Sunday, March 26, 2017

Raindrops on Roses and Whiskers on Kittens

It is no secret that I have been struggling a lot this year. A lot of baggage (for lack of a better term) has come up. To be honest, with all the baggage it has been hard motivating myself to finish off my YAV year. It has been hard to find the positives when I am constantly swimming in a sea of negativity. To help not focus on the negativity I created a list of the top 10 things I love or like about LA. While creating a list will not be the answer to all my questions, it will at least start the thought process of focusing on the positives and not the negatives...

1) My friends- I made SO many friends within the past seven months (the length of time I’ve been a YAV.) I have my YAV friends, friends who are past Dwellers or YAVs, friends connected to LPTS. However, when writing this list I am referring to friends from City Lights.
Left to right: Maddie, Me, Kellyn, Hannah
Not that my friends from City Lights are more important than my YAV friends, I am not saying that at all. But I would not have meat my City Lights friends if it weren’t for me being placed in Los Angeles for my YAV year. I’m pretty sure I would still be friends with the Indy YAVs or Korea YAVs if I were placed in Kenya or Tuscan. I wouldn't have necessarily met my City Lights friends if I were placed in Kenya or Tuscan. For those who don’t know, City Lights is the name of the young adult group I go to after church. It is a time for fellowship and unwinding. The City Lights group has feed in me in so many ways they don’t even know, and I love them for that <3

2) The Culture- I once heard someone say, “LA is a city within cities,” I couldn’t agree more. I would say that if New York City is the city to see on the East coast then Los Angeles is the city to see on the West coast. With Chinatown, Little Tokyo, Koreatown, Hollywood, Downtown LA, Silverlake, Olvera Street, etc. there is bound to be several different cultures and lifestyles that make up LA.

According to my research, in 2013 LA was reported for being approximately 503 cubed miles and has a population of 3.884 million. Within that population, there are over 200 languages and dialects spoken. In Indiana, where I grew up, there is only about 13 languages spoken. For me, who was raised in a very homogenous state, the diversity of LA is about the coolest thing out there. There is something beautiful about the diversity of cultures. I feel like there is so much we can learn from other lifestyles and cultures that we are exposed to.

3) The Food- Similarly to #2, since I grew up in a very homogenous area, there was not that much diversity of food. We had restaurants of different nationalities, but you would have to be intentional about finding them. It wasn't like you could just go to your local grocery store and buy some conchas or order Boba from a coffee shop. Since there are so many ethnic groups and cultures within LA, there are so many different types of food that I’ve never heard of.

Since coming to LA, I’ve had pho, horchata, Korean food, Japanese hot pot, and Boba for the first time. Sometimes I would have to get help ordering from the people around me because I wouldn’t know what I was ordering or how to order it. Not to mention how easy it is to access food like kimchi (the manna of cabbage) and avocados here. Back in Indiana I couldn't access food like that as easily, mainly corn, soybeans, more corn, oh and guess what corn!

4) The Metro (public transit)- You can tell I’m not local to LA because I actually like LA’s public transportation system. I don't like waiting 15 minutes because I missed my bus by a minute, but in general I like how many bus stops and Metro stations there are. It makes it a great way in getting around the city and nearby cities. Not to mention sitting on a bus or metro line is an easy way to people watch (on of my favorite pass times). Again, not to rag on Indiana, but there is ABSOLUTELY NO public transit options in Indiana. (Not unless you count Uber.) But this made it extremely hard to get around, you either had to have a car or have friends who were extremely generous in giving rides. Luckily I had extremely generous friends growing up, but I was still limited on where I could go because of this. In LA I don't feel that limitation because of how many Metro options there are.

5) Long Beach- As I mention in #4 it is easy to visit nearby cities, one of which is Long Beach. Long Beach is without a doubt one of my favorite spots to go when I need to escape. I have sailor blood in me; my paternal grandpa owned his own sail boat (Kate). He then taught my dad and aunts about sailing. My aunt knows a little about how to sail a sailboat, my dad want to live by the sea, and the boating blood has been passed down to my brother and I. My brother once told me that he wants to own a boat and I though about it once or twice before.

I remember spending summer break visiting my grandparents down in Florida when I was little sailing on Kate (or Kate II, I can’t remember.) Now whenever we go on vacation near a large body of water, WE must visit the nearby boat harbor (for some reason it is always near the evening time after or before dinner.) Visiting boat harbors and looking at the different ships is relaxing to me. Maybe it’s because it reminds me of my grandpa who is no longer on Earth, but there is something about the non-touristy nautical culture that gives me peace. I can write a whole blog entry about my love for boat harbors, but the point is Long Beach is relaxing because of the massive boat harbor.

