Los Angeles: Don't Put Me In A Box
Updated: Jul 2
It was hard to imagine what to expect from my time living in Los Angeles. Since I can remember it is a place I often thought about visiting or even potentially living. I figured the most likely reason was my lifelong love of reality TV (specifically Laguna Beach, The Hills and The Real Housewives). It was also very likely that it was connected to my interest in trends and fashion. Before I dedicated all of my attention and energy to yoga I was working towards establishing a career in fashion.
Brandon and I are always asked about where we are traveling to next. This time around when we answered Los Angeles we were often met with an inquisitive “why?”. This was much different than the reactions we had been receiving about other places we’ve visited so far. Somehow it felt a lot more like people were saying “yuck” instead. We found ourselves defending our reasoning for wanting to spend time there. All of this questioning had us wondering what we were really getting ourselves into. Before going any further, I want to say that I think Los Angeles is mostly misunderstood. What I learned is that there are a lot of people living their life, doing their own damn thing and not giving a fuck what other people think about it. It seems to me that this self-centeredness is being perceived as negative. Based on my experience, it’s admirable.
I was coming into Los Angeles on a high from having spent time back in the midwest. I connected with my yoga community, friends and family and worked through a lot of insecurities. One quality I didn’t talk too much about in my last blog post was the anxiety I was feeling about traveling in general. For me it wasn’t about getting on an airplane or about the time spent uprooted and on the road. It was about physically being separated from Brandon.
Codependency is a behavioral condition that I gained as a result of my eating disorder. This became apparent once I started my recovery many years ago. Typical eating disorder coping mechanisms can easily get replaced with hyperfixation on relationships. I’ve always considered the possibility of feeling a loss of identity if I didn’t have Brandon by my side. Because I am aware of my tendency to absorb myself into others I am able to keep it in check most of the time. Even with a watchful eye it became clear that it crept in as I prepared to make this solo trip back home. Brandon and I were able to have some good conversations about this before I left and we both agreed it was all the more reason for me to go. Codependency is the biggest layer to peel back to better understand why I found the social culture of Los Angeles inspiring.
Feeling like an absolute queen I was ready to hit the ground running upon my return to Brandon. In LA we continued our daily lunch walks during the week and were amazed at the beauty of the city. The endless gardens were perfect eye candy and the sweet smell of flowers filled the air as you walked past them. Of course we were met with some not so pleasant smells too. LA is dirty, but not so different from any other major city. Because of the high homeless population of California the streets and sidewalks are filled with a ton of debris. To be honest, at times it was hard to tell if you were seeing dog or human feces. Even the scents of LA co-exist.
The juxtaposition between the extremely wealthy and the extremely poor was obvious. We stayed in a neighborhood called Los Feliz just east of Hollywood. In the residential area million dollar mansions with luxury vehicles parked in the driveway stay tucked behind iron gates. Broken down campers remained parked out on the streets just outside the opulent homes for days. This opposition is perhaps one of the first things someone would notice during a quick visit. The longer we stayed the more we were able to see past the cover. In between the obscenely rich and poor is a majority of average people doing the best they can. These people are working hard to make ends meet financially. These people are worried about the cost of gas and groceries. These people are seeking a place to go out and socialize with their family/friends/coworkers over great food, drink and atmosphere. So why the bad wrap on LA as a whole? I believe it’s because the majority of people that visit take it at face value rather than trying to understand its intricacy and variety.
If you’ve never visited LA it’s difficult to comprehend the large scale of the city. To paint a picture, all of the neighborhoods within the entire city feel like smaller cities themselves. Each neighborhood comes with its own unique culture of people that is totally different from the next. What I realized is that the people that live here have found a place that allows them to be uniquely themselves without any judgment. They don’t care much about why you're there and are probably just hoping you are living your life whatever way you want to as well.
LA is the entertainment capital of the world and a breeding ground for creativity. Because many people that live here work in the entertainment industry, as a visitor it might be easy to feel like an outsider since there is no place else like it. When you feel outside of something it’s easy to judge it or mislabel it because you don’t understand it. I’ll even admit to rolling my eyes over the seemingly superficial conversations I overheard the first week or two. The more I processed the social dynamics the more I realized that people were just chatting about their common interests, like we all do. While out and about, everyone seems to be minding their own business, head down and deep into their own thoughts. You’ll be hard pressed to find a friendly wave and you’ll definitely bump a few shoulders while strolling down the sidewalks going about your day. Often I would find myself thinking, “do I even exist in this place?”
I believe you can be positively or negatively self-centered depending on the intention of your focus. As someone who struggles with codependency it would serve me well to pay more attention to my own needs and less about others. The term “Midwest nice” comes to mind. Midwest nice is the cultural stereotype applied to the behavior of the people in the Midwest as they are known for being unusually polite, reserved or passive-aggressive. Personally this overly nice behavior only fuels my codependent nature. On the contrary, the “self-centered” nature of the people in LA inspires me to move away from codependency and stand firmly in my own fire. I think there is a sweet middle ground to be found between the two opposite spectrums.
I found that middle ground at the yoga studios I attended. The locally owned studios are so enthusiastic and always interested in getting to know me personally as a new student. Light on Lotus in particular offered a class different from any other that I’ve experienced. Besides a welcoming community and instructor, this space featured the creativity and artistry that is hard to find. There was a DJ curating the playlist as the teacher instructed. We began class with a chakra meditation, chanting each of the chakras seed sounds. Unbeknownst to us, the DJ recorded the group chanting and as the movement portion of class began he played a remixed version of the chant. Yoga is a multidimensional practice and this intuitively designed music added a new layer for me.
LA might not be for everyone especially if you prefer consistency and complacency. Since it is an international mecca you can experience a lot that the world has to offer socially and culturally. Because of this it has the ability to hold a mirror up to you reflecting your biases. Due to the independent nature of the people that live here I imagine that it would be easy to start to feel lost. I want to ask, what is wrong with that? I think that maybe more people should feel lost and begin the search to understand more of what's inside of themselves and worry less about others. LA will open your eyes to potential and possibility not because of the entertainment industry, but because of the diversity of its inhabitants.
It feels like a lifetime that I’ve been searching for a way to walk my own path. What I am realizing throughout this entire experience traveling is that in order to walk my path, I have to understand my power. How do I understand my power if I don’t understand what motivates me to go? How would I know where to go if I don’t know what it is that I want? How do I know what I want if I prioritize the comfort and stability of others above my own? As a yogi, empathy is a quality I will continue to foster, but after spending time in LA it is clear to me that a better balance of boundaries is in order so that I take steps towards my own willed action.
Over the past month I have learned the importance of knowing when to prioritize my own wants and needs above others. I’ve learned that my wants and needs look different than others and that's okay. I’ve also learned to not judge what I don’t understand.
I am Mary. I am silly. I am serious. I am happy. I am sad. I am light. I am dark. I am athletic. I am lazy. I am technical. I am fluid. I am attached. I am unattached. I am certain. I am confused. I am okay. I am not okay.
This month I have a 60 minute vinyasa inspired by LA and the strength I was able to pull from my time there. This class is all about focus as a way to cultivate personal power. Playlist!