Would You Move Somewhere You Don’t Like… For Love?

"A bird may love a fish, but where will they live?"


I never expected to end up in Los Angeles. I migrated west with some reluctance for grad school, and two years later, degree in hand, dumped and underemployed on the edge of my twenty-eighth birthday, I thought of retreating east. Having nothing certain to return to, I stuck it out, telling myself it was temporary. Little by little, Los Angeles wrapped the trappings of adulthood around me. I got my first “real” job, with vacation days, health insurance, and a retirement plan. I dabbled in OKCupid, and amused myself blogging about dates that could only happen in LA: the green tea date with an up-and-coming but surprisingly abstemious horror movie director (a match destined to meet an untimely demise); the lawyer with a Chuck-E-Cheese style ball pit in his living room (actually less sketchy than it sounded). And then I met J, a San Franciscan as ardent for the West Coast as I am for the East.

A few months after J and I had been dating, a friend texted me out of the blue: “If you and J got married, where would you have the wedding?”

Massachusetts, duh,” I texted back immediately, hoping that if the time ever came, J would agree.

I don’t love Los Angeles. I appreciate many things about this city, but I don’t love it. At first I felt guilty admitting this feeling, as though not loving LA meant I was ungrateful, as though nothing could be more desirable in a city than endlessly unobjectionable weather. But I grew up with rain, snow, cold. Seasonal cues take account of where we’ve been and where we’re going. I’m afraid of waking up one day, like Rip Van Winkle, and finding I’ve frittered the years away in a sun-soaked extended adolescence of beach barbecues and midnight film screenings. In a place with no seasons, the years slide by with hardly any notice. When I think of purgatory, I imagine it’s like Los Angeles.

We went at least a year before talking about it. Then one night, I couldn’t keep it in anymore. I missed home. I missed my family and friends. And I missed Boston itself, its history and old buildings and vexingly changeable weather. I didn’t know if I could spend the rest of my life so far away. J, for his part, wouldn’t leave the West Coast, for reasons that were as valid and compelling as those pulling me toward home. But if I had to choose between J and my yearning for home… maybe I couldn’t stay on the West Coast. It was a possibility I’d been pushing out of mind for a long time. J digested this, and said slowly, “If you’re sure that’s how you feel, I think you should let me know.”

In the morning, the dilemma didn’t seem as dire. I wasn’t going to give up J. We discussed scenarios and long-term plans: if I got a dream job back home, he would come with me; we would find a West Coast city I liked more than this one, and move there. It was enough to go on. My dad always told me to choose the future over the past, and not to worry. He left India for grad school, fell in love in Boston, and never came home. I was making the right decision. Wasn’t I?

That spring, from my kitchen table, I watched video of a deserted Boston, as the city huddled on lockdown with marathon bombers at large. I stayed up late into the night, listening to livestreams of the manhunt, and following my friends’ Twitter accounts. I thought of my dad, choosing to live halfway around the world from his home, in a time when phone calls to India weren’t even a sure thing. I don’t know if I could do what he did.

J and I got married this summer, in Massachusetts (his idea too, it turns out). I love our life in LA: my job, our apartment with its small shady yard, our two nearly identical cats, and of course J himself. The scenarios and long-term plans we carved out the morning after that emotion-fraught night have been deepened and embellished; we’ve even negotiated which sports teams our theoretical children would root for (in deference to the grand tradition of 49ers football, I’ve given up any claim to NFL allegiances, but our offspring will be swaddled in Red Sox gear from the moment they emerge into the world). I still don’t love LA. And I worry that we could end up here forever, because leaving means giving up what we’ve built and opening ourselves to uncertainty. But I no longer feel ashamed of how I feel about this city. It will never be home, and that’s okay. We’re together here, journeying toward a shared vision of home. Sometimes “enough to go on” is enough.

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