Two years ago I moved to L.A.
Well, two years and some change. I packed up my car and planned an epic road trip, stopping along the swampland of Louisiana and the deserts of central Texas. I moved into a two bedroom with a college girlfriend and my then-boyfriend. I got a job as a nanny. And I planted.
From the beginning a part of me knew I didn't want to stay. After my first day there, I was wondering how long I would have to stay before I could leave and not look like a runaway. I didn't like the city's palpable and universal hunger for success or the traffic. People told me that LA had a year mark, a two-year mark, a five-year mark, and ten-year mark. Make it ten years and you'll have made it, they said. Things take longer out here. I wondered: Take longer to what?
At the time, the thing I loved most about Los Angeles was driving there. I loved seeing the dunes along the Mexican border, the ginormous grocery stores in southern Arizona where I first realized what Tajín was, and the strangers who would reveal their stories as we crossed paths in a roadside diner. There was nothing more beautiful than the outstretched horizon, painted plainly across the red earth. I chased the setting sun and drank coffee on the hood of my car the next day to watch it rise. Every mile was something new. Nothing belonged to me and yet the adventure was all mine.
But I figured, "that was vacation" and got to work. I took editing jobs, copywriting gigs, and worked as a nanny. I went to networking events and took improv classes and joined meditation groups. At the time I was also leaving my born-again Christianity (more on that another day), which began triggering my anxiety, and so I got a therapist. Everyday I freaked out about my career and what I was doing with my life.
I meditated and did yoga, but still felt like I wasn't growing. There were no grades to tell me I was doing a good job. I wrote plays and articles, but felt as though they were unworthy because they didn't receive any marks. I envied the life of my traveling/gypsy boyfriend, who was trekking across the country, and though I could have followed him and latched on to his dreams, that wasn't what I wanted, either. We broke up. For the first time in my life my parents and I weren't in the same time zone, and I was starting to feel guilty for constantly calling them with my woes. I was really sad and really alone.
But BY THE GRACE OF WHOEVER, and with lot of patience, self-awareness, and reflection, I somehow became really happy. I like LA. It's beautiful and diverse and when I'm here I feel as though anything can happen. I made amazing groups of friends and I no longer need a GPS to tell me how to get from Hollywood to Culver City. I work two jobs, one where I get to write and the other where I get to make latte art on Venice Beach. And I can *ALMOST* navigate a Trader Joe's parking lot and not have an aneurism or ponder verbal assault.
AND YET, the hunger that once thrived inside me like a scary Kombucha mother hasn't diminished—it's actually grown. All of the things that once seemed impossible (camping alone, road tripping up to Alaska, seeing the Northern Lights, dancing on a checkered floor in New Mexico) now feel as if can be very, very real. It's not that they have suddenly became attainable; I've realized I am strong enough to go after them. And more importantly, I want to.
Now, I'm not one of those people who is going to pretend like I'm carrying a money plant in my car as I make this journey. I worked hard for my current job, which is based in NYC and allows me to work from home. I still have car payments to make, but I don't have any student loans, and for that I recognize I am VERY, VERY blessed and thank you state of Virginia for your excellent payment plans. I also found a website called freecampsites.net, which is basically the second coming of camping Christ.
That being said, I honestly don't know if my salary will be enough to do this (remember: in LA I have to work a few days at a coffee shop to pay for my overpriced apartment and happy hour addiction). But out of desperation comes hunger, and out of hunger comes creativity. I'm trusting my curiosity, my scrappy attitude, and the uncertainty of the world. And it's really, really scary.
At the beginning of July, I'm heading up to Portland for 6 weeks. After that, my brother and I have plans to drive to Michigan for a cousin's wedding. But after that? The path is a little unclear. I can easily see myself coming back to LA; I just found what I consider the best taco joint on the West Coast, and all of the sudden my dates have stopped sucking. Then again, maybe I won't want to leave Portland—I've always said I wanted to live in a fairy forest, and those shaggy trees are a pretty close representation. WHO KNOWS!?
The most important thing is that I know that I can do it. Which may sound dumb, whatever, but I had trouble realizing that, and I think others might too. Doing new things, and acting on our instincts, isn't as hard as it needs to be. Trust yourself. Have faith in the risk, work hard, be kind, and say "fuck yes" to your adventures.