The real truth about what’s happened to me after living in Los Angeles for three months
If you really want to learn more about yourself, the world, people, and other cultures, then travel. If you want to test everything you’ve ever thought you’ve known about yourself, move 3,000 miles away from family, friends, and the place that you’ve always called home.
Today marks three months of living in Los Angeles for me.
Before I moved here, I had all sorts of expectations and assumptions about what life on the left coast would be like. The reality is, many of my expectations and assumptions were wrong.
The reality is…
I found a home. And I fell in love. With the city of angels.
Here are the seven things that have happened to me during my first three months in Los Angeles.
1. I found what I was looking for
When I left Boston to drive across the country I had a million questions. “Will I find my crew?” “Will I find people who feel like family?” “Will I ever somehow know my way around LA without using a GPS?” “Am I going to meet a lot of douchebags and pretentious people?” “Will it really be that hard to meet people who aren’t ‘actors?’”
As I rolled into Los Angeles on January 13th I was on cloud nine… full of energy and excitement, and ready to look for those answers. I was listening to music as I pulled off the highway, and came to a stop at my first [of many] LA red lights. And then…
I got rear-ended. Grrrrr. What a way for the city to welcome me! Fortunately, no one was hurt, and my car just picked up some battle wounds from a 3,000 mile road trip. Inevitably, it took the shine off an otherwise huge day for me that marked my arrival into my new city.
I called home to tell my parents what happened. I just wanted to be around family. When unfortunate things happen, that’s all I ever want. But that day I couldn’t be. So I did what I imagined every Angeleno does when they want a pick-me-up… I drove to Griffith Observatory. Here’s the first picture I took in LA (other than pictures of my rear bumper):
As I hovered over the “Post” button on Facebook, I wanted to write an appropriate caption for how I was feeling in that moment. Anyone who knows me well knows that I’m never short of words, but in that moment — all alone in the middle of the day on a mountain overlooking LA — I took a deep breath, thanked the universe for getting me across the country safely, and came up with six words:
After 3,000 miles of driving, #home.
In that moment I overlooked my new city, forgot about getting rear-ended, forgot about the hustle and bustle of the city, and just looked over the city in amazement. Most striking to me was that it was January and I was wearing shorts. And second was the sense of serenity you can find in the middle of a city with 9 million people.
All I wanted to find was a place I could call home. And amid all of the craziness that exists in LA, there are certain spots that just make me feel completely and totally at home. There are places that make you realize that out of millions, you are one. In that moment it was just me, looking at my city, with the sun shining on me. Yep, totally cheesy, I know (more on that later). But I dare you to go to Griffith on a sunny day and see for yourself.
Here, I found home. It helps that there are people here who make it feel like home. Friends from high school, friends from college, entrepreneurial friends, mentors, and new friends. Plus, there’s always FaceTime for people who aren’t on the best coast… yet.
I’m so grateful to have friends whose doors are always open to me. Who I don’t need an invite from to go get dinner with. Who answer my crazy calls that begin with me just saying “How spontaneous are you?” when I feel like going to a game, going for a ride up the Pacific Coast Highway, a hike, a bike ride, or just hitting the beach.
2. I dreamed bigger and better… and have already started experiencing the rewards of that
I visited LA for a week in December to get a feel for the city. I already had a place lined up in the middle of the city, but I wasn’t exactly thrilled about it… I knew it was temporary until I found my feet. My friend’s wife, Courtney, was asking me what I wanted. I knew exactly what I wanted: “I want to find a place on the westside… near the ocean, near you guys, near my fellow twenty-somethings, and somewhat walkable.”
She just said one sentence in response: “Ok… so keep saying that.”
And I did. And sure enough, two weeks before I left Boston, I got a text message from my landlord with no explanation other than saying “Sorry, I’m no longer renting that place out… I have to cancel your rental.” Uhhhh… WHAT!?
