I spend so much of my life looking forward (where should I go next? How do I get there? I wish…), but sometimes it is really special to take a look back, even to the bad times. On the surface, I lost everything during the 12 months I lived in this apartment, but even as I thought my life was OVER, all kinds of things were brewing in my little home, not only in my own life but in the lives of at least two of my neighbors, one of them a fellow travel blogger, another now in the international news for all the wrong reasons….
This innocent-looking bright yellow building in Santa Monica is where I spent the hardest, dare I say darkest, year of my life. I moved to L.A. for what I thought would be a job at a trust-worthy company I had worked for for years — and would offer the stability I was lacking at the local magazines I had been working for in Vegas. Instead? I was laid off four months later. I had not made friends in LA yet. One of the two I had lived far away in West Hollywood. It was a lonely year. Despite my best attempt at savings, that ran out pretty fast. My TV broke about a month in, and construction started on the building next door, so I was up to start my day of nothingness bright and early not just five days a week, but six, every morning before seven am Monday through Saturday. No wonder I started booking big trips to get away. If things hadn’t gotten that bad there, I wonder how long I would have stayed in that situation that wasn’t for me.
Someone once told me that when the universe is trying to tell you something, first it tries nudge you with a feather — but it’s not afraid to throw bricks. I got the message, believe you me. The second my year-long lease was done, I threw everything I owned into storage.
A few months later, I saw that unmistakable yellow building on the news. Michael Jackson’s doctor, Conrad Murray, now embroiled in a major court case, was hiding out there. It was so surreal to see that from so far away, on a neighbor’s TV in Costa Rica. Then I tweeted about that — and something stranger happened. Abbey Hesser, of the blog A Chick with Baggage, wrote me that she, too, had been living in that very building, planning her long-term travel at the same time as me. The building was only a few floors high, we had the same name, and we had never met.
As I look back, a lot went down in that building that year!
I drove by just for kicks last weekend. I had to take this snapshot leaning out of my rental car, since there was not a single parking spot on the block. Santa Monica Place is open, so my sleepy little neighborhood now had parades of cars waiting to park so they could hit up the gigantic Nordstrom and Kitson that now dominate the block I used to go jogging down towards the beach. I recently mentioned that I hadn’t been back to LA since I moved back to the US 14 months ago, to nearby Las Vegas. This was a quick trip, and everything about it was as much a pain as I remembered. That city is not for me, but I don’t think I’ll stay away as long this time. I have wonderful friends there, and for 24 hours (maybe next time I’ll try 48!), I had fun.
Los Angeles and Hollywood are where so many people’s dreams come true, but for me it was a wrong turn. That yellow building represents a slight detour I took to find the job that would blow up in my face so I could leave behind an industry that did not allow me to be my best, and to meet friends who would invite me down to Costa Rica, a move that would change transform me from a workaholic to a wide-eyed adventure-seeker.
I do thank my little apartment for that, but I am also happy that I now never, ever have to think of that place again.
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