Why I moved From NYC to LA. The long-short answer.
After a lot of internal debate, conversations with friends, family, random strangers on park benches and at the Whole Foods Cafe (some really insightful people also enjoy tearing into the hot foods buffet pre-grocery haul), I made the decision to move from New York to Los Angeles. Since that decision, and following my move over the last couple of months, everyone seems to have the same question for me, “Why LA?” Admittedly, I’ve been serving up a very short winded surface level answer to most that entails something about how I’ve been in NYC for 7 years and needed a change, or that I really just wanted better weather and figured I’d go 3,000 miles to find it. But in reality, the answer to that question runs much deeper. So much so, that it’s complexity would most definitely send new acquaintances the other direction and though I owed it to friends and family, I couldn’t put it into words until I processed it myself. So, if you’re interested, here it goes. And next time someone asks, I’ll send them a link instead.
A love letter to NYC. Followed by some hate mail.
I moved to NYC in 2011 from Upstate NY and spent 7 good years soaking in all NYC had to offer. I fell in love with the late nights, crowded subways, and that sense of unexpected awe that would creep up just when I thought I’d had enough of the city. If you’ve ever lived in NYC for any period of time, you know the feeling. It’s that flood of endorphins you get just as you turn the corner on 23rd and see the iconic Flatiron building, step into Central Park for the first time after a long winter on a sunny spring day, or walk by a new restaurant on a hot summer night with the windows swung open and pick up on bits and pieces of conversations as they spill out onto the sidewalk.
But the truth is, those highs were always accompanied by extreme lows. In the beginning, there were more highs than lows, or at least bigger highs. I had all my single girlfriends from college around to hit the bar with, chase unavailable men (I mean, boys), and spend Sunday’s recovering with oversized sausage egg and cheese breakfast sandwiches from the nearest food stand. But as the years went on, my friends found available men and slowly started moving outside Manhattan to other boroughs like Queens and Hoboken (alright Hoboken isn’t officially a borough but it should be ok!? I should know I lived there for 2 years), and they started to make that life transition that all of us adults are supposed to make, right? That one where you settle into a promising career path, find a great guy, open a 401K, and start buying nice towels. Problem is, that sounded like total imprisonment for me.
So, in my typical act of rebellion, I drained all of my savings (and credit) to start an app business, moved home to my father’s for 5 months because I couldn’t afford to stay in Manhattan, and/or almost moved to Raleigh, NC to reunite with my on-again, off-again boyfriend of 7 plus years before I realized I couldn’t look anyone in the eye when talking about the decision and how terribly wrong it was for me. After 5 hard months home, a friend in Brooklyn contacted me about a room she had available so I packed my things into my father’s pickup truck like an overeager college student and moved back to NYC. The room was barely big enough to fit my IKEA bed and a TV stand sized computer desk but I shared the apartment with 2 other single girls, and for a moment the excitement of a new neighborhood, new faces on my dating apps, and new Sushi restaurants was elating. But that void soon reared its head again, especially on dark winter nights as I laid in bed, able to almost touch both walls with my hands, watching New Girl thinking “What the fuck am I doing with my life?”
Around that time, my twin brother was living in Philly and had recently broke off an engagement with his boyfriend of many years. He wanted to try on NYC for a while, and though I had already started dreaming up possibilities of taking off to a new city for warmer weather and bigger bedrooms, I agreed to stick around for another year. We moved to Hoboken, NJ and one year turned to two years full of a lot of laughs, deep conversations about life, and light conversations about Jersey bros and West Village twinks (Jonathan, if you’re reading this I couldn’t remember what your type was but I knew it wasn’t bear).
But every time those early winter nights rolled around I found myself restless and unhappy. I had also become even sicker than I had before (something I’ve struggled with for a very long time - more on that in another post, or several, when I find the courage to talk about it) and I began watching myself from the outside like a movie as I became moody, anxious, and short with the people I loved. As I started to deeply resent who I was becoming, I realized something’s got to change. I listened to self help books, a lot of emo music, got on and off planes in different US cities, and asked for way too many opinions. Most of which, were in good intention but extremely unhelpful. Because what I really needed to do was quiet all that noise and listen to myself. So with less than a month before our lease renewal, I took a weekend, shut off the constant flood of texts and double taps, cancelled all my social outings, and hung out with the one person I had been avoiding most, myself.
Bigger than me.
It took me several notebook pages of erratic journaling and one really long impromptu walk along the Hudson River to realize that I had a good life, but it wasn’t a fulfilling one. (Side note: that walk ensued after a sweaty gym session in which I ended up sitting on the end of a pier in Hoboken for hours, burning my shoulders badly because I wasn’t wearing any sunscreen, and finishing with a walk straight through a fountain after listening to a Big Sean song titled “Bigger than Me”). But in all seriousness, Big Sean is right. It all came down to pursuing something bigger than me, and after I got clear on what that was the door to staying in NYC completely shut.
I’ve always prided myself on someone who’s not afraid to go against the grain. Someone who follows their intuition and carves their own path. But somehow I had silenced my intuition that something wasn’t right and spent years holding onto a lifestyle that had already come and gone. I realized there was absolutely no way for me to continue growing in New York, and I had let fear of the unknown and fear of change hold me back.
In all honesty, I felt really out of place in NYC over those last few years. I had become increasingly more interested in nutrition and wellness, but was afraid to talk much about it in social settings for fear of losing that “cool girl” image I had worked so hard to maintain. I had completely stopped drinking (after several starts and stops) and though the questions from my friends had finally started to die down, I was still struggling to socialize in an environment where “let’s grab a drink” was about as common as the way we robotically ask “how are you?” every time we greet each other. In addition, as a mobile app founder/UX designer/graphic design freelancer/social media marketer/god only knows, I had a really hard time explaining exactly what it is I do for a living to people working for recognizable corporations with legitimate offices in Midtown and Wall Street. And lastly, (it hurts my insides a little to admit my parents were right) after leaving Upstate NY’s lakes and hiking trails to proclaim myself forever a city girl who didn’t give a shit about the great outdoors, I came full circle and started to loathe nights in the gym running like a lab rat on an elliptical over discovering a new trail or taking off to the beach for a day.
