Sometimes, I forget to look outside of myself.
I realized something as my summer roommates and I drove back from dinner tonight. With breadsticks resting in our bellies and Josh Garrells singing through Han’s Sonata speakers, a realization once again knocked on the door of my heart: I’ve been stuck inside myself for far too long.
I looked out the car window and as we passed from the 57 to the 210 and I got a glimpse of the glittering LA skyline emerging from the sunset, I remembered for the first time in a long time that there is so much more than my little brain and my little worries and my little context. LA reminds me of that.
This year I fell in love with Los Angeles.
I can’t even put into words the emotions and memories that swell in my chest as I walk the streets of West Hollywood or gaze at the glittering skyline from the foothills.
I’ve lounged pool-top at the Ace Hotel downtown, and I’ve pretended to blend in with the tattooed, trendy crowd of the Arts District. I’ve eaten meals I could hardly afford, and I’ve downed obscene amounts of caffeine, visiting new coffee shops every time my friends and I lug our laptops and textbooks out of Azusa as an excuse for adventure.
I’ve frequented LA almost every weekend this semester, and I’ve barely scratched the surface of this city.
No matter how many times we make the venture, there is a curious hope that stirs inside of me when the skyline grows from tiny leggo-like buildings to towering skyscrapers as we race from Azusa to Koreatown or Runyon Canyon or Echo Park.
For me, LA represents youth. It represents reckless decisions and big dreams and frightening realities. It represents mistakes and growth learned and forgotten and learned all over again. It holds sorrowful memories and sweet recollections that have branded themselves on my heart.
I’ve driven its streets crying so hard I could barely see, and I’ve laughed till it feels like my chest will explode sitting in unavoidable traffic with my absolute best friends.
LA forces me out of my comfort zone.
The dirty streets and the eclectic neighborhoods and the crowded streets force me to brush elbows with people I would probably never come across in my suburban hometown. The neighborhoods are like stories I would probably never choose to read on my own.
But now I can’t put down the book. I can’t take my eyes off the screen. I can’t stop filling up my gas tank so I can make the 40 minute drive again and again and again.
LA forces me outside of myself.
It reminds me that there is oh so much more of the world to be discovered, so much more of the world screaming to be known and loved. I don’t have to get on a plane or cross any oceans to find the extraordinary. I can walk right outside my door and find a city brimming with adventure and hope, mistakes and love, do-overs and endings and forevers and nevers.
LA doesn’t ask me to have it all together. In fact, LA almost demands just the opposite.
This year LA tore me apart. LA thew this little girl a lot of curve balls. In LA, the Jacova Kathleen I have always known myself to be was tried and tested, bruised and battered, until only fragments of her were left. Realities I was so sure of crumbled, and relationships I had so much stock in shifted and changed.
But now the storm has passed. The winds have died down and the showers have stopped. And if I could change anything for the girl who lost herself in LA and spent months trying to collect those pieces back together again, I wouldn’t. I wouldn’t change a single thing.
I would’t say much to her, but if I did it would be something like,
Don’t rush the process. Sit in the tensions.
Feel. Try. Lose. Fail. Let yourself be uncomfortable. Look outside of yourself. Get back up when you are ready. Slow the process. Take time to be thankful for who you’ve been, know who you are, decide who you want to become.
And then give yourself the space and the care to become it.
This year was a painful and beautiful process of becoming. It was a year when Jesus continually put His gentle hand under my chin and firmly forced my gaze towards heaven.
Jacova Kathleen, don’t forget to look up.
I am still in process, and I will be for a long time. But in LA I learned to be ok with that.
Donald Miller says in His book Scary Close, “We don’t think of our flaws as the glue that binds us to the people we love, but they are. Grace only sticks to our imperfections. Those who can’t accept their imperfections can’t accept grace either.” (It’s a rad read. You should go for it).
In the city of Los Angeles I learned its ok to not be ok, because usually we aren’t. I learned to wear my heart on my sleeve and take the grace I need and let the process make me braver and kinder, full of gumption and grace. I learned to let in the people who have earned it, those who have seen the ugly parts of me and have chosen to stay. Those whose grace continually sticks to my imperfections.
I learned to live just a bit outside of myself.
If I don’t keep reminding myself to step outside of my context, to practice courage and kindness and grace, to be thankful for both the breath of a sob and the breath of a laugh, life will slip through the space between my fingers and I will have missed the point.
So here’s to junior year. Here’s to Engstrom 412, to all the dance parties that rocked the floors and all the sobs that echoed off the walls. Here’s to the sweetest of suites: Han and Mer, who took San Fran by storm, remedied all problems with In-N-Out, quadrupled closet space, and carried me through the darkest of days. Here’s to the fiercest women I know – Han, Katie, KP, Bon, Hanney, Bridgey – who have been my absolute ride or dies. Here’s to Duvall. You are the realest MVP for so many reasons. ILYSB. HWarren, goodness knows where I would be without you. Here’s to sitting in silence and screaming at the top of our lungs, to crying ourselves to sleep and giggling until our bellies ached. You have changed me forever. Here’s to my family, my core, my rock, my roots. Here’s to Hometeam, who will always be just that. No matter how bruised and battered we were or are or will be.
And here’s to the Savior who sustained me through it all.
LA, here’s to you. I guess you really are ok.