I rolled over, bored and a little sad and a little panicked, and looked out my bedroom window at the palm trees that looked like odd cutouts of black paper against the night sky, the skyline glittering with hope on the horizon. I was bored and a little sad and a little panicked, but I found myself saying out loud, “Goodnight, little city. Goodnight, Los Angeles. I know you’re big and scary and loud but I’m very, very grateful to be here, and I love you very much.”
And there it was: for the first time in weeks. Gratitude.
I left Chicago to move to Los Angeles filled to the brim with love, confidence, and above all else, gratitude. It had been a dream for so long to just get here, whatever that ended up looking like, and there I was: alone in my bed, more broke than I had been in months, but in LOS ANGELES! The glamour! Gratitude.
Here’s something I learned: It’s easy to be grateful when things are going really great. Have you ever realized that? Do you have a friend who’s an amazing friend when everything is going great for him or her, and when things hit the fan for them they suddenly become a monster? You find yourself downplaying your wins to soften their losses in fear of their insecurity-fueled wrath? It is EASY to be grateful when there’s nothing to cloud your happy, rose-colored, grateful gaze. So as humans, even as humans trying to vibrate as our highest selves, we need to remember that, and find things to be grateful for even when it seems like there’s nothing. And if I’m being honest, that can be really fucking hard. And annoying. And really fucking hard.
I said my weird little thank you to LA, and that felt right. I cuddled up to my cat and dozed off, the sounds of Ramona Singer’s voice squawking on my Hulu, a lovely little siren song. Then I woke up the next day and took about fifteen steps back.
It was the first day of orientation at my new serving job, and I was foaming at the mouth with excitement. At long last! I couldn’t wait to wear a mildly embarrassing uniform and end my nights with bundles of cash again! I looked forward to eight months into my journey as a server where I was comfortable and trusted and could joke with my work pals by the coffee machine until a stern manager reminded me I had just gotten sat. With a charming smile I’d respond with something like “Uh, I SEE THAT and I’m INTO IT!” extending my manicured hand for a high five and my manager begrudgingly agreeing because I’m just that fun and that charming and that good at my job. I couldn’t. Wait.
To get there I borrowed my roommate’s car and twenty dollars. At this point my account was overdrawn and without my roommate’s undying friendship and generosity I would have walked the two hours to this gig. But in LOS ANGELES! The glamour! Gratitude.(?)
Upon arrival, I was led to a tall building across the street from the restaurant to an office space with *gasp!* overhead fluorescent lighting. I was imagining other kids there, maybe even a handsome young bartender in training! (“Hannah, don’t fuck people you work with.” -My dad) But alas, it was only me with two older gentleman. (Sidenote: I’m about to turn 27, and I still consider myself a kid. There’s a lot to unpack there, I think.) One of the gentlemen couldn’t speak english but had an adorable smile, and the other was a cook who was very chatty about stupid shit. Two hours of tedious paperwork and touring went by, and my cook friend kept insisting we get fed.
“How about lunch? Lunch? We gon’ eat? Free lunch? I am STARVING. I am HUNGRY. I haven’t had BREAKFAST.”
I felt my eyes rolling into the back of my head. I wondered to myself why this man’s hunger was anyone’s fucking problem and why we should have to hear about it over and over again. I wore a business casual outfit for this? Where were the OTHER KIDS?!
Orientation ended, and I felt like a hot poker of rage was shoved up my ass. And for what reason? I mean, if we really broke it down, why did the whole notion of gratitude suddenly resemble my 7th grade bully who I never wanted to see or hear from again?
Well, Hannah. It could be the fact that you’re stuck to your apartment for a fourth day in a row and slowly losing your mind. It could be the fact that you have some unclear rash by your nose that your dad insists is a staph infection. Could be that you were set up two weeks ago by your best friend and the guy was actually repelled by your existence. Could be that you went on a date with another dude Sunday and he had the audacity to take your leftovers home. Okay, so let’s put all that together in the “crippling loneliness and wanting to be loved” category. Okay, that’s good, we’re streamlining. Ah, it could also be that you don’t want to eat your shitty dinners that you make for the fourth day in a row. And for the love of God why did that cook have such a hard time acting normal in orientation? And why did YOU have to hear about it? Yeah, you’re right. Fuck everything. Everything sucks.
I went home to my bed and forced a two hour nap upon myself for the fourth time that week. Naps take up time and also they’re free. My roommate rushed around getting ready for work, living the life of an actual adult, and there I was, wanting to fold myself into my stomach rolls like some bizarre human pastry and hibernate for a very long time until I woke up with millions of dollars in my bank account and Jon Hamm outside my front door with a bundle of daffodils and a magnum condom in his back pocket.
When I woke up, I decided to consciously do something to better myself, even if I didn’t want to. (To be clear, I REALLY didn’t fucking want to.) Like every other Los Angelino on the verge of a psychotic break, I decided to go on a hike! As I walked to Griffith Park, I listened to Kanye West’s ‘Ghost Town’ and imagined my life playing out like some edgy HBO series, this song underscoring my frightening (yet maybe glamorous?) descent into madness. It was hot outside. Too hot. So I flung myself into a rich person’s sprinklers which were actually much more of a direct stream than pleasant mist. I continued my quest to feeling normal, walking down the sidewalk with half my shirt and my hair sticking to my skin, my sunglasses peppered with droplets, Kanye having a breakdown of his own into my ear,
I put my hand on a stove, to see if I still bleed…
I climbed Griffith. One agonizing step at a time. One self-pitying anthem at a time. I climbed until I got to the top. I climbed until I felt good. And when I got there, I looked out at Los Angeles at sunset, and there it was again in my head. My weird little prayer of gratitude. Goodnight, little city. Goodnight, Los Angeles. I know you’re big and scary and loud but I’m very, very grateful to be here, and I love you very much.
I saw so many other people just like me marveling at what they had just done and where they were, taking out their phones to remind themselves and all their followers that it was real. And suddenly, I took a deep breath, and I thought about how much my mom would’ve loved to see this, and I cried a little gratitude cry, and then, like RIGHT then, nothing else mattered. Not the hungry cook and his complaints. Not my overdrawn bank account. Not my loneliness. To feel irritated and choose to go on a hike in LA was once such a distant dream, and there I was just living it. Like, no, like there I was, just DOING it. And just like that, I received a much-needed gratitude reset.
It’s easy to be grateful when things are wonderful. But the next time they’re not, I challenge you (um, I also challenge me) to find something— anything— to be grateful for. Because I promise you there is always something. And maybe you need to send a series of complaint texts to your friends kvetching for a while and using the word “fuck” every other word to get your point across, but once that initial hot poker of rage subsides, I promise you will find something to be grateful for. And when you do, the dust will settle, and things will get a little easier, and the universe will reward you.
Oh, that’s right, I didn’t tell you! I woke up this morning with my two pending checks deposited into my bank account. The universe will reward you.