But again, it was just the universe doing its thing, and 56 minutes later I had found a new place on Airbnb, contacted the landlord, and booked my spot for my first 2.5 months. Guess where it was…
Yep, on the westside, a few miles from Santa Monica Pier and Venice Beach, in one of the youngest neighborhoods in LA, completely walkable, and a 12-minute bike ride from my own little version of my LA family.
My entire experience in LA so far has been like that. People have challenged me to dream bigger and better, and I have. And then those things have happened.
To be completely honest, there was no professional reason for me to move to Los Angeles. But in the back of my head, I had this crazy idea of putting together a SoCal retreat for wantrepreneurs and entrepreneurs where I’d charge $5K per person, rent out a mansion, and teach them how to build their businesses for a week. This idea came to me over a year ago in the middle of another cold winter in Boston. But I put it off.
Until I got here. I told one of my best friends in Los Angeles — who plays the role of supportive, encouraging, sometimes-annoying, but always-caring little sister perfectly, and just so happens to be my roommate — about my idea. “Let’s do it,” she said. “I got my degrees in marketing, and always focused on event planning, and helped run Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week in Amsterdam. I’ll do all the stuff that you hate doing so you can just focus on the stuff you’re incredible at.”
“Ok,” was all I could come up with. So on March 6th I announced the retreat on Facebook, despite not having any marketing materials planned, despite not having the content planned out, despite not having any clue where we’d find this mansion to rent out, despite not having any clue about transportation, food, etc.
But on April 6th (exactly one month later), we sold out. Entrepreneurs from across the country are all flying in to learn from me for a week, live in a RIDICULOUS mansion that I rented out, and all of the pieces are in place to make this the most memorable and impactful week for our attendees. I’ve gone from charging my fellow high schoolers $20 to pop soccer ball-sized dents out of their parents’ cars to having people pay $5K + airfare to come learn from me for five days. Check out how sweet the mansion is that I rented out:
And oh yeah, I said we would just cater the food, until my friend said “let’s hire a private chef…” I immediately dismissed it, but just yesterday we closed a deal with a chef from one of the top restaurants in Hollywood… he’ll be living in the house and cooking for us for a week, and he has cooked privately for Leonardo DiCaprio and toured with AC/DC. How’s that for dreaming big?
And outside of that, I’ve dreamed bigger and better in every regard. I always said I wanted to drive a BMW Z4. I don’t know what the heck got into me, but one Friday when I woke up unexpectedly early (I usually sleep in until at least 9am), I decided to get out of bed, drive south to a BMW dealership that I read good things about, test drove a few Z4s, and a few hours later was driving north on the 405 with the top down and music blaring from my dream car. And yes, I knew exactly who I’d call to celebrate the occasion… one of my mentors who has known me since I was 19 and who was just as excited as I was that one of my dreams became a reality. So of course, we weaved along the Pacific Coast Highway to Malibu with the top down.
Life is good when you give yourself permission to want. And permission to receive. And permission to chase whatever you want.
One of my good friends here in LA, Lewis, is a fellow east-coaster. Lewis is from Philadelphia, which, just like Boston, is full of history. We talked about our hometowns and how LA hardly has as much history as the colonial towns and cities, and Lewis told me something brilliant that I’ll never forget: “Most other cities look backwards. But LA, it’s a city that is always looking forwards.”
3. I took complete control of what I let into my life
LA has everything you’d ever want. And… everything you’ve never wanted.
Are there pretentious people? Bucketloads of them. Are there people who think they’re inherently better than other people just because they were born into some great circumstance? For sure. Are there famous people who can’t be bothered to even be polite to “normal” people? Heck yeah. Are there people who use other people for their connections, money, access to events, etc.? They’re everywhere.
But nowhere near me.
One thing I’ve always been good at has been surrounding myself with people who I want to be around. I’ve never felt obliged to spend time with certain people, to go to certain events, or to do certain things.
I’ve always believed that “you are the company you keep.” Or, at least I’ve heard it enough times from my parents that now I believe it.
