An Exile from Los Angeles
By Tatiana Beller
Am I considered a Californian? I don’t know. I left California almost three years ago. My only connection to California after leaving was California Listens. This project from the California State Library was a gift to me. I was fortunate enough to participate in the project as a co-facilitator for three years. As part of this project, I traveled the state from one end to the other. Even as I traveled through the state, my heart has always belonged to Los Angeles. In the seven years that I lived in California, five of those were spent in Los Angeles. It was here that I landed into my passion, film, and where I found that I could actually do what I dreamt I could do.
Leaving California felt like an exile. California Listens gave me a foot back into the state I had left behind. There is nothing like Los Angeles. Listening to the different stories, I found out I was not the only one who felt this way about this crazy city. It was a love affair that was both tragic and brilliant. The city invited me to get lost and to find myself again. It was as profoundly superficial as its stereotype, and more real than any other place I have ever been. It is so real it hurts. And if you survive it, you will leave completely transformed.
During the workshops, there were many stories that spoke directly to my melancholy missing of this mass of humanity called Los Angeles.
My LA Swan Song by Tiffany Robinson
When Tiffany Robinson began to tell her story, she told of her imminent departure from LA. She explained how she had fallen out of love with the city witnessing its injustices. During the two days of the workshop, the story developed into a vision of Los Angeles that felt truer to my experience of Los Angeles than I could have imagined. Every image felt so real to me and it made me feel closer to Los Angeles than I had since I left. I wish her the best in her next adventure in Bali.
An Awakening Sting by Naomi Rosner
Like Naomi Rosner, I arrived to Los Angeles from my home country. For her, it was France and for me, it was Mexico. My first six months in Los Angeles I would drive around the city wondering why I had made such a terrible decision. The traffic was terrible. The city felt ugly. It was hard. As Naomi shared her story, she eventually saw Los Angeles as the perfect place to reinvent herself into who she wanted to become. It became a vehicle towards becoming someone new. It feels like this is part of the magic of Los Angeles. If it doesn’t chew you up and spit you out, who you become is someone whom you never dreamt existed. Maybe that is why they call it the city of dreams.
Los Angeles by Marlene Nichols
Marlene Nichols tribute to Los Angeles is also a tribute to the transformative nature of the city. In her case, she never pictured this would be a city where she would end up. Yet she allowed the city to take her in and change her into the person she has become. She saw the quirkiness, and absurdity that is the city. It was as if because it is such a hard city, the power of transformation is so much greater. She has become part of the land itself. She knows that Los Angeles is both the rattle snake blocking the path and the Hollywood sign looking down at you as you create.
I don’t know if I will be back in Los Angeles. In some ways, I wish I could be back. Life might take me in a profoundly different direction. California Listens allowed me to look into the city I left behind and miss it just a little bit less. The privilege of the facilitator is to be present to other people’s stories. It makes is so much more powerful when those stories speak directly to your heart.