LA Changed Me.

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5 years ago I started revealing to people I was going to move to LA and a common response I received was “don’t let it change you.” I promised it wouldn’t. I really didn’t know what I was promising, I just figured it was the right thing to say so that people would still like me since I assumed they meant LA would turn me into a superficial, self-indulgent, fantasy-land daydreamer. There’s no way I would ever let that happen…I know who I am, I thought.

When I finally moved to LA I had not a single clue how my life was about to change. I’m not talking about just my surroundings…but more importantly —  who I was… my thought process, my morals, and what I believed in.

I was immediately thrust into a foreign domain of excessive fame, fortune, partying, and vanity, where it seemed like everyone was in a race to the top…which meant different things for different people…success in their careers, a mansion, a sports car, a beautiful lover, or the worst drug – fame. I had to learn how to navigate through this new world on my own. It was a clean slate for me to be whoever I wanted. No one in LA knew who I was or where I had came from.

After a few months of living in LA I tried to fight against the changes that I could already feel happening within me. It was small town me vs. new big city me. The changes were inevitable. I felt every conservative chain start to unlock until I slowly turned into a liberal.

For better or for worse, I now have spent 5 years living in Los Angeles, and I am admittedly changed. People from my home state of Michigan say bizarre things such as: “remember where you came from”, “you’re so Hollywood now”, or “LA is so fake.” I say it’s bizarre because I am confused how this growth and change can be considered as only a negative thing.

I am sure there are things that have affected me negatively, however, for the most part, I feel LA has done a great deal of attributing to my mindfulness and awareness to the world around me…not just my own bubble, but the world as a whole.

I am more open-minded.

Literally…to everything. Before I moved to LA I was in my own little close-minded bubble with little room for acceptance. My hometown of 50,000 people isn’t exactly the best representation of diversity. Many of my peers have never even left the state of Michigan. LA is a true melting pot…I have friends from: all over the world, different sexual orientations, transgendered friends, friends who are doctors, actors, singers, Uber drivers, and analysts. I had never even met a transgendered person before I moved to LA. My tolerance to others different than me is pretty high. It’s awesome that this city attracts the biggest dreamers and some of the hardest hustlers. Yeah, the high rent isn’t pleasant, but most of us know how to really get things done and have a heightened sense of what survival really means.

I’ve tried authentic cuisines because we have cities literally dedicated to serving certain groups such as: Korea Town, Little Armenia, China Town, West Hollywood, Silver Lake, or even Venice, etc. Foods that would have otherwise disgusted me now are some of my personal favorites. If you haven’t please stop at one of the various Korean BBQ’s and change your life.

But the best thing is…you’re ALLOWED to be whoever you want to be which with great privilege has allowed me to be whoever I want to be. No one looks twice at the man wearing a crop top, no one cares if you’re a 35 year old single female, and no one looks twice at me when I want to wear heels to the mall at 2pm. You are allowed to exist, for the most part, exactly how you are…no matter how weird you are. There are just too many different types of people here to focus on hating a specific individual type. LA is a safe haven for the outsiders of a ‘normal’ society.

It has made me more realistic.

A lot of people think that LA actually brings out the fantastical side of people, which I won’t lie, it does. We get a bad wrap for having our heads up in the clouds, our feet in the sand, and a drink in our hand. However, for me, it’s actually made me a much more realistic person in the way that I see things for what they really are. I won’t shamelessly name drop (because that’s SO LA) but I’ve partied or been around some of the so-called “elite” and while some are super nice and lovely people, some are down right depressed, insecure, angry, and sad. It is not real life. Rather, a facade. I have seen the media lie about parties or events I have been at just to create a fake tabloid story about someone.

As a former aspiring entertainer, I grew up idolizing fame and fortune, thinking that these people had it all, which could not be further from the truth for some of them. They are no more special than the average joe. I see the massive divide of my city…people who are extremely talented but not given a second look and those who are rewarded for being nothing but beautiful. I’ve spent time handing out sandwiches on skid row and handing out over 70 blankets last winter to the ever rising amount of homelessness and that same day went to an after party in a multi-million dollar mansion in the Hills. There’s so much illusion saturating social media that the same people posting on yachts and driving sports cars are the same ones struggling to pay their lease. I see things now for what they actually are and who they actually are — just people and things. No more, no less. I put no value on fame, fortune, or materialism as I used to.  It’s a beautiful and freeing thing.

It’s helped broaden my horizons in relationships.