…but seriously, it’s true. Here in LA it’s so easy to go with the flow and say yes to going to raves in Koreatown, clubbing in Hollywood, networking events in Beverly Hills, and all sorts of crazy other experiences (but seriously, though… the other day I drove past some people having turtle races in Marina Del Rey).
Now don’t get me wrong, I LOVE experiencing the different sides of LA and everything that it has to offer. My eyes have been opened in so many ways at seeing the different worlds that exist out here. But everything I do, it’s on my terms, and it’s because it helps me get closer to the best version of me.
I have little to no room in my life for horrible real-life reenactments of unhealthy reality-TV-like relationships. So when someone complains to me about some guy blowing them off or some girl being a gold digger, I just block it out, walk away, and erase that environment and those thoughts from my life.
I have no patience for flaky people. So when people flake, I invest my energies not into trying to create different plans with them… I double-down and invest my time in real people who prioritize me as much as I prioritize them.
My friend Mariela texted me yesterday morning saying “your vibe attracts your tribe,” and she’s so right.
You can find whatever you want here in LA. And anywhere for that matter. So you better know what you want and invest your time and energy there. You want a healthy, supportive, and loving relationship? Surround yourself with people who understand that, live that, and appreciate that. You want to be the life of the party, always raving and going hard on a Wednesday night? Surround yourself with people who do that and you’ll become that. Whatever you want, you can become it and surround yourself by it.
4. I found my slice of LA
To go right along with #3, I found what MY version of LA looks like. Here’s the thing about LA… it’s HUGE, and there are 9 million people. And the crazy thing is, there are 9 million different versions of LA. Whatever your scene is, it’s here.
It’s natural, because the city itself is so varied. Each neighborhood is basically its own city. There are mountains, beaches, Coffee Beans, urban settings, suburban neighborhoods, Coffee Beans, tiny neighborhoods with nothing but mom-and-pop shops, Coffee Beans, hustling and bustling neighborhoods, parks, Coffee Beans, and parking lots… ah… I mean highways. There’s EVERYTHING. (And for real, there’s a Coffee Bean and 7–11 on every street corner).
Everyone here figures out what LA means to them. And to me, it’s exactly what I want it to be.
Everyone told me that you can’t survive in LA without a car. Everyone told me it’s not walkable. Everyone told me no one takes public transit. Everyone told me it’s too smoggy to be super active. Everyone told me people live so far away from each other.
The reality is, my little slice of LA is everything I imagined it would be. Most of my closest friends live within a 5-mile radius, I only drive a few times a week (and it’s usually by choice rather than necessity), I ride my bike everywhere and feel amazing as a result, I work out outside almost every day, I go to Venice Beach and/or Santa Monica at least four times per week for some of the most epic people watching ever, I play tennis in Marina Del Rey every Wednesday night, I take the train to more Clippers games than I can keep track of, I walk at least 5 miles every day, and… this one makes me super happy because everyone told me it wouldn’t happen… I very rarely use GPS. (Thanks, GTA 5)
I’ve got my places where I’m a local and they know my order before I even walk in. I’ve got my local neighborhood people who I see every day on my way to the coffee shop who say hi. I’ve got my group of uber-competitive guys who play some mean doubles matches at the local park on Tuesday afternoons. I’ve got my friends whose houses I walk into without knocking.
But maybe most importantly… I’ve got people who share in my excitement, and whose excitement I get to share in. I once read a “fact” somewhere that said the quality of our lives isn’t determined by the number of people we can call when something is wrong… instead, our quality of life and our happiness is determined by the number of people we can call when something goes RIGHT and we want to share that excitement.
I’m thankful to have found so many people like that here. One of my favorite quotes has always been “shared joy is double joy; shared sorrow is half sorrow.” I believe every word of it.
5. I definitely got cheesier
Ok, you’re still reading? Amazing. Then you’re probably thinking “dang, Brian… you’re so cheesy sometimes!”
