I’m in my 20’s now, living 3,000 miles away from my original home of upstate New York and I have, through time and necessity, officially become an Angeleno. As in, I don’t mind talk of crystals one bit (pass the quartz baby!), I will spend 14 dollars on a health smoothie under just the right amount of peer pressure, and “No worries!” is my goddamn catchphrase. To some, this transformation is a no brainer. Droves and droves of Americans fleeing the repressive vibes of the colonial Northeast, the bible thumping South, or the corn maze of the Midwest find solace in taking on the Los Angeles identity and all the ironic overalls and succulents that come along with it. They deem their hometowns and maybe even their family to be archaic, old news!
I however struggle with it all; there’s a part of me that tells myself I’m not allowed to change. I almost feel like I am betraying my hometown and all the people that shaped me by doing so. It is one thing to want to stay the loud, fast talking, opinionated rascal that I more or less was when I popped out of my mother’s womb… but to stunt my own growth? Majorly uncool. Why is there a weird pressure to stay the same? Do your loved ones fear a more evolved you? As humans, it’s our right to change and grow whenever the hell we want. In fact, it’s simply survival. It could be your political views or the style of your clothes — but for me, it was both.
I was 18 and in high school when I casted my vote for Mormon wonder boy, Mitt Romney. My parents practically demanded it. But honestly, I thought he was a decent candidate. He was handsome, seemingly moral, a family man, and from that vantage point, he didn’t seem much different than, say, Barack Obama.
I think all my Los Angeles friends fainted when I told them who I voted for — someone they saw as just another rich, Republican devil. Yet, on the other hand, I have my upstate New York friends thinking I’ve spent too much time in the land of legal marijuana and lost my mind to that dirty liberalism stuff!
They see a photograph of me in my turtleneck layered underneath a “Girls Can Do Anything” t-shirt holding my “BEWARE FASCISM” poster at the Women’s March and practically spit out their Stewart’s coffee (Stewart’s is an essential Upstate New York mini mart, by the way).
I guess by now you get the picture that Upstate New York and New York City are vastly different; the capital, Albany, where I hail from is where George Washington and Alexander Hamilton used to pick up girls and I don’t think much has changed since, to be quite frank. I remember visiting the Schuyler Mansion (where Hamilton literally met his wife Eliza) often as a child or seeing posters that said “Melville Matters” around my school — yes, Herman Melville of Moby Dick fame went to my prep school. There were these posters of Herman Melville with photoshopped sporty, modern sunglasses everywhere. Basically, Albany has its history and that’s really it for them.
Last time I was back there, townspeople were lamenting that not even Uber was allowed within city limits. I immediately (and sarcastically) thought, ‘Oh man, the politicians are keeping out that spooky modern technology!’ The cab companies are all like, ‘WE DON’T WANT ROBOTS TAKING OUR JOBS, DAMN IT!’ And then there I was, in silver sparkly jeans, a dyed red bob, and a shag carpet looking jacket walking the same streets where the founding fathers first whispered about who to strategically leave out of the Constitution. I felt too current for my own town. Had I really outgrown the place that I would cry at night missing back in Los Angeles?
I have this one very clear memory of me crying to an LA crush, “I miss my cousins! I miss home!” He looked at me like I was talking about missing heroin. He said, “Really Miranda? You’re never going to acclimate to LA if you keep worrying about stuff that no longer matters.” To Mr. LA, my own flesh and blood and the place that raised me “no longer mattered.” It felt almost dystopian. My heart was racing, I wanted to scream but then I realized despite his extremism and lack of human compassion — he was, in a sense, right.
By not letting go, the meat of my life was still happening on those trips home. I could not have meaningful relationships while stalking my high school sweetheart on Instagram, imagining how shit-faced everyone got on St. Patrick’s Day without me, or FaceTiming my cousins on Friday night instead of going out and making new platonic bonds. It was as if my life was freezing and unfreezing, depending which side of the country I was on. It was time to let go of the cyberstalking, the month-long visits, and the crying to West Coast dates about how quaint and missable the Dutch architecture is in downtown Albany (really actually quite quaint and missable, Google it).
Today it’s been almost two years since this revelation about home and how to let go without becoming an evil LA cyborg; I’m sitting in my apartment in Little Armenia, adjacent to the very homey almost quaint Los Feliz and I feel okay. I look forward to visiting “home” this holiday season but I recognize that it will not hold the same power or pull as it once did. I’ll enjoy the cider, snow, a horse drawn carriage ride or two (yes Albany has those — it’s basically a real life episode of Gilmore Girls) but I won’t fall victim to senseless nostalgia again or the shame that others try to put on me for “changing.” I’ll pridefully speak of my love of democrat Elizabeth Warren, yoga-spin hybrid studios and ironic overalls. I’ll encourage everyone to recycle, and, at least consider eliminating dairy from their diets. I’ll look at old acquaintances who still get plastered at the same bar every night and, until very recently, weren’t afforded the privilege of ordering an Uber home with neither pity nor jealousy. I will empathize with ye old townspeople because we are all going through growing pains.
Adulthood hits you like a ton of bricks and suddenly you are expected to cultivate this thing called a “meaningful existence” — your own sense of true North. Whether you’re in old timey Albany or new agey Los Angeles, you’re going to keep running into yourself. Your being is the only home you will inhabit for the rest of your days… so feel free to renovate.