Los Angeles is a funny place. I’m a native and spend a lot of time simply strolling and cruising through the eclectic neighborhoods that comprise this melting pot of buzz and beauty. In my eyes, it’s gorgeous. All of it. Even the rough spots, even the smog, even the eerily-perfect manicured storefronts along Wilshire Blvd that no pigeon would think of ever passing over. But in my years here, one thought constantly comes to the forefront of my mind: while this city sometimes gets a bad rap, it’s mostly due to an idea of what it means to be “so L.A,” an idea captured by those who come here to be that idea. For those who wish to fit in and find that sweet spot of accepted existence, it’s almost as if the manifested idea of what defines success has become more important than the feeling of success itself.
After recently traveling across the country – different cities, time zones, climates, cultures – I’m starting to realize that this phenomenon isn’t locally exclusive. I’m starting to realize that we live in a time of displaced ambition; a world in which titles signify expertise and people are ambitious to have something: a job, a status, an experience, a moniker.
Our society, the under-50 set especially, has been pegged as notoriously lazy. And, maybe it’s the pragmatically positive spirit inside me, but I honestly don’t believe we live in a lazy world. Just because our meals are served up by salad bars and drive-thru windows, just because we can run our fingers over a few buttons and find the square root of 487(654753-78654)/84*, doesn’t mean we’re lazy. It means that the reality of our world adds up to all-access. It’s fast-paced and wide open and we’re in it. What’s missing is that magnetizing drive to figure out what can be done to make our biggest impact. It’s not lazy. It’s perfunctory.
It’s easier, more accessible, and way less scary to latch onto a predetermined route for success than act on what truly drives us at our core. And I’m not mad at it – I’m just sad. I’m sad because I know that we’re all born with something. We’re all born with a story to tell and a book to live on the shelf. To not let each chapter live and breathe and evolve and affect? What a shame.
We have so many tools now to not only identify our place in the world but help navigate our progression through it. Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin, Instagram, Google+, etc. And I am not saying those are without value – because they are, without question, of immense value! What I am saying is that it gets tricky when we start to forget that behind all these vehicles is a living, breathing soul, with hopes and aspirations and a heart that gives a little tug every now and again as a reminder: I am here to lead the way, please don’t forget about me. Our subconscious minds have been programmed by our environment since birth to register certain things as good, bad, success, fail, and form what is really only a perception of who we are in relation to the world. So we forget that a resume is merely a sheet of paper, a Maserati is a piece of fancy metal, and the convenience of a title is not going to propel that conscious mind of ours that is only in control 2% of the time to challenge and change that other, familiar 98%. That subconscious majority defines what we perceive to be “successful.”
I see those who get caught up in the schemes and status symbols and I think, ‘you with your glow of peripheral satisfaction – you are so much more’. You are so much more than what you can be or what you can have. Tell me who you can be. And what you can do. Tell me your story, read me the chapters and make me sit on the edge. Plagiarism is illegal for a reason. Can’t you take the cue? It’s a bad sign when you can report your life on an Excel spreadsheet and that’s where it ends. I don’t want a timeline. I want a novel that tugs at my heart. Make me do something or feel something because you had the courage to do or feel it first. Isn’t that what we’re here for? To put what we’ve been given to use, daily?
So here’s what I say: I say we start a revolution. I say we challenge all those predisposed unconscious notions and teach people to trust, to feel, to lead the way and write their stories. I say that we take a second look at the fancy offers and pretty phrasing or whatever they may be and dig deeper. I say we quit parroting the rulebooks and we rip up the registries. I say that instead of just identifying the exterior of the whats, we scrape off the surface and chip away until we find the whys. The things that make us unique and the things that make others shine; they always intertwine somehow. I say we take action from a place of authenticity and love, from a place that is so intricate and grand there is no way it can be summed up in 140 characters or less.
Even if it’s scary, especially if it’s scary, I say we start a revolution in which we are afraid but do it anyway. I say we start a revolution in which we treat our lives like the most gripping, romantically alluring novel we can find on the shelf and we dive right in. Because if that’s the kind of revolution we start, somehow I truly believe in the depths of my soul that we can fill this world with beautiful enigmas, living side by side, all playing out the most grand of stories, each one streamlining into the next. The kind of stories that are not easily defined, aren’t “so L.A.” or “so” anything. The kind that aren’t able to be plagiarized, even with the most diligent of efforts. Honestly, those stories are the best kind.
I’m on the edge of my seat. Let’s turn the page.
*Answer: it’s 1827.5673831626564