Jenn Reese Writer, Artist, Geek

Los Angeles, Portland, and the Shape of Life


I came to Los Angeles over fifteen years ago, when I was 29. I’d returned home from Clarion, gotten a divorce, and fled west with nothing but my car, my cat, and a desire for change. I certainly found it.

Life in Los Angeles was the opposite of my life in Maryland, where I’d felt stuck and uncertain and kind of empty. I started studying martial arts and one of the first things I learned was the phrase “Ride the wind.” This is the ability to stay open to possibilities and opportunities, so that when something presents itself, you can take advantage of it.

This became my modus operandi in LA: Ride the wind. Stay nimble. Be ready to go anywhere, to do anything. I had the phrase etched on a necklace and wore it all the time.

I changed jobs and moved a lot. I tried new things. I learned. I made friends and jumped for ledges and missed sometimes and climbed back up and jumped again. Oh, I made so many mistakes! At one point they almost overwhelmed me. But my friends were there, in person and online, and I survived.

Los Angeles has been an adventure, an epic quest where instead of searching for a magic sword, I’ve searching for myself.

I recently watched the documentary Objectified about industrial design, a subject I love. At the beginning, they talked about how “form” evolves from “function” – how something’s shape is determined by how it works.

That has been the story of my time here. I’ve jumped at opportunities and shaped my life around them. I’m good at that, and life has been good.

But near the end of Objectified, they bring up an interesting idea: what if “form” could dictate “function.” What does that even mean?
For me, it was the perfect metaphor for this move to Portland. I have been living a form-follows-function life, but now, finally, it was time to do the opposite. It was time to decide the shape of my life first – to really envision how I want to live – and to let function follow.

I’m moving to Portland not because I’m running from something or chasing an opportunity. I am done being reactive. I’m moving to Portland because I finally understand myself and what I want, and for possibly the first time, I want to mindfully shape my life.

Los Angeles: you are a thousand cities in one, a city of passion, a city of so many different people and dreams. I love you to pieces, but it’s time for me to move on.

About the author

Jenn Reese


  • What a beautiful and insightful piece. I’m so happy that you took the chance to send Above World to my daughter! (She’s just finished reading the trilogy). I am always looking for role models for her – women who take chances, explore and inspire. You’re one of them. Best wishes for your new life phase, and thank you for sharing. Kind regards.

By Jenn Reese
Jenn Reese Writer, Artist, Geek

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