I lived my first three weeks in Los Angeles as if I were on vacation. Of course there was work to attend to Monday through Friday and a more permanent living situation to find, but there was also wine to drink and food to eat and money to spend in a reckless manner.
The lingering echoes of my long-running employment woes can be found everywhere. Whenever I think that I have uncovered them all, another appears and I am left unnerved by the far-reaching effects.
When I moved home right after college, I lived like a saint, or as much of a saint as is possible for a 22-year-old. About a year into that stay, I was finally able to find a temp job answering phones at the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, and I stashed almost all of the money I made there in my childhood savings account. I had a specific goal in mind and that goal was New York City. I had only the faintest notion of what I would do once I landed there, but I knew that I would need money to do it.
When New York failed, or when I failed it, and I returned to Boston, there was to be no saintly behavior. The weekly unemployment checks that I arrived with were eventually replaced by those from a part-time job in retail, and although I was grateful for both in turn, I couldn’t escape their measly nature. New York left me in a financial hole that I am still crawling out of in some ways, and in those years money would come in and quickly flow out. After my cellphone bill and my student loan payment and the ridiculous sum that I paid to keep a Brooklyn storage unit filled with my furniture on the off chance that something turned my way, there was almost nothing left. Days turned into weeks turned into months that turned into years and the margins collapsed in on me. As my third year of living at home began, there stopped being enough for trips to see friends or weekends off, but there was just enough for small extras to distract myself from all those things that were eating away at me.
I was locked in the cramped space of that existence. I put long-term goals and far-reaching dreams on hold and instead focused on the limited joys of the now. I was obsessed with feeling my age, with living fully within my youth, even if only for small stretches of time because in almost every other moment I felt weighed down and decrepit.
It was a stupid plan, if one can even describe it as such, and I gained nothing from it. But still I ate and drank and shopped to my heart’s content while living in constant fear that my debit card would be declined some Wednesday morning while on an iced coffee run to Dunkin’ Donuts.
It was. More than once.
Even though there was nothing to run from any longer, I found myself playing the same games when I got off of the plane and stepped into the California sunshine. I didn’t need all of that noise to block out my discomfort and anxiety. I could finally search for solace in the quiet moments, but I didn’t know how to do that anymore. I shifted the blame for my noisy living onto others. The apartment that I was subletting in those weeks usually spent its time vacant. As a consequence, I spent that first week without gas. Unrelatedly, the fridge was known to have, um, moments. There was nothing else to do but eat out and drink out. Even after the gas was turned on and I discovered the intricacies of the fridge, the indulgences continued. I was satisfying the urges of that saint-like 22-year-old. In possession of more money than I had seen in nearly seven years, I took to living what I thought my 20s were supposed to look like and what they were never really allowed to be.
I loved silence once, preferred it above all else, but a piece of me was broken. The spectre of failure still haunted me. I dreaded the possibility of having to crawl back once again.
At the start of my fourth week in Los Angeles, I moved out of the sublet and into my current home. The house sits atop a hill cut off from the sounds of the stretch of Sunset Boulevard that runs through Silver Lake. As I sat on the floor of my room on that first day surrounded by my suitcases and an airbed, I realized that I would have to acknowledge what was going on and, more importantly, to deal with it. I wasn’t running away anymore. It was time to remember that.