La la la laaaaaah!!!
My first few days in LA, I was so stressed out, I couldn’t stop saying to Chris :
“I can’t believe it, I can’t believe this, seriously I can’t believe it!!!!” – I don’t think he’d ever seen me like that, so shocked and moved.
LA. So far, so different, so weird… What’s gotten into us?
It all started when Chris and I met. When I met Chris, I was a real New Yorker. I had all my armor on: I felt strong, independent, nothing scared me, nothing could get to me.
Same for him. He had come to New York thirteen years prior to work and live on his music. He knew the city like the back of his hand. And I could feel the softness under his hard shell of independence. For a few months, we played the very New York game of “who needs the other person less.” It wasn’t easy, because we’re both pretty romantic – and we were pretending to be tough, cause here that’s what you do.
Like me, and like all New Yorkers, he loved New York. But he was always saying: “One day, I’ll leave. When I’m fifty, I’ll leave. I need to be close to the ocean, I need nature and more space.”
I never liked to hear that. Maybe because I’ve seen too many people around me wait for “one day” to finally be happy. Someone I knew was always saying to me: “I’m working like crazy right now, but when I’m 45, I’ll stop.” And what happened? At 40, he fell into a depression and never really recovered.
So when I heard that, it rang an alarm bell.
It’s also that to me, these last two years felt like life was insisting on proving to me that everything I believed in was false. And one of the things I believed in more than anything else was that I was going to spend the rest of my life in New York. Where else?
But even so, it seemed like nothing was really happening the way I wanted it to in New York.
First, one surprising detail. I was actively looking for an apartment to buy in New York for the past three years. I never found it. I never found the place of my dreams or a place I could project myself into the future in. As a result, I always rented. And as much as I like the places I was renting, I never truly felt at home, because I was always waiting for something else. Having a home is so important to me that it always felt like my real life had never begun.
The other thing that seemed strange is that I never managed to create the lifestyle I really wanted. At first I thought it was because I was traveling all the time, and that I was always a little bit tired. But when I decided to cut back on traveling, I realized that wasn’t actually the problem.
Even without traveling, I always felt exhausted, stressed, empty.
I had memories of my life in the South of France, where I had a patio, where I could host dinners, where my friends could stop by, and we could waste time together. There was a sort of softness to that life that I never found in New York.
In New York, everything felt overwhelming.
I saw my friends who managed to juggle an important job, an amazing apartment, a dream body, children, and host dinners, and I seriously wondered how they were doing it.
Me? I always felt like I was fighting against the current.
Whether it was the weather (long, super cold winters, suffocating summers), my schedule (the craziness of always doing more and “I’m so busy!!!”) or simply the incredible culture of success that can sometimes feel like it’s transporting you and sometimes suffocating you.
Because in New York, you’re never enough. There’s always something or someone more pretty, more successful, skinnier, younger…You can always reach higher. And even though I love that culture and the feeling that in New York, anything is possible, at one point, I needed to sit down for a minute (or rather, I needed to have a mega-breakdown and collapse on myself) to try to figure out if my ambitions and my desires were actually mine, or if they had been subtly influenced by the society I was living in.
And when I finally managed to sort through all of that, I realized I was running a marathon that wasn’t mine at all. Which is probably where that feeling of permanent exhaustion was coming from.
But I definitely tried:
The funny thing when I met Chris was that all of the sudden, we were so joyful and full of energy and a desire to be happy that we did everything we could to make our life in New York a real pleasure. We tried to make the best of the freezing cold and go snowboarding in the mountains (result: IT’S ALSO FREEZING IN THE MOUNTAINS). We tried to make the most of New York night life and found ourselves partying like we were 23 (result: WE’RE NOT 23 AND WE QUICKLY FELT EXHAUSTED/WASTED) and we tried the typical New York weekend of yoga/brunch/shopping/movie (result: I THOUGHT HE MIGHT DIE OF BOREDOM).
No matter how hard we tried, it just wasn’t working.
We felt more and more uncomfortable, more and more stressed, and more and more tired. It was even affecting our relationship.
Not to mention the quality of my work. I felt like I never had enough time. Never enough time to draw, never enough time to write, never enough time to think. Even so, as I often explained to my friends, I had plenty of free time! But that feeling of exhaustion was always holding me back, I think. On the weekends, all I wanted to do was collapse on the couch.
At one point I told myself it couldn’t go on like that, we had to find a little house upstate as soon as possible so I could return to earth, or anything to make me feel like I had a life that wasn’t a never ending race.
Otherwise, we were going to turn into the New Yorkers who never grow up.
What’s a New Yorker who never grows up?
People say it all the time: New Yorkers who never get old. Physically, they always look ten years younger than their age. And I attribute that to one thing: a life that never stops. I know plenty of people who are fifty years old, single, working like crazy, partying like crazy, spending their lives on Tinder, and who still live in the same apartment they had when they were thirty, and they love it.
