As a lifelong East Coaster, moving to the West Coast was a decision that left me very conflicted. I am so used to my cynical nature and general disdain for my surroundings: New York was made for me! After 28 years of ingrained negativity and anxiety, I saw the West Coast as a way out. While L.A.’s currency may be physical beauty and its biggest obsession all things celebrity, it also somehow manages to be a place where anxiety goes to die. I thought it was the perfect remedy to my long-held pessimism.
I have never seriously considered living in cities that aren’t metropoli. I fantasize about moving to a small town in Vermont, but in reality I am a pretty awful person, hell-bent on living somewhere that’s “happening.” My biggest gripe with being born and raised in Maryland was that songs weren’t written about the state, and barely any movies were filmed there. I want to live somewhere that people travel long distances to visit (though I hate tourists). I like to think that I suffer from a terrible case of FOMO rather than submit to the fact that I’m secretly an elitist brat.
For a while it felt like the West Coast pilgrimage was the right thing to do. Although I wasn’t in L.A. proper, but rather in the suburban beach town of Long Beach, I took very quickly to the California lifestyle. Much as I wouldn’t have admitted this a year or so ago, I enjoyed the constant pleasant weather and generally nice vibe people had there. I didn’t miss pushing through disgruntled people on crowded streets as much as I imagined I might. I did, however, sincerely miss the man with the cat on his head, as that was just pure art. I enjoyed talking about the entertainment industry and seeing the nightclubs I had heard were the settings for Lindsay Lohan recklessness. I was drinking the kale Kool-Aid.
At first I was very concerned that I wouldn’t find my tribe on the West Coast. I was nervous that only other neurotic weirdos would get me, and that everyone there would be too beautiful and fabulous to give me the time of day. A month or so in, I was fortunate enough to attend a writing conference that connected me with all sorts of talented, hilarious and accomplished women. I had found my sistren. (Many of them happened to also be New York transplants, so there’s that.)
The magical thing about L.A. is that it genuinely seems possible to have a laid-back, peaceful existence, even in such an industry-driven city. And maybe it’s just because I was regressing a bit and living at my mom’s house, but I felt like a happier version of myself. It wasn’t until it actually hit me what I had walked away from in New York that I really felt any sort of loss. Out of nowhere, the idea of New York felt romantic again, and I missed the energy and daily grind. I started to feel lonely because of my lack of friends and distance from the city. While having my mother cook for me was amazing, the fact of my living at home with no clear way out was a little disheartening. I decided that I needed to be back in New York and on my own, so I turned around and put myself and my cat on yet another cross-country flight to make my triumphant return. It’s only been two months, but it feels like the right decision for now.
I think that, for many creative people, there is a constant pull between the two coasts. New York is where most prolific writers, artists and performers got their start, but L.A. is where they go when things start getting good. What each place has the other lacks. I desperately miss the relaxed attitude and focus on health that L.A. provided, and I’ve pretty much gone right back to my cynical nature. Even so, my work and living situation have heightened my quality of life, and I get to be with the amazing friends and collaborators it took me years to collect. Turning back on all that permanently felt a little ridiculous. I know that someday I’ll return to the land of hiking and green juice, but until then it will remain the ex-lover I left because of a case of bad timing. The connection was real, but for now I have to stick it out with my mercurial, thrilling and often-times dysfunctional New York relationship.
Sarah duRivage-Jacobs is an actor/writer/improviser who lives in New York City with her cat, Jasper. She enjoys time travel, BBC television and receiving mugs as gifts.