compare my actions to my own self-image. But mostly, it’s because I’ve been in one place for longer than a year, for the first time in forever. And instead of looking for an identity based on the city I live in, I started shaping the city into who I am. So instead of trying fit the image of Girl About Town In Los Angeles, I started choosing the aspects of Los Angeles that I liked best.

Or rather, let’s put it this way: when I first got here, I wanted to go to trendy clubs because I live in L.A., and that’s what people in L.A. do. Two years later, I’ve accepted that I hate trendy clubs, and I hate the music they play there, and I hate the clothes I have to wear to blend in. And I’m not going to become someone who likes trendy clubs just because I go to them. I am, however, blissfully happy dancing to industrial/darkwave/ebm/synthpop at goth clubs. This is not because I am unpopular, or a loser, or whatever other high school stigma I may associate with it. This is just because I like that music, and I like that scene, and I like the aesthetics and romanticism of goth, and it doesn’t matter what I think I should do because I live in L.A. What matters is that what I do, regardless of what city I live in, is what I love to do.

I KNOW all this is obvious, but it turned out to be major insight, OK? Apply that kind of philosophy to, oh, my entire life and THAT is why I’m not proud of who I was when I got here two years ago. I was too insecure to see something that obvious.

So two years later, I’m happy because I feel more at ease in my own skin. Which shows. A lot. Or so I like to think. Two years is a long time for me to be in one place, without the distraction of moving and re-adapting to a new city, or a new phase of life in the same one. And most importantly, two years later, life is awesome. It is just really good being Jillian. And now, while I still love Los Angeles (and my relationship with the city is a separate entry I’ll probably post on many of the things that make me happiest aren’t even specific to L.A. Maybe I could have learned all this in a city with lower rent, but I think I had to go to a city where image matters so much, in order to learn that it shouldn’t matter at all.

Two years into my time in L.A., and life is ridiculously awesome. And I’m not saying that because life’s good by someone else’s standards, which is kind of how I felt for a while the first year I was here. I’m saying that because life IS awesome, and I’m happy. I have fabulous friends here. I live in Venice Beach. I like my job, and I love my industry and career path. I’ve found the geek community, I write for blogs, I play kickball, I ride my bike on mass rides. I have rediscovered my love of all things goth. I have a boyfriend I like a hell of a lot, and who likes me just as much. It’s definitely my life, and I might be the only person who would be happy in it…but I’m the only person who has to be happy with it.

And that is what I have learned in the two years since I got here.

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