I love our new house in Pasadena. But I am going to be honest here for a minute – I’m struggling intellectually with the move to suburbia. And I really think it’s just because of my own identity issues. (Insert eye roll here because OMG what does that even mean). It comes down to how I define myself…and let’s be honest, that also means how I want others to see me.
From a practical and day-to-day standpoint, this place is so perfect. It’s not too far from work (for either of us), it’s close to most of our friends, it has a Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods within walking distance (and a bunch of restaurants and other stores too). It’s super family friendly, with a park and a library nearby. Also, the place itself is soooo lovely – recently renovated with three bedrooms, two bathrooms, a giant garage, and a backyard!
So why do I balk at proudly identifying as a Pasadenian?
I think there’s a lot going on in my psyche. Here’s what I miss when I think about where we used to be:
I loved the feel of living in the city when I lived in Los Feliz (for non-Angelenos, that’s a wonderful little neighborhood on the east side of Los Angeles). I loved walking around and seeing Shephard Fairy street art and hitting up my local farmers market and trying raw vegan food for the first time (not my thing, it turns out!). I loved knowing the little sushi place on the corner was no good but the little sushi place on the corner after that was divine. I loved it there.
I love one-off restaurants and stores. I love supporting small businesses! Don’t get me wrong, I’m also beginning to LOVE having a Target .25 miles away and a Bed, Bath, and Beyond .25 miles in the other direction and nice, pretty sidewalks connecting everything. But I love discovering new places to eat, I love taking visitors to my favorite funky little stores, I love reading LA Magazine and circling three new places in our neighborhood and checking them out with Brandon.
Even when we moved to Eagle Rock, we still felt Los Feliz-adjacent because basically that’s where everyone in Los Feliz and Silverlake moves when they have families. So there’s tons of small businesses there and a sweet feeling of community. Plus, Los Feliz is only a short drive away.
But all of this feels so lifestyle-oriented. From a practical standpoint, I’m not going to be doing much of any of this stuff anymore. I am going to have a baby, and I can’t take him into quiet, moody, dimly lit tapas bars that open at 7p.
So really, what is this all about?
And then it hit me – living in Los Feliz, in the heart of LA, helped me to define who I am.
I realized I had identified with the City of Los Angeles very keenly. It made me feel strong and successful and liberal and cutting edge and independent and feminist and relevant and, of course, like a filmmaker. By saying I lived in that neighborhood, I felt like people could nod and say, “OK, I know what type of person she is. I can respect this chick.” (As if anyone has ever called me chick. Apparently that’s what I call people in my mind?)
What does living in Pasadena say about me? Not much. That I’m a nice middle class person. I no longer have a city to help describe my sociopolitical interests and career. And packaged with all of this, I can’t help but think – if I am not living IN Los Angeles proper, then how can I justify living this far away from my family? Now I’m living in a regular suburban neighborhood, like any other neighborhood in America. Sure, I’m 20 minutes from downtown, and that counts for something. But I’m not in LA anymore.
But I also know this is silly. Because a city is just a city. It doesn’t change who you are at your core. I’m old enough now to know better than to let a place or a haircut or a piece of clothing define me. Come on now. I’m having a baby, for goodness sake. I want this kid to grow up without any of that baggage.
So, I guess moving to Pasadena has made me realize I need to identify as me for me, no matter where I am.
And that’s a good lesson. One I'll be repeating to myself when I finally venture into the Walmart I now live near.
Here's a cheesy gif to cap this off: