Karma is… Culture Shock

The middle of the night sounds are my favorite. Most of our neighbors and their dogs are sleeping, there’s not a ton of activity happening at 3 AM. So when I wake up I no longer turn on Netflix to drawn out the sounds of mice living in the walls or to hide from the stillness of being alone in my head. Instead, I listen for the rhythm of the waves as they crash against the beach. Now, I can near the waves during most of my day. But it’s special at night. A reminder of something I’m not sure yet.

Continue reading below.

Culture shock
Culture shock

I named our little apartment here on the beach, Oceanside. Now, every room has its own name as well: Emily’s room is Hilltop, the boy’s room is Alexandria and our room is The Kingdom. While the names are super cute and play to our collective fandom of TWD, the names are necessary. Now that we are moved in, the kids started to miss having their Google devices for sleep sounds and alarms.

I feel a bit strange with Google devices in every room here. On one hand, Oceanside is considerably smaller than the farm house, albeit much more livable. At the farmhouse, even with our Google devices, we often yelled through the house anyways. Being in Oceanside, though, I quickly realized our loudness can easily be heard among all our neighbors.

 This brings me to the first element of culture shock we are experiencing.

For starters, I have never seen so many pugs in my life! Why are they so popular here? I’m pretty sure all my neighbors have dogs, too. We have a lovely neighbor right next to us who moved back here earlier this year. She also has a dog, a big one. I am embarrassingly skittish around big dogs so I will need to figure myself out.

I think I can speak for all of my family when I say we feel a little bit like we are living in a fish bowl. You see, we went from living in an old farmhouse surrounded by farm fields to living in an apartment surrounded by people. All kinds of people.

One of our neighbors is a grandmotherly woman, Pepper. Mr. Sexy and I met her after one of our post dinner walks. She told us about a man following her, sleeping in her bed and then described him as standing a few feet away from us. But nobody stood where she pointed. That moment felt a little eerie. The stories she told us felt all too familiar. My late grandmother feared imaginary bad men during some of her later years. As far as I understand, she had paranoid schizophrenia that became out of control when her therapist of many years suddenly passed. Meeting my neighbor I wonder how many similarities they would each have.

So, even though the man my neighbor is afraid of isn’t real to me, the man is very real to her. This may or may not be the right thin, but I choose to play along when I see her. After a few minutes she usually shifts the conversation to her bus driving days or my “sweet kids.” Her words, not mine. I often see her standing in the corner of the balcony over looking the parking lots, streets and buildings. “I just love watching people live their lives,” she said. And I must say I agree.

Even though my childhood home is in the Bay Area, the unhoused situation in Southern California is a complete culture shock for me.

Here’s just one example: Every morning I step out of Oceanside and I see devastation. Unhoused roam the streets below us all day and night. Sometimes I watch them pee in the corner, scream at Tesla, organize their cart of belongings, sift through dumpsters, fight each other and hunker down for sleep. The unhoused are mostly everywhere I go although I’m told there are designated areas they are not allowed to be in. Then again, there are areas in Long Beach to avoid because of the volume of unhoused. Covid played a major role in the increase of unhoused.

I still have a lot of exploring left to do in this city. On one hand Long Beach feels small, like I could walk anywhere. Then I see all the high rises of downtown and remember I am now living a very urban lifestyle. So far I explore only where I can walk to, which resulted in massive blisters on my pinkie toes. For a solid week every step felt like needles in my toes. And yet, I never missed church, our post dinner walks or our Sunday pot store run. Thankfully my feet are all healed with the appropriate callouses for my new lifestyle of walking 12,000+ steps every day. At some Point I will want to venture out further and I look forward to learning the public transportation systems. I am happy to stay for away from behind the wheel.

To be honest, driving might be the most traumatic culture shock of this new, wonderful life.

You know, I didn’t drive much in Pullman, either. In fact, I tried to drive as little as possible. I self diagnosed myself with driving anxiety. But I can’t put a finger on when the anxiety planted itself. When I ask myself these questions, I often go back to my parent’s room as a teenager. My dad gave me a serious lecture about driving safely. I don’t remember what he said or what brought the conversation on. All I know is when I think back on that moment, I feel fear. But really I don’t think that fear manifested fully until I became a mom for the first time.

One of our first days in LA County we found ourselves at a batshit crazy intersection in downtown LA. From my position as co-pilot, I watched the traffic lights changing colors and then I watched none of the cars, including ours, follow the rules of the road. I couldn’t believe the traffic jam and sat in the passenger seat half covering my face and bracing for a car accident. Nope. Not today LA. I’m not sure driving is in my future.

Being a one car family for so long, being home without a car is not a new lifestyle. But unlike the farmhouse, now I have places I can walk to! And I’m not just talking about the beach. We have a brewery overlooking the ocean, Jack in the Box and a delicious smelling taco stand within a few minutes walk from Ocean side. Now, if we walk for only 15 minutes more we will find shopping, coffee shops, bars, restaurants, all the things!

It must be the culture shock that gets me and the kids jumping out of our skin at the new noises of city life.

The middle of the night sounds are my favorite. Most of our neighbors and their dogs are sleeping, there’s not a ton of activity happening at 3 AM. So when I wake up I no longer turn on Netflix to drawn out the sounds of mice living in the walls or to hide from the stillness of being alone in my head. Instead, I listen for the rhythm of the waves as they crash against the beach. Now, I can near the waves during most of my day. But it’s special at night. A reminder of something I’m not sure yet.

There is something about this place. Being here seems to have changed me over night. I am capable of being alone with my thoughts. This is so new to me that its exciting. Living in Pullman I had to have something in my ear playing at all times. Night was the worst. 

I wander if what I am experiencing is the healing process. This mare is a big part of my healing. All or healing. We had to more. We had to get out of there. That home is full of trauma. 

I think I am finally clean.


*Some names are changed to protect those who “would very much like to be excluded from this narrative.”


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