By the time you read this, I will have left Colorado and will be living in Los Angeles, at least a few weeks deep. What better time to reintroduce myself, as I move 1,000 miles?
I’m a 26-year-old, aromantic, queer person. They/them/theirs are my pronouns. I’m a recovering alcoholic. I’m an artist, performer, and multimedia journalist (with a day job in tech support), and I’ve been at OUT FRONT copy editing and writing for more than two years.
I copy edit every issue, and when I do write, I lean toward features. I love telling the stories of other people, and I’m usually reluctant to talk about my experiences unless I truly have something to say. I just moved from my home state to the second-largest city in the country during a pandemic, so let’s dish.
To begin this story, we navigate to Fort Collins, summer 2018. My job in the cannabis industry comes to a rocky close, and I decide I’m Denver-bound. I spied an OUT FRONT Instagram post looking for a new copy editor, which, after applying and performing an editing test, put my name in the table of contents of this magazine for the first time.
I signed a lease for my Denver apartment in early July. About a week later, I experienced my personal “rock bottom” and started having honest conversations with myself about my alcoholism and awkward sit-ins on conversations (well, shares) in the The Center on Colfax and random church basements between commutes to my new Denver dispensary gig I reluctantly snagged to “get me to the city.”
Weeks later, I moved 70 miles away. I know Denver, not well, and I’m a little horrified. I don’t leave my apartment. I navigate the shame that often comes with early recovery, immersing myself in editing while hustling in a full-time gig I wasn’t fulfilled by.
Deep down, I always wanted to make a big move. I had ambitions, but I was really good at f*cking them up. I had to chip away that self-destructive, stifled person. It’s like this present-day Keegan, with his blind confidence dipping to Los Angeles alone with no reservations, was hidden away.
I was constantly anxious navigating my life and fully puppeteered by booze, so it was really hard to hone in on my long-term goals. I can’t recall a time after age 20 until I quit drinking I would’ve described my mental space as “clear-headed.”
Of course, weeks into my recovery and new home, I inched out of my apartment and began to explore the city. I often dove into OUT FRONT to connect to Denver queers, since the alcohol-fueled queer spaces I previously expected to frequent were now less conducive.
I had the space to look big picture. I embraced a vegan diet, which finally helped me to form a healthy relationship with my body and food, another substance I often abused. I started exercising consistently for the first time ever, initially as a coping mechanism, but soon after simply because I loved doing it.
I started walking everywhere and conquered Denver last summer, on foot. The sprawling cityscape felt small compared to my initial perception the previous summer
About this time, I was becoming more and more aware I’d leave the state soon enough. Prior to recovery, I worried deep down, without the safety net of my friends, or parents, or known streets and neighborhoods, that I would get into trouble or die before I would succeed in a totally unknown city. That stress was dissipating.
A traitor to all of Colorado, and most of the rest of the country who loves to sh*t all over California, I decided to head west to Los Angeles in October 2019. As my gruff, East Coast building manager so eloquently barked at me while I packed up my car and informed him where I was off to last month, “Yuck! Don’t go there!”
I visited my best friend in October 2019 in the Bay Area, and while this spot is culturally different (and expensive—y’all read what I do for a living, and I’m doing just fine, but let’s be real here), I felt like I finally honed in on a place where I could cultivate my next chapter. I started saving money and making this exciting idea come to life.
Of course, I’d visit beforehand the following spring to make sure it was right, check out neighborhoods, potentially a second trip, and maybe fly out a final time to sign a lease.
COVID-19 has entered the chat.
March 2019, I’ve already been approved to work remote, out-of-state in my tech support role. I’m set to fly into L.A. later in the month with my mom. We approach that week in March; I think y’all know, a collective “Psh, whatever” moved swiftly to full-on pandemic pandemonium a week later, not a toilet paper roll in sight on any store shelf. We postponed the trip—it was unsafe and wasn’t going to be the trip I wanted, anyway.
The laundry list of expectations that I would mourn and readjust commences. I grappled with the loss of those experiences I thought I’d have during my final months in Colorado summer and found myself wondering, “Is this the right move? Do I stay?”
I solemnly realized my final Colorado chapter will always look this way in my life. I was almost exclusively alone in my studio apartment, when I wasn’t alone walking around the city or grabbing take-out, often going through a stage of pandemic grief. I was grateful to be working but dealing with hefty structural changes in my now-remote tech support job and grieving the loss of my elder cat and best friend Goblin of seven years who became increasingly ill with cancer and passed in early June.
It was difficult, but I bounced back from every trial stronger and affirming my decision even more.
The rescheduled trip turned into “no trip, but maybe we’ll go in the summer to sign a lease.” That shifted, and by July, I came understand if I was going, I was going blind. When the U.S. COVID line graph of cases started looking like a halfpipe, I realized, “If I put this on pause now, then when is the right time?”
Yes, 2020 sucks, but even once COVID is more contained, it’s not like the world isn’t dealing with an obscene amount of other, ticking time bombs, structural issues, horrifying and divisive politics that will make our lives challenging to navigate.
I pushed through my repetitive weeks and grounding routines through the summer. Once August hit, I was shocked at my lack of heavy emotion leaving Colorado. I wonder if it would be different if I had a party, or saw my Colorado community more than I did.
The cumbersome, gaslighting whisper in my head says, “You monster! You’re leaving your friends, your family, your home. Shouldn’t you cry or something?”
I spent a lot of time in Northern Colorado this summer with my immediate family and started thinking about the idea of “home.”
Northern Colorado is my home because my dad grew up in Lakewood and ended up in Fort Collins for school; my mom made a similar choice as me, moving solo to Fort Collins from Nebraska for college and a new chapter. They settled in Loveland, just miles south of where they met. Had my parents settled anywhere else, “home” as I see it now would not exist.
My home is my family, my parents who drove out with me to usher me into my new Hollywood studio apartment I’d only seen online and over FaceTime in a city I’d never seen and now call “home.” My home is my community near and far I have the privilege of talking with regularly through modern, pandemic-handy technology. My home is showing up for myself and cultivating this new chapter, fully confident I will thrive.
The cumbersome whisper in my head says, “OK, hotshot, maybe wait a couple months before you act so sure of yourself.”
While this ongoing experience moving states during a global pandemic has been one of the most chaotic, humbling, and growth-inspiring experiences I’ve had (with the big growth spurts yet to come), I’m in L.A., baby! It’s only the beginning, and while we live during a tumultuous time, I can’t help but feel excited (and for the first time, really damn sure of myself).