My friends joke that I have a type because the 3 boyfriends I’ve had in my life have been eerily similar. I definitely have a type and certainly still do. However, LA has left my heart open to new friendships and relationships. Although none have resulted in serious courtships, I am open to men from different races, religions, sexual orientation, careers, ages, and abilities. People I probably wouldn’t have been as open to before because I would be afraid of judgment. LA is very open to different types of relationships so there is little shame in dating someone who is opposite of you. I have went out with men much younger than I and much older than I. I’ve went out with atheists and Jewish men. I’ve went out with bi men. I’ve went out with actors and surgeons. I’ve went out with trust fund babies and guys who I make less than I. I’ve went out with liberal men and conservative men. I’ve went out with Europeans, Australians, and Asians. I am open to love and friendship in a way I would have never been before had I not lived here. It has resulted in a lot of meaningful friendships.

It made me appreciate my upbringing.

One of the most common questions I am asked in LA is… “so where are you from?”  As soon as I say Michigan, there is some sort of relief that comes over the person asking. “Midwest people are good people”, or some variation of this is what I hear in response. Somehow being from the Midwest but living on the West coast gives you an rite of passage that you are safe, trustworthy, and well-rounded. It makes me proud, to be honest, because it’s true. I’m not perfect, but most of us Midwest folk do have something extra about us that I don’t find in other people. Plenty of us were raised in small towns, in decent/good families, with good morals, and we look out for thy neighbor. We are sincere, kind, loyal, grounded, and warm. It is instilled within us, it is how we were raised. In a city full of identity crisis, there is nothing more valuable than to know who you are inside and out. Besides our Ohio vs. Michigan rivalry, we are also pretty damn respectful and polite compared to a lot of other folk I come across in Los Angeles.

LA will humble you and bring you back down to earth.

Before I moved to LA rejection for me resulted in an internal crisis. I would ponder what was wrong with me for days if a guy ghosted me or I didn’t get a job. It would crush me. LA literally is a constant revolving door of rejection because quite frankly, there are millions of options here. There is always someone more beautiful, richer, more talented, more lucky. My brief bout with entertainment was the epitome of rejection. Auditions at first were a nightmare…but after awhile I got used to not getting the call back and just accepting I did my best. One of my most embarrassing moments was when Sean Kingston told me I basically sucked at singing in front of one of my idols. If that would have happened when I lived in Michigan, I would have probably cried in my room for days. Instead I went home and joked about it to everyone.

Dating in LA is atrocious due to the “grass is always greener” syndrome and it’s funny because for whatever reason people assume that I do not get rejected. I can count on 5 human hands or more how many guys have not called or texted me back. And while I won’t say it doesn’t sometimes bum me out, I accept it. I move on rather quickly because just as they probably have lots of options, I do too. It’s actually what resulted in me being so outspoken and open to sharing my feelings. I am not afraid of rejection anymore in any regard. I am willing to take risks now and be patient to get what I want and deserve.

I care more about my health and appearance.

I realize that vanity is considered a bad thing, and yes, it can be if used to think you are better than others. There is nothing more annoying than someone who thinks they are God’s gift to humanity. But I am less lazy in my appearance and for good reason. LA holds you to a certain standard of what the ideal person looks like. We have gyms and juice bars on every corner. But, I believe this is only a bad thing when you take this too literally and become unhappy or obsessed to the point you feel like you need to compete with others to get what they have, taking away from who you genuinely are. But, I truly believe that when you look good, you feel good. When I leave the house looking put together my confidence sky rockets. For me, it keeps me on my toes. I am now health conscious in a way I was not before– I enjoy working out and eating well (although I go through lazy phases), I enjoy looking nice and often get complimented by my boss for showing up to work dressed up even when I don’t have to be, and  I get taken more seriously.  I like that it doesn’t allow me to feel comfortable slacking off on my health and appearance for too long. In Michigan, half of my wardrobe was sweatpants.

My friends became my family.

Before I moved to LA I had a lot of close friends. But it wasn’t until I moved that I realized I saw friendship in a way that most of my friends back home did not. Here often the number of transplants will outweigh the LA natives so we have to rely on our friends as family. Most of my friends families live a 3-15 hour flight away. There is no calling your parents to come over if you’re sick, in trouble, or you need them to watch your pet while you go away. Those are things my friends do for me. On holidays we have “Friendsgiving” instead of Thanksgiving and a Christmas holiday party for the orphans who didn’t go home. These are the people who I rely on and vice versa. If I choose to have children someday with a man whose family is also far away, my friends will be the ones helping me out. Of course I miss my family and love them dearly, but it is also beautiful to see the deep bond I have created with people who are not my own blood. These are people who I see no differently than my own sibling and I would die for some of them. It’s on a different level of any friendships I’ve ever experienced before. When my mother calls she doesn’t just ask about me, she does a welfare check of my best friends, too. It’s that deep.

Bottom line is, I love this place. It has unlimited opportunity for all walks of life. Sometimes it drives me insane with it’s traffic, expensive rent, and flaky people but it’s the first city I’ve lived in where I feel like I belong. So in light of it being the Holidays, I am thankful for you, Los Angeles.

-Cee

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