My approach to business has always been “be as you as you can possibly be, because you’re the only differentiator you have in this world.” I’ve extrapolated that lesson into life as well, so I’ve always just been… well, me.
I’m that kid that wore soccer jerseys to school literally every. single. day. throughout middle school and high school. (Seriously) I’m that kid that hasn’t worn jeans since second grade. I’m that dude that will wear shorts, a shirt, and a tie if it’s a scorching hot day out but we’re celebrating a special occasion. I’ve never played by society’s [strange] rules, because all I know how to be is me.
And apparently being unabashedly you is considered cheesy. So be it!
Maybe it’s the SoCal vibes, maybe it’s how introspective people are here, or maybe it’s because my vibe has attracted my tribe, but I have definitely noticed that far more people here on the best coast are just THEM. Whether you call that cheesy or not is up to you, but LA is a city where you can let your freak flag — or your “you” flag — fly high.
Over the weekend I saw a guy walking down Venice Beach wearing a tie-dye shirt, tie-dye shorts, tie-dye sandals, and walking a massively overweight pig that had been spray-painted blue.
…but I was the only one looking.
It’s okay to be cheesy here. It’s okay to do whatever the heck you want to. That’s what LA specializes in… come here, be you, and find your little corner of the city and corner of the world.
At least in my experience, in LA you can be introspective, get into deep conversations (even with strangers in a coffee shop, on the street, at the pier, or at a Dodgers game), and reflect on who you are… and then say it out loud.
So… I say all the cheesy, introspective, reflective things that come to mind. Case in point: this post. I hope you’re at least enjoying it and embracing the cheese. :-)
6. I met people. Everywhere. All the time.
I guess I never realized it growing up, but people have pointed out to me that the east coast is “clique-y.” And I suppose it’s true. Boston isn’t particularly known for being a city of transplants — unless you’re talking about medicine. (Har har… that was a healthcare joke)
LA, though, is full of transplants and transients.
I’m not sure if it’s all the transplants who are new to the best coast and just open to meeting new people or if Angelenos — or Californians — in general are just more open and chatty with strangers, but whatever it is, it’s crazy easy to strike up conversation wherever you go.
Whether it’s making new friends at Dodgers games, meeting thousands of my fellow New Englanders when the Celtics played against the Clippers at the Staples Center, or even just talking to baristas, fellow customers, fellow grocers, and up-and-coming rappers on the boardwalk, everyone is game to meet someone new. At almost all times. (Seriously… even at red lights)
For someone new to a city, that’s outstanding. My phone is now filled with names and numbers that I have no recollection of how we met, simply because the sheer volume of new contacts is overwhelming. I quickly learned that connecting on Facebook is much simpler and is more conducive to staying in touch and building a friendship based on common interests, and it’s so much fun to hear from someone a month after meeting them because they liked a place that you “checked in” to on Facebook.
BUT… the underlying lesson here is that learning how to initiate, develop, and strengthen those connections is where the magic happens. Meeting people is never hard. But getting to know them is.
And that’s where spontaneity comes in. I’ll admit… LA isn’t the easiest city in the world to make plans in. First of all, the city is huge. Well, “huge” in the sense that getting from one side to another could take 1.5 hours in a car… even if it’s only an 8-mile trip.
But huge in the sense that Silver Lake is a completely different world than Santa Monica.
So you need to be open to spontaneity. You need to be open to meeting someone on your walk to dinner and asking them if they want to eat together if they’re doing the same. Or, in one case that I’ve experienced, you need to be open to meeting some random backpacker in a park, hitting it off because you’re both into the same things and you’re the same age, finding out that they have a 9-hour layover and nowhere to hang out and no car to get around, and inviting them to hit the food trucks with your roommates that night. These connections are pure magic, and I convinced myself that the novelty of them would start to wear off as I became a seasoned LA veteran.
They haven’t. And I love this city for that reason.
