That knot of excitement forming in your stomach as you arrive with nothing but a suitcase and guilty reminder from Mom to write home every week. Plus the mildly overwhelming fear of being a stranger in a strange place. Will you make friends? Will you get homesick? Will you finally get that first kiss you’d been waiting for your whole life?
Then everything begins to settle down a bit. After a few weeks, you feel good about your situation in life. You’ve made friends. Your weekly care packages are the envy of your troop, and you’re pretty sure that cute blonde the next cabin over has been eyeing you in the mess hall.
Yet before you know it, days have turned into weeks have turned into an entire summer gone by. Time to go back to your real life: overly protective parents, another school year’s worth of homework and shiny new braces. It’s bittersweet, but you always knew this day was coming. Life goes on. So in between packing up the bathing suit and collecting phone numbers, you tearfully hug your new BFFs and promise to keep in touch always. Some of them you will. Some not. Some perhaps you’ll see again next summer. It’s a small world after all.
That pretty much sums it up, right? Summer camp… and living in Los Angeles. Last weekend, as I was saying goodbye to yet another friend that I’ve met here, I became acutely aware of how similar life in this city is to the camp experience.
Of course this comparison applies only to us non-LA natives, but that’s most of the people I know. And just like summer camp, everyone who moved here had an immediate visceral reaction to this place. Either they loved it and never wanted to leave, or they hated it and were ready to turn the car around. Not much gray area. But just like camp, you acclimate after a while. Acquaintances become friends. You get a job that distracts from thoughts of home. Things aren’t quite so bad anymore. Likewise, for those of us who initially jelled with this town, you realize that palm trees and sunshine can’t make up for certain creature comforts. Begrudgingly you admit that you do miss your family. You miss being there for birthdays and holiday BBQs. Sometimes you miss even the snow.
Though life does go on, it may not go on forever in LA. Anyone you meet here, you can almost see the question mark dangling over his head. Will they stay or will they go? At times it’s a matter only of when, not if. You learn to emotionally prepare yourself for hearing those all-to-familiar words: “I’m outta here.” The reasons for your friends leaving are just as varied as why they came here in the first place. Maybe they just don’t like Los Angeles. Too many palm trees. Too much sunshine. Maybe they got married and would rather not raise their children within a ten-mile radius of Charlie Sheen. Or maybe they just need to give their worn-out bank account a break for a bit. Whatever the reason, I’m not surprised anymore when someone tells me that her time in LA is up.
It’s bittersweet, especially since I have yet to throw up my hands and yell “finally!” upon hearing of someone’s exodus from this town. Most always I’m saddened because he or she is truly a wonderful human being, and the city that gets to have them next is a lucky city indeed. Of course we’ll always have phone tag and tweeting, but it’s just not the same. Yet when I’m feeling nostalgic for the good ole days, I can still reminisce about when we would tell ghost stories around the fire pit while roasting marshmallows… and drinking Coronas. Camp was awesome.