If the city is actually something in a person’s imagination, then what I see when I look into the face of Los Angeles today is something infinitely more golden, with lemonade spruced on top, percolating through winds from worlds away; even now at five years since JTLA first spawned onto the scene, on days like this I feel as much warmth past the throes of traffic and concrete making up the tiny corner I call home as I did five calendars ago.

While my eyes may perceive things in a slightly different light from how they saw things when the city first daintily glistened as I found myself amid L.A.’s voices, my memories now pick up where my vision might trail off.

I can still remember just returning to Los Angeles, when all I could hope for was finding a way to serve the world that raised me here with everything that I could muster. Eventually, serving became a matter of inspiring others to imagine a place for themselves in the big city’s future, too. From the trails of inspiration I’d eventually wander into tests of my resilience, or experiences which seemed to ask: How does one remain inspired while also remaining resilient?

Over time, I’d find that the balance between being inspired and being resilient is probably about as constant as the balance between the moon and skylight above my brows; every time I look up at the two again, both are just a little different as they take turns filling the abyss.

But if I’m still moving like the clouds above while I stretch my arms across savory grass below, I find my thoughts churning at a speed parallel to that of the clouds’ movement, as I muse at how I just may actually be right in the middle of the universe, at the center of my existence, somehow free or just right up against freedom–perhaps the closest I’ll ever be–when I face the city with warmth emanating from my inner-most being.

This is probably the city’s greatest gift to me: it’s brought me closer not just to others, but to myself. Amid the amalgamation of passersby searching through the shadows in Los Angeles’s abandonment, I find light in a stasis, or from a place where conscience thinks again before marveling at the elements defying odds all around it; if for the slightest difference, none of it–none of this–could be, so I can only conclude more resoundingly then:

Even after all this time, Los Angeles is still one of the greatest cities in the world; as the feats of so many citygoers continue dancing in its iridescence, I’m grateful to stretch my legs back into this existence again, too, to know I’m not alone in it, and to imagine still more possibilities as everything meets its counterpart, its opposite, and yet newer gravity unearthing potential for infinitely more together.

J.T.

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