I’m leaving you.
I want you to know what you’ve meant to me. That I will never forget you. That you will always be the first city I fell in love with. The first city I never wanted to leave.
You were the first place I was proud to call home:
When I was eighteen I wanted to run. Run from my family and the smallness of my hometown. I wanted to run from who I’d been and what I’d been through.
I wanted to run from everyone I knew.
“Where are you going to college?”
“Sorry to hear about the divorce.”
“How’s your brother doing?”
I wanted to be anonymous, for a while.
I ran to you.
You swept me up in your arms and gently patted the top of my head.
“You’re safe now.”
“No one has to know you’re here.”
You protected me.
Especially at first, when I was still finding my way. When I ran all the way up Wilshire boulevard to Beverly Hills in search of a tanning salon. Somehow loose change I never had appeared in the pocket of my athletic shorts. Somehow you blessed me with a bus stop in an area where, to this day, I’m sure they are banned.
You gave me space.
The space to make new friends and have middle-of-the-night adventures. The space to drink beer like a regular teenager. To be a drunken moron. And a sober one. The space to make bad decisions my parents never had to know about. The space to be impulsive. And messy. And then cleaned-up again.
You taught me to love the ocean.
I learned to dive into the waves and float on the surface. To go to the shoreline whenever I needed to take a deep breath. I learned that you are particularly quiet, and understanding at sunset. That you are beautiful in stillness. That the beach is the perfect place to have a serious talk. Or a ridiculous laugh. That you are at your best when I share you with my closest friends.
You nurtured my independence. And courage
Little by little, you showed me how to navigate your vastness. How to appreciate good food, diverse neighborhoods and dive bars that don’t check I.D. How to get anywhere without sitting in traffic. Most of the time.
You held me tight during my first heartbreak. And my second.
We did yoga together. Hundreds of times.
In our second act, we were alone. A lot.
You challenged me to love you even when it was hard. When I felt lonely, and scared and insecure, you reminded me to keep moving. Keep growing, keep feeling.
But it was never meant to be between us.
Life is too short to feel like I’m not enough. Like I’m always striving towards something I don’t really want. To be thinner, and tanner and better dressed. To leave my impressive job for a hip happy hour. To be glamourous. Flawless. Effortless.
Sometimes I just want to wear sweatpants in public, o.k.?
Despite what it sounds like, this isn’t your fault. I know you did your best to support me. With all of those green juices and exquisite vegetarian meals. With all of your farmer’s markets and organic produce. The sunshine on each of my birthdays. The best spin teacher in the world.
Really. In truth.
It’s not you.