Relearning How To Run.

Relearning How To Run.

Body Community Most Popular Posts Motivation + Inspiration Shift Of Power Work

My steps always feel heaviest in the winter. Confined to a treadmill and no wind or road variation to keep my gait a-guessing, I make do with what I have and fall into a sense of comfort doing three miles on a glorified conveyor belt…just enough work to make it work for me. It’s fine. I’m fine. My body is satisfied but my heart works hard to suppress its longing for open air and a pace that’s not made of buttons.

Running has been the only “sport” I ever really excelled in. Too independent for team sports and too scared for risky business, running was what it felt like my body was built to do. Unbridled enthusiasm harnessed, unending determination streamlined. Running long distances as a kid was NOT my jam, but the 100-yard dash? Start the timer and I’m zipping ahead of the crowd.

Each year the running opportunities got harder to find. First I moved to a school that mostly ran as punishment, then I got scared of the treadmill when my cousin was horsing around on my uncle’s NordicTrac and crashed through the wall. Then P.E. became a time you talked to friends instead of letting out your inner competitive streak, then I went to high school and opted for Dance instead of P.E. because that’s what you did if you were a theatre kid. I’ll never forget playing a cast-bonding game of Not It / It (ok, so it was Duck Duck Goose) and chasing one of the senior boys around the circle and him gasping for breath, “Katie Horwitch, you are FAST!!!” Yes, I am. I just don’t have a chance to use it.

And then I went to college and I discovered the escape that was The Gym. How liberating it was, so many people with so many shapes using their bodies in so many ways! The perfect respite from the image-obsessed world of Being Eighteen juxtaposed with the image-obsessed world of taking ballet and jazz every day and having to scrutinize your form in the mirror at 8AM. There was an indoor track and I quickly became enamoured. But dancers can’t run, I was told. Bad for the knees. I learned to use the elliptical and not only stay stationary, but never lift my feet. It’s fine. I’m fine.

Winter reminds me of those years that running felt all but forbidden. I technically have the freedom to move as I choose, but the oppressive gloom and dipping temps cajole me like an assertive mother figure to turn away; you don’t want that, it’s just better that way.

And so I finally come back to it months later, on a day where the weather feels…well, less like inviting, more like permissive. My legs feel heavy under my body as I force them forward beyond the comfort of the treadmills and taxi cabs that December through March make more readily available.

I get where I want to go in the winter…but do I get there the WAY I want to?

Seasonal depression is a thing, for sure, but I also think much of the rut we find ourselves in during the winter has to do with the lifestyle we succomb to regardless of the Earth’s placement on its axis. It’s not that we outright choose to live differently, it’s just that it feels…easier. We bother ourselves with the wrong types of stimuli, we stay on high alert for the stuff that feels trite. It’s not until we step outside the box we’ve built for ourselves, thinking we can so easily bounce from one lifestyle to the next, that we’re repulsed by the way we’ve adapted to our space.

Shit.

It never felt this hard before.

I’ve been wasting time.

I’m so far behind.

It’s not just during the seasonal shifts when I need to relearn how to run. It’s when I’ve been giving so much of myself to everyone else that I forget what it’s like to have QT with my musings on a daily basis. It’s when over and over I say Yes when I’d prefer No, No when I’d prefer Yes, and one or the other when I convince myself that “Let me think about this and get back to you” isn’t a valid response. It’s when I tell myself too many times, it’s when I tell everyone else too many times: I’m fine. It’s fine. I’m fine.

Each time a little more learning, each time a smidgebit new. First the walk, then the jog, then the run. Click To Tweet

As I ran along the river this morning, way slower than I would have preferred, way shorter a distance than I would have liked, frustrated by the struggle but committed to the act, I passed by a small girl kneeling down to tie her shoes by her scooter. Her tiny pink helmet punctured the grey of the sidewalk-horizon meeting the grey of the water-horizon meeting the grey of the cloudy-horizon, like a little flower-bud-blip of brightness poking out from the ground promising sweeter weather right around the corner. I noticed she was watching me.

Who would I have been if I had not had women to watch as they relearned how to run? Maybe I couldn’t see their struggle out loud but I could feel it, because feely people always know. I don’t know that I ever thought I was the only one with dark days and hard times, I just sensed that some of us felt it darker and harder than others. Even if they weren’t talking about it, I knew. They said It’s fine; I’m fine. I knew. Their secrets were safe with me. And they kept putting one foot in front of the other.

