Wednesday, June 10, 2015

We Interrupt This Blog for an Update on My Life

by Holly West

This past weekend I attended one of my favorite conferences of all time. The California Crime Writers Conference (CCWC), co-hosted by Sisters in Crime Los Angeles and the Southern California chapter of Mystery Writers of America, takes place every other year and it's always fantastic.

I'm not just saying that because I've been involved in its planning since 2011. I might've been silently screaming these past few weeks as the last minute details of conference planning threatened to run my little mental train right off the rails, but once the conference started, I was immediately reminded of why I do this. The teamwork, the friendships, the collective knowledge that we'd done a terrific job and that our hard work made a difference to writers aspiring to get published (and even to those who've been published for years) made it all worth it.

Many of you know I moved from Los Angeles to the Sierra Foothills of Northern California in December. My life has changed drastically and though I joke a lot on Facebook about finding tarantulas under my pillow, hawks eating my little dog and fighting the bats roosting in our eaves, there has been a real consequence of this move that I hadn't anticipated. If I had, I might not've been so eager to do it. Then again, sometimes it's better to jump right into a new situation and worry about the ramifications later.

I bring this up here because the number one question I got during the CCWC this time around was how I was adjusting to my new home. It forced me to articulate, for the first time, the complicated feelings I have about living in one place while my heart is still in another. Flying into LAX, an airport I've been in and out of countless times in the twenty-five years I lived in Los Angeles, was a little surreal because it felt like I was flying home instead of just another conference city. As the taxi driver drove me to the hotel, he asked where I was from and I didn't know how to reply. When the conference ended and I contemplated going home to my own bed, I instinctively pictured our former house in Venice. I constantly had to re-adjust my perception to my reality. Of course, I've kind of been doing that for the last six months but it was definitely magnified, staying in a hotel in Culver City, in an area that is so very familiar to me.

It all kind of fucks with your head a little, you know?

What it all adds up to is that I'm adrift. I definitely don't belong in Los Angeles any more, but I don't belong here, either. I have yet to settle into my identity in my new home and haven't left my old one behind. Most of the time, I understand that such a big change of scenery would cause anyone a period of adjustment and yes, discomfort, and I'm fine about it. But being in LA this past weekend messed with the delicate balance I've achieved for myself, reminding me that for the moment, at least, I'm without a place to call home.

That will change with time and I suspect that one of the reasons I haven't adjusted more quickly is that I don't want to give up my ties to Los Angeles, or even loosen them. Not yet. But until I do, I probably won't be able to fully embrace my new life, though there is much to celebrate here.

To end this on a more positive note, I'd like to point out that I can't wait to write me some rural noir set in my new town/area. This here is Gold Country, and like the name implies, its history is rich. That will have to wait until I finish my WIP but I'm definitely looking forward to seeing what I can come up with.


Dana King said...

I moved away from the Pittsburgh area in 1980, when I joined the Army. Even now, when The beloved Spouse and I drive back to Pennsylvania to visit my parents, I still refer to "going home" without thinking about it. (It's about 50-50 we'll move back there by the time I retire.)

Holly West said...

My situation was kind of the opposite--I grew up in the area I moved to and went to LA for college. I thought I'd stay there forever, despite the fact that I sometimes felt isolated there, even after I married. So the move to NorCal was technically a "move back home" but doesn't quite feel like it yet.

Lisa Brackmann said...

Oooh, that's a tough one. As you know, I left LA after 25 years (in Venice Beach). I spent a year really not being settled, splitting my time between the Bay Area and my hometown San Diego. I was mostly in the Bay Area and thought that would be "home" but it never quite felt that way (may if I'd been a millionaire). The more time I spent in San Diego, the more I realized that it had been home once and could be again. But this was helped by my never really feeling like LA was exactly "home" either, as much as I loved Venice.

After an entire year of being in San Diego and really having committed in my mind to being here, it really does feel like home. I've reconnected with old friends and made some new ones. I've made a conscious effort to explore the city, go to cultural events, relearn the city politics. It's not a perfect place -- no place is -- but it's a pretty good one. I still miss my friends in LA, but I am happy to be home.

I think if you give it time, and give it effort, you'll settle in as well!

Terry said...

It's so hard to know where "home" is. When I go back to the town in Texas where my grandparents lived (and I never actually lived there), I feel a great sense of connection. But when I go to the place in Texas where I lived, no connection. We lived in the suburbs of Florence (Bagno a Ripoli) for 18 months, and when i go back, it feels like returning home.

I love LA, love Berkeley, and love (ready for it?) Boston. So I guess what Lisa said is true, that just settling into your place is what makes it home--for however long you are there.

Susan C Shea said...

The feeling of being adrift is uncomfortable - divided loyalties to the place, the community, the people. I've had it once or twice and you've pretty much figured out what a lot of us have: At some point, you have to dive in and make the new place (even if it is your hometown) your anchor. It'll happen. You're too creative not to see the possibilities. and the nearest SinC chapters will be waiting with big welcoming signs for you!

Holly West said...


I kind of suspect my "settling in" will be similar to yours. I know you've grown to love your life there and really, what's not to love? That's what it's like for me here. It's so beautiful and I've got great family and friends--and even a great writing family a couple of hours away. I definitely need to break out and make my own friends (i.e. not people related to me) though.

Lisa Brackmann said...

Holly, I think that's key, adding new friends. You broaden your circle. The older I get, the more I realize how absolutely vital it is that we keep doing this, that we keep growing. The tendency can be to retreat into the familiar, and those horizons can so easily shrink. I'm finding a lot of new people doing really interesting things, and whether I become best buddies with all of these folks or not, just seeing what others are doing culturally, how they are shaping their lives and their own communities, is fascinating to me.

Next Saturday I hope to take the craft beer tour of Tijuana!