Diary of a Professional Teen is a weekly column of #deep thoughts by 20-something teenager and youth expert Taylor Trudon. Every Thursday, she’ll talk about her feelings in relation to what it’s like to be a Young Person in 2016.
Today is the first day of fall. Fall is for chunky cable-knit sweaters, pumpkin spice drinks purchased in red cups, and new school supplies. It’s for watching You’ve Got Mail, feeling the leaves crunch under your new boots, and falling asleep under flannel sheets at night. Fall is for New York. (Even Lorde agrees with me.)
So it feels strange for it to be fall and to not be in New York.
I moved to Los Angeles from New York exactly three weeks ago. No, I didn’t get a new job. No, I wasn’t sick of the city. I didn’t post a sentimental Facebook status. I didn’t make a bucket list of the last things I wanted to do or see or eat. I made a “goodbye” drinks event on Facebook mostly out of social obligation, canceled it, rescheduled, and canceled again. I was ready for L.A. the same way I was ready to be dropped off at college, having been obsessed with the idea of college since watching Legally Blonde when I was 12. I was Elle Woods. I was going to take my campus by storm. Three months after I graduated, I got a job in media. I was more than ready for New York as I lugged my dresser up four flights of stairs into my railroad apartment on the Upper East Side. Eventually, I moved to Brooklyn and shared an apartment in Williamsburg with my best friend since the age of 14. We told everyone we were living the “teenage dream.” I had checked all the boxes. Moving to L.A. was never one of those boxes, yet here I am.
A few months before I left, I was at a rooftop party during 4th of July weekend in my neighborhood. I had just gotten back from an L.A. work trip — the one where I decided that I was going to move. Everyone was Snapchatting and drinking beer and eating grilled chicken sausage. The sun began to set and it was one of those fiery #nofilterrequired sunsets that makes everyone stop what they’re doing and look at the skyline with appreciation.
“The sunsets aren’t like this in L.A.,” one of my friends observed.
I felt a brief moment of panic. Was I making a terrible mistake? Who dares leave a city with incomparable sunsets like this? But I had already made my decision. I booked my one-way ticket.
This past summer leading up to my move, I read a lot of those “Why I’m Leaving New York” essays. The reasons were usually the same: New York is too crowded, too expensive, too noisy, too dirty, too something. Why was I leaving New York? Well, to put it simply, because I could. When that answer didn’t suffice for inquiring minds, I had a list of responses ready that I could rattle off — none of which involved New York itself. But prepared as I was to defend my decision, the feelings that hit me after I left were the ones I couldn’t prepare for.
For one, it’s fall here in L.A., but it doesn’t feel like it. I recently wore jean cutoffs and flip-flops to the zoo, sipping iced coffee while watching a school of piranhas swim stoically in a large tank. Some nights, it feels like I’m at sleepaway camp, except I’m 3,000 miles away from home and my parents won’t be coming to collect me at the end of the month. Living here feels temporary, like I’m a stranger visiting on vacation, but it’s not. Sometimes when I’m driving, I’ll look out the window and for a fleeting moment, I’m Amy Dunne running away in Gone Girl. I feel like a completely different person, except I’m not. And instead of driving to some sketchy motel while licking Cheeto dust off my fingers, I’m just turning into my driveway at the end of the workday.
Last Friday night, my roommate went to a pre-Emmys work party. My brother was working late in Venice. I was alone in my apartment and for the first time in two weeks, sitting on my new floral sheets in my new bed, I felt very aware of that. I could picture my friends back in New York. What were they doing? Did they already forget about me? A wave of homesickness lingered in my stomach. Not homesickness for New York, but for familiarity: the face of my barista who I had a giggling middle school crush on and who always pretended to give me a hard time for forgetting my coffee card; the annoying yelp of my neighbor’s dog every time someone walked up our building’s stairs; the sound of construction workers from the high school across the street; the quiet teenager who made my banana smoothies, bobbing his head to Kendrick on the radio.
Fall signifies change, a shedding of old skin, a Selena Gomez–esque Revival. F. Scott Fitzgerald once wrote, “Life starts all over again when it gets crisp in the fall,” but I think it starts all over again when you decide that it should. And part of starting all over again means accepting the uncertainty, the what-ifs. I’ll always wonder what might have happened if I had stayed in New York, but I would have wondered more if I hadn’t left at all. Unlike college, my internships, and living in New York, moving to L.A. was the first time in my life when I wasn’t 100 percent sure — which is why I knew I had to do it. I’m starting to learn that sometimes, you need to do something even if you can’t quite explain it or completely justify it. Whether you’re moving to a new city, choosing to take a gap year, attending an out-of-state college far away, or feeling the urge to make an unexpected change, it’s OK to not know the exact reasons why. Sometimes, “just because” is just enough.
On Saturday morning, I woke up and got a smoothie. I took a long walk, admiring the palm tree–lined streets. I went to a birthday party at a bar that night with my roommate. I had conversations with strangers. Later that weekend, I did some writing. I went grocery shopping and remembered to bring my own bags this time so I wouldn’t get charged. Slowly, I find myself beginning to create a routine — a sense of familiarity in a new city that’s not yet familiar.
They still have sunsets in L.A. — beautiful ones. And this time, I don’t need to stand on a rooftop to see them.
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