In my opinion, I’d rather spend a whole day at Long Beach than at Santa Monica. With Long Beach I can get the typical tourist experience and the non-tourist experience. Even if I don’t do anything but walk down Rainbow Pier, I still feel so much energy. I can experience the calming effects of the sea and the busyness of people watching all at the same time. Earlier in the year, I went down there several times to journal and escape the drama that was weighing me down. Even if I don’t feel like looking at the boats and the sea, there is still plenty do within the city. It’s a beautiful place to go exploring in.

6) Exploring the City- I have a wanderlust heart, I like to explore and experience new things. I was once called a risk taker, which I find ironic. So it makes since that one of my favorite activities on the weekend is to explore different parts of the city and cities around LA. It has even started to become a form of self-care for me. Since I am not in a familiar place, I have to be intentional about not focusing on my world and focusing on the world outside of me. Fun fact, I got an Instagram solely for that purpose. With photography, I have to step outside of my world in order to capture the beautiful world around me. And by having an Instagram account, I am able to keep myself accountable to that.

 That intentionality of switching focuses has actually gotten me through some pretty tough situations. Not only do I have to be intentional about switching focuses, I have to be intentional about preparing to explore a certain area of the city. I’m not going to blindly go to a place like Venice Beach without a plan. I do this for safety precautions.

7) Eccentric Characters- I feel this can be a controversial topic because eccentric can either be taken in a good or bad way. Eccentric can be seen as weird or crazy, which LA is definitely full of, or eccentric can be taken as different or unique, which LA is also full of. However, I am interrupt eccentric as different or unique. LA is full of so many eccentric and interesting people. Everybody has a story that they are living. Every one has a reason for coming out to LA, and it isn’t just to make it big in Hollywood.

I think the uniqueness of LA is the different stories that everyone brings. The eccentric people are what make LA, LA. Everybody has a unique perspective on life that we can learn from. I’ve learned what type of person I want to be and what type of person I don't want to be based on the eccentric people I see in the passing. I am learning what type of person I do or don’t want to be based on the stories of others I hear on a daily basis.

8) Interest in Social Justice-Fun fact about last year, I was less than 50 feet away from Bernie Sanders. I’ve witnessed two protests, was at the Women’s March, and see countless adds for social justice, such as advocacy for minority groups. Maybe it is just a California thing or maybe it is a big city thing, but LA is full of movements, protests, and adds to promote social justice. While my political vocabulary maybe lacking, I do wish to improve upon this. That is why I appreciate all the social justice movement I see within LA, it is a chance for me to learn about the political and social justice world from outside the textbooks. I think it’s ironic that I am able to see social justice action in a city that is stereotyped for being egocentric and dirty. 
9) Weather-So I realize this one is a weird one, but keep in mind I’m used to mother nature being on mood swings back in the Midwest. Sure southern California does have it’s change in weather, and yes it has rained a couple of times since I’ve been out here (I brought the rain with me from Indiana) but southern California weather does not experience all four seasons in one weak. When my friends asked me what Indiana weather is like I say that it can go from 30 degrees Fahrenheit to 70 degrees Fahrenheit all within one day. It can go from raining for three days straight then one day of beautiful sunshine, then back to the rain again. You can see rain, thunderstorm, fog, sunshine, and snow all on the same day.

Obviously I am over exaggerating (only a little.) But the point is Indiana weather is never constant. It is never predictable and I never know how to dress. With LA weather the weather is a lot more constant. Sure there is some of those weird days but in general I know what to expect. As for as the sunshine goes, I don't care if it’s sunny all the time or raining all the time as long as there is some consistency to it. Although, I will admit that it is sometimes nice to feel like I’m living in beach weather all the time. The sun makes people want to be outside more which in then makes people more social and happier because of the nutrients they are soaking up from the sun. This is especially true for me who used to suffer from seasonal depression.

10) Self Development- I have been chewed and spit out several times since coming to LA. I’ve also seen and heard so much since coming to LA that deals with issues of homelessness, racism, gentrification, sexism, etc. I’ve been challenged to look at those issues differently because I’ve experience them first hand. I’ve been challenged to look at my values differently because my values have challenged or question. I’ve been challenged to look at my emotions differently because of how I’ve felt ashamed of my emotions.

I am in a constant state of struggle and living outside my comfort zone, and it is exhausting. I’ve felt confused, ashamed, resentful, anger, sadness, joy and peace with everything I have to process. The way in which I am processing and interpreting information and emotions are changing. My relationship with others is changing and my relationship with God is changing. I’m able to see others in a different light, and I’ve been able to deepen my relationship with God on an intimate and personal level.  To be honest it feels kind of weird writing about how I’ve changed. Mainly because it is hard to see how I’ve changed because I am still in the metamorphic process of changing. Then again isn’t life a never ending metamorphic process of personal changes? There is no absolute period of change that one must endure, but rather a sequence of them (otherwise life wouldn't be life.) For me, I may not know how the YAV program is changing me, but I know that it is changing me. I know that the YAV program is one of the many metamorphic periods that I will encounter in life.