Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Spaced out in L.A.

When I think about what I struggled with living in Los Angeles, the predominant item on the list was space. Space to walk, breathe, live; And just finding the space to BE. It’s a place where people want to be noticed. It’s a place where people can walk all over you. People rumble down the street in giant yellow Hummers so desperate are they to be seen and stand out. You can get runover many ways there; with other’s “bigger” ideas or just louder voices. Everyone vies for space. Everyone wants to matter. For some reason, just being doesn’t matter. You have to prove you’re SOMEBODY. If you’re SOMEBODY, people will stop for you and let you pass in front of them. There’s that SOMEBODY! That SOMEBODY counts somehow more than you do. You want to be that SOMEBODY someday. Maybe that SOMEBODY can help you. You have to do something for that SOMEBODY first. I found coping with this thinking hard, going against my grain. All beings matter or else every one of us wouldn’t be here, living on this planet now. But those are the rules of Los Angeles as they are, especially in Entertainment. Not everyone’s an asshole but we all worry about getting stepped on along our career path as someone tries to jump ahead of us.

A few weeks ago, at the local market in lovely shore-town of Mendocino in Northern California, I apologized to a customer as I interjected a question to the cashier. She was ahead of me in line. This didn’t ruffle her. Instead, looking at the fewer items I had, she insisted I go ahead of her. I declined. “No, no, please,” she said. I told her she was very kind, a phrase I said over and over during my trip there. People were constantly putting my needs first, an experience I haven’t felt in a long time. I didn’t have to fight for it. I didn’t have to do a quid pro quo; I mattered just for being a human being. That isn’t to say I didn’t come across this behavior in L.A. I did. Just not on a consistent basis.

I used to wonder why I was so tired living in Los Angeles. Was it the pollution, the noise, and working crazy hours? Yes, but mostly it was struggling to be in area where I tested my values daily. I acted kindly towards people I thought were pushy and aggressive. One day, I reflected back exactly the behaviors I saw – sad, drawn, aggravated mouths with a bitchy demeanor. I got back exactly what I put out. Not pleasant. But I saw how much effort I put out to remain positive and sane. It’s a lot of work and it’s an effort I’m not going to miss now that I live elsewhere.

In all encounters we have a choice to either think of others or only ourselves… And given the frame of mine we’re in, we do have to act accordingly to our needs. When we live in a people-clogged environment, set on forwarding our career goals, in an area where it’s all about me, you can only adapt or constantly serve others. That’s what I learned in Los Angeles. Now that I'm living in a freer open space, it's easier to let someone ahead. It doesn't matter because we all matter. There's enough space to go around.


Emily said...

I thought this blog particularly insightful - everyone in LA is trying to be or prove they are SOMEBODY...you hit the proverbial nail on the head.

I had been thinking we are just a "me" generation, but I think it is especially amplified in LA, where we only think of ourselves and how to get ahead.

God, I miss Northern California.

Jen Pearlman said...

No Cal misses you too Em!