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When I moved to Los Angeles last October, I was diving headfirst into a new world. I left my home in Washington, D.C. to be closer to my girlfriend, Baldwin. I admit to having feelings of uncertainty given that I didn’t know much about LA or anyone who lived there beyond Baldwin and a couple others. While hard to describe in words, my decision to move to the West Coast felt like the right thing to do. Baldwin and I were earnest to give our pandemic-born partnership it’s best shot at success, and I was yearning for a new adventure. I could not be more grateful for taking that leap of faith because it has made our relationship stronger. It has also led me to a cherished new community of people who have made this experience even more meaningful.

Getting to know folks in the middle of a pandemic is nearly impossible. I realized early that in LA, like many other cities, Angelinos form connections over meals at restaurants, bars, music venues, shopping centers, and other public spaces where folks come to appreciate art and culture. None of these opportunities were available to me when I arrived. However, as I started to build my own habits and routines, I began to see certain people on a recurring basis. For example, there was my next-door neighbor, Nestor, who I met while exercising on the roof of my apartment building. Several times a week I’d be on the roof participating in a virtual boxing class and would see him and his wife cooking some delicious Filipino food. After a few weeks of seeing them and smelling their delicious meals, I couldn’t help but introduce myself and ask what they were cooking. Now when we see each other, we stop to chat. I’ve enjoyed getting to know Nestor who has shared fascinating stories about his early life in Philippines.

About a month ago, I met Elian, my neighbor from across the hall who stopped me as I was headed to my door. He immediately asked me if I was the one playing the Michael Jackson tunes that he and his partner heard through the walls of their apartment. I nervously said yes, thinking he was about to scold me for being too loud. To my surprise, he thanked me profusely saying that he and his partner would β€œrock out” to my selections. Now Elian and I say hi to each other in the hallways and share new music that we like.

Baldwin has also expanded my LA community. She immediately introduced me to her aunt who lives not too far from us. Her aunt Joany has embraced me with open arms, introducing me to amazing Jamaican food spots in the city, sharing stories about her life, and treating me like a member of the family. I’ve also had the chance to (safely) meet Baldwin’s friends who are lovely and welcomed me into their group.

To my surprise and excitement, I was able to reconnect with a childhood friend that I’ve know since I was in pre-pre-school. My friend, Denis, and I had not spoken since we were in in our early college days. Thanks to our mothers, who still keep in contact, we were informed that we lived in the same city and subsequently made plans to hang out. Now we see each other regularly, and it’s been an amazing experience to get to know my friend as an adult. It’s also shown me how strong our friendship is, remaining intact despite the years that went by when we weren’t in contact.

My LA community has grown significantly since I arrived despite the pandemic. I’ve grown in deeper relationship with my partner, got to know folks in my neighborhood and found a lifelong friend, again. I’ve learned a great deal about the necessity of fighting fiercely to make connections with others, especially in times like these. My time in LA may one day come to end, but I’ll never lose the community I’ve created. God willingly, I’ll take it with me wherever I go.

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Thank you for introducing us to your LA community. In the new connections you describe, I can feel the bonds of loving friendship that formed, the outreach that began with acknowledgement and respect. The willingness to be curious was perhaps the next ingredient. What a marvelous way to encounter all our kinship. Although I rarely see people on the farm, I did meet some new friends yesterday. It began with walk into the woods, my husband carrying a few buckets and taps for maple syrup. Standing next to grandmother maple and her daughters (so old these steadfast keepers of the land) I acknowledged them with respect and was curious about their long life. Asking permission, we tapped into their sweetness. It was a new experience for me that deepened my relationship with the trees. I reflect on this only now after reading your story, Julien. How blessed we are with the bounty of connections that nourish our lives.
Mary Ann Boe
I like how you said you learned about the "necessity of fighting fiercely to make connections". Sometimes it does seems like a real struggle. But it's important to take a chance -- to smile, say hello and eventually strike up a conversation. A lot of us are out of practice when it comes to making connections,  a condition that predates the pandemic. The main thing is to reach out -- if we don't we only have ourselves to blame. And if the person we reach out to doesn't respond that shouldn't stop us from reaching out to the next person we encounter.

Here's a great scene from an old movie, "Bells are Ringing" about saying "Hello"
Roger Balson
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