I arrived in Los Angeles on Labor Day weekend of 2017. Driving from Seattle to Los Angeles in two days, I found myself in the middle of the monotony that is the Central Valley of California. As the hours ticked away and became smaller and smaller on my GPS, I stopped one more time before crossing the mountains and entering the Los Padres National Forest; the huge incline and decline one most climb to enter Los Angeles County from I-5. The terrain was starting to change, finally, and things were about to drastically change in my life. As I entered Los Angeles County, I felt a wash of possibility pass over me. Before me, was the second most populated city in the United States and a county physically larger than some states and three times more populated than my home state of Oklahoma. There were an endless amount of people to meet, things to do, and causes to dedicate myself. Pointed in the direction of Long Beach, it actually began to rain in LA. The sky exploded in pure gold as the Golden State lived up to her name. I took this as a sign, Seattle was letting me go, but reminding me where my heart would always belong.
One year later, I still feel that possibility that greeted me on my first day as a temporary Angeleno. I say temporary, because after one year, I know I have no intention of making this my forever home. Instead, I have committed myself to learn certain lessons from this experience and then taking them back to the Pacific Northwest. Instead of making this a laundry list of complaints, for my own mental health, I am choosing to reflect on three things I have learned.
People First, Place Second
Without a doubt, some of the people I have met in LA will be in my life forever. They are leaders committed to ending homelessness, citizens building the Los Angeles of the future, and friends who understand the longing that accompanies those of us transplanted from somewhere else. I have laughed with them, shared with them, and broken bread at their tables. They have been warm, inviting, and understanding. They are but a small representation of the things I miss about my support system in Seattle. While their efforts to fill the gaps have been admirable, they can’t compare to the friends I made while in the Pacific Northwest. They have underscored a belief I will hold true for the rest of my life, people come first and the place you live comes second.
Work Can Be Selfish
I didn’t work at Kent Youth and Family Services because of the compensation. I worked there and gave of myself because I believed in the mission. Everything else, my needs included, were secondary. That is not how I view my work at Skid Row Housing Trust. It is more nuanced than that. While I wholeheartedly believe in our mission and approach to ending homelessness in Los Angeles County, I am working here for selfish reasons. For the first time in my life, I am being fairly compensated. Thanks to my work here, credit cards are getting paid off, I am investing in the stock market, saving for the future, realistically thinking about buying a house, and will have resources to hike the Pacific Crest Trail during the summer of 2020. On top of all that, I am learning invaluable lessons that will serve me well one day when I am leading a nonprofit organization. All of these gifts have been a huge blessing and have forced me to re-evaluate what I want from my profession; some balance would be nice.
My Relationship Is Built to Last
The last year has been a challenging one for Brandon and me. This is Brandon’s first time being away from his family. For someone from a tight-knit Hispanic family, this is a big deal. We’ve had to rely on each other in unimaginable ways. This came with some growing pains, but we are better for it. Now, when I look at him I know this is forever. This is how I am to spend the rest of my life. While I am sure this realization would have come eventually, I can thank LA for speeding up reality. That’s one of the things for which I will be eternally grateful.
Be good to each other,
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