Yesterday was my first night in my temporary LA apartment. It was odd to think I was still living in my Upper East Side walkup just a week earlier, but perhaps weirder to consider all I’d done in seven days. I got to California a week ago and spent a few days with family and friends before heading south. My mom and I stayed in Agoura Hills for a night to see our longtime family friend Gerie, whose Arkansas-bred mother used to watch me when I was a baby. Gerie has a 17-year-old daughter in the midst of applying for college, and it was downright surreal thinking about how different and green I was during that period of my life.
We all woke up at 7 a.m. on Wednesday morning, and the first thing I did was make a cup of coffee. I offered some to teenager Alix but she declined, stating she’s not a coffee drinker yet.
“I was the same way until college,” I told her, staring at the overcast (and, quite honestly, smoggy) sky out the window.
“Do you really need coffee to stay awake? Is it going to be that hard?” she asked breathlessly, eager to digest as much insider information about the post-high school experience as possible.
“No, not really,” I replied, laughing. “I just liked having the morning routine of grabbing a coffee before class. I hated the taste until I brought cream and sugar into the mix. I should probably cut down on that part now, though. It rots your stomach.”
“We’ll see how I feel when I get to college,” she went on. “But for now, I’m fine without coffee.”
“A lot changes when you move out of the house. Just you wait.”
I couldn’t believe this girl, how hungry for details on college life she was. I’d been the same exact way, so thrilled by the prospect of venturing into the world on my own that I let it consume my life, which was pretty comfortable until my dad’s cancer diagnosis on Thanksgiving 2005.
A half hour later, she headed off to school, and I started to want something I don’t think I’ve ever wanted: to be that age again, a blank slate with no baggage, past, crazy stories and experiences, or expectations to thrive in the adult world. I turned 25 in late July, and so far, it just doesn’t look good on me — at least as I transition into a new field and slowly move on from the wild, unsustainable, emotionally exhausting life I had in NYC. It’s nice to drive again and be surrounded by friendly faces, and I wouldn’t live in NYC again unless I had enough money to live comfortably (and not year-round). I have trouble looking at the bigger picture, and I know all of this will ultimately be worthwhile, but at this moment, it seems quite appealing to start fresh and be 17 again, kind of like that silly Zac Efron movie. I long for a time before all the reckless decisions I made in my personal life, before I jumped around the country in search of adventure and opportunity, before I got jerked around by the East Coast, before I made a fool of myself at work and in the dating world, before I’d kissed more than one person, before I acquired a taste for coffee.
I considered this as I fell asleep last night. My mom recently finished the first season of The Newsroom, so I dozed off watching episode four on my mini DVD player. Moments later, the building fire alarm went off. I looked out my keyhole and saw the hall was empty, but retreated to the courtyard anyway because I always embrace the outdoors in times of potential disaster. I noticed a college-aged girl in a mouse costume by the stairs and asked whether she knew anything about the alarm.
“It goes off all the time here, there’s no fire,” she said with a smile.
A couple minutes later, a burly man wearing a construction hat emerged from the building and said there was nothing wrong with the apartment.
“The alarm is so awful over here. You’ve got a million dollar neighborhood with K-Mart smoke detectors,” he said. “You a student at Cal State Long Beach?”
“No, I just moved from New York. This is my first night in the building. Some welcoming, huh?”
“I’m going to fix it. But just know that this happens a lot. Be prepared for it.”
I walked back inside, covering my ears, and was brought back to freshman year at UA. I lived in Coronado Hall, the biggest party dorm on campus. Believe it or not, I didn’t party very much that year, especially at the beginning. I wrote letters to my boyfriend, attended the Newman Center Catholic church, studied hard, and exercised. I had healthy habits, so it was always disruptive and infuriating when drunk idiots would pull the fire alarm at 3 a.m. and make us all evacuate from our beds for the chilly desert night. It happened on a regular basis at Coro, so if that’s the case here, I guess I’ll feel like I’m back in college again, and that’s not the year I’d return to if I could go back to UA.
My first class is Monday, so maybe I’ll feel a little less mopey when I’m learning about screenwriting and among other aspiring TV writers. I also love the UCLA campus, so maybe I’ll feel right at home there. After all, I did take a summer performing arts class at UCLA one summer — the summer I turned 17.