One night at the condo in Lake Tahoe, after being surrounded by the stark beauty of snow, I gathered my toiletries and headed downstairs to brush up for bed. As I looked into the mirror, I stared at my reflection with utter detachment. Sure, there was the same long brown hair I was used to, the same mouth, face, and ears. I had become accustomed to seeing this version of myself over the past several months, but I never noticed how dull my eyes had become. I was living in the body of a complete stranger; I had forsaken my very being for a false promise of “love”. I didn’t know what I wanted anymore, what I believed, or even what I stood for. My life was a big, ominous, lingering question mark. The feeling was quite eerie and unsettling.
Seemingly overnight, I had gone from belonging to someone- being owned by someone- to falling down hard on the spear of directionless solitude. My possessor had been a conglomeration of angry, confused masks- filled with delusion- and I now had to climb out of the subterranean depths to which I’d let myself be dragged.
After I returned from Lake Tahoe, I knew that this short trip was not nearly enough. My wheels had been set into motion, and I couldn’t stop them. My path was a blank page staring down at me, demanding I put pen to paper. Thoughts were not enough; I needed action. I had to begin drawing a new map, completely different from any I’d ever seen. It wasn’t important if I didn’t know north from south, right from wrong, sane from bat-shit crazy. I was at zero with two choices left: 1. To linger there in dull complacency, welcoming misery as a life-long companion, or 2. Use the last morsels of self-respect and fragments of tenacity I had to carve my way somewhere, somehow. Anywhere, anyhow… It had to be done.
And so, a mere two days after I returned from Tahoe, I repacked my bags and headed on a road trip to LA. My good friend and I hopped into her car and drove down the ever-familiar I-5 South to the city where I first discovered independence. While I have my qualms about LA’s traffic and various levels of superficiality, it will still always be like an old friend to me. The endless sprawl of concrete and its rich diversity of culture (not to mention economy) was where I first discovered myself outside the parameters of my childhood. I first arrived in 2001 at the age of 19, not knowing a soul, and left with my Bachelor’s degree from UCLA and a group of intelligent, genuine, true friends.
Perhaps it wasn’t coincidental that I returned to Los Angeles over a decade later to rediscover myself. I needed a place of respite from recent memories, and a new angle from which to view the components of my situation. I had to rearrange my life’s unrecognizably morphed puzzle pieces and formulate a plan of perseverance.
At this point, I had gotten enough consistent freelance work to get by, so the location independence allowed me to stay about a month or so with my friend, who was living in Little Ethiopia. Most of the time, she and I hung out at her friend’s place in Hollywood, a mere block from the Avenue of the Stars.
Aside from working, watching several episodes of “Girls”, and doting on her friend’s adorable fur ball of a cat, I had the chance to visit many of my college friends. There really is no better tonic for life’s struggles than surrounding yourself with people you love to simply talk and laugh. (Okay, that and travel.) It reminded me that my circumstances were temporary, and the person I truly was still existed, albeit buried under layers of unfortunate choices and occurrences. I had made several mistakes, even turned my back on those who mattered the most, while chasing an illusion down the rabbit hole. I ignored a furious whirlwind of red flags and ultimately landed in a place I had never expected. I was alone again, at age 31, redesigning my life’s journey, recreating my self out of broken fragments, hope, and an unwillingness to give up. I had allowed myself to be mistreated in the bull-headed hope of finding happiness through marriage. I had never been so terribly wrong.
What I needed was a new start, a clean slate, a different place to live and be. My recipe for happiness had to be based on pure self-reliance from this point forward. I could no longer depend on another individual to make me smile, comfort me, distract or entertain me, and most importantly, give my life a sense of purpose. This previous perspective was futile at best; I had been building an illusory mansion on the sliest of quick sands.
I had the painful, sobering realization that everything I sought had to come from within. While humanity is undoubtedly interconnected, I believe that it is the individual who is ultimately responsible for his or her destiny. This meant that my career, writing, health, attitude, journey, and happiness were solely my responsibility. There was no room for blame, regrets, or excuses- the hard and painful truth was that I had naively gotten myself into my current situation, and I was the only one who could get myself out of it.
The time had come for movement and drastic change, and I knew where I needed to go.