And now I know, a rough patch or tough spot or even a drawn-out season of stagnation is not my fault. It’s not a failure, and it’s def not a sign I’m falling behind. It happens to everyone, because life happens to everyone. What matters is the relearning, the way I not only get reacquainted with my abilities but I expand on them. Each time a little more learning, each time a tiny smidgebit fresh and new. First the walk, then the jog, then the run. My steps feel heavy and uncomfortable now, but I know they won’t soon. And I know that if I can get out of my own way and accept that it’s NOT fine and I’m NOT fine, that itself means I’m about to bloom and grow. Because little flower buds either wither in their pod or expand so uncomfortably hard that they burst into the epitome of springtime.


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The Artist Formerly Known As Me: On Living In Flux.

The Artist Formerly Known As Me: On Living In Flux.

Community Love Most Popular Posts Motivation + Inspiration Shift Of Power Work

MY RELATIONSHIP with journaling was very “friends with benefits” for most of my life: oft ignored but always there when I needed it most. Most of the time, I completely ignored my grandmother’s advice to document momentous occasions, as exemplified by the three-line entry about my 13th birthday in my 1999 journal (the third sentence being “I’ll come back to this later”).

Yet when I go back and read my old journals, as sporadically tended to as they were, I realize I honestly have not changed much throughout my lifetime. The slightly crinkled pages are filled with emotion – poetry, questions, lists and pep talks – heart opening and heartbreaking all at once.

And reviews of musicals. So many reviews of musicals.

As young as preschool, we are asked what we want to be when we grow up. We learn to identify with a singular profession: a doctor, a singer, a teacher, a lawyer. With all these abstract feelings floating around in our still-developing brains, we are asked to define ourselves based on our hobbies and what sounds right. As we grow into young adults, we’re encouraged to find extracurricular activities that are assumed to match our professional aspirations of choice. We write yearbook messages under the assumption that there will always be next year. We map out our lives in ten-year-plans and envision our friendships as everlasting.

I grew up listening to tape cassettes of Phantom Of The Opera in my car seat. I taught myself how to play the showstopper from Cats on my tiny Casio keyboard in first grade. When I was about twelve years old, I developed a love affair with shows like Rent and Les Miserables, and for the first time in my life I realized I was not like other kids my age. While my peers were attending the latest boy band and girl group concerts, I was marveling at the thespian greats like Colm Wilkinson and Bernadette Peters.

This, I told myself, was not normal.

And so I hid my love for musical theatre in my journals, and later on online message boards (way before it was considered safe or even socially acceptable to develop internet-based friendships [which is kinda funny, as I now have many dear friends and a bone a fide HUSBAND who I met through the interwebs]). 

I was convinced I’d be winning a Tony by age 27, and that the friends of my childhood who were drifting in all different directions would miraculously come back together one day to work through life together. That my first love and I would get married and do the whole picket-fence thing. I was convinced I knew the length of the path.

And then came the growth and expansion of real life. Things became complicated and convoluted: here I was, someone who had defined herself by these external passions and visions for so long, and they no longer felt right. My interests began to broaden and my friend circle began to expand. I developed passions I never knew of and feelings I’d never accessed, and for the first time I realized I was so much more than I’d ever thought I could be.

It begged the question – was nothing up until now valid? The opened doors of the present were liberating but the loyalty to the past was almost paralyzing.

Moving forward is not a death of who you were – it’s a rebirth of who you are. Click To Tweet

Moving past the visions and dreams created by our former selves can feel like losing a lover. The first time I thought that acting might not be the sole career through which I wanted to give myself to the world, my eyes stayed red for days from crying. The first time I realized I was unclear as to whether I wanted children or not, I had a breakdown. The first time I found a soulmate-friend outside my comfort zone of shared upbringing, I felt like I was cheating on my entire past. At the time, it felt like a breakup. At the time, it felt like a loss.

