Even though Dawn was my favorite member of the babysitter’s club, “living in California” wasn’t something I ever dreamt about. Maybe it seemed outside the realm of possibilities, even for dreams. Plus, “life in the U.S.” just didn’t appeal to me. I had been to various parts of America on trips with my family, and had even been to LA, but I was overwhelmed with the freeways and the traffic, and I was carrying some negative beliefs about “Americans” and “American culture.”
When I met my husband, Greg, who had spent lots of time in the U.S. and LOVED it, I realized how deep my pre-existing beliefs were. He said he would love to live in Los Angeles, and initially, I was very skeptical. He called me out, asking what were my beliefs based on? TV? Books I read a decade ago? I hadn’t actually lived in the U.S. before, and yet I had all kinds of opinions about how it would be, and why I wouldn’t like it.
At the time, we were living in Toronto – him an Ontario native, and me from PEI. I was constantly confronted with attitudes of people in Toronto talking about how they could never live somewhere as small as PEI (“What is there to do? Isn’t everyone related? And how do you deal with the winter?”) and similar attitudes on PEI about Toronto (“You couldn’t pay me a million dollars to live there! Don’t you find it too big, too loud, and too expensive? And what about that city attitude?”).
Those conversations were always so frustrating to me because they felt incomplete – like they were telling the story of Cinderella but only focusing on the Evil Stepmother… in other other words, leaving out all the best bits, and sort of missing the point.
My PEI to Toronto move taught me that until I’ve personally lived somewhere and given it an honest go, I really can’t assume how life is somewhere else, or whether or not I’d like it based only on what I’ve heard, or on short visits.
Having spent 5 years living in the U.S., with 4 of those years being in Los Angeles, I fell in love with it. I discovered many Americans who ended up being some of the best, kindest, most welcoming people I’ve ever met, and learned that American culture is filled with SO MUCH that is fantastic, inspiring, and heart-warming, and yet these ‘best bits’ weren’t what I had previously been aware of.
For decades, I told myself an incomplete American story – one that focused on the negatives and left out the positives. One that told me about the Evil Stepmother, but left out Cinderella, the Fairy Godmother, and all things bippity boppity.
I now try to consider where my opinions are coming from, and to be open to the possibility that my foundation may be pretty flimsy. I am wary of looking to the news as a primary source of reality, especially these days when the story of what to be afraid of is louder than the story of what to be hopeful about. I think we need real ‘people-to-people’ connections and firsthand experiences. It’s when we seek those things that we immediately find more reasons to come together and see our similarities (vs. reasons to judge, dismiss, and divide).
LA captured my heart, so thank you LA, and thank you to all the cities I’ve lived in for teaching me that lesson.