[Interlude Tinder Forever : I have a friend that I love and he has four girlfriends. Since it’s casual dating, it doesn’t count as cheating, according to him, and he says he doesn’t see why he should commit to a relationship when he’s able to have this situation where he never gets bored – he’s alone when he wants to be, with someone when he wants to be, and each of his girlfriends has a specific role in his life. There’s the sex-crazy one, the intellectual one, the funny/cool one… and when one of the relationships ends, thanks to Tinder, there are never-ending options. So, yeah, he’s 45 and would like to have a family and all, but, you know… Cynical? Naaah. I love him anyway, but I’m glad I’m not on Tinder!]
And I can totally see how that might happen!!!
Time goes by faster in New York. You’re never alone. There’s always a new person to meet, a new restaurant to try out, a new job to pursue. It’s like a big ship with a constant party going on. And it’s hard to leave the party.
Especially when people think of you as a sellout when you start thinking about packing your bags. It’s as if we were all hanging on to the same rope, all trying to climb higher, and the ones who let go of the rope lose the fight.
I know this, because I’ve been on both sides.
I remember when Alex, who worked with us in the Studio, started questioning her life in New York. I looked at her like she was crazy: “What? To go where???” She was reading a book called Goodbye To All That, inspired by the famous text by Joan Didion on the subject.
It’s a collection of stories by writers who loved, then hated, then left New York.
A book of sellouts, basically ;)
Anyway, where was I…
Oh yeah, so, at one point, I said to myself: we have to have a country house. With a garden and everything. New York during the week, countryside on the weekends. Perfect balance…
But in the end, that didn’t solve the problem of the below freezing winters. The pounds of snow cold enough to rip your skin off, the sweat of our brow. The traffic jams on weekends. And I still didn’t have the apartment I really wanted in New York, so I was going to buy a house Upstate? That didn’t make sense…
And secretly, knowing us, I knew that as soon as we had a country house, we’d never want to leave. And I’ve known more than one New Yorker who turned into a hermit never wanting to leave the joy of their house and garden Upstate, distancing themselves more and more from the city.
I run into them in New York sometimes and it makes me laugh. They look a little lost and happy like the people who know that the truth lies elsewhere. And often, they’re wearing a plaid shirt ;)
So, we weren’t quite ready for that.
So what else was left for us?
LA, a city we both hated as soon as we got there. The first time I went to LA, I didn’t get it at all. I was 16 and trying to find the “city center.” It took me several days to understand there was no city center. Just cars and strip malls. I came back later on and it was the same thing. What a weird city. It took me two or three visits to really understand the magic of it.
And when I finally felt the magic, it never left.
I stayed in LA for a month while I was writing my book, and I still have memories of that amazing feeling of fulfillment. Sun, calm, intense creativity, smiling well-being.
Don’t laugh, a lot of things about LA take me back to my roots…in Corsica.
The vegetation, the palm trees, the eucalyptus, the fig trees. The constant temperatures in winter and summer. The proximity to nature, available to you at any moment, whether it’s the sea or the mountains. The softness of life here.
I don’t know how I got to this point, but one day, I suggested to Chris that maybe, maybe, I know it sounds crazy, but who knows, maybe we could be happy in LA. He was hesitant, because he had bad memories of the city that, as we all know, has lots of not-so-good sides. So I proposed, without really believing it, that we spend a month there to try it out. We’d go to Venice, because Chris surfs just like he breathes, and because I like to be able to walk everywhere and Venice is the only place in LA that I know of where you can walk everywhere (even though people look at you like you’re crazy, but we’ll come back to that in another post).
So we did it, and we both adored it.
There, I was able to project my dreams.
I imagined myself happy, creative, fulfilled, deeply calm, rested. I imagined the same thing for Chris. I was also finally able to imagine that it could work out, working remotely, becoming bi-coastal, spending at least one week per month in New York working with my team. And slowly developing a studio in LA. We could even do workshops in LA – I knew they’d be delighted to come visit me in March when they were sick of the winter temperatures in New York.
We could invent a new life for ourselves. And have a little garden, and enjoy the city too, because LA is a city that happens to be exploding with creativity. It was time.
Even so, I didn’t quite believe it, and that’s why for the first few days, I was drunk with anxiety: “I can’t believe it, I can’t believe it, seriously I don’t believe it!!!” I couldn’t believe that for the first time in my life, I had made a decision that took into account every aspect of my life. Not just my career, but also my most authentic self.
I almost felt like I was being selfish.
Choosing happiness? Do we really have the right to do that?
I won’t be able to tell you for years whether LA is my city for life. I also know I still love New York and even if this life makes me happy, I know I’ll want to go back to New York often. To see my friends, rub shoulders with the craziness and the quick pace, and stay connected to the heartbeat.
But I also know it was time for me to do something. You can’t just watch your life go by, passively, exhausting yourself to find comfort in the uncomfortable.
There’s no way of knowing what’s best for you if you don’t try.
And of course there are risks. Chris is going to work on developing his career here, even though he’s such a success in New York. He’s going to have to do a lot of trips back and forth. It’s a whole new world for him, and I’m really proud of him for being so brave.
I know a lot of people leave New York only to come back a few years later and never leave. I don’t think that will be us, but the one thing I do know today is how I feel, right now in the present moment.
And right this minute, as I’m writing to you from the patio at Superba café in Venice, with my dog sleeping at my feet, I feel, selfishly, so good.
I send you big hugs and kisses with all my warm heart.
Translated by Andrea Perdue