What I Wish I Would Have Known
It is two months to the day since I moved to LA. It brings me so much joy to look at where I started when I landed and to see where I am now. I see everything as if for the first time. Every person I meet, I learn something from. My brain is hardwired for acquiring new information because every experience is different from what I know. Driving in any direction and staring out at a skyline filled with mountains and hills and houses and oceans is a beauty unlike any I have experienced. But like with all things you do for the first time, there have been a ton of learning opportunities. Failing has been the best teacher in compassion and empathy. I am a perfectionist my nature. So, doing things wrong irks me at the deepest level. The learning curve has been steep. Almost everyday is filled with things I don’t know, lots of mistakes, some sort of failing. I have learned so much about myself and the ways in which I can grow as a person from the consistency of new experiences. And while that’s all well and good, there are a few things I didn’t anticipate. In the hopes of smoothing out the already complicated transition of moving to a new city, I give you all the things I wish I had known before I made the jump across the country.
LA: Where the water is Hard and the people are Soft
Did you know that water hardness is a thing? I did not until I moved here. I’ve been breaking out worst than when I was a teenager, and in my frustration googled, “Why is my skin so fucking shitty LA?” Yup. I actually typed that into google. And do you know what popped up? At least ten articles on water hardness. Basically, water hardness is the measure of intensity of minerals in the water. If you grew up on the east coast, particularly, the Northeast, our water is very soft. That means it is heavily filtered and there are very few minerals in it. This also means that you skin is used to heavily filtered water. California, on the other hand, has very hard water. That means there are a ton of minerals in it which make it smell and taste different than East Coast water. It also means that when you wash your face or wash your hair, the water you are using has a ton of minerals in it. That stuff doesn’t wash off. It gets stuck in your pores and creates really horrible breakouts. It also makes your hair a weird texture. The ends of my hair actually started to turn white from it. The best thing you can do is buy a water filter for your shower and your drinking water and use a rose water toner on your face after you wash it to clean off all of the minerals and residue left over from washing your face with the hard water. Trust me. Do this as soon as you arrive. Your face will thank me.
- Keep Saying YES. Look, commitment and I do not play nicely together. I am independent to a fault, so it may surprise you to hear what I have to say about making friends as an adult in a new city. Basically, I say yes to every single thing. People want to go hiking or camping or drive to Point Dume? I say yes. A random person invites me to a gallery opening or a yoga class or a cool new experiential theater piece? I say yes. I get tapped to teach an event? I say yes. I say yes to everything that wanders across my path. I have the benefit of a built-in community, my Y7 and yoga tribe, and I still have made it a priority to be more social than I normally am inclined to be. Making friends as an adult is hard. Especially if you are like most of LA and do a ton of contractor work, or you don’t have the luxury of a built in community - like a university - you’re not meeting people because everyone is in their car. When you get the opportunity to interact with real life humans, say yes.
- Meetup.com is a wonderful resource to find people to do things that you are also interested in. Look, this is coming from the person who believes that online dating is the surest way to be kidnapped and killed. If you, like me, are moving to a city where you know relatively few people- compared to the massive support system you built for yourself in your previous city - give it a shot. There are groups for literally anything you could think of. My favorite are the Young Professionals Outdoor Groups. There are trips almost every weekend to do things like summit Mt Baldy, hike in Malibu, camp in Zion. One of the best parts of living in LA is getting out of LA. It’s so easy. So take the leap and meet some people.
- Reach out to everyone: Again, for my independent-to-a-fault-people, this one might be hard for you as well. Basically, if you’ve moved across the country, perhaps towards some important people in your life, but away from the ones who support you on a daily basis, the adjustment period is going to be filled with tension. It may be akin to Hamilton’s feeling of “longing for Angelica, missing my wife, that’s when Miss Mariah Reynolds walked into my life”. Don’t have an affair. We are better than that. But, have no shame in reaching out, calling, texting, emailing, and looking for that comfort and support in your people, whether they are on this coast or the other. This transition is a big. There have been multiple times where I have called up my best friends on the east coast and cried my heart out because, shocker, uprooting your life is scary and unpredictable and challenging and incredibly rewarding. I know that I can’t go over in-between classes and lie on Em’s floor or dharma wheel. I know that I can’t take the train to Washington Square Park to walk and talk and read and digest all of the happenings of life with the humans who make my heart smile. What I can do, is reach out, without shame, when I need a shoulder or an ear, and ask for help - or the shoulder, or the ear. Asking for help doesn’t make you weak. It makes you wise and is the ultimate form of self care.
