I moved to California one month ago. Time flies when you’re getting oriented to a sprawling megalopolis…
I’ve hardly had time to reflect on what I’ve experienced. While time slips away, here are some tips on what I would do, if I had to do it all over again:
Say “yes.” Say “yes” to the job. Say “yes” to hiring movers and renting out your condo. Say “yes” to throwing a goodbye party and inviting everyone. Say “yes” to your boyfriend’s offer to drive you to the airport. He will not see it as a burden, like you worry he will. Listen to him when he tells you: “Love is when the other person feels free.” Try not to look at your parents, as they stand side-by-side, arm-in-arm, as you back out of their driveway. It will break your heart. And it will be good for you.
Share your journey. Share a sentimental quote as your last Instagram post before you board your flight. Choose an obscure passage from a heady book about the psyches and souls of women, “being of the world and returning to the soul-place.” Think, grimly, that if the plane goes down, at least maybe people will stalk you on social media and remember that you were about to embark on a spiritual quest. And maybe they won’t feel so sad for you.
Figure it out. When you arrive at LAX, alive, immediately scurry around the terminal looking for a rideshare pick-up point. Remember that your trip won’t be quite over, yet. Santa Monica is 25 minutes away, without traffic. Don’t be discouraged by the anti-climactic welcome; the city will not arrange fanfare for you. Hop into your Lyft — it will be safe, stop worrying. Make small talk with the driver, a big, beefy black man with a buttery voice who claims to work security for Wale and Amber Rose. Accept his unsolicited advice: “Watch your drink; you seem nice.”
Get some rest. Arrive in your temporary sublet apartment, thanks to Craigslist, good ol’ Craigslist, which always comes through for you. Immediately get ready for bed because seeing the sunshine in the morning and feeling the sea breeze will be worth the long turbulent flight from DC. You’ll almost forget the look on your parents’ faces when you said goodbye.
Look out for signs. The blonde girl who let you rent out her room will be somewhere in India, yoga-training. Her room will be filled with things that you imagine blonde yogis collect: mini bottles of pure essential oils, crystals and rose quartz, scented candles, a canopy above the bed with blush pink linen sheets. The first thing to notice on your new bedside table is a worn-out, battered, dog-eared copy of that exact book you’re reading, that obscure, heady book with the Instagrammable quote about the psyches and souls of women: “Women Who Run With the Wolves.” That book is a sign. There will be another sign beneath it: “A Return to Love,” by Marianne Williamson, the book that taught you about forgiveness. Feel the grief of learning forgiveness too late. Remember that you recently lent that book to your friend, but she can’t find it anywhere. Suspend your disbelief for one moment and consider that the book actually bent the space-time continuum and ended up right next to your bed in California. Show your friend what you found.
Have no shame about your superstitions. For weeks after you get the job offer, pay attention to snakes. Real ones, in the bushes of your parents’ front yard. Painted ones, in the mural at the Laotian restaurant. Decorative ones, in the wallpaper of the cocktail bar bathroom. Even digital ones, in the illustrations of your daily horoscope readings. Try not to act too shocked when you find out later that your new boss has a snake tattoo on the back of her neck. Remember what you learned: snakes are symbols of transformation, healing & female power. Take note.
Look at yourself, often. Gaze into the full-length vanity mirror leaning against the wall of your new bedroom. Watch how you change: rosier cheeks from the assaulting sunshine; a growing gut from too many fish tacos and donuts; blonder streaks in your pixie-turned-bob. Also, confidence. Notice the peace and confidence. That’s new.
Absorb everything. Feel your first earthquake on the third night. Brace for more tremors. Be terrified. Buy sunscreen. Go to pop-up art exhibits with funny names like the Museum of Ice Cream and The 14th Factory. Use appropriate hashtags. Stunt. Wander. Roam. Explore Abbot Kinney, Los Feliz, Palms, Culver City, Sawtelle, Little Tokyo and the Arts District, until your sandaled soles turn black. Go to the beach without sunglasses, a bikini, or a towel. Get thirsty. Sunbathe anyway.
Go on adventures. Go to the Filipino kamayan feast in the middle of an old-growth cactus garden. Go to a pharmaceutical fundraiser in Hollywood with Persian scientists, sketch comedy actresses, and Charlie Sheen. Go to the high desert in Cuyama Valley. Take conference calls from the road. “Camp” in a hut-wagon-tent. Watch white people wearing plaid shirts play guitar and sing songs around a bonfire. Smell weed. Don’t judge them. Wear layers. The desert is freezing at night. The smell of the sea doesn’t travel to the city. The Expo Line does. Ride the Metro. It’s clean and cheap and has the best views of the highway. Take pictures of the flora, especially the jacaranda and succulents.
Talk to strangers. Take the wrong bus. Take 66 Lyft rides in 30 days. Ride shotgun. Meet the husband with a son in college, the actor with the southern twang, the heavy metal drummer playing jazz on the radio, the sculptor with a beard and black nail polish. Meet the stoner who invites you to Las Vegas, the Ukrainian with a brand new Mercedes C300, the Goop employee, the girl with the kitten in her front pocket. Make small talk. Improvise. Eavesdrop on the girl with the Gwen Stefani voice and try not to giggle when she says volunteering at a daylong music festival at some dude’s mom’s house for a can of Tecate and a $4 veggie dog sounds “dooooope, dope dope dope.” In fact, it will not sound dope at all.
Pamper yourself on your days off. Order the $20 breakfast. Order the ridiculous “mango-rita” with apple cider. Order the most expensive galbi at Korean BBQ. Buy the $11 green juice. Buy the best almond butter of your life at the Ojai Farmers Market. Buy art from the artist. Buy a hat. Actually, buy three hats within three weeks. Get a museum outfit. Try various combinations of coffee and dairy. Find out that an iced almond milk latte with agave nectar is your favorite. Spritz yourself with perfume samples from every window-shopped boutique. Smile and say “thank you” when a woman mentions you smell like the eucalyptus-infused warm moist towels at her gym. Flirt with the 25-year-old server at the outdoor patio bar. Accept the free flutes of prosecco and shots of tequila he gives you and your friends.
Apartment-hunt. Scavenge. Look for gems. Search for the perfect place. Go to open houses. Browse listings from countless rental apps, websites, Facebook groups. Refresh every hour. Meet tenants, property managers, landlords. Feel the vibe of each place as soon as you enter the front door. Be aware of the feng shui. Call your mother for advice. Listen to her, but only if it’s convenient. Trust your gut. Be decisive. Don’t settle until you make your housing fantasies come true. There are two, specifically: the yellow bungalow on the beach where you take your baby pitbull for long runs, and the industrial loft downtown where you launch your jewelry-making studio as a side hustle. Realize, however, that your apartment will not be perfect. It will just be good enough. And it will be more expensive than you budgeted. You won’t have time, space, money or permission for a baby pitbull or a jewelry-making studio. Realize that Snapchat gentrified the beach. Realize that downtown is a lot dirtier and crazier than it looks in movies. Settle.
Love your work. Get used to the new way of doing things. Feel comfortable around your co-workers, even if you don’t know them, yet. Feel like you can sit in silence without awkwardness. Feel like you have nothing to prove. Feel like you can finally lead. Feel like people trust and support you. Feel like you’re valued. Feel like this is exactly the place for you, for now. Do not take the free lunch for granted. Be OK with eating dinner by yourself.
Be alone. Be bored. Be homesick. When your energy is scattered, remember what your mom told you: “Take your heart back.” Call her when you’re lonely. Text your friends. Make new ones. Repeat.