Less than 12 months ago I wrote about moving on, leaving things behind to reach new horizons. I moved to Los Angeles in June, seduced by the promise of corporate success and the beautiful beaches of Malibu. But California turned out, for me, to be more allure than substance. Such is the art of seduction: an ebb and flow of unfulfilled desires. So, New York, here is your love letter: It’s been 10 months and I’m coming back home.
I don’t blame California for my bad experience out here. She was simply the stunning backdrop to my story of personal disappointment. It’s a timeless story, really: A person I trusted, someone I believed had my best interests at heart, let me down. It isn’t the first time someone or something has disappointed me, it’s just that the stakes were higher this time. My fiance and I put a lot on the line for a chance at success based on empty promises.
Yet if there’s one card I hate to play it’s the Victim. It’s a vulnerable state. A powerless condition. It requires admitting defeat and assuming a lack of control. The downside of holding onto this card, however, is internal criticism. It’s holding the gun in the wrong direction. So what are my options? I hold the gun to myself, I suffer. I hold the gun outward, I suffer.
In my armchair psychiatrist quest to find answers online, I came across a very interesting article from The Association of Psychological Science on the science of revenge. The piece explains the evolutionary benefits of anger and vengeful actions and it also reveals that when we get what we think we want — to see our transgressors suffer — we are dissatisfied. In fact, it’s the people who are able to let go, turn the other biblical cheek, who feel better. It’s quite a tall order, and one I’m not sure I can deliver on just yet. There’s a bridge that takes us from anger to forgiveness, which allows us to let go, but I can’t figure out how to build it.
I start with the bittersweet: Despite the exorbitant costs of moving back east, regardless that things did not go as expected or planned (isn’t that always the way?), I know in the long run I will cherish this experience, just as I’ve cherished loves lost. California is the one who got away, the one you weren’t with long enough to know what could have been, and so it will beat intensely in my memory; the “what ifs” always more powerful than the reality.
Next, the big picture: I’m happy to be going home to what and who I know. Logically it makes sense to replant my roots where I want to stay for the long haul. When all this stress is past us, we will look back on this year with fondness.*
*(Unless The Big One hits while we’re still here and/or we’re in desperate need for $10K now in the pockets of movers.)
Next up, the painful: “And anytime you feel the pain/Hey Jude, refrain/Don’t carry the world upon your shoulders/For well you know it’s a fool who plays it cool/By making this world a little colder.” My feelings are hurt and they need to heal. Unfortunately, there is no Neosporin for infected emotions. I did the usual emotional eating, some smoking, some drinking, lots of venting, but the constant application of these salves does nothing for the cut; Pain killer, yes. Wound healer, no. I understand logically that forgiveness is healing, but what if your aggressor doesn’t ask for it? How are you to trade in anger for acceptance?
Next, the instructions for how to build: The Tiny Buddha recommends finding the lesson in any given situation. Accepting what happens in your life is easier when you find some meaning. The biggest lessons I’ve learned from my time in California:
1. Impulsivity has a price
2. I can survive without my family and friends nearby
3. Staying in touch with family and friends makes the world smaller and safer
4. I can make new friends anywhere
5. I can rely on my soon-to-be-husband for almost anything
6. I can grow to like people I once loathed
7. I can loathe people I once liked
8. Respecting the people I work with is immensely important to my well being
9. A person’s title and salary are not directly correlated to their intelligence or abilities
10. I don’t give myself enough credit
Ah, it’s number 10, that’s the cornerstone. I think many of us are guilty of this, which is why we take it so badly when someone hurts us or when we are disappointed. The person in question who hurt me did so by undermining and undervaluing me. For someone as deeply insecure as myself, that’s going for the jugular while chomping on the Achilles heel. Compound this with a natural tendency to find fault within myself when things don’t go according to plan.
With these truths exposed the building can begin. I know that I’m stronger than what life throws at me. I could play it safe and never take chances, never trust anyone, let my fears protect me, but that’s not the life I want. How do I know this?
Over 10 years ago, I went to Arizona with my dad and we had the opportunity to take a helicopter ride over the Grand Canyon. I really wanted to do it but my dad was too afraid. That’s when I made a decision I still regret. Though I could have taken that helicopter ride without him, I allowed his fears to become mine and I stayed on the ground. It seems to me today that taking the risk was worth the incredible experience in return. I vowed to myself after that incident to never again forgo experience for fear.
Had I listened only to my fears 10 months ago, I’d never learn the valuable lessons I came out here to learn. This is life. It’s both beautiful and nasty, cruel and merciful. And all of us are full of these same dualities found in nature. “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
Californians fear earthquakes that threaten to strike at any given moment, but still they go about their lives keeping this knowledge at bay; there’s too much beauty to experience.
To see snapshots of our adventure, check out my tumblr page: A Year in LA.