I’ve never been one to really care much about milestones. If I was, I’d probably be pretty concerned at the fact that as a Texan girl, I would be turning thirty without being married and/or having kids. Nonetheless, no matter what, it does creep up at you that you are leaving one decade and entering another. Without being dramatic, I think it’s just fine to have a slight reflective moment on life on this blog at this time. If you can’t tell, my star sign is cancer and I admit to regularly reading the Thought Catalog.
When I think about being in your twenties, there just seems to be so many factors that pull you in every direction, what university will you be attending, will you go straight into the workforce or travel – or are you even lucky enough to have that option if not saddled with heavy student loans by age 22? It’s hard being a young adult, even if movies make it seem like we should all be working on five hours of sleep and partying it up like it’s the sequel to American Pie. Even getting an internship brought about a level of competition equivalent to a higher-ed boxing ring ;-).
I remember being scared a lot in my early twenties, it seemed like the ‘perfect’ life was just a series of smart choices that a bit like the game Jenga, you had to choose well. Just work hard, put in your time, be a good friend, a good girlfriend and magically everything will fall in your favor. Of course it’s never really as easy as that. Of course this being the land of America, where we like to make being ‘perfect’ seem effortless, failure is a self-infliction. Waking up at 6am to go to the gym before class? No problem! Working a few jobs and still managing to sneak into bars when your underage (being 20 actually does suck) just seems part of a regular college kid’s routine.
When I was twenty, I had just moved to Los Angeles the year before, on a sort of whim with an ex-boyfriend and a good friend I met hosting at a golf resort restaurant. I had just finished a semester at University of Texas in my hometown and couldn’t wait to get out of there. NYC was top choice, my dad took me a month before the twin towers fell in 2001. I remember standing frozen at first period art class my senior year of high school looking at the tv screen and watching a place I had happily visited go down in flames. Suffice to say, California didn’t seem like a bad idea.
A few months later, in a one-bedroom apartment in Burbank, we made the ‘city of angels’ our home. Me and my friend Ellyn furiously looked for job in a time in California during a deep recession after Governor Davis was recalled, and Arnold Schwarzenegger was elected. Yep the man who was famous for blasting bad guys in The Terminator, afterwards more famous for groping than his politics. These years sort of went by in a blur, it was really hard being away from ‘home’ and making a new one where every third person is trying to ‘make it’ as an actor. I couldn’t believe how much money people forked out for acting classes while working two jobs, usually one was always the California Pizza Kitchen. Everyone came for a dream, and we almost everyone we met was from another city in America, or from another country.
I eventually got a job at a tanning salon in the heart of Sherman Oaks where customers had no problems paying more than 40$ a session to get bronzed. I think ‘mystic tan’ will be burned in my memories for life. It was absolutely the weirdest job I have ever had, people treated the salon like a bar or more accurately – a therapist’s couch, sometimes sitting down for hours to chat about ‘life’. I couldn’t escape, I just grabbed a red-bull, listened to their problems and got them to upgrade their tanning packages. I once got screamed at once by a middle-aged man who decided that his being double parked in the outside tiny parking lot was my fault, my eyes burning with tears while a grown man had a tantrum like a toddler. I met porn stars, actors, students, assholes and just about everyone you can imagine.
At night we went out, sneaking into bars on the sunset strip and santa monica via the back door where we knew people wouldn’t ask for our ID’s. It was fun, it was exciting – nights turning into days on the beach, chatting about the night before over an egg-white omelette and a skinny latte the next morning at brunch. Los Angeles is whatever you want it to be, I look at it a place that allowed me to grow as a person, make mistakes, take risks and honestly isn’t that what being twenty is all about? Of course I knew this wasn’t where I wanted to end up, the smog, traffic and all-too-many twisted encounters ensured that. Which is precisely when I decided to first teach English in China and then study abroad. As life will have it, ten years later I am here in Florence, Italy – no plans to leave anytime soon. This city has sucked me in like no other, ‘home’ is walking over the Ponte Vecchio, stopping at my favorite coffee bar or meeting friends for lunch.
Turning 30 feels so different. A lot of the uncertainty that came with turning twenty has dissipated. Even if my life has more of less changed a lot the past two years, it has in a way that has been better than I could have ever expected. A career I love, a wonderful boyfriend who was my best guy friend for so many years, constant travel and cool events. Life still isn’t ‘easy’ but honestly who expects it to ever be? We just got a beagle puppy, Ginger who is naturally named after my favorite spice, makes us super happy with her odd antics and constant need for a belly-pat. It all sounds so cliche but I think after so many years of change, I am very content with the current status quo :). Nothing I thought at twenty actually happened, and thank god for that..
A #Gingergram for you all, she has great taste in panino shops