I lost my job three weeks ago.
I haven’t really talked about it – publicly or privately. This sort of thing isn’t unusual these days. I had a salaried, full-time job with benefits and everything like a real adult should. I was able to live comfortably, pay rent, and even move to Los Angeles. This job gave me the opportunity to actually experience young adulthood as I pleased, without much of the financial stress that seems to be plaguing my entire generation. I was lucky, I was grateful, and I was ignorant.
I was feeling particularly reckless that weekend. After spending a few hundred dollars on a boygenius/Clairo/Dijon concert (which was life-changing, for the record), a friend and I had decided we could get even more reckless on concert tickets. We impulsively decided to spend another few hundred dollars on Steve Lacy/James Blake/Toro y Moi tickets, as well as accidentally spending close to $1000 each on the return of the Camp Flog Gnaw music festival. All in all, my wallet was not happy with me but, as we naïvely joked just hours before, money is temporary; the vibes are forever.
It happened on the way to the show. After leaving the apartment while still under my contract hours, I got a call from my boss. I was expecting the usual “what are you up to,” “where is this video,” “looking forward to reviewing it,” type of thing that I usually get when he decides to call. Before I picked up, I joked about how I was about to get yelled at but it really doesn’t matter because I’m irreplaceable – they can’t let me go.
Instead, I get word that the company is under major financial stress and they’ve had to lay off the entire marketing team, some administrative staff, and, of course, me. I lost my job three weeks ago.
I didn’t really take the time to process it. My friend was from out of town and the most important thing on my mind was making sure they had a good time. That means not letting this job thing get to me. That means getting out of my own head and not freaking out about the money I no longer have. That means no scrambling to figure out how the hell I’m going to afford rent or food or any basic necessities. That means acting like the money I spend will come back eventually because it always has. That means enjoying these concerts at any cost, financial or otherwise.
Eventually the weekend ended as it always does, and I was left to my own devices once again. Of course, there was an awareness that I am now unemployed and have no income, but the weight of the situation was still being avoided. I applied to some more jobs and took on some freelance work, not because I felt like I had to, but because it felt like I should. Like, I should be getting work again because that’s what I was supposed to do. Right?
Well, with every job board I mulled over and cover letter I wrote, there came this impending sense of dread that slowly crept in. The weight of the situation was starting to press against my chest and, after one particular afternoon of applying to a multitude of random jobs, suddenly I couldn’t breathe.
I can’t describe the feeling in its full intensity. It truly felt like a real-world pressure was squeezing against my chest, my head, and my hands simultaneously. It felt difficult to move, but even more difficult to think. Thoughts began to swirl in my head of inadequacy and fear and doubt and disbelief. Was this really my life? Did I fuck it up this time? Am I still ignorant to just how awful this is going to be for me?
I couldn’t handle it – feelings of intense anxiety I haven’t felt since, like, high school or something. Knowing that things are fucked up but you’re not sure if you fully grasp how fucked up things are or, most importantly, how to un-fuck them up. And in a brand new city that I’m still not accustomed to, it felt like every person and building and car was just staring at me, wondering how I’m going to get it together and why I don’t have it together like everyone else in this city seems to have it together. I needed comfort. I needed familiarity.
So I ran home.
I’ve been in Los Angeles for two months now. I’ve started to get accustomed to the gray tones of the sidewalks and building walls; the luscious greens of the plants that line front lawns of rich neighborhoods; the density of buildings that block the horizon from all directions.
I haven’t lived in Arizona for two months now. I lost all familiarity of what made it feel like a home to me: the brown tones of gravel and house walls; the desaturated greens of palo verdes and agave plants; the astonishing vastness that makes the valley appear as if it stretches to infinity in every direction.
It was a weird feeling to see a place that you thought you knew so well – the place that raised you for almost 24 years of your life – in a completely unfamiliar way. Everything felt different, down to the way that time moved. I’ve never experienced time in a slower sense than visiting my home town once again and being hyper-aware of every little detail that only a visitor would notice. But I was not a visitor – I was on the homecoming tour.