How strange, as each thing that triggered a sense of loss or wrongdoing was actually a door opening and showing me to my true self. Although, come to think of it, I’ve realized that most people get stuck in that space of confusing actualization for accusation…so maybe the fact that it felt so wrong wasn’t as abnormal as I thought…

Our visions and goals are always in flux. One is not better or worse than the other, they’re just different. Hanging onto past goals and ideas of what we “should” do can screw us up in the long run and put self actualization on standby. Who we are in one season in our lives is neither the end-all-be-all nor invalid. It’s a fragment, a small yet important page in the story of who we are meant to be.

It can feel scary to move forward beyond your former self, but there’s no reason to mourn.

Moving forward is not a death of who you were – it’s a rebirth of who you are.

You are more than that thing your former self aspired towards. You are more than the ideas your ten-year plan expressed, you are more than the connections you made long ago. And yet these are a part of you. Each is a path, an integral part of the roadmap that is your life’s purpose. Who are we to say we know what our journey will look like a decade from now or if we’ll feel the same way we do at this point in time? The important thing is to feel deeply and express authentically during every step of the way.

Had I never wanted to act, I would have never learned to perceive the world around me in such great detail with such empathy. Had I never felt so much passion for something so different than my peers, I would have never known what it is to pour my soul onto a page. Had I never envisioned my life the way I thought it would look by now, I would have never met some of the most influential players in my life’s journey. I am still that same girl who wrote musical theatre reviews in her journal and thought her elementary school buddies would be bridesmaids at her wedding.

And yet here I am, no Tony award in sight, surrounded by friends from all stages of life, connected to my past but fully invested in my present. My bridesmaids represented all stages of my life thus far, not just one. I look toward the future not with a predictive eye but an openness to the expansion I know I will experience. I have not broken up with my past visions, I have let them morph and blossom. I have not buried my former self, I have let her come alive into the now.

We cannot possibly know what our story will look like in ten years – or even two. Our passions might shift, our dreams might change shape. Our circles of friendship might evolve and our opinions of what we want will most certainly move with time.

Yet through each season, each shift, each page turn, there is one thing that’s certain: we will be so much more.

 


WANT Yourself:
Do your current passions and visions match the ones you’ve had throughout your life? Have you ever felt scared to embark on a new path, in fear of abandoning your former self – and if so, how did you learn to embrace the path you’re on? Leave a message in the comments – your story might just be what someone else in our community needs to hear.

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The Graceful Flail: An Ode To Adulthood.

The Graceful Flail: An Ode To Adulthood.

Community Motivation + Inspiration

Being an adult is hard work.

We wake up early, we go to bed late, we regulate early bedtimes to make those early mornings more manageable and push those late nights so the mornings start fresh. Half the time we’re autonomous and half the time we’re reporting to others. Our finances. Our whereabouts. Our missteps. Our intentions on how to make a life out of an existence.

I remember telling a friend once, in the midst of a trajectory shift, that I wanted to move forward in my career. But, secretly, I told her – my twenty-four year old self thinking she was revealing something unique – I loved the fact that I had no one to report to but myself once I was off the clock.

Yeah, she guffawed (ps, is there any better onomatopoea than “guffaw?”). Enjoy that while it lasts.

And I thought, is that what it is to be an adult?

To lose yourself to others?

~

While environment and company certainly come into play, we’re inherently born as who we are. And so the idea of adulthood is somewhat of a fallacy. Same being, different experience. And what I find fascinating is that the more people I talk to, the more people I find feel as if they’re just “faking” this adult thing. We’re all just trying to make sure we seem cool-calm-collected to everyone else. Accountable. Responsible. “Adult.”

But really, we’re all in the same boat.

My years have always been muddled in my mind. My age has always been permeable. I vividly remember thinking with a mind I did not feel my body was grown into, and specifically remember instances of holding back communication because I did not feel my peers would understand. Half the time I feel I am eternally seven and the other half I feel eternally seventy two. The latter is my soul. The former is my spirit. The reality is somewhere in between.

I still love fairies and mermaids, and my heart melts a little when I see a stuffed animal on the shelf. I talk to three year olds like they are thirty and seventy year olds like they are twenty seven. I refuse to judge anyone based on their age, a vow I made to myself when I was eight years old and felt the patronizing effects of those who talked to me as if I was a child.

To believe that “adulthood” comes with legal status is grasping for certainty. Because the fact is, a LACK of certainty is one of the hallmarks of adulthood.

 

Being an adult doesn’t mean you have all the answers. Being an adult means you’ve made peace with the fact that you don’t.

