I originally had another column I was gonna post this week, but I’ve spent the last several days hanging out in my hometown and I felt inspired to write something else…
Every now and then it’s good to get out and change your surroundings. As of this month, I’ve officially lived in Los Angeles 10 years. That’s 10 years of being in the big city and swimming through the sea of politics and competition I have to swim through on a daily basis to do what it is I do. At the same time, I’m from a small town. It’s how I was raised and how I see the world. Add my very political punk rock and rebellious teenage upbringing on top of that and it creates quite the paradox. Surviving in both often creates a lot of internal conflict for me and being home visiting only shined more light on that.
Bloomington, IN is my hometown. It is a small, college town located in central Indiana and home of The Hoosiers. It’s considered by many to be the most progressive town in Indiana with a liberal mindset and openness not often found in the Midwest. The college in town, Indiana University, specializes in Music, Law and International Studies. It’s also the home on the Kinsey Institute of Sex. The music scene here is small, but thriving and is the home of record labels Secretly Canadian, Jagajagawar and Plan-It-X. The influence that comes out of this town is strong and I’m proud to be from here. When things get overwhelming in LA, I long to come back.
It’s the longing for something else, that life I had and the life that exists in Bloomington without me that worries me. I’ve spent the past week hanging out with friends and getting a little taste of that life and I’ve been loving it. It’s so nice to be able to spend time with friends and peers and just talk. We debate politics, the scene, what can be done better in the town and just plain have fun. Not every social interaction has an agenda, not every gathering has a specific marketing reason for existing.
I sit with my friends in these moments and I imagine a life here. I imagine coming back triumphant after being gone so long and taking all these skills and connections I’ve made and using them to make my hometown better. I imagine having a more stress free life and meeting a really rad girl and getting into a committed relationship. I imagine being able to play in a band again and finally having the time to make comic books. I imagine being a better son and being able to spend more time with my Mother.
I think it about what I would need to change in myself and my life to make this a reality. The more I think about that the more my mind twists it around to what I can change about the town to make it more the place I would want to be. It’s with this thought that that dream begins to wither and I question it.
It’s a sad fact, really, but it would take a monumental adjustment to uproot my life and slide back into my old one. Yet, I look around Bloomington and I see all the things that could be better, things that I could do to make the town better. Things that I could do to make it more like the place that I wish it could be.
I walked around town this week seeing old friends and making new ones while thinking to myself how easy it would be to manipulate it. I know that sounds fucked up, but that’s the honest truth. I live in fucking Los Angeles, it’s what we do. We are locusts that go in and consume, build and consume and I love it. I do it in my own small town, punk rock kind of way, but I am no better than the rest when it comes down to it, fighting to make my mark and claim those riches and fame.
If I moved back to Bloomington, even with the best of intentions, I couldn’t help myself. I would fight to make B-Town the Mecca of culture I would want to see it as and we can debate the benefits back and forth, but what I would fear more than anything else is that I would become a cancer, enforcing my big city way of life onto a town that probably doesn’t want it. I mean, if they did, wouldn’t it be here already?
As much as I love being home, there is a part of me that feels very much that I am not allowed to fully be myself. I feel I have to conceal a lot of who I am and what I’ve experienced so as to not come across as a total big city prick. When I’m around these people I love and respect so much, I also don’t want to be that big city person. I want to be like them. I want to be living that life, but that attitude is a lie and it’s frustrating. As corny as Los Angeles can be, there is a heightened life that surrounds us we all take for granted, so when we talk about so-and-so or this-and-that, it’s not really showing off, it’s just the environment we are surrounded in. Unfortunately (or probably fortunately), the rest of the world does not share in that mentality nor are they aware or really care about this hype bubble LA is surrounded by.
There is a part of me that is endlessly thirsty and desperate to make my mark, to prove every single person who ever said that I couldn’t, wrong. It is a burning inside of me that is so intense that it has powered me through the bleakest of moments and most dire of situations. I fear that it is a flame that can never be extinguished and if I were to move back here and suppress that fire that it would only be a matter of time before it burst out of me and took everything I cherished down with it.
Now maybe all of this is just an irrational fear and once I got here and settled down it would all go away? Maybe. I’d like to believe that I would find a way to settle in after period of adjustment. I’d be surrounded by people that liked me for me, we’d have built up trust and friendship and when the time is right, those things that I have experienced would come out on their own, naturally, or not all. It wouldn’t matter either way, I’d finally be at rest, calm, the fire extinguished and a heavy weight lifted off my shoulders.
What all this has made me realize is that I’m not ready to go, not yet. For better or for worse, Los Angeles is my home now. Sometimes it’s hard and it makes you feel downright pitiful, sometimes the city is so suffocating you can’t breathe and other times so frustrating I want to bang my head against the wall and scream, but also it’s the city that gave my dreams life. It’s the city that gave me the opportunity to do that one thing I’ve wanted to always do more than anything else ever: make an impact.
As I come to the conclusion that I still have a ways to go in this city of L.A that I both love and hate so very much, I come to realize how thankful I am for where I’m from. It’s that Bloomington, the people I know within and the lives they live are so inspiring that make me dream of a life amongst them. It’s through this past week’s experience and the torn internal motions I’ve gone through that has made me realize how lucky I am to have that in my life: a land where I can go that no one gives a shit about any of the bull I surround myself with in LA. They are just as happy to see me whether I do anything fancy or not. And while I don’t have much in the way of blood relatives (except you Mom!), these are people that I can truly call… family.
I’m arriving back in Los Angeles ready to tackle the years to come. In some ways it still feels like things are just beginning, my favorite trait of L.A. No matter what you do, you always have to keep up in this city. It’s that constant change and challenge that invigorates me, and as much as I love you Bloomington, it’s not something that you can give me right now.