Story by Cloe Maurer
Illustration by Alicia Zhang
This article is part of Tiger‘s March center spread. Read the rest of the spread here.
Last March, I was terrified of being alone. I didn’t know what to do without a steady stream of stressors and distressors to point to the reason why I felt bad. I started going on long walks, acutely aware of the way my body moved down the sidewalk and waited patiently at crosswalks. I was uncomfortable walking, half lost, through a neighborhood I was unfamiliar with, despite having lived there for the past four years. It took a little practice, but I slid pretty easily into
solitude and barely talked to anyone for two months.
I kept walking and started biking everyday. It began as an attempt for routine and a new distraction. I didn’t realize it then, but I was existing in a disoriented middle ground, simultaneously scared to be alone with my own thoughts and too disengaged to feel comfortable with anyone else. I saw friends for birthdays. We stayed out late in parks and for a few hours, I just felt fine. The next morning, I would wake up feeling so isolated I couldn’t breathe. The highs and lows got more extreme and worked their way into my life more randomly and with more frequency.
So I biked to new parks and found new places to be alone. I found places that grounded me and filed them away, subconsciously associating L.A. with being able to breathe, even if only momentarily. Now, I’m armed with some kind of emotional toolbelt fitted with hidden trails and hillsides, remembering where the sunsets are the best, and where I can stare into the wide, sun-bleached expanse of the San Fernando Valley.
The strange intimacy of learning my physical space while simultaneously confronting my mental state has been freeing. There is very little longing, baggage, or judgment attached to the Los Angeles I’ve grown close to in the past year because I only really know it as who I am now. Learning and loving this city has given me new spaces to inhabit all by myself, without wishing for who I was or how I felt before I was forced to really confront my mental health.
There’s something about L.A. that’s unnameable. Maybe it’s the starpower, the love, or the sneaking suspicion that there is always something bigger, something cosmic, behind the smog, lamentably designed grid, and screaming freeways: I’ve found a lot of comfort in knowing that L.A. is too alive to ever be truly alone in. Looking out onto a city I love, I can’t help but feel hopeful.