A Californian in California


It’s been four months since I abandoned this blog. I didn’t do it on purpose, I promise. My travels took me from Israel back to New York, where I was immediately swept up with project after project, until I suddenly found myself in California. Engaged. To be married.

I’ve gone from Leigh Hershkovich: author and searcher, to Leigh Hershkovich: author, searcher, and soon to be Mrs. Gutovich.

I moved my life from one coast to the other for the summer, and within a mere number of weeks, found my life in New York over. Bye, bye, New York. It’s been real.

Towards the beginning of this summer, I found myself in desperate need for a break from New York. It felt like a break up. I even went as far as writing it a Dear John letter:

‘Dear New York, I love you, but you are crushing my spirit. I feel helpless, alone, and lost.  I’m sorry, but you’re just too much for me right now. Let’s take a break. I’ll see you in September, ok?”

So, off I went, a happy, dooey eyed traveler, returning to my hometown for three months. Enough time to plug myself in, recharge, work on my new manuscript, bandage my battle wounds, and then get back to New York to kick some ass. I figured the slow pace of Huntington Beach would be exactly the remedy to soothe my defeated soul.

And two weeks later, I was back in New York to get engaged to my future husband.


I’m not sure that I can possibly describe at length, and without completely embarrassing myself, just how wonderful it is to have found my life partner. There is a sense of happiness and relief in my life now that he is a part of it that I didn’t know could exist. The best way to describe it is that I feel like a whole person for the first time in my life. I don’t feel lost anymore. 

 When I moved to New York almost five years ago, fresh out of high school and ready to take on the world, I was scared out of my bloody mind. I found every possible excuse to try and delay the move, and at one point, I almost canceled it all together. But, I didn’t. I sucked in my gut, starred my fear in the face, got on the plane and didn’t look back. Immediately upon arriving, I was in love. I wasn’t going anywhere.

My relationship with New York was a difficult one. Living in the Chasidic sect of Crown Heights was at times wonderful and at times heart wrenching and painful. Getting lost on the subway, in crowds of faceless was at times so anxiety ridden, I didn’t think I would make it home alive. And, at other times, there was nothing more beautiful and meaningful to me than losing myself in crowds of people, wondering about their stories, their pasts and what brought them to that exact subway car, where they were stepping on my toes and breathing down my neck. 

New York was where I discovered myself. It was where I cultivated and honed my craft. It’s where I truly became a writer. 

Coming back to California with four years of subway stories, late nights in Brooklyn coffee shops, and walks through Prospect Park in my veins was a strange experience. What I realized very quickly, especially when dating my fiancé, was that I wasn’t familiar with California at all. The California I had known was gone, and in it’s place, was a world I didn’t recognize. To be quite honest, I was terrified.

I hadn’t driven a car in four years. I couldn’t remember my way around my neighborhood. The people I had known had come and gone. The morning after Jay and I started dating, I woke up, looked around and realized that I was a stranger in a strange land. The world I knew was gone. Each coast had lost it’s importance to me in different ways, and now, I find myself with the challenge of reacquainting myself with a world that I ran away from. But, instead of coming back to this world with a sense of defeat, with sadness and pain from crushing, cruel New York, I get to make a choice. This is my chance to start over, take a blank canvas and paint it with fresh colors. And, the best part is, I’m not alone anymore. What I know no longer exists. The world where I made myself at home for the past four years is gone. It’s a strange feeling, a blessing and a curse if I ever knew one.

The challenge I am faced with is learning how to be a Californian again. It’s time to shift gears, and walk with the pace of the surfers instead 10 mpr ahead of them. To drive again, instead of allowing the subway to carry me from location to location as it pleases. To learn how to write in the silence of Huntington Beach instead of the loud hustle and bustle of Manhattan.

And yet, there is an ease about this decision that cannot be explained. It’s right. That’s all there is to it. I’ve made the right decision.

It’s funny how these things happen. For a year now, I’ve been having difficulty working on my new book. Nothing that I wrote ‘clicked.’ In trying to tell the stories of nomads, I found, time and time again, that I couldn’t put their lives down to paper. They didn’t exist. They weren’t real. Nothing worked, and I almost gave up. I, the nomadic traveler (at least at heart), couldn’t find it in myself to tell their stories. Then, last week, the ideas suddenly came flooding back into my brain. After trying for so long to get the words to talk, they sang. Suddenly, their stories spoke to me. As absurd as it may seem, I’m essentially allowing my characters to live vicariously through me. The settled, calm person that I’ve become can finally hear the words of a nomad, because I’m not one of them anymore. 

So, here I am, a Californian in California. I have a choice: To run, or to embrace the change?

….Hello California, it’s nice to meet you, I’m Leigh.


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