Why I left Orange County

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why i left oc graphics airplane

Like a good Desi daughter, I moved out of my parents house after my wedding. It’s also the day I left Orange County, which I was desperate to do.

I’m often asked, “Why did you leave?” to which I overshare answer:

  1. I was not strong enough to do what I want to do (write, art) while living there.
  2. I don’t want the lifestyle that I perceive my family and friends to have, at least not right now.
  3. I hate Orange County.

I then elaborate on whatever point the person found interesting:

  1. I found it difficult to pursue life choices and professions outside of the ones accepted as appropriate and successful. I was overwhelmed by the pressure to be able to answer, “What are you doing?” on a daily basis.
  2. I like city life where there is diversity and walking and public transportation. I like not being on perceived monkey bars of social obligation to social obligation.
  3. I hate how happily classist and racist and conservative Orange County is.

why i left oc graphics blame

And while I may believe these kinda judgey/narrow/dismissive viewpoints to some degree, a truer reason is this: I left Orange County to leave me.

Me: the accumulation of my thoughts, actions, habits, feelings, conversations, and experiences. 

The me that I was being was not who I wanted to be, or at least, I didn’t have perspective on who I was. I felt like I was regurgitating the ideas around me. It’s like if everyone around me seemed to want a turkey sandwich, I started to think that my options are turkey sandwiches, but I yearned to know what other sandwich offerings there were. And it’s not that people only ate turkey sandwiches in Orange County, it’s that I saw things that way, and I wanted to see differently. I wanted to detach and be able to assess myself all over again. I needed to take responsibility for who I was, instead of being in a perpetual cycle of reacting to my family and friends. I wanted to examine my premises on which I lay the foundation of my life.

And I was haunted by my negative inner voice: What are you doing? Prove your worth. You’re not making any money. What’s the point? You’re no good. You’re not worthy. 

why i left oc graphics mania

When I got on the plane, that voice came with me, and it continued to be my overbearing companion in the years after. I was alone with it, overwhelmed by it, frozen in allowing myself to be dictated by it. And slowly, I overcame it. In my arm wrestle with this voice, I haven’t pinned it down, but I have come to hold my own.

And, a few years out, I understand for myself why it can be important to be uncomfortable – to grow, to create, and more. For me, this meant experiencing life outside of my comfortable, suburban bubble. I needed to see and hear and be with people who were different than me doing normal things like do groceries and walk down the street. I needed to humanize my alien-like perception of people (due to ignorance, miseducation, and lack of exposure), so that I could become more human. I felt dead and sick inside until I met and was among these people. And while I’m still dead and sick inside, and while my experiences are privileged in a number of ways (some of which I acknowledge, many of which I am oblivious to), I feel they’ve saved tiny shards of my humanity.




6 responses to “Why I left Orange County”

  1. Thanks for this post! I’m still trying to pin point exactly why, but it definitely resonated with me!

    1. Thanks for reading Nasir, and I look forward to hearing your thoughts!

  2. Sakinah

    Nida, this really resonates with me. I get asked all the time why I would ever leave Southern CA (and why I don’t plan on returning). And I feel the same about Orange County and what living on the East Coast has to offer for personal growth and opportunity.

    Hope you’re doing well :)

    1. Sakinah! Thank you for reading and sharing your thoughts. I’m well, and I hope you are, too!

  3. “I found it difficult to pursue life choices and professions outside of the ones accepted as appropriate and successful. I was overwhelmed by the pressure to be able to answer, “What are you doing?” on a daily basis.” Whew, I’m going through this now. I had a few years of not having a satisfactory answer to the “what are you doing” questions and that bothered me. Now that I do have a satisfactory answer, it still bothers me because a) I hate that people see me differently based on that and b) I don’t think I’m doing what I really want to do. Love your eloquence in writing about this, wishing you the best in finding your path.

  4. Gosh, I feel awkward!! I left Orange County because it became an overcrowded life on the freeway. It used to be a quiet place south of LA. That was 22 years ago…

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