Back In L.A.

Being “back in L.A.” is baggage unto itself.

I know this on a personal level now, but it also has become clear to me that a city like Los Angeles — an idiom for idiom’s sake, since no such city exists — isn’t the kind that you leave quietly, and the return is always that much more thunderous.

I, not being from Los Angeles, have returned to a city largely unchanged, but as an intensely changed person myself. This is par for the course, I think, when one is “back in LA”.

I was a Valley man before, but now am a Westsider. I was leaving a job and the city and the country before; I re-enter all three in my return. I was running to get away, but I have acquired a newfound desire to settle down.

For the first time in a long time, I feel committed to my address, source of income, and general lot in life. Yesterday, I went to the DMV, confident in the address change I submitted. It was liberating, and also eye-opening. After leaving my hometown for college, I never felt so comfortable as to even get a new license in California. When I finally did, it was out of necessity, not because I really believed LA was my “home”. Don’t get me wrong: I would still hesitate to give it that title even now, but at the very least I can confidently say I live here. I work here. It really hit me when I started looking up who my city councilperson is, and the associations for the 5 neighborhoods I live in or almost in.

I’ve taken on a dual career of nannying and driving for Lyft. And “career” is perhaps an overstatement, but the more starving artists I drive around who work in food service and retail, the more I realize that this is what Los Angeles is. Neither occupation is something I would’ve ever uprooted my life for when leaving small-town Indiana, but when I check the numbers, it somehow makes sense.

I’ve logged more (enjoyed) work hours nannying than anywhere else. And I still would deign to categorize myself as one who “likes kids”. I’m not sure I do. But I’m learning to understand them. To communicate effectively with them. I’m vociferously opposed to blindly following traditions and culture, and with kids I’m no exception. I think it might be working. But I’m convinced it’s impossible to be a nanny without learning about parenting, child psychology, and your own parents’ bygone struggles all at once.

As for Lyft, I imagine few people exactly envy the lifestyle that says “I can work when I want to, but I work all the time”. That’s my life as a rideshare driver, and I suspect it is the case almost across the board. I’m a good driver, though. And by that I mean that I’m a cut-throat maniac who still knows all the laws; you need to have both sides to survive on LA freeways, and to excel in both to be a well-rated LA rideshare driver. That, and a high tolerance for uncouth behavior and conversation in close proximity — from marijuana smoking to post-prom heartache to supermarket-poverty scales, in a month of driving, I’ve seen it all. And unlike most LA rideshare drivers (in my imagination), I really do enjoy driving.

I guess that’s the upshot: I enjoy what I’m doing. I live in a great neighborhood (which I gauge based on how much I equally envy and loathe the lifestyles of the people in my nearest commercial districts; the more strongly I feel both at the same time, the more wonderful I determine my neighborhood to be). I spend way too much on overrated but moderately good (and occasionally excellent) food. I live near a station for a great public transit train I never use (and since the rent is apparently sky-high near those, I feel satisfyingly bougie, even though I don’t pay rent). All in all, I actually have money left from the previous paycheck when I get paid. It’s wild.

I’m still looking for ways to do more writing and singing, and someday even for pay, but for now I’m just happy to be back in LA. It’s a great feeling in itself. The baggage just makes it burn more calories.

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