So where does one go to own their obsession with all things health and wellness, feel at ease in the independent worker lifestyle, and rediscover mother nature? LA. That’s where.
In over my head.
Making that decision made things easier, but not easy. I fumbled to put the plan in motion after taking a month to stay with my mom and her husband in Upstate NY. The usual/maybe not so usual obstacles popped up like the previously mentioned on/off ex showing up in my life and stirring up all the self-doubts that were already brewing. I had also decided to stay with my mom instead of my usual residence at my father’s to try and reconnect with her after our difficult relationship following their divorce. The reconnection was so successful that though she supported the move, was also likely to leave print outs of local job postings on my desk chair and send me emails about Corning, NY’s flourishing revival and affordable housing. I knew LA was the right decision for me, but it felt selfish in some ways, and I started to feel guilty as the response from most was one of abandonment and confusion.
In effort to follow through, I booked a one way plane ticket for Labor Day with no real plans other than boarding the plane and figuring it out. I hadn’t saved enough money, I didn’t have a place to stay while I looked for an apartment, and on top of that I had no idea about any of the areas in a city that makes Manhattan’s neighborhood spread look like a children’s playground. In my usual grace, I found a room for sublet on Craigslist 4 days before my flight was set to take off and confirmed via an 8 minute phone conversation with the roommate that I’d be moving in. I slept on a twin sized blow-up mattress in an empty room for that month and tried to cycle the clothes I had in my 2 suitcases enough so that the regulars at the Starbuck’s across the street wouldn’t catch on.
My plan to deliver the stuff I had sent across the country in a shipping container from NYC failed when the driver couldn’t fit the box in the parking garage clearing to set it safely inside. He ended up leaving it in a back alley for me to unpack in the next 24 hours before he was set to pick it up. Needless to say, I was unable to unpack it by myself or find anyone to give up their Friday, paid or unpaid, to help me carry in the furniture. All the while, a voice in the back of my head reminded me that this is what I signed up for moving to a city with no friends or family around to help. Feeling defeated, I called the driver back and paid him $100 to come pick the box up without marking it as a failed delivery in their system. Little did I know, since I lost my place in the delivery queue and my box was placed last in line behind other orders, it would take weeks to schedule another attempt. When I finally found a studio apartment and needed my stuff, I called Hector back up and asked if him and a buddy we’re willing to redeliver off the record and help me move in for a little extra cash. They took their Sunday afternoon, broke into the warehouse, found my box, borrowed the delivery truck, moved everything in and even helped me set up my bed so I’d have a place to sleep that night. So yea, I guess this is the city of angels.
*Side note I also forgot to have my power and gas turned on. So I spent 3 nights in the dark periodically sitting in my car to recharge my cell phone and eating rotisserie chicken for multiple meals a day until the gas company could come a reasonable 2 weeks later.
Despite that drama, I couldn’t earn my LA stripes without a trip to the emergency room in the first month for a colon infection. TMI but it is what it is, and it was terrible. I was again reminded how alone I was as I gathered myself up off the bathroom floor to call an Uber at midnight to come pick me up for the hospital because no one was around to take me. Not only was no one around, but it was 3 am in New York, so anyone I could call was already in a mild coma. As I sat curled up in a ball in the cold waiting room seats I had one of those moments that you only experience leaning over a toilet bowl after a long night of drinking. That moment where you think, “Wow, this is a really low place for me and I’m the one responsible for arriving at it.”
Before this story takes the positive upswing you’ve been waiting for, I side swiped my friend’s rental car in a parking garage after she let me borrow it on her visit here from New York, I got a green card marriage proposal by the Vietnamese couple I bought my Mini Cooper from after I offered to drive them home an hour and a half from LA, and in the middle of it all, experienced an earthquake tremor that was the biggest in the area since 2014. Which was actually kind of cool but I needed a third thing.
To conclude, as I round the 3 month mark in LA, things have calmed down. I have my own studio apartment (which is really just one room that functions as a place to sleep, eat, work, and scroll on Instagram). I’m starting to get the hang of LA’s weird unwritten traffic rules like two cars always turning left as the light turns yellow and the fact that everyone uses the definitive article before highway names. And the FOMO of NYC is slowly subsiding as the basic fall pics have transitioned to posts tagged #sweaterweather instead.
So here’s what I learned. As a someone who loves a good inspirational quote (enough to design and develop an entire app devoted to visual picture quotes), it’s one thing to see those pretty quotes and think, “Wow, that’s nice. That really speaks to me,” and another to put it into practice. Living it is really fucking hard. It’s not an easy process, it’s not glamorous, and it’s not always inspiring. But I owed it to myself to finally listen to that voice telling me something wasn’t right. It’s the most selfish thing I’ve ever done, but I know it was the right decision for me and I made it for the right reasons. I had to step away from something that was no longer bringing out the best in me and live what I preach. Because at the end of the day, I'll settle for nothing less than a life by my own design.
The playlist I created to simultaneously get me amped for the West Coast and keep me sane. Pairs well with ocean breezes and smog. Enjoy!
Life by Design was born out of a need for my own self-healing after decades of unresolved illness. It wasn’t until finding the courage to look within that I discovered it was my own belief system holding me back from experiencing a truly thriving life. We all have access to that thriving life. We just need to rediscover our power and ignite the healing-self. Only then can we unapologetically live a life by our own design.