One of my favorite movies is Orange County. It is the story of high school senior Shaun Brumder (Colin Hanks) and his desire to leave his Orange County bubble to attend Stanford University and become a writer. At the beginning of the film we learn that Shaun was rejected by Stanford because his guidance counselor (Lily Tomlin) sent the wrong transcript. Shaun is so determined to gain acceptance that he does things including introducing a board member to his crazy family and making the long drive up to Stanford with his brother Lance (Jack Black) to speak with the Dean of Admissions in person. After an unsuccessful visit with the dean, Shaun runs into Marcus Skinner (Kevin Kline), the author and Stanford professor he describes as his inspiration. He laments to Marcus that he is afraid that if he never leaves Orange County, he’ll never be able to become the writer he wishes to be.
At the end of the movie, Shaun returns to the OC and discovers that his parents had donated a large sum of money toward a new admissions building at Stanford (which had burned down when Lance and the dean’s secretary smoked a joint together). He had gotten in. He pauses for a moment and then says what I think is one of the best quotes in the movie (besides Lance casually asking the dean’s secretary if “she wanted to get naked and start the revolution”).
“…if Faulkner had left the South, would he had ever written A Light in August?” Or, what if James Joyce had left Ireland? Well, he did, but not in his heart,” Shaun said, “I don’t need to go to Stanford to become a writer. All I need are the people who inspire me.”
I feel like I had a similar revelation when I visited Chicago last week. It had been the first time I had been back since leaving the area in 2012. The air had a bitter chill and 80% of the time I was there was a near blizzard coming from the sky. Though living in Southern California has thinned my blood and spoiled me thoroughly, I took the winter conditions in stride and enjoyed the time with friends. Being in Chicago during this time allowed me to take note of things that I took for granted and now miss dearly. Most importantly, it allowed me come to terms with what I believe is the real reason I moved to LA in the first place.
When it comes to goals, I am one who tries to push things to the limit and go as far as I can possibly go. I remember having a conversation with one of my classmates when I was in elementary school. I told him, “I’m going to move to California and make something of myself and you’re going to be a loser working at the steel mill.” At that point, I hadn’t even stepped foot in the Golden State but I knew that I wanted it. When I was 18, I visited LA for the first time for a family reunion. Though I was underwhelmed by downtown, I was hooked when I saw the sights including Rodeo Drive, the Hollywood sign and streets perfectly lined by tall palm trees. From that point forward, California was all I ever thought about. My plan was to move to LA after finishing my studies at Purdue. Besides the beautiful scenery and increased probability of running into someone famous, I relished the challenge of getting here. For the majority of people at Purdue (and Big Ten schools in general), moving to Chicago is their dream. It allows them to have the big city lifestyle while staying relatively close to the towns where they grew up. But me being the person that I am, I felt the need to do something different. It took me a little longer than I planned to get here. I saw friends and classmates doing things that they wanted to do and making major accomplishments in their careers. It really bothered me that I wasn’t having those same moments and often felt inadequate when I was around people who were close to me. I felt like I had no way of relating to them, even though I wanted to.
The day I left on my four day drive was one of the happiest and scariest days of my life. It was so exciting to finally be on the quest to what I had wanted since I was nine years old. However, I worried endlessly about how I was going to make things happen once I got there. My first year here definitely had its challenges ranging from finding a suitable living situation to dealing with a demanding employer who had issues paying her staff decent wages. I remember thinking that maybe California and I just weren’t meant to be together and that maybe I should go back. But I stayed. And eventually, things became OK. I have a pretty good job, my affairs are pretty much in order and I’ve even started making some solid friends. However, I cannot help but think that now I’m at a place where I’m ready for the next challenge. I feel like I’ve completed an extremely difficult level in Zelda and now it’s on to the next one. I spend my down time at the office researching what it would be like to live in Europe in cities like Paris, Amsterdam or Stockholm. I’m beginning to think to myself, “I could totally deal with the cold and snow again if it meant that I could be surrounded by beauty and history [and really, really cute guys]!” However, I’m not ready to make the jump across the pond just yet.
When people come to Los Angeles, it’s usually to pursue a dream. It could be becoming a major movie star, a model or just being able to throw away the window scraper for good. For the majority of individuals, two out of those three things never happen and they are left to wonder about where and how they fit in the world. After being here for a little while, I’ve learned that this city rarely gives you what you want, but it will give you what you need. You may come here in search of fame and fortune, but you’ll leave with a better sense of who you are and your purpose in society.
With that being said, I have come to terms for the fact that LA is not where I’m going to live the rest of my life. I feel like deep down I always knew it but it took me returning to Chicago for me to realize and understand it. However, I don’t want to be one of those people that refers to their time here in the same fashion that a party girl-turned-soccer mom refers to “that one time she tried acid when she was in college.” I want to be able to look back on this period fondly and know that I accomplished something. One of my goals for this year is to create content that will set Cosmos And Pearls apart from other websites, along with writing my first fiction piece. I want to throw a fundraising event so that my friends at the Common Thread Collective can start receiving the help they need to grow. I’m sure that more ideas will come but I have a feeling 2014 will be a year in which I can look back on and smile.
Until Next Time,