Diary of a Professional Teen is a weekly column of #deep thoughts by twentysomething teenager and youth expert Taylor Trudon, where she’ll talk about her feelings in relation to what it’s like to be a Young Person in 2016.
“Where’re you from?” my Uber driver asked as we headed down Sunset Boulevard.
“New York,” I answered.
He had picked me and my best friend up at the movies, where we had just seen La La Land, the new film featuring Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling as an actress and a jazz pianist who fall in love in Los Angeles. I told our driver I had moved here a few months ago.
“Welcome home,” he said, his eyes meeting mine in the rearview mirror. “We’ve been waiting for you.”
I’m not sure when L.A. will start to feel like home. When I was living in New York, it was the little moments that made me feel like a New Yorker. The way I could confidently give a lost tourist directions to Times Square. How the waitress at The Bedford knew my exact brunch order of soft scrambled eggs, no cheese, extra crispy bacon on the side. That mingled feeling of awe and relief each time my Metro North train pulled into Grand Central Station after a weekend in Connecticut, where I grew up. It never got old. I was home.
Now “home” has different signifiers. I drink iced coffee in December and take long hikes on the weekend. On the first day of fall, I wrote about change, new beginnings, and acknowledging that it’s OK to do things even if you don’t know the exact reason why. It was about being uncomfortable. And in getting comfortable being uncomfortable, I learned some other lessons this year.
The worst will happen, but you’re not completely helpless. Your candidate will lose the presidential race, despite having nearly 3 million more votes than her opponent. Your icons will die. People will disappoint and surprise you, but if you’re smart you’ll remember that no matter how bad things may seem, it will always be far worse for someone else. You are still here and alive and breathing, which is enough to keep moving forward — in fact, it obligates you to, on behalf of those who can’t. We know that tweeting about our shock at the slaughter in Aleppo isn’t going to stop innocent civilians from being killed. Joining a Facebook group won’t change the election results all by itself. Putting a rainbow filter on your avatar is a nice display of solidarity, but if that’s the end of your activism, that’s the end if its effectiveness. However, educating yourself and taking actionable steps (like donating or organizing) is a real start and can make you feel better. If you have the capability to do something beyond sharing hashtags ... what are you waiting for?
Stop taking things so personally. A teen employee at Bed Bath & Beyond rolled his eyes at me last week because I couldn’t find the shopping carts and I spent 10 minutes thinking about it. Not everything has to mean something. People have bad days and even though it’s not fair for them to take it out on you, sometimes they will. If spiraling into a hole of self-loathing were an Olympic sport, I would be a gold medalist. What did he mean when he texted me, “k”? Did my email sound passive-aggressive? Is that person annoyed with me? I agonize and I obsess. And then I realize that the person I am agonizing and obsessing over probably isn’t wasting time agonizing or obsessing over me, which is all the motivation I need to snap out of it. And I smile, grab my shopping cart, and go snap up the cute floral throw pillows I deserve.
Everyone is dealing with their own shit. Your mailman. Your boss. That girl you went to high school with who has five kids and whose life looks like a Pinterest board. But just because they’re not shouting about their baggage via a public Facebook status doesn’t mean their issues don’t exist. It’s easy to be jealous of that person who got an incredible book deal/got engaged/took a selfie with Rihanna, but we all know that there’s more to the filtered façades we see on Instagram. I’ll share a picture of my beautiful palm tree–lined street with a sunset backdrop, but you’ll never see the moments of panic I had before deciding to move there, or feel the guilt of hearing my mother cry on the phone from 3,000 miles away as I stood on that same sidewalk. I’ve learned that massive life changes aren’t always ultimately as scary as I make them out to be in my mind, but you never get the chance to see how I came to realize that — only the pretty photo at the end.
And maybe most importantly of all: Once you realize everybody’s dealing with their own shit, you also come to understand that nobody else’s shit is just like yours.
La La Land shows one side of L.A., a glittering, dreamy fantasia. Like astrology, it’s OK to get lost in the fantasy of it. But it’s not the whole story, just as the film only shows a sliver of the story about one kind of music in one city. Knowing this doesn’t make me enjoy La La Land any less. It only makes the real La La Land seem more beautiful and messy once I leave the theater. It makes me want to find — and share — the more complicated, hidden sides of myself and others.
So you could say I’m adjusting. I’ve been hesitant to list “Los Angeles” as my location in my Twitter profile, despite having the zip code, the environmentally friendly car, and the kombucha in my fridge. At first I compromised and put “NY/LA,” which looks a little weird. It’s been a weird year, so maybe it’s fitting. It was fun to watch a film like La La Land in Los Angeles and hear the audience’s laughter in response to L.A. clichés — bumper-to-bumper traffic on the freeway, the aspiring actress who repeatedly goes on terrible auditions, attempting to find your car in a sea of Priuses. I laughed along appreciatively.
To paraphrase my favorite Jenner, 2016 was the year of realizing things. For me, I think 2017 will be the year of challenging them. And by challenging them, I’m hoping to push myself forward to do more, to peel back the layers to find more meaning, and to learn to be able to sit in my own discomfort just slightly better.
I changed my location on Twitter to “La La Land” a few weeks ago. It’s not exactly L.A. — but it’s a little bit closer.
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