“I Hate It Here”

I am flying back to DC from LA after a short trip. Besides the fact that they are both commonly referred to by their initials, these two cities seem to have little in common on the surface other than that they are both one-industry towns. What do you think of when you hear the letters LA? Well, on the positive side, you might conjure up warm days on the beach, the glittering Hollywood Hills, and a laid-back ambiance. LA’s negatives come up fairly quickly as well: smog, clogged freeways, Botox. And what comes to your mind with the letters DC? Again, I would imagine some strong positives: beautiful monuments and buildings, smart people, cherry blossoms. And some strong negatives: insincere and untrustrworthy politicians, 100+ degree humid summers, somewhat boring.

Actually, I don’t need to do much imagining, as I heard those comments about LA for the 10 years I had my practice there, and now I’ve been hearing them about DC for the five that I’ve been in Washington. All of those characterizations, both positive and negative, are, to some degree, true. But I find that for many people it’s difficult to hold these mixed views, so they tend to drift towards the “I hate……” or the “I love…..” ends of the spectrum. For those of you versed in the study of psychology, it’s a classic example of the principle of cognitive dissonance in action – the mind finds it easier to work in black – or -white categories than in grays. I’m not going to deny that cities have a certain character to them that pervades the atmosphere, but in a metropolitan area as large as Washington, DC or Los Angeles, CA there are a practically infinite variety of experiences awaiting. But if there isn’t an open enough mindset about the possibilities a place offers, they won’t be found, and the broad characterization will little-by-little come to seem increasingly true.

Making Peace with Where You Live

When I moved East and started my life coach practice from scratch, I was surprised to find a lively creative scene. And a city that’s very much into physical fitness (gyms, runners, and bike lanes everywhere). That’s not what Washington was supposed to be about. And, just last night At dinner at my cousin’s in Long Beach I heard people raving about the Los Angeles Philharmonic, and others discussing the philosophy book group they attend – that doesn’t fit into what LA is about!

I’d like to emphasize two points in this post. First, that (as in so much of the rest of life), much of what you see and experience depends on the lens you’re looking through, just like a camera that can go from wide angle to telephoto, or change what it’s focused on.

Regular readers of my blog have encountered this idea many times before, because it is the lens I use to help people achieve their goals, whether that be finding a new career, strengthening a relationship, avoiding obsessive worrying about decisions (past. current, or future) or just coming to a greater sense of peace about life and its prospects. It’s a lens that’s practical, and almost always has significant results if the client is open to learning how to peer through it.

The second point I want to emphasize is that cities like L.A. and Washington don’t lay themselves bare at the feet of their inhabitants, particularly if they’re originally from somewhere else. The cities need to be explored, probed. Buy a good guidebook to your city and discover some of the places and activities that might be of interest. Pick up City Paper, the Washingtonian magazine, or Metro Weekly and learn about upcoming events. If your problem is meeting people (I often hear how difficult it is to make connections, either fraternal or romantic) start to attend an “affinity group” (a group of people sharing a common interest). Meetup.org is a great site to find such groups (ranging from guitar playing to ice skating to painting to speaking Portuguese), but they can also be found affiliated with churches, gyms, and places of work. It’s a lot easier to meet new people at a venue when you know there’s a shared interest than it is at an average cocktail party, bar, or function.

In closing, let me express my very firm conviction that, if you can’t impact a situation in the short-term (e.g. moving out of a city you don’t like ), invest some time and energy in finding previously unencountered people, experiences, places, and things that can at least raise your ability to tolerate a situation that you “hate