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Saturday, June 30, 2012

Critical Analysis Essay on "An Age of Limits and Definitions" by Charlie Stoddard

Critical Analysis Essay on "An Age of Limits and Definitions"

The article was written in 1994.  During this time, Charlie Stoddard had just graduated from college and was looking for a decent apartment to stay. Prior to her experience, she had preconceived ideas of what California apartments looked like.  She thought of a reasonably priced apartment with nice lawns, palms, fences and nice neighborhood.  She had always thought that she would be residing in these kinds of apartments in the future.

However, at the time she was looking for her own apartment to stay in she realized that the ideal apartment she had always envisioned were things of the past.  After two weeks of searching for her ideal apartment, she noticed that while there were many available apartments to choose from these apartments were either damaged by earthquake, or too small, or too old and dirty.  She also had to reject some apartments which she thought had suspicious looking neighbors.  When she found an apartment that passed her standards it was very expensive for her to be able to rent or lease. 

Based on her observations, she quickly realized that the California apartments which she had dreamed of residing were not affordable to many people.  In fact, she could not even afford these apartments.  Thus, she said, “It occurred to me that the California in which I grew up was a California not available to most people; in fact, it was a California not now available to me.” (Charlie Stoddard 1)

In fact, according to the Los Angeles Housing Department out of a total of 599,044 rent control units approximately 6,000 units are classified as slum houses with around 18,000 residents.  This represents 1% of the total rent control units.  The estimate of the Los Angeles Housing Department is still conservative as health promoters and tenant organizers estimate that 12,000 units or 2% of the total rent control units can be classified as slum which affects 48,000 people. (Earl Ofari Hutchinson 2)

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She realized that there were apartments and neighborhoods in California that were far from what she had imagined in the past.  It became clear to her that the California she had always dreamed of was not the reality but a dream that has never happened and can never happen in the future. 

Because of her experiences in looking for an apartment of her own, she realized that many people go to California to pursue a dream of a better quality of life for themselves and for their families.  Many people perceived that California was a means to escape the reality.   California however is far from what everybody had expected.  Thus, she said, “The reality of California occupies more than the occasional glimpse that we catch on our way to the airport or the Laker game, when we step outside our sheltered bubble. The reality of California is not the microcosm of palms and bungalows.”

In reality, there are very limited number of people who are able to live a comfortable life in California.  The rest of the people content themselves living in dilapidated, earthquake damaged, and dirty apartments with suspicious neighborhoods. 

The experience of looking for an apartment was an awakening for Charlie Stoddard.  She may have had a sheltered life in the past which made her unaware of these realities.  After her experiences, she had a paradigm shift from the ideal California to a real California.  She also learned that California was not only about good neighborhoods and decent houses.  She learned that California is California because of individuals who have the uncanny ability to adapt to the changes in the environment.  California is about the people who despite the difficulties in life manage to roll with the punches and absorb the complexities that life can offer them.  It is the resilience of the residents of California that should define California. 

After her life-changing experience, she is now willing to face life as it is now and not how she had envisioned it or how she was raised by her parents.  She will now face her own life based on how she understood it from her own experiences.  It was a time of realization for her.  She now understood that life is not only about looking for the best things in life but also accepting that part of life that is ugly and making the most out of it.  While she realized that life is not a bed of roses, she understood that she can survive life despite its difficulties.  Thus, she said, “For me, it is no longer a leisurely ride down tree-lined streets toward the park and not yet a frenzied commute down crowded highways toward corporate headquarters.”

I agree with most of the statements of Charlie Stoddard.  Having come from a foreign country, I had similar views about California.  Having watched several movies and the Los Angeles Lakers during NBA games, I had a preconceived notion that California was about celebrities, television personalities, movie stars, and famous athletes.  For me, it was all about the bright lights and the Walk of Fame.  For me, I thought that California was all about glitz and glamour.  Because of what I had seen on television and movies, I even thought that nobody was poor in California. 

When I had transferred to the United States to study, I came to know the parts of California that was hidden from my knowledge.  I came to see the ugly side of California.  California was not about bright lights, movie starts, and NBA games after all.  I found out that living in California was far from being a utopia.  There are crimes in California.  In fact, the crime wave is so high that there is a public outcry against crime.  Legislators have passed laws for the purpose of increasing the penalties for the commission of the crime.  Because drugs are being sold and bought out in the open lawmakers have passed laws making possession and selling of drugs criminal.  There are robberies, thefts and even killings. 

However, despite these realities, my vision for the future is still positive.  Despite these realizations and despite seeing the ugly side of California, I still see a bright future for California.  Similar to Charlie Stoddard, I believe that California should be remembered as a state where the majority of people live in harmony with each other and where the people do whatever they can to adapt to the continuous changes in the environment.  The resilience of the residents of California and their firm resolve to follow their dreams should always be remembered. 

Nobody should fear seeing the ugly side of everything.  If California has an ugly side it too has a beautiful side.  If life has an ugly side, the future may reveal the positive side of life.  Instead of being afraid to see the ugly side, everybody should be able to accept it and embrace it because it is part of life.  Because it is only after seeing the ugly side that an individual gets to appreciate the good side of life. 

Just like Charlie Stoddard, my realizations helped me become a better person.  It helped me better prepare for what lies ahead of me.  I know that my journey may never be a stroll in the park.  I may face difficulties during college and even after college.  I will be ready.  I know that I will be able to survive these difficulties and become the best person that I can be. 

I may not be able to get everything that I want.  I may desire so many things in life and yet not get all these things.  However, I now know that even if I do not get all these things, I will still be happy.  


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