Friday, October 10, 2008

Third Anniversary

I haven't tried to say anything profound in awhile. Probably for good reason. Read on...

Today makes three.

Then it was an air mattress with a single pillow. A clock radio glowing with red numbers near my head. A suitcase with a week's worth of clothes not far from my feet. Outside - the city.

Three years ago today I unloaded four cats, a suitcase and a few odds and ends into my new apartment. For three days I had traveled from Alma, Kansas to Los Angeles, California. I crossed mountains. I outran a storm at the peak of the Rockies. I spent a night on the edge of the desert as the October sun set in the direction of my travels.

The trip surprised me. I never planned to make it; never dreamed I'd live in such a place. I never desired it. I never wished for it. Then it was. Now three years have passed and tomorrow begins a fourth year. And then maybe a fifth? A sixth?

So much has passed between that first night on the air mattress in an empty apartment and now. More furniture. Less cats. A whole world of friends and coworkers and moments that will someday make for endless hours of stories and laughter.

I never meant to come here. Living in Los Angeles was the furthest idea from my mind as I sat in my house in Kansas, yet I knew even as I said no the first time that eventually I was coming here. I took the night offered me to think about it and I did. I spent that night trying to talk myself out of moving.

It wasn't Los Angeles. It wasn't the opportunity or the promotion. It wasn't the lure of Hollywood, the temptation of the climate or the entrancing roar of the ocean waves. It may have been as simple as having been asked to go. A surprising new wrinkle. Fodder for a thousand stories. An adventure.

And it was a test. Like many, I have spent a lifetime figuring out what I want to be when I grow up. Also, I have spent a lifetime figuring out where I belong. I always thought it was the small towns I had known as a child. Porch swings. Neighbors stopping by. Friday night high school football games. And I do belong there - sometimes.

I have learned in the passing years that I also belong in the city with all its many small wonders. Movie theatres. Live shows. College football games. Sparkling computer parts stores. I enjoy the trappings of the urban core - sometimes.

One day, about a year after I had moved to Los Angeles, I drove the short distance to the beach. I walked along the water's edge not far from the Manhattan Beach pier and stopped for awhile to watch the sun sink near the horizon. I realized then that I had come as far as I could go. I stood at the edge of the earth peering into the vastness of the ocean. A lifetime had brought me to that moment and that place. It was the first time I felt at peace with deciding to move here.

A year later I returned from a winter trip back to Nebraska. It was Christmas. On the last night in Lincoln it snowed about 12 inches and Thaddeus and I shoveled the drive all morning trying to free the car. Thaddeus braved the elements and probably imminent death getting me to the airport. At LAX, the glass doors opened out into a warm night. Good to be home, I thought. A first.

Home remains an elusive ideal. Is it the place we are born? The place we die? The place we live longest? Is home truly where the heart is? Or simply the place we always go back to? I do not know.

I have lived in only two places longer than I have lived in Los Angeles - Lincoln and Caddo Mills. When people ask where I'm from I say Nebraska even though I have lived more of my life somewhere else. When I tell stories about my childhood I say I grew up in Texas even though I grew up in other places too. For me, home has never been a place. Instead, home resides in the souls of people I find in those places. It's why my parents' house feels like home though I never lived there. It's why I have a niece and nephew in Lincoln though I'm not related to their parents at all. Home travels with us.

Had I never lived in Los Angeles I may not have learned that lesson. In Los Angeles, almost everyone is from someplace else. The wall of my cubicle is lined with over a dozen flags representing the countries where my coworkers were born. They come from across the globe and speak as many languages as there are flags. If home were simply a place, we would all be a long way from it.

I learn something new from them each day. Words. Customs. Traditions. Foods - oh, the foods! Most importantly I learn that home is where we make it.

For now, this is my home. I do not know for how much longer. Years? Decades? Next week? This place is far from perfect. Long commutes. Dirty air. Homeless folks panhandling on the corners. Prostitutes displaying their goods at the stoplights on Crenshaw. This place is not all that bad either. Shiny new movie theatres. Countless arenas, stadiums, coliseums and a Rose Bowl. Only twenty days of rain a year. No winter. No snow.

Today makes three years in Los Angeles though it hardly seems possible. Here in this last place on earth I thought I'd be I find it harder to imagine being anywhere else. It doesn't always feel like home, but it feels like a good place to call home for awhile. A time will come when I get tired of the noise, the traffic, the grit of the city and I'll go somewhere else. Where? I do not know?

I never wanted to move to Los Angeles, but when the chance came I took it because I thought I might find home. Having found it nowhere else, the big city seemed like a good place to look. If I didn't find it in the city then maybe in the places I had already been.

On this last day of my third year I can say I have found home. Home is the place that makes us happy. Home is the people that make it that way. And home need not be a single place when it can be anyplace we want it to be.


AmyER said...

Funny, I too am from Nebraska and grew up in Texas. Don't I know you? I didn't find home either, but it found me. Now I just pack it up and take it wherever I am led. Home isn't a tangible thing, it's a concept.

Brent said...

It sounds like we may be related.

Becky Rose said...

Oh Brent....*sniff*...

spinningmom said...

Ok I now really love you Brent. Thanks for that reminder. It really is true "Home is where your heart is"

FonckFamily said...

Not related to their parents!?! What?!? I thought we were cousins.