Tuesday, March 4, 2014

West Coast, Best Coast - East Coast, Beast Coast

Being bicoastal. Seeing as it’s the namesake of my blog, I should probably touch on it. Going away to university or living in two different places presents many unique situations, even if the distance ventured is short. Living on opposite coasts of the whopping landmass that is the USA is an extreme.

Sometimes I feel like an international student - sans a foreign passport - because California and New York might as well be different countries. Geographically, they very well could be, considering that when I’m in New York I’m about as close to Europe as I am to California. The two coasts are as culturally removed from each other as they are geographically – the bicoastal must navigate split linguistic and behavioural norms much more than many mono-coastals assume. Although being a Southern Californian in New York and a New Yorker in Southern California almost holds the exotic allure that an international student has, bicoastals don’t get the extra leeway that international students get when it comes to travel considerations and cultural misunderstandings. At the same time, it’s not like I'm deserving of too much sympathy when I’m lucky enough to live in not one, but two amazing places. Being bicoastal is the ultimate dichotomy, a blessing and a curse. It simultaneously means living in the best of both worlds and sampling a cruel taste of both.

The bicoastal situation as it relates to…

Flying: Long flights are a reality. Sometimes it’s funny that I can fly from NYC to Reykjavik, Iceland in less time (5h45) than it would take me to fly to Los Angeles (6h35). This is not so funny when I’m homesick for California. 
Frequent flyer miles? Theoretically, I get upgraded to business-class. Realistically, half the time I’m chilling in economy comfort because there is always a horde of bicoastal people who are frequent-er flyers. On an average flight, there are like 50 Executive Premier Sparkling Rainbow Platinum flyers vying for 30 business-class seats.

Being homesick on both coasts: When I’m in New York, I long to spend warm, relaxing days with my family in California (and pine for good Mexican food). When I’m in California, I miss my uni friends and all the entertainment that NYC offers. “Home” is now a confusing term.

Never being a true local: Being asked for directions in LA and saying “sorry, I don’t remember, I live in New York now.” Then some poor soul in NYC asks for the most harrowingly detailed subway directions, and I say “sorry, I’m from LA.” I’m never cold when it’s 70ºF in California anymore. I’m still always cold in New York. I’m now able to comprehend a lot of the strange things that east coasters say. This doesn’t mean I don’t get confused when I’m waiting in line, googling something on my phone, and a stranger comes up to me and asks if I’m “online." I’m left wondering why someone would be so nosy about what I’m doing on my phone. Of course, they’re actually asking if I’m standing in line. Still don’t get that one.

Living out of a suitcase: Packing is not very exciting anymore. It’s a chore. And unpacking is the worst.

Shipping addresses vs. billing addresses: Always having to fill in both. I’ve mixed up states and zip codes more often then not.

Needing two (or three) of everything: After I forgot my phone charger for the 20th time, I decided it’s probably better to leave one on each coast and have an extra for the plane journey. Unfortunately, the same strategy doesn't work for cars. I miss mine while I'm in New York. 

Being stereotyped: people in California will remark at how “New York” I am, whilst people in New York identify me as a Californian.

Time change: Sure, it’s only 3 hours, but 3 hours is plenty to screw you up when, say, you have an 8am class which feels like 5am, or when your friends want to get yoghurt at 9pm and it feels like midnight. Also, 3 hours makes a 6 hour flight from LA to NY actually take up 9 hours on the clock, so including time spent at the airport, travelling takes a full day. 
3 harmless hours have also led me to make slightly embarrassing errors like forgetting that the Super Bowl is at night in New York, not in the afternoon like it is in California. Also, keeping my wristwatch in the correct time zone doesn’t really happen.

Concerts: Don’t ask me why, but my favourite bands are always playing in LA when I’m in NY, and NY when I’m in LA. Same goes for hockey games.

Getting more out of life: Sure, living in two different time zones, climates, and cultures can be challenging, but also I get to enjoy what are arguably the two most culturally rich metropolitan centres in the country. I get Central Park and Laguna Beach. I get Broadway and Hollywood. I get The Met and LACMA. I get to make sandcastles in 80ºF sunshine and snowmen in the same month.

If I could choose again, I would still choose to be bicoastal, at least for a part of my life. With a foot on both coasts, I’ve grown more than I ever thought possible. The thing now is, I don’t know if I’ll ever feel complete living on only one side of this continent.

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