The first time I flew to Orange County, I cried.
I was living in Washington, DC at the time, and I had been on the east coast for a few years, having left California in a bit of a huff: I had to leave, just had to, because I felt like I was climbing out of my skin and wanted to shed it, leave it behind, get as far away from it and become whoever I was destined to become. It sounded good at the time, anyway, and so I’d done it and discovered exactly how well that sort of thing works.
Washington, DC isn’t everyone’s favorite city, but I had loved my time there, had loved the Georgetown campus and my neighborhood to the east, had loved walking as many miles throughout the city as I possibly could. I was at a delicate point, too easily devourable then, and my short stint in New York had been long enough. DC had felt good and, I suppose, manageable. There was something about the underlying tension of the city that had fascinated me, too.
My trip to Southern California signaled the end of my time in DC, but that wasn’t what saddened me. I was exploring the possibility of a new adventure, at a new university, in a place I’d never been. I’d been to Los Angeles, and once to San Diego. But Orange County was a mystery to me. Somewhere deep inside I felt the rumbling of uncertainty, but I pushed it aside.
Then we began to descend and I saw it: The sprawling endless suburbs. The megalopolis extending from one mountain range to the next, from the hills to the shore, not so much metropolitan as an iterative series of interlocking strip malls and community developments, of 1950s cul de sacs and low slung anti-malls, of big box stores and bigger box McMansions, of the graveyards of orange groves and the last few nature preserves guarded against fire and encroaching development.
I had never lived in a suburb or a planned community. I had never really considered them. I had no interest in the suburbs and they had, as yet, had never taken an interest in me. But here I was, literally descending into them: panicking and crying. An absolute visceral reaction.
It sounds ridiculous, I know. Flying to lovely Southern California, to a place people would kill to live in, and you would think I was being dropped off in a war zone. I even knew how ridiculous it was at the time, so I ignored it. Because who doesn’t pursue the next step in their lives - the future they’ve decided they want, for whatever reason - based simply on a powerful, immediate gut reaction? Who?
Next time, maybe you. Next time, maybe me.
I know, sometimes we are very wrong. We meet someone and are swept off our feet. We judge by the cover and later learn exactly what lurks underneath. Even I discovered Orange County wasn’t all bad. But not all bad doesn’t mean all right. Sometimes you’re right. Sometimes you know.
Recently I talked to someone who said he’s listened to his gut too much. He wanted to listen to something, maybe anything else. I felt a whisper. Was it about ignoring your gut as it was knowing how to listen? Do you know how to listen to yourself? Because I didn’t. What exactly is your gut telling you? Is it a case of nerves? Are you in the Poltergeist house? Is it in fact not your gut at all speaking but your hormones, or even your heart?
On that plane, I heard myself telling me two very different things: one voice telling me this was the right track and one much deeper, more powerful voice telling me to get out, to go anywhere else. We’re always told to listen to ourselves above all, but until I was finding out what was beneath that cover, it never occurred to me to think about how.
Source: Flickr / ohheygreat
22 Notes/ Hide
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- felistella said: It’s an interesting feeling, trying to listen to your gut- like listening to music that’s just barely within range, where you have to concentrate and feel your way to it, and you’re not sure how much of it you’re making up and how much of it is real.
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- monkeyfrog said: Lately my panic is drowning out my gut and all I hear is static.
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