This week we were G-chatting about how hard it is to be grateful and happy in our fortunate lives in NY and LA. We’re trying to decide how to stop missing what we had or looking forward to things we could have in order to appreciate the present. If you have any advice for us, please comment. We’re desperately discontent this week.
Miriam: Moving to LA has been incredible and surprising and challenging — in other words, life-changing, which is undeniably good for the soul. But the hardest thing about it, hands down, has been letting go of my friends back home. Or coming to terms with the fact that we’re all changing and the roles we play in each others’ lives are shifting.
In my fantasy world, I get to have all the wonderful things I got by moving to LA, only the tremendous friends I left in New York live here too. Because back in New York, I was actually lucky enough to literally have a group of Friends-friends. Rare, I know, and frustrating, because seriously who actually has the perfect group of friends who live nearby and are just too TV perfect to be true? But oh my god, how I treasured them. And still do. Only now I get to miss them like hell all the time and it blows.
It’s not that I haven’t met wonderful people here — because I most certainly have — or that I don’t realize that building true, strong friendships takes more time than anyone one would reasonably like — because I do. But I have a long and healthy tradition of building surrogate families, and the best one I ever built is back on the East Coast. Without me. And a few weeks ago I went to a party here, and everyone was hanging out in their little cliques of four, and it just made me so incredibly sad. Not because I don’t have friends like that, but because I’m embarking on this new adventure in life here, and they’re not here to do it with me.
Of course I felt this way when high school and college ended too. It’s frustrating to think that is just the way life is, that these feelings are just going to come and go every few years. I used this South Park quote once before, when I was writing about exes, but it’s still apt: “I’m sad, but at the same time I’m really happy that somethin’ could make me feel that sad. It’s like, i-i-i-it makes me feel alive, you know? It makes me feel human. And the only way I could feel this sad now is if I felt somethin’ really good before. So I have to take the bad with the good, so I guess what I’m feelin’ is like a beautiful sadness.”
The difference between exes and friends, of course, at least most of the time, is that while exes come and go, friends stay. It’s still beautifully sad, but it’s beautifully sad in that friendships evolve. It’s not that the people I love so much back in New York aren’t in my life, they’re in my life in different ways. And it’s less about geography than it is about all of us growing up. Things would change even if we were all still just a short subway ride away from each other. And it wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing.
Ellyn: Growing up, my mom always talked about how our life would be so great if we could get out of “Wind Bag,” her nickname for our little town, Wind Gap. She talked about moving to California, setting goals, building life cycle collages for what we wanted in our futures. That was all great for my drive and need to succeed. But not so good for focusing on the present. I don’t know what it feels like to be content with the now. It’s drilled into my hard drive, from childhood, to look ahead and imagine what could be instead of enjoy what is.
Even now I’m dreaming about moving to Europe to relive my study abroad summer or relocating to San Diego. I know that in reality it would still be just me, in a different place. Once I’m there, I’ll likely be looking for the next step. But if I never try, I’ll never know for sure…
The ironic thing is, if I stop and think about it, my life is pretty great compared to the majority of the world. I have a job, a family, friends, a relationship, a pretty sweet apartment, and new opportunities always popping up. So why is it that I can only focus on how much the snow sucks, how bored I am with routine and my anxiety in crowded places?
It could be because I’m afraid to be attached to one person or one place, for fear that it will be taken away. I could blame it on early childhood divorce, but that doesn’t help me figure out how to stand still for five seconds and stop driving my boyfriend crazy.
But then I realize it’s not just me. It might be something present in our entire generation. There’s something competitive and inherently discontent about struggling through our twenties. We’re learning lesson after lesson at work, in relationships, through evolving friendships, and about how we handle situations. It’s hard to just be ourselves and relax, because we’re still figuring out who we are. If we don’t chase the dreams we have in our head about what we could be, how will we ever move forward or grow up?