Five Years Back in LA and Everything’s Changed

photo credit: discoverlosangeles.com

The Los Angeles today is the definitely not the Los Angeles I grew up in. It seems as though everyone from everywhere has this place figured out when in reality they are far from maximum knowledge. Everyone from everywhere has this idea of Los Angeles that only scratches but think that is all Los Angeles and ever will be. Riding the Metro is becoming a thing, using the bike lane is a thing, and going to the beach will always be a thing. In the five years since I have moved back to LA, I wonder if this is a place I can really call home anymore. Well all my stuff resides here, my family still lives in LA proper and my career will pretty much be here for the foreseeable future. So it would be be hard to just pack up and try to create a new home in another city. Of course, I always get excited when I meet a LA native, it is the only part when LA feels like home.

The Not-So Long Distance Friendship

Despite my lamenting, Los Angeles is one of the greatest cities in the world, there is nothing like LA. It’s just that I wish there were a lot less douchebags that also call this place their residence. Friendships are not hard to develop here but they are excruciatingly difficult to maintain. You click with a person in Santa Monica at a bar in Culver City but they live in Silver Lake. That friendship doesn’t stand a chance which is a common refrain I hear. It is a refrain I really have a hard time. Santa Monica and Silver Lake is about 18 miles apart and anywhere from 21 minute drive to an hour drive depending on the time of day. That is the where the friendship ends, “it’s too far, never going to happen.” This is a response I just never understood. Do you not know what city you live in?! Also, are people in LA just that desperate for a friendship of convenience?

Growing up, all my friends lived far from me. I was always that *friend* that lived ~in the city~. Even when I got a car finally, still far but it never bothered me because seeing the friend was more important than the distance; driving and sitting in traffic was just part of life. At the end of the day, is a friendship based on convenience really a friendship or just a heightened acquaintance?

We only look for the party but never the after party

When you have a revolving door of friendships and acquaintances, you are on the hunt of finding more people. Think of making quality friends in LA as a one giant bar crawl, except the bar crawl gets really old after your third or fourth stop. When I moved back to LA in 2012, I felt like an out of stater where I had to start over in making friends. I still had some friends but that number dwindled dramatically. At first, I saw it as a new opportunity to have a fresh start. Technology also makes this easier so I started using Meetup where I joined a few groups and found success. Then I started to notice some sinister things at work: the endless amounts of people flaking out of committments. I always saw Meetup groups as communities where you can create something special and have it loosely as a core. However, that is hard to do when everyone flakes. So I started to become cynical where I saw people using the site as just finding things to do.

There was never really an intent to meet people and make lasting friendships. It was just where is the party; how can be part of this party; is it going to be worth my time? If you are always looking for the party and never thinking about the after party, then you’ll always be looking for parties and really friendships. The kicker is that EVERYONE complains about this. Well great, glad we figured out that is the problem but maybe we should do something about it?

Put the damn phone away!

When everyone is shrugging wondering how to create solid friendships, it gets increasingly difficult to address when your eyes are glued your smart phone stalking someone on social media or obsessed with creating that perfectly curated (most likely unauthentic) image of yourself on your phone. I have been guilty of this and was while in law school. It was only when one of my friends law school called me and our mutual friends out for being obsessed with our phones partially in jest— she had a flip phone. Honestly, I did not think much of it but I started out of respect for my friend to put the phone away and actually enjoy her company. Then I continued this long after law school. Whatever was on my phone can wait for an hour or two!

Then moving back, I started to notice my friends in LA do it much more frequently and started to bug the hell out of me. I am thinking, “well clearly you want to hang out with your phone more than me, why the eff am I here then?”

Being on that other side really made me fully grasp at my friend’s lamentation about using phones excessively. When I was in law school, I did a lot of things by myself mainly because I lived 45 miles from everyone else so doing everything with someone was not possible. So at that point, I began to fully embrace doing things by myself a lot more. It cut through the bullshit and honestly can take all the food photos I wanted without judgement.

I am someone who absolutely loves taking photos whether it is a DSLR, point and shoot or smartphone. I’ll always take the opportunity in taking a great shot. Except the older I get, I don’t really see the need to be always taking pictures and find myself enjoying the company of my friends or being in the moment. To be honest, most nighttime photos are beyond awful — not even worth it.

When most of your friends are just really acquaintances

From my experience being back in Los Angeles, I learned some really harsh truths. Some of these truths include that LA is a transient city, a lot of people will come and go. Most of the people I met are single, transplants and really do not have much holding them in LA. When that opportunity strikes, I am all for it and will support my friends that go to achieve their goals. However, I found once many of them left, the friendship ends. This hasn’t happened to all my friends that left but many. The ones it hasn’t happened to, well I found those were the quality friends that I wish were still around. We were able to connect and know deep down we’ll always be friends. Sometimes it just happens a lot sooner than I would have liked. Change is a constant in LA and it is a harsh lesson to every time it happens.

There is no harsher lesson than learning that some friendships are really just acquaintances in disguise. I found that someone you thought you could have a great friendship is ultimately only an acquaintance. Personally, that is worse than having a falling out with a friend because this was a friendship that was never meant to be. I see this daily. I’ll go on on my Facebook feed and find that I am looking on the outside through a lot of these acquaintances that I thought could be friends. I realize I’ll never really be part of their lives. As someone who considers friends as part of my extended family, this lesson always cuts hard. I always struggle with this because it seems like a slap in the face because in my mind, family doesn’t do that. It brings up feelings of exclusion and not being good enough — I was only good enough in a certain context. I feel disheartened and exhausted. At 32, I am at the point in my life where I am just tired of meeting new people. I tell friends, I am at a capacity for friends. I am happy with the ones I have, I wish sometimes there were just a little closer to me.

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