Unsung Rivalry

Born in San Francisco, Catherine shares her struggle with calling Los Angeles “home”

To some in L.A., the rivalry between San Francisco and Los Angeles is nonexistent. I think this rivalry stems from the deep-rooted rivalry between the Giants and the Dodgers in New York City. While only a handful of Angelenos are true fans of the Dodgers, everyone in San Francisco is a Giants fan. (That’s one point for S.F.)

When I decided to move south for school, I began to discover the difference in the two cultures. L.A. felt cold (in demeanor, not in climate, obviously), and I counted down days until trips home to the Bay Area—the down-to-earth Californian cousin. In college, every time I visited home and returned to L.A. a feeling of dread came over me as the plane approached LAX. I swore I would move back upon graduation. Then I didn’t.

Even now when I tell people in the City that I live in L.A., they cringe noticeably. There is a lot of stigma surrounding L.A.—and not just from San Franciscans. Many New Yorkers swear they will never make the move. The angry car culture, the smog, the plastic surgery, the kale juice cleanses, the overflow of yoga studios, the kids of someone, the aspiring actors/singers/celebrities…  but if you haven’t lived here and immersed yourself, then you really are missing out on a not-so-secret secret.

There’s the obvious 263 days of sunshine, accessibility to beaches, and the three degrees of separation from major movie stars. It’s rich in history: Hollywood, yes, but political too. Then there’s an up-and-coming culture of food (food truck culture began here with the blow-up of Kogi, L.A. also made juice cleanses hip) with farm-to-table taking on a life of its own. There are restaurants here that don’t have a cuisine description except “Californian.” Sure, it’s sprawling flatland of transplants and wannabes, but there are some really cool people too. Talented, smart, fun, and good-looking… Because they’re cleansing. And spinning. And practicing yoga… at the beach. Venice has been enough to keep me happy for years beyond graduation.

San Francisco, on the other hand, doesn’t need much explanation. “If the weather wasn’t so terrible, San Francisco would be the best place on earth to live.”

I have an ongoing internal battle about when the right time is to move back. After four years of making a life for myself in L.A., it’s hard to imagine uprooting my single self and starting fresh in a new place. S.F. has all of the ingredients for greatness: a reliable public transportation system (so long, 405 traffic), insanely good restaurants (Wayfare Tavern, State Bird Provisions, SPQR to name a few), hills to make sure you’re never bored of one view, and the best people you’ll ever meet.

Right now, L.A. is mine. I built a career foundation, fostered new friendships, involved myself in alumni groups and started a blog. When I come back from a trip and land in LAX, now I feel excitement and motivation… like anything is possible this week.

But have I invested in this L.A. life so much because otherwise I would be hitting the 5 and going back to what I love—what I know will work without me lifting a finger? Is writing an entire post defending L.A. and my decision to stay here overcompensating for what I already know?

A college friend born and raised in L.A. recently moved to San Diego, and, feeling homesick he asked me how I do it. How do I stay away from home, knowing that my affinity for the Bay is unrivaled. The answer is simple: I listen to my gut. I focus on the present. Trust your instinct, and that is when you find the most room to grow. This is where I am supposed to be.

My heart belongs to San Francisco, but I love L.A. too. And that’s okay. A few of the close friends I’ve made here are already starting to move on to new cities. I can’t be in two places at once, but I don’t have to feel guilt over choosing one. It’s a matter of time before S.F. will call me home for good. And when it does, I hope I still have enough friends in L.A. to attend my going-away party.

xo Catherine


Catherine is a Californian through and through, no matter which city she decides to live in.


Catherine Abalos is founder and editor of The Single Diaries.

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