 

So where do we go from here, adults? If we know what we know and we know what we don’t know, and we’re fine with it all, does it mean we stop searching? Does making peace mean complacency? Is that why, ultimately, we are so resistant to reversing triggers and shifting trauma and changing our self-talk for the better? Is it to fabricate drama, because we’re so worried that without it, we’re left without something to chase?

Of course not. The search never stops. Quite the opposite, really. When we know we’ll never know, we can begin our quest for what else is out there. When we’re at peace with not being able to solve the puzzle, we can get to creating our own beautiful jigsaw. When we’ve accepted what isn’t, we can truly start looking for what IS. Complacency isn’t an acquiescence into adulthood, it’s the death of the human spirit.

When we know we’ll never know, we can begin our quest for what else is out there. Click To Tweet

Laying sprawled out on my couch the other evening after dinner, half watching Top Chef and half getting lost in my own head, I looked around the room and marveled out loud at life. I don’t think twenty-four year old me could have ever envisioned this. I don’t think she could have ever conceptualized life like it is right now.

Because twenty-four year old me thought that adulthood meant grasping to make things work. Twenty-four year old me thought adulthood was what happened when you turned yourself over to the world to be its caretaker. Twenty-four year old me thought adulthood was a time in which you knew exactly what you wanted and those things matched up perfectly to everyone else’s Wants. Twenty-four year old me though adulthood was losing yourself and calling it “finding yourself.”

But I know better now. Or should I say, I don’t know, and that makes me know a whole lot better. I’m confident in what I know and confident in what I don’t know. I have 70% of my shit together but the other 30% is flailing in the wind like one of those Wobble Men at the car wash (which I just Googled btw and are actually called “Air Dancers” which definitely seems like a much more adult name than Wobble Men).

And I think I like it best that way. Conscious knowing and unknowing. Constant grounded flailing. A sense of community, but also distinct uncertainty and loneliness that no longer shakes you like it once did. They’re all normal; the high highs and low lows and everything in between. And whereas I once thought adulthood was reporting to others and losing yourself, I now know that what I once thought of as reporting myself to others was really assimilating to fit a mold that didn’t even exist.

To be adult is to know you don’t know. To be an adult is to forego societal assimilation in favor of radical self-acceptance. And to be an adult – it’s to flail gracefully, and in the flailing notice how you’re catching air.

 

adulthood
gracefully flailing at my insane bridal shower, 9.23.17

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One Year.

One Year.

Community Love Motivation + Inspiration Shift Of Power

One Year Ago this week,
I moved across the country.

stuff on stuff on stuff
last night on the roof
lunch with mom before the big day

I moved with my then boyfriend, now fiancé, future husband. I moved with my then purpose, now career, future calling. I moved with no expectations, some trepidations, and an enormity of determinations.

One Year Ago this week I fulfilled the choice to choose my life. I could have said no, I could have said wait. But it’s easy to say no when you should say yes, just like it’s easy to say yes when you really should say no.

One Year Ago this week my heart started beating a little faster, and my mind started to go a little slower. The pace around me started to move quicker but the pace inside me started to calm.

One Year has brought so much to the forefront and sunken so much into the background noise. The things I thought mattered some matter less, and the things I thought mattered most matter way more than I thought they did.

It’s crazy to look back a photos and feel the shift One Year has brought. Was it because of my age? Was it because I was ready? No, I don’t think that was it. I think I wrung all the lessons, all the love, all the heartache and heart-aid out of my surroundings – and the only way to grow was to shift my perspective. Through a turn of the kaleidescope, it’s amazing how the same-old can become completely forgeign all over again. Through a different lense, it’s amazing how many things become dimmer than you knew them to be.

Or brighter.

Or maybe both at once.

everything was so exciting to me. even the metro cards. especially the metro cards.

I don’t think we need to change our physical surroundings to see a shift in our lives, but man oh man did it help me. To think our opinions are ultimate or our perceptions final is to be naive and stubborn. Here, I realize that while your word is your truth, it’s also his, and hers, and theirs, and it’s how we all come together that breeds true enlightenment.

Marianne Williamson says, “It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us.” And that’s true. But it’s also what ILLUMINATES us. The light and the dark together. And what’s more, how we all move in tandem. It’s not just our light or our darkness, but the way our beams bounce off one another.

