I backed up my computer the other day for the first time in a long time. When the iPhoto icon started bouncing like someone waking up from a century-long nap, I winced. Did I really need to sit through a slide show of my life over the last few years? Did I need to be reminded that I once thought my bleach-soaked, Eminem-blond hair could pass as au natural? That t-shirts under tank tops were not a thing? That duck lips and peace signs and "pruning" were not OK? That smoking wasn't sexy? That fishnets before noon send the wrong impression? That bronzer goes under the cheek bone? I planned on leaving the room, hiding from my former self. But then, Time Machine started dipping into my West Coast life, the life I traded in for what a I presumed to be a more rooted and adult life on the East Coast. The pictures were scattered, unorganized, both coasts mixed together like an evenly shuffled deck of cards.
A book resting on my hotdog legs with the Pacific Ocean in the background. My childhood friends and I cheers-ing at a retro dive bar in Brooklyn. A prawn I found in the rocky shore at Big Bear Lake. The pine trees and weeping willows in Westchester. In & Out with extra special sauce. Skiing with my ex in New Hampshire. A bungalow up Laurel Canyon that I fantasized about living in. A neat row of historically preserved brownstones in Fort Greene. My dog covered in sand, laying in a hole he dug at Topanga Beach. A frowning selfie with gridlock traffic on the 405 behind me. A girl passed out on the subway, weighed down by Mardi Gras beads. A scrawny coyote in my path at Runyon Canyon. Smiling wide on my best friend's lap, a roof in Manhattan. The bruised fiery sunset stretching over Hollywood and disappearing into the hills. Shake Shack in Dumbo. The 2x4 breakfast special at Fred's 62 in Los Feliz with a bite missing. Rooftop BBQ in Williamsburg, surrounded by strangers. My dog's ears flapping in the wind as he sticks his head out the window, Mulholland Drive.
Sure, I didn't take pictures of the crappy parts. The unreliable subway schedule, the rattlesnakes in Griffith Park, the electric hell zone that is Times Square, the part of Venice beach that's literally an ash tray. The too-fluffy bagels. The dead rats in the walls. The wildfires, mudslides, earthquakes, hurricanes, snow storms, ebola outbreaks. Over the last eight years, I've moved back and forth between LA and NY with more indecisiveness than one feels when ordering at one of those diners that has everything from omelets to pad thai. The East Coast is my husband, the West Coast is my lover. They both have their perks. My heart's torn between them. Here are six struggles of not knowing which coast you belong on:
LA: Cars are a cultural staple. You can't get around without one. It's nice to have the independence of controlling your own transportation, but traffic is relentless and your nightlight is perpetually cramped. But, I love driving.
NY: Public transportation is very convenient, but it's also unreliable, over-crowded, dirty and sometimes dangerous. But, I love the train.
LA: Dry, colorful, diverse. Dusty dirt, romantic beaches, 14K gold magic hours. I love this palette.
NY: Muddy, wooded, rocky, humid. Soft grass, rough waves, watercolor sunsets. I love these textures.
LA: Eating is more of a social experience in LA. Everyone is health-obsessed. Juices are pressed, ice creams are cream-less, water is enhanced and Papaya Dog is just a secret entrance into a night club. I love a long lunch.
NY: New Yorkers are more likely to look at most meals as fuel. They eat alone, they order in, they reheat, defrost and eat cereal for dinner. But NY has some of the best chefs in the world ready to cook you dinner if you can find the time. I love an artful meal.
LA: It's such a transient city, it's hard to get a hold of the social scene. People who were your buds one year might be too cool for you, back in the midwest or so far on the other side of town you never see them again. But if you can find friends, you'll never run out of adventures to take with them.
NY: The city encourages independence. It's all too easy to spend weeks by yourself, eating alone, seeing movies alone, wandering alone. It's also a really easy city to make friends in. It's actually hard to do anything in New York without striking up a conversation with someone.
LA: The industries in Los Angeles are cutthroat, but there's a lot more emphasis on quality of life. People in LA might work a lot, but they're balancing it out with pleasures. I'm a hedonist.
NY: New Yorkers believe there aren't enough hours in the day. They're work horses. Quality of life is sought in a different way, it's found in nice meals, Uber Xs, and spa treatments. I like a good work ethic.
LA: This city feels good on my skin. I love the colors it paints with. I love the way the wind feels when you roll down the window on the PCH. I love how untouched the hilly parts are, how natural and unwelcoming the prickly plants and hot dirt are. I love the craggy rocks behind the beaches. I love the way music sounds when it echoes from the Greek Theater. I love that you never know what season, day, or time it is — time goes in all directions. I love how it feels to be in love in LA, how there aren't enough days to share all the romantic experiences. I couldn't never not return.
NY: The city is old and new. Ever-changing, shy — waiting for you to discover it. You can walk down one street and see the past and the future. I love the mountains upstate and the horses in the country. I love the way people crowd around the small patches of grass in the warm months. I love dewey grass in the morning and ice cream trucks in the summer. I love the stars in the sky and the history on the streets. I love how it feels be heartbroken in NY, like the entire city was created to cradle your broken heart, like the people who built it had theirs broken, too. I could never leave for good.
Images: Courtesy of Kaitlyn Wylde; Unsplash