7. I found me
More important than everything that I listed above, over these three months in LA I’ve found me. And I mean that in every sense of the world.
No, I was not lost. No, I was not ever in doubt of who I am. No, I wasn’t looking for certain answers about myself.
But I wanted to be tested. It’s easy to know who you are when you’ve got your foundation around you… your high school friends, your family, your girlfriend, and locales that you’re familiar with.
But it’s much harder to start over in a new city with no foundation (especially when you work from home and have to force yourself to get out and meet new people). The sky is the limit… you can be whoever you want to be. You can tell people whatever you want them to know about you, and leave out the rest. You can literally re-construct yourself if you want.
But what I’ve learned is that I am so freaking proud of who I am and what I’m becoming. AND… I’ve found people that love that and appreciate that about me.
There will always be a whole lot of Boston in me. I will literally never stop saying things are “wicked good” or “wicked awesome” or it’s “wicked cold out.” I will never be able to root for the Lakers. Ever. I will never not crave Italian food (c’mon, LA… step up your game!). I will never stop bragging about how amazing New England is in the fall. I will never lose my childish excitement at jumping off a boat into a nice, warm summer lake. I’ll never lose the fact that I’m proud when people ask me where I’m from and I get to say “Boston.”
Yet still… there’s a reason why I fell in love with LA as a tourist. It has a certain energy. It has a certain… swagger.
And it’s rubbed off on me, for sure. It’s definitely part of who I am, so I’m glad I found it here. Come to LA and see for yourself… everyone here is proud of their version of LA. I’ve never seen a city with so much different apparel based on what part of the city you live in. People in WeHo are obsessed with WeHo. People in Silver Lake love their hipster vibes. People in Beverly Hills will never NOT say that they live in Beverly Hills. People in the Valley might try to hide that they live in the Valley, but they’ll tell you all the reasons why they love it there. People on the west side will tell you why living on the west side of LA is the greatest place in the country to live (and it’s true).
We’re proud. Proud of our city, proud of our neighborhoods, proud of living in SoCal, proud of our weather, proud of our diversity, proud of our cross-streets (“oh, you live west of Lincoln?”), proud of the art we encounter on the streets we walk on every day, proud of our local lingo (like putting the word “the” before every highway, just to separate the locals from the tourists)… we’re just proud.
But more than proud, we’re not afraid to show it. People in LA are confident… dare I say a tad cocky… about the fact that they live in this urban sprawl.
They say that if you can make it in New York City, you can make it anywhere. The same is true for Los Angeles, but I believe that there’s one caveat… I believe that if you can make it here and stay true to yourself, then you can make it anywhere.
It’s easy to be someone you’re not here. There is every type of person here. There’s the 18 year old billionaire kid from a rich family. There’s the major musician who no one recognizes, yet he writes top hits that we’ve all heard. There’s the girl who owns one of the top blogs on the internet. And that girl behind you in line to get ice cream? Yeah, she’s the lead actress in a hit TV show.
You literally never know who you’re going to meet, and for that reason you can blend in as whatever you want.
Last weekend I put on a hoodie, my sunglasses, and a hat, and drove around Beverly Hills in my BMW Z4 with the top down with my roommate, pretending that she’s my assistant. We walked into $9 million open houses, and the real estate agents didn’t question a thing. I did my best rich-kid impression and was treated like a king… despite the fact that I was less than friendly and completely disinterested in being spoken to directly (that’s what my assistant was there for!).
And then, my roommate and I died laughing on the car ride home. Because it’s not me.
…but it takes being tested to know that for certain. If you’ve never been challenged, and if you never leave your comfort zone, then you’ll never know who you are.
I’m a little bit of Boston. I’m a little bit of LA.
But I’m all me. And that will never change.
LA — you’ve stolen my heart and shared so much with me over the past three months. You’ve confirmed the things I thought I knew about myself, you’ve added new dimensions of me, and you’ve taught me that home is really wherever your heart is.
Three months down… and so many more to come!