Chicago writer Liz Sandoval learns to appreciate life on the left coast

November 21, 2011

By Liz Sandoval

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(Flickr/Ian Freimuth)
Writer Liz Sandoval reflects on the city she left behind.

Writer Liz Sandoval recently had her eyes opened. She realized that sometimes you want to be somewhere else so badly, you do not even realize that it is ok to be where you are. Sandoval currently resides in Los Angeles, but her heart is firmly entrenched in Chicago. 

I guarantee you that there may come a day when what you always deemed "ordinary" brings you unspeakable joy. When you will learn that all along, you in fact had been taking things, taking life—for granted.

The past ten years, whenever I've re-emerged in Los Angeles after my extended stays in Chicago, I return bored: bored with the smog, bored with the fact that the suburb of El Monte looks like the suburb of La Puente which looks like the suburb of West Covina which looks like everywhere else, bored with the fact that it's not Chicago.

I treasure my time with family and friends but aside from that, there is a lingering restlessness that is tainted by my judgmental attitude. "L.A. County could never be as culturally-evolved as Chicago. I'm in a pit. I'm only half-alive here."

And then, there comes a day when you start to feel physically sick; and then the next day you feel sicker; and then every day afterward only feels like the day before. And here I don't mean a metaphorical sickness but an actual sickness that renders you fairly useless—wondering if your best days are behind you. If the only Chicago you'll ever see again is on the postcards taped to your walls.

You're not dying but you're suffering all the same. You can't work because you're so sick. Your mother and father shuffle your 30-something-year-old self to doctor appointments and you've traveled back in time to your childhood. Except now you're aware of the doctor bills and there's no lollipop at the end of the visits.

You lay in bed and you pray and you dream and you remember—yes, Chicago; but also just what used to be. Being able to drive a car and meet a friend for dinner like a normal person and not needing a chaperone to go to Target because you're so dizzy you can't stand up straight.

And something happens in the midst of all of this: As you listen to the Fourth of July fireworks outside your bedroom window…as you listen to life going on all around you and sometimes watch it as you peek through the front door, you begin to dream.

You dream of getting in the car and driving to a strip mall in these suburbs called El Monte. You dream of being amongst the living.

You learn to appreciate that even to be amongst what you deemed "ordinary" is a tremendous blessing. You have taken for granted the life around you; demeaning it. Deeming it "less" than what you would want for yourself—until it's what you need.

This past year, the breeze of a fan on my bed—was my ocean breeze. This past year, buckets of warm water over me—as my mom washed my hair for me in the backyard—were my ocean. This past year, the strip malls in or El Monte or La Puente or West Covina—have been my Chicago; they have been my release.

Everything serves a purpose. And without the right eyes, you'll never appreciate it.
Perspective is key.

Music Button: The Mercury Program, "Saint Rose of Lima", from the album Confines of Heat, (Hello Sir)