Phoebe's Travelogue

A City That Makes Sense


Back in April, when I first started telling people that I was moving to the US, nine times out of ten they would presume that I meant New York. When I corrected them, I was generally met by a reaction of bemusement. ‘Oh’, they’d say. ‘LA? Really? You just seem much more like a New York kind of girl.’

I’d always seen myself as a ‘New York kind of girl’, too – or at least I’d always wanted to be one. When I first went to New York to intern at the age of 17, I felt certain that this was the place where I could ‘live my best life’, or whatever it is Oprah commands us to do. The women in New York seemed whip smart, street smart, impossibly groomed and, above all, about their business. This was the type of woman that 17 year old me desperately wanted to be. This is the type of woman that 24 year old me is still striving to be.

But the world changed, New York seemed to change, and I definitely changed. When my Green Card came through back in March, I had to choose a city (there were only ever two choices in my mind) and I slowly began to realise that it wasn’t going to be New York. On paper, New York made sense: I love the city, have great friends and professional contacts there, a good grasp of its geography and public transport system, and an internal Rolodex of my favourite brunch spots and dive bars below 14th street. I knew I could dip safely and happily into day to day life in NYC. But I didn’t want to. I wanted to live in LA.

New York is a place of sharply defined (and defining) memories in my mind’s eye, whereas Los Angeles was somewhere vague and hazy - a city I’d visited only a few times, and where I had hardly any friends and even fewer work prospects. And yet, there was something about LA that resonated on an internal level…A retained physical memory, perhaps, of they way it had made me feel on past visits: liberated, dreamy, at ease, productive, relaxed, right.

Right was important, because life in London was feeling less and less right. It’s unsettling to feel increasingly alienated from the place where you were born/had your first kiss/graduated from university, but that’s exactly what was happening. London was beginning to feel like a much-loved jumper that once fit perfectly but was now slowly starting to lose its shape. At the ripe old age of 24, I’d grown apathetic about socialising, restless in my hub of self-created domestic bliss, confused about work, and really fucking bored of the weather. I needed a culture shock, and I knew I wouldn’t find one in New York.

For a born-and-bred Londoner, life in Los Angeles is about as disorienting as it gets. But somehow, LA settles me. The city has a reputation for being isolating (and rightfully so) but I find that living in a sprawling, car-reliant metropolis does really good things for the concentration. You exist in a sunlit bubble here; one that is rarely permeated by the daily distractions of life in ‘proper’ cities. For a freelance writer, this helps a lot. My chosen profession is far from the most arduous job on earth, but it does require a level of self-imposed seclusion and focus that I’ve never been able to find in New York, and which was becoming an increasing struggle in London.

I’m sure London will feel right again at another stage in my life, when my priorities have shifted and I crave different things to feel at ease. I’m sure New York will be a good fit at a later, considerably more affluent stage, too. But for this time in my life, when I’m old enough to have an idea of who I am and how I like to live, but young enough to embrace a new way of life in a strange and sunny land, LA makes complete, (im)perfect sense.