So I did everything I did when I lived there. I met up with the friends I still have there, ate at the restaurants I went to regularly, and even saw people I haven’t seen in six years. I stayed at my Mom’s house but did things I’d never done before, too. I went up north to the woods that give me peace, but also west to the city that I never fully explored.
This feeling really hit me when, after a very… uh, weird night reconnecting with an old friend, I decided to retreat even further to Flagstaff, Arizona. Specifically, I ran to Aspen Corner, a little hiking trail I’ve never actually completed because I’ve found complete solace in the pond a few times before. In fact, I even made a video & art project based on the things this place has done for me before.
And despite how it’s made me feel before – much like the old friends, or the restaurants I used to visit, or the walks I used to take – it just didn’t hit the same. In a bout of meditation (I know), I came to the realization that none of it was the same. It never could be the same.
The entire trip was this series of strange dissonance that I’ve never fully experienced before. There was an urge to find any sort of comfort in the place that has served me before, mixed with an awareness that it is not serving me in the ways that it used to. And how could it? The fact of the matter is that these things are no longer meant for me. Yes, I grew up in Arizona, but I don’t live there anymore. It’s not my home anymore.
Sitting with a wide open field in front of me, feeling the cool breeze and warm summer sun all embrace me, I felt this solemn moment of acceptance that I just need to let things go.
Dear reader, have you ever had to let something go? The obvious answer is yes, probably. But the more I thought about it, I don’t think I’ve ever had to let something go like this. Saying goodbye on your own volition, with no bad blood, and a positively mutual understanding that you two are growing in different ways… it’s a beautiful feeling I can’t say I’ve experienced before. Call it fear or immaturity or denial… I’ve never let something go like this.
There is a certain beauty in understanding that the things that used to serve you so well can no longer serve you in the same way – to realize that the things you’ve turned to for comfort in the past are just no longer viable anymore. It’s not a bad thing. I’ve just come to understand that things are changing and I am growing. Maybe I’ve been able to do this the entire time but I’ve been afraid of growing. Or maybe it really did take moving to an entirely different state for me to feel permission to grow. Regardless, it’s here. It’s how I’m feeling now.
Since starting this entry, I’ve come back to Los Angeles. I actually cut my retreat short because I couldn’t handle the overwhelming feelings of realizing that Arizona is no longer my home but just the place I grew up now. And especially having this entire epiphany, feeling the solemn acceptance that I need to let parts of Arizona go, and then spending the night at my Mom’s house just… didn’t feel good.
I don’t really know what the future holds if I’m being honest. Circumstantially, nothing has changed: I’m still unemployed, I still have no money, I still live in Los Angeles, and I still haven’t really made my way here yet. If anything, this entire journey has just made things more complicated. Not only do I have to find a job and figure out how I’m going to survive in this city, but I also have this whole spiritual self-discovery journey of fulfillment or something that I just kinda launched myself into.
I suppose there’s no real conclusion to this. I haven’t actually figured anything out. I had hoped that coming back to Los Angeles, the place that I had so proudly decided to declare a home after this whole dilemma, would instantly give me the sense of belonging that I was searching for. I was hoping that seeing the skyline and smelling the sweet scent of gasoline and concrete would make me feel like I had finally found a home in this city. I haven’t, and there’s slight feelings of resentment that I’m not sure are entirely justified.
What? You mean to tell me I have to work to make a brand new place feel like a home?!
Unfortunately, yes. I think that’s how this is going to go. So, in typical Garden fashion, I am once again planting these seeds.
Dear reader, here’s to finding your home. Here’s to meeting new people and expressing yourself fully and chasing your dreams and all that jazz. If anyone has any ideas what any of that actually means, I’m all ears.
Love and lantanas,