So, I have a love/hate relationship with Los Angeles – or maybe it is actually a love to hate relationship. Growing up in Southern California, an hour northeast of LA, LA was always the mecca of shopping, culture, the beach. I loved going down to LA and what it had to offer. However, as an adult with a broader world experience, LA is the worst of what a city has to offer – not because of what is available, but because of the lack of convenience, the lack of closeness, the huge requirements for driving time and the excessive traffic exacerbated by the lack of an effective public transportation system. So, there are things I love to do in LA, but the effort is so significant that it can outweigh the benefit. Especially when you have a busy life and time constraints – don’t we all.
Being down here for so many weeks, I have visited some of my favorite spots (fabric district and the Wasteland on Melrose), found some new gems (Purple Orchid Tiki Lounge in El Segundo) and taken some of the journeys/drives I did in my youth when I was heavily into a love affair with my car. It has been bittersweet, seeing what has and has not changed compared to my days in high school and college, some changes for the good and some for the bad. As I traversed some of the roads I used to drive “back in the day” in my sleek pageant blue convertible MGB, I felt a sadness and nostalgia for what once was and for the freedom (notice I did not say innocence ) I allowed myself back then. As I drive to get one place to another, I sometimes daydream about taking that other road – you know, that one that trails off to the right with the weeping willow hanging low next to it, that you don’t know where it goes or how long it will take you to get there, but just looks so appealing. I don’t usually take the other road – I am a creature of efficiency and speed, sometimes taking the longer mileage for the shorter time, but always trying to save my time for something else. But as a teenager, I took the time to take the road less traveled, to meander, to experiment. I drove down roads just because I never had. I took an odd meandering highway instead of the freeway because that is what my parents drove before the freeway was built and I wanted to experience it. I took an extra 30 minutes to get to work occasionally because that was the really pretty drive and I enjoyed every second. I took strange esoteric routes because I could. I would drive somewhere with a general goal – like the beach or the mountains – with no specific direction or instructions, just a direction and take whatever roads kept heading me that way until I reached my goal. As I said, I had a love affair with driving and with my car and I reveled in the experiences even if they were slow, inefficient, and sometimes didn’t get me where I needed to go at all.
And realizing this, part of me was sad – because I don’t have the time to meander anymore. Correction, I don’t GIVE myself the time to meander. And maybe I don’t want to meander… at least not on the road. But, I need to have a love affair with myself to allow the meandering, the stalling, the dillydallying, the side routes, the indirect routes, with other parts of my life. I need to allow myself the opportunity to revel in the experiences, to learn, to grow, or even just to enjoy instead of pushing through in an automated manner just to reach an end goal. At the end of life, I don’t want to be driving with everyone else on the freeway with quick stops for gas and bathroom, I want to be able to say that I took that pretty route, that I stopped at the top of the mountain, that I picnicked next to a stream somewhere in some place that I may never see again, but I gave myself those experiences. That I loved life and myself enough to have those experiences. Whether those are in the car, in the dance studio, at home, they are worthwhile and not a waste of time.
We all change and we all grow, but I like to think that kernels of ourselves exist from every age and experience we have had. Hopefully we take the good things and grow out of the bad. But I realized during this summer from hell that I need to revisit some of those places within me and regain an appreciation of the time that I once spent on the journey.