Four Years Later: The Golden Girl
When it’s sunny, winter afternoons in Los Angeles seem to take on a luscious golden hue when the skies are clear. I can’t explain how the light turns that molten shade which dances across the gorgeous palm trees and the ocean in anticipation of the oncoming twilight.
During the week, looking out from my office window over Ventura Boulevard while staring out at the hills, I fall in love with this light over and over again. I smile with an ear-to-ear grin, satisfied as if after a delicious meal, full of hope and life.
Four years ago I didn’t smile as much as I do now. There wasn’t as much laughter or contentment in my soul, or time to really notice the subtle differences in the atmosphere. There were just swooping feelings in the stomach about my life, and how it was changing dramatically.
The light didn’t shimmer this way four years ago where I used to live — or maybe it did, but I don’t remember. I just remember black, the darkness of the night. Hiding in my old car making fearful phone calls to my parents and the police. Sitting on the bathroom floor with the lights turned off while his ear was pressed against the door, listening in to my private thoughts to different friends. Sitting awake and watching him sleeping, fearful of drifting off because he had been so out of control I didn’t know what he would do while I was unconscious.
The only light I remember was being perched in my friend’s sitting room on a cushioned leather chair next to the illumination of a Christmas tree, Adele playing softly in the background. There was the smooth baritone on the other end of my phone, who was home from law school for Christmas break. His voice comforted me, slowing my wildly beating heart and rapid voice that told one of my closest friends the truth that I wanted to hide from him: That I was thinking about leaving my husband and the married life I had crafted for four years behind.
The voice, the tree, the music… those were only golden things I remember from that time. But they faded. Everything faded into blackness that was only illuminated by stark orange fluorescent street lamps as I made my choices. Not all of them were good, but many were the right ones. That fact didn’t make enacting them any easier, though.
Four years ago there was a restlessness stirring in my soul. There was a girl inside of me dying to get out, who needed to be free from the golden shackles she had put on herself because the world told her this was the way life had to be. My resignation in accepting this existence was stopped by a moment, a blink in time where there was the realization that I didn’t have to live in constant heartbreak and stress. I didn’t have to spend most of my time hiding his tantrums from friends’ watchful eyes and listen to him constantly demean me and tell me regularly how I couldn’t live life without him. That there was more to life than suburban existence and cookie-cutter dreams.
As a friend said to me later, I had the chance to hit the reset button, and when that shiny red button was pressed I let that other person out of me. Now, after years of struggle and difficulties, that person is finally here.
She’s skinnier, feistier and a lot more fun. She doesn’t wear her thick-framed glasses as often, accenting her light colored eyes, and her fashion has gone slightly trendy versus the ‘50s style housewife styles she used to wear. Her hair is long with beach waves, like the California girl that she is. She’s downright sexy, and suddenly the world knows it — whether it’s the random guy at a bar suddenly pulling her up during karaoke to serenade her with the song, “The Most Beautiful Girl in the World,” or her female co-worker who laughs when you joke that you’re the single old maid of the group and says, “Shut up, you’re 33 and hot.”
She eats healthier and takes care of herself. If there’s a problem, she tries to fix it. If she’s hungry, she eats; if she isn’t, she doesn’t force it, because she remembers what true hunger looks like. She doesn’t cook as often as she used to, but loves to go out and try new flavors. She reads books more often and writes regularly, experimenting with her creativity. There’s outspokenness in her veins now, both politically and life-wise, and she’s proud to have an opinion, although she still doesn’t always express it at the highest level.
There are ambitions on her terms, not feeling guilty or forced in it. There’s always a business card in her hand, waiting to connect. The hustle in her is strong, and she runs with it to get her own without worrying if a guy would be scared of it. She does life on her own terms, not wasting time on those who don’t matter.
The circumstances of her life, from cancer to death, have shaped her into being more thoughtful, more compassionate, and occasionally a bit more reserved. Her friends have changed over time as well. But she’s still warm. She wants to see you, talk to you, get to know you, catch up with you if you haven’t seen her in a while.
She may not have a dwelling of her own, but she wants to welcome you into her home: The City of Angels, the place where she was born and she came back to all those years ago. It first gave her the anonymity to grieve the past, then it gave her the ability to become who she always wanted to be: Slightly eccentric, always creative, full of pure hunger and zest for life that she had to hide before. But there is no hiding now. And she likes it that way.
Does her heart get broken? Sure. Does she have difficulties with romantic relationships? Without question — she hasn’t had once in the four years since she left. Are there tears? No doubts. But there are also friends who kiss your forehead, stroke your hair, adjust your smeared makeup and sling you a drink. When you ask what’s in it, they say, “Don’t ask. Drink it.” Then they hug you tight and pop in a movie and make snarky comments along with it.
This is her life; she created it. It’s not perfect and it’s not always right. But it has become mine, and I take complete ownership of it.
It’s not permanent. Gold doesn’t stay and never has. But it’s here in this present tense. Golden, single girl days overlooking the San Fernando Valley may fade for other opportunities and other places in the world. If my past and the choices I have made say anything, it’s that when we think we have it all together, the universe has other plans.
But for now, this is my life. I fought for it, starved for it, dragged myself through the shit for it. I kissed and fucked the frogs and cried plenty of tears while wondering why I couldn’t find new love. I even went momentarily insane on occasions, letting the terror of my past rush over me in any way it came — drinking heavily and crying on bathroom floors, pulling off the road and screaming at the stars if necessarily, or dragging my hands along the bathroom rug when I was curled up on it because I was too paralyzed by my past to get up. Then I was left watching as time made the attacks shorter, less scary, or perhaps made me strong enough to fight them head on.
And, despite everything, I’d do it all over again. Without question.
The earth-shattering choices we make affect us and change us indefinitely. Some people, who have taken more conventional paths and just accepted the horrible things as “the way it is” rather than make a shift, wonder about those of us who chose to chase other ideals. Instead of settling, we chase overwhelming ambition, golden sunsets and oceans, and the hope that there is something better out there.
So those of us who made the difficult decisions laugh, lift our drinks into the air and smile high, because we prefer to run into uncertainty with those who share our drives rather than just settle. These choices come with sacrifices, but when those golden days wash over our bodies, we know the truth: That we made the right choices together, to live every day rather than just be, and to live our own versions of happily ever after. And four years later, I can’t ask for much more than that.