It's not just our light or our darkness, but the way our beams bounce off one another. Click To Tweet

In my dreams, I always lived in New York City. A thriving Broadway career, an apartment in I Don’t Even Know Where. In my dreams I didn’t know how anything fit together, I just knew the One Thing of my success led the way. In my realities, I am here. I rarely visit a Broadway stage (something I DO want to change in Year Two) but I’ve found the stages that suit me best. In my realities I cannot quite believe how seamlessly it’s all flowed, how I managed to fight for a sense of community and actually achieve it, how I managed to fight for a career and actually own it, how I managed to fight for a lifestyle of river runs and sweet potato fries and Adventure Sundays and yes – I’m actually in the adventure every day.

And I am in it, I think, because I’ve always been fighting for it, not against it. I’ve learned how to be malleable but true to my heart. I’ve learned how to bend but not break.

And most of all, I’ve learned that challenge begets change, but also begets truth. In my life thus far, I’ve asked for truth and learned how to see it as my ally. Even the truths I would rather not see. Even the truths that hurt. I ask more questions instead of fighting against the answers that pain me. I have fought for a life that rings true each day, and in One Year I now see it before me. It’s not something I take lightly or take for granted.

my very first friendsgiving.


Spoiler: Relationships are not supposed to be easy.
With cities, with people, it’s all the same. You’re supposed to push each other, but in the best way. You’re supposed to help each other see the best in themselves but also the misalignments. Ultimately, you’re here to help one another not only recognize your values but live them out loud. In what you say, in what you do. You’re here to be the bridge between seeing and believing. Between dreaming and doing. And that is not easy work.

And, ANOTHER SPOILER, the work isn’t work to MAKE it easy. It’s work to beget more intricate and nuanced work.

It’s trust work. It’s truth work. It’s the best work ever.


us, 2.0 (or 3.0, depending on your timeline)

And so here I am, One Year After packing the boxes and shipping the bins. One Year After that feeling of readiness and maturity but also of complete surrender. It has not been easy, and it hasn’t always been fun. But it’s been soul-stirring, and it’s been soul-lifting, and it’s brought me in touch with a deeper layer of myself I didn’t even know was there. And anyway, I don’t want easy. I want right.

unsolicited advice

it’s all still a thrill.

To grow, we must stay aware. And to stay aware, we must stay awake. And to stay awake, we must challenge ourselves to displace our gaze. If you always ride the same waves, you’ll never truly see the spectrum.

Once you learn the thing, once you get the stuff, once you master the immediate, where do you go from there?

One Year Later, I’m living the answer:

You exhale fully, slowly, and calmly, and you shift the kalediscope.



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Aspiration, Inspiration: GOOD + My Relationship With Wellness.

Aspiration, Inspiration: GOOD + My Relationship With Wellness.

Body Community Most Popular Posts Motivation + Inspiration WANT Women

I don’t often post about the events I do or the places I speak. I feel like, for me, it borders on self-indulgent and sets a precedent that I’ll write something about every event I do or place I speak. But I do like sharing with you the ones that spark something new inside me…the ones where I can sense a shift happening. The ones that offer up more than just a recap and some fun photos. The ones that blow my mind.

This weekend, I had the immense honor of speaking at The GOOD Festival, an all-day wellness festival in Philly for anyone wanting to live well and “make choices that are in alignment with their body, their career, and their lives.” Basically, the GOODfest focused on all of the things I love about the wellness industry: the community, the curiosity, and the small choices that end up making a big difference in the long run.

But I’ll tell you a secret: I don’t love everything. A couple years ago, I felt my relationship with the “wellness” community starting to shift. Because wellness was shifting as well. And I didn’t really like much of what I was seeing: elitism, ego, judgement, and a focus on the external WHATs instead of the internal WHYs. Leaders and “gurus” encouraginig spiritual bypass, the use of spiritual practices and beliefs to avoid dealing with hard things, was becoming just as if not more common than encouraging spiritual growth.

I felt torn. The wellness world had introduced me to some of my very dearest friends, launched my career, and helped me realize my through line. Heck, if it hadn’t been for the wellness world, I would have never started sharing my writing publicly or be even close to the person I am today (fun fact: my first blogs and first freelance jobs circa 2008 were all in what’s now considered the wellness realm). I owed so much of who I was to the wellness community – and yet I felt like I was watching a genuine and loving best friend get lured in by a Mean Girls-esque squad of crystal-carrying, sage-burning, side-eyeing Regina Georges. All aspiration on the outside and very little inspiration on the inside.

