The word city causes me anxiety and an overall feeling of dread. I have never been that person who has wanted to live in a big city and experience all that life has to offer. New York? No, thanks. Paris? No, thanks. LA? No, thanks. With that being said, I have to first admit that I am the quintessential definition of a beach girl. I don’t necessarily look like one, but my heart and soul would beg to differ. I have to be close to the ocean or I feel restrained, stagnant, like a piece of me needs to be revived inside.
There was a period of time about twenty years ago where I thought I wanted to live in Hollywood, mostly for the diversity and weird factor. I had traveled along the small cities within Southern California that bordered the ocean and needed a bit more inspiration. However, I was in a bit of a quandary because of my love for the ocean breeze and the epic sunsets that the Pacific Ocean often produces. So, I found and settled at first sight for Long Beach, California. It was almost by accident and I had never really spent much time there. I once had been on some mushroom tea and had made my way to the Bob Marley Festival. Besides that, my idea of Long Beach had been set by visions of Snoop Dogg videos and Sublime songs. I wasn’t exactly thrilled to settle there. Yet, a job offer I couldn’t refuse came my way and I had become a LB resident and I’m forever grateful for it.
Long Beach is a city. Definitely. Still, within it, there are many different communities that come together and form this unified experience of diversity, open-mindedness, freshness, progression, natural living, art, extravagance and freedom. It holds the third largest Pride Festival that is framed by the Pacific Ocean. It has farmer’s markets practically every day of the week where you can procure anything from organic vegetables to homemade jam to wire wrapped crystals while you people watch and listen to live music. On any day of the week, you can usually head out your door towards Retro Row, which is a collection of vintage shops, stores and a home base for Portfolio coffee shop, and find something that you can just join in and celebrate. Long Beach has an amazing music scene filled with all kinds of festivals, which usually are affiliated with Fingerprints, a local record store. Long Beach always finds a way to have a community event. It’s like the perfect combination of a laid back, but very conscious vibe mixed with every type of person you can think of.
I spent fourteen years in this city. It’s the longest I’ve every spent anywhere, including as a child. I got drunk in Long Beach. Very drunk. I got sober a couple of times. I fell in love more times than I can count. I danced. I recklessly walked the streets in the middle of the night. I worked some jobs. I became a local. I met my son’s father and had a sweet little boy. I graduated college. I learned that I was a writer and not just a teenage girl penning her angst down in a journal. I met life long friends in Long Beach. I lost friends. I ate the best food I still have ever had. I read books, sang tunes, watched Pride festivals, with and without a girl on my arm. I saw some of the greatest bands in the world. I smiled a lot in Long Beach. I cried too. I watched sunsets. I felt God. I got to witness numerous acts of kindness and grace. I had loads of conversations with perfect strangers. I begged for death. I celebrated new life. I learned what it meant to be a part of something bigger than me. A community. Many communities. I lost myself. I found myself. I fell in love with Long Beach. A city. A perfect little city for me.
It seems like when I think I know something, the Universe has a weird way of showing me something new. Long Beach was one of those big lessons. I simply would not be who I was without having spent time in a place that some have nicknamed, “the sewer by the sea”. Long Beach has some grit to it. Most people don’t last but a few years. Luckily, I like rough around the edges and will always call this city home.