11.16.2011

Finding Your Current Location

Current Location: Los Angeles

I only recently noticed how much I took location for granted. Where you are shapes who you are and where you want to be certainly reflects who you aspire to be. It's like the stereotypical dream of New York City. The city of lights. The city that never sleeps. If you have big dreams, you can almost always assume your chase will end with an upward glaze in Times Square. The city has a reputation of unbound opportunity, and yet I can't help but suspect they are mostly driven toward fame and the desire to be recognized as something exceedingly great.


I have my own cities. Not for fame, not for fortune, but maybe just simply for personal contentment they extend. My cities offer my own choice opportunities, ones that will situate my soul comfortably within society. Santa Barbara, Stockholm, and London. Three cities and three divided aspects of my own personality and aspirations. 


First there's Santa Barbara. A city I mesh into the invented category of laid-back-chic. It's where the celebrities down-grade to flip-flops and the locals meet them on the sand without feeling the need to snap their photograph. This city is about community. Granted this is not the hoakey idea of community; this is a community that upholds a universal image of Spanish influence and modern involvement. It's a community of underdogs, respected celebrities, and the embrace of natural element designers. It's here that local history is still celebrated and Santa Barbara natives can share in a legacy their town has bragged about to low-key tourism media for ages. Of course, the best kept secrets always find a way to slip out and Santa Barbara has held a continuous gathering of popularity. It's a small town with big city contributions. A stay here is personal. In fact, this is where I work at a sandal shop and share my favorite surf spots and sunset outlooks with locals and tourists alike. I know the old man in coffee bean, I have friendships with other store owners, I took writing classes taught by local authors, and I know all the secret restaurant menus. It's here that I feel integrated and here that I feel no pressure to aspire towards overzealous life goals. My contentment comes simply from knowing I can succeed here. I can relax here knowing that I fall into a rhythm my life will surely dance to.


Next there's Stockholm. The capital of Sweden and what I consider the "epitome" of own heritage. The second I arrive here, I can't help but indulge in a sense of entitlement to my own roots. The city is similar to many others, a mix of historical sights and modern attractions. The bustle is ever apparent and there seems to be nothing the city lacks. However built on 27 islands, Stockholm has a water based picturesque you often can't find in any other city. Stockholm is clean, friendly, and often overlooked in it's cultural richness and contributions. But it's there and it's unique. Of course it's not just Stockholm that I'm drawn to, it's Gamla Stan--the Old Town. Packed buildings of sunny tones amidst copper roofs and narrow cobblestone streets, Gamla Stan is the old Europe I am head over heels for. Literally dozens of locals crowd the tables and benches set outside each bakery, drinking one of their multiple cups of coffee with a "bulle" on the side, surveying the tourists that try desperately to absorb the same Scandinavian sophistication the locals are exuding. Every wall and street could give its own history lesson and several old buildings have been transformed into art studios and designer boutiques. There are potted plants on windowsills and cats basking in the summer sun; I can't even begin to paint a picture with my own words--it's simply the epitome of European charm. I feel creative here. I feel capable of producing art through a medium I am otherwise closed off to when I am inside a 1970's square and plaster building. There's a sophistication and a tie to the local perspective, one that isn't run by the clock--only the refill of the coffee press. From Stockholm, I can't help but feel the ever-present desire to somehow capture enchantment, to give myself entirely to the allure of writing and photography. 


Then this summer I discovered London. A city that defines lively and unbounded. In London, you don't have to subscribe to a community. You don't have to embrace a creative sophistication and you certainly don't have to impress anyone. London encourages independence and possibility. You can take the underground and pop up from any stop knowing that you will find something unique at each street you rediscover the sunlight on. When I went to London, I studied a great deal of the city's history while simultaneously spending days in Camden and SoHo, feeling the pulse of the city has been able to preserve its historic lineage while granting passage to new ideas, styles, and perspectives. And you tend to find yourself caught between the two as well, feeling an appreciation for how much life this city has been able to give breathe to. You are surrounded by new art and new music, constantly scanning store windows or peeking in antique shops. The richness is unlike anywhere else, you simply can't escape it. Needless to say, you become intoxicated with the hope that your life is going to be propelled in the same way. London made me feel like maybe I could reach beyond my comfort level and the dreams I have strategically placed in my future. Maybe I could change, maybe I could do something bigger. Now considering I'm a small town girl, this wasn't a familiar feeling. I've always known I wanted to influence my own community, but London inspired me to influence the world around my own--the world abroad. Literally, London was my Shakespearean "Green World." My month there definitely transformed my aspirations and extended my comfort level. I have the city and all my beautiful and inspiring friends I made there to thank.