It broke my heart.

~

I’ve been very vocal about ways I feel the wellness world can shift, and every single WANT Woman that’s been featured on the site or the podcast is a shining example of what wellness can be if we lean into the parts of us that make us unique and let them lead the way. Literally, every single one of them. 

But still. It’s so easy to get caught up in the parade and charade of the opposite end of the spectrum when you’re scrolling through Instagram or reading an article and then all of the sudden it’s 12:42am and you’re paralyzed by fear that you’re not only doing everything wrong, but that your idea of what leadership means in the wellness world is no longer relevant.


One of the reasons GOOD was such a reaffirming experience for me was that it reminded me why I fell in love with wellness in the first place. Wellness, after all, isn’t just about the “well.” It’s not just about the adjective – or rather, the noun we’ve created from the adjective.

It’s about the verb – the “LIVING” part of living well.

“Well” is subjective. We cannot possibly know if what works for one person will work for someone else.

 

But living? Living is action. Living is experience-oriented.
And living well is…well, it’s moving forward fearlessly into the you you know you’re meant to be.

 

The GOODfest team blew me (and everyone else there, ps) away with their thoughtfulness and attention to detail. They’d carefully curated the day to reflect their mission and their values, and it showed in not just every single speaker and sponsor, but in all 300+ people who chose to spend their day with us. Deep conversations happened within a matter of seconds – real, no-bs, walls-down conversations – and each time a speaker walked onstage it was like they were being greeted by a room full of old pals.

Speaking of the speakers – the SPEAKERS! Oh my god the speakers. Being a part of this group was a dream come true. Some people were old friends (Jessica Murnane, Katie Dalebout, Jordan Younger), some were new friends (Gianne Doherty, Kristin McGee, Cassandra Bodzak, Sara DiVello, Kimmie Smith), and some I met specifically because we were both speaking at the GOODfest and then one month later we were the best of travel buddies (hi, Talia Pollock). In an industry that can sometimes seem so cliquey and elite, the GOODfest was anything but. It revived my love for wellness; for how *I* view living well. Which is all about being proactive, not reactive, when it comes to how you want to feel. All-around. Mind, body, soul.


Living well is about being proactive, not reactive, when it comes to how you want to feel. - @katiehorwitch Click To Tweet

This post is obviously about the wellness world, but I think this disconnect between aspiration and inspiration applies across industries and even life stages. Maybe your thing is fashion. Maybe it’s academica. Maybe it’s music. Maybe you’re just starting a family, or have been single for a while, or are just about to graduate college or enter empty-nestville. There are so many opportunities for us to doubt that what we’re doing is right or where we are is where we’re supposed to be (yes, social media is a big way we can get triggered into self-doubt).

But what the GOODfest reminded me is that those people who seem to have everything perfectly manicured and are “too cool to care” are in the minority. WE are in the majority. Side by side. No one has it all figured out, but if we join forces in our curiosity, we can explore the options together.

And that’s what I love about wellness: I love the CONNECTION. The community. The willingness to open up and move forward fearlessly…on the same team. We might not know anywhere near everything, but each of us knows something – and when we all work together to both hear and be heard, we’ve got a whole damn lot of options on the table.

Thank you Kate, Jess, Jen, Sienna, Brea, and the rest of the GOOD team for creating a space for women to unlock themselves and fully exhale. To my fellow speakers, I adore every single one of you and am honored to have been in your presence.



When we all work together to both hear + be heard, we've got a whole lot of options on the table. - @katiehorwitch Click To Tweet


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Navigating The Freeway.

Navigating The Freeway.

Community Most Popular Posts Motivation + Inspiration Shift Of Power

This weekend, I went home to Los Angeles for the very first time since I’d moved to New York. Driving through the city in the daylight, I was immediately reminded of how MASSIVE Los Angeles is – not massive like New York is, in stature and borderline-overwhelming energy, but spread out and spread thin like a sheet of sprinkle-cookie dough rolled out a little bit too many times. Smoothed over, thinned out, and just the right amount of variety to make it interesting. It all seems familiar and slightly askew at the same time. I open Waze for the first time since leaving, because if you don’t own a car in NYC this app is useless. An hour and a half from LAX to the Valley. There it is. I remember now.

I feel older in LA than when I left, and it’s not just because I celebrated my 30th birthday one month ago. I have this feeling in my gut that something is off, something has changed…something isn’t what it used to be. Are the buildings a fresh color? Is that construction on the ever-elusive cross-city Metro line finally completed? Has the drought gotten better, or worse? In no part of my mind do I think I am the thing that’s changed. I try and remember what the billboards looked like the day I left. 

I surprise one of my best friends on the way home and she cries a little. I almost fall asleep in the car (don’t worry, I’m not driving). I reach my parents’ house, the house I grew up in, and I try to remember if there were always that many cars and if there was always that much road separating me from them. It seems like so much now.

I notice things I didn’t before while I’m home. The way the streets curve. The smell of the backyard in the morning. The distance. Oh my goodness, the distance. Has LA always been this spread out and spread thin? Walking from the gym’s parking garage into the doors even seems extraneous, like, why is it all that far apart? Why do I see less people in a mile here than I do in a block in the West Village? It’s so sparse. They must all be on the freeway.

I have a strange urge to stay put while I’m in town. Which, for me, isn’t normal. I remember wanting to get away, get away, get away when I was here before. Or rather, explore explore explore. Hiking the canyons. Driving to the beach. Organizing my day so it flowed seamlessly, like a roadmap, from my bed to the street and back to my bed again by the end of the night. Fitting as much in as you can at once. Out all day then back. Because anyone in LA knows that if you come home in the middle of the day, there’s very little chance you’ll be going back out again. It’s one or the other. I feel inclined this time to stay close to home.

It’s not that I don’t want to see people. It’s just that I am slowly trying to navigate myself here again. People told me before I left that I wouldn’t be able to come back unchanged and I start to believe them for the first time. How is it I can feel like the same person but so different all at once? Why is it that I can’t pinpoint what’s changed? I scan the buildings and the billboards and look for a sign they’ve shifted since I was last there.

I drive through The Valley and give J a tour of my childhood (for those not familiar with LA: the San Fernando Valley, aka the place Cher goes to that house party in Clueless, aka “over the hill,” aka the region where Encino Man takes place). That’s where I took art classes, that’s where my elementary school was. I drive from one end of the Valley to the other and for a good few blocks in Tarzana and Reseda I try and remember if it always looked this way. More of it looks like a relic of the past than I remember. I try and decide if was built that way and I’m just noticing now or what. I settle on believing that that’s it. I can’t really start to grasp the difference and so I try to ignore it…

And then I put on my dress I brought for my cousin’s wedding and I feel really, truly beautiful. But it’s not an external type of beauty, even though the dress is killer and my date’s a knockout. It’s a confidence I haven’t registered till now, and a change in posture I haven’t thought about. Maybe it’s because I’m not in a car all of the time anymore? Maybe it’s because I’m not constantly going somewhere – because I can go home any time I want? I exclaim to J on the way to the venue “I feel GREAT!” and I struggle to verbalize why so I say maybe it’s the dress and maybe it’s the confidence. 

But I know it’s not the dress. As I hug-attack my aunts and uncles and cousins, and tell people I haven’t seen in years that I’ve moved to New York, and I watch their expressions tell me that that was not the answer they were expecting when asking What’s New With You, I know there is now a Thing that separates me from them. My entire life up until now has felt like such a shared experience. We’re all from the same place, we all know the same parts, we’re all up to date with the same people. Even the old friends, they’re in on it too. And talking to them I realize I feel as if I’m back from a secret journey only I know about. Trying to explain it is both weird and comforting at the same time. Like, I still don’t quite feel like an adult and that’s okay because I truly believe that’s the hallmark of a true adult, but I feel like a grown-up for the first time ever. And I realize they’ve been on their own journey too, and even though I know the places and parts and people, I am NOT here and the space HAS changed and the buildings HAVE been painted and old things HAVE closed and new things HAVE opened and I can’t go share in someone else’s life’s setting by just driving a few freeway exits away any time I choose. Theirs is theirs and mine is mine, we’re separate but equal. I finally feel what’s shifted, and it’s the complete ownership of my own story.

navigating-the-freewaymy people.

 



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