- Buying a Car vs Leasing a Car: I googled this countless times. Both sides have very compelling arguments. If you happen to live close to where you work, you could conceivable forgo the car all together and walk or bike or bird or uber. As a full-time yoga teacher and a full-time student, my transportation needs are vast. My perspective when I moved here was that I didn’t know how much I would be driving. I did know that at least two of the studios I was teaching at I would need to drive to. I also would be going to a school who’s campuses were in Central LA and the Westside. Basically, I was going to be moving around a ton. The downside of a lease is that they cap how many miles you can accrue a year. If you go over that mileage number, they charge you per mile. If you have a job like mine where you are traveling a ton, buy your car. Get a Prius. I fill up my tank every week and a half and even with crazy expensive gas prices, it only cost me $30.00. Side Note: Should anything happen and you need cash fast, you can sell your car. You cannot sell something you do not own.
- Highways are called Freeways and they are terrifying but necessary: Especially if you haven’t driven in a decade, driving in LA can be, well, an adventure. My first month here, I refused to drive on the highway because merging and going 80 mph didn’t sound very appealing. You can take local roads pretty much anywhere and get there…eventually. Freeways are actually safer than the local roads. If you think about it, most accidents happen when there is a change happening: a start, a stop, a turn, a reverse. Those things mainly happen on local roads where there are a ton of stop signs, traffic signals, intricate roads that don’t make a ton of sense. The freeways, though they are higher speed, have very little variation. You go straight until you want to get off at an exit and then you get off at the exit. Also, if you happen to be commuting during rush hour, you won’t have to merge with people speeding past you at 80 mph. Everyone will be crawling along at 15mph. You’ll feel great about yourself and get to look at all of the mountains that are constantly surrounding you.
- If you miss a turn, KEEP GOING. Your GPS will reroute you. One of the most terrifying things about driving in a place where the roads are incredibly confusing and you have no sense of direction yet is to miss a turn. Just keep going. People might get pissed. People might honk at you. But hey, everyone has been there. And they can chill.
- When people be cray, STARE INTO THE ETHER. Thank you to Julia and Umer for this one. When people do get cray, when they honk and yell and are in general rude to you, stare a little up and out with soft focus. Why? Because when you engage with people and yell back, it makes things one million times worse. When you apologize profusely, it makes things worse. Both of those end in people yelling and honking more. When you stare into the ether, people think there is something a little off with you and just let you go on your merry way. Life is filled with enough stressors. Other people yelling at you doesn’t have to be one of them.
- Get a bank account with a bank that has a CA branch. For pretty much everything you do, you will need a bank located in CA. You need one for your car loan. You need one to pay your rent. You need one to apply for an apartment. You need one for direct deposit. There are a few ways in which you can work the system, but I am telling you from my experience that it will be one MILLION times easier for you if you have a bank that has branches on the West Coast. My primary bank does not and it has caused me a TON of extra steps to do even the most basic task.
- Bare Minimum: Save up $6,000 to move. That may seem like a lot - especially if you only just finished paying off your student loans and saving anything is more like a fairytale than your reality - but here’s what it breaks down to: first month’s rent, security deposit, down payment on a car, auto insurance, buffer money while figuring out employment, furnishing apartment funds, just-incase-you-get-in-an-accident money. If you intend to buy a car, the bigger the down payment, the less interest you’ll end up paying on the loan, the quicker you’ll pay it back. Saving up enough to make it out here could be a real time investment for most people, but it is worth it. Unless you are relocating specifically for a job, anticipate that things will take some time to straighten out. Finding an apartment, thought way less “I am offering up my first born and the blood of my mother for this lease” is still a tiring process, especially if you are moving out of state with not proof of current gainful employment. It’s not impossible. It is just challenging. LA costs pretty much the same as NYC to live, but you get more space, more freedom, more freelancers, more sunshine, more work-life balance, more sand.
Any time you pick up your life and move it to a completely new place, it will be challenging. Chances are, if you are moving, it’s because you are ready for a clean slate. You want to start over. You want a chance at a happiness you lost in the place where you were. All of these are admirable reasons to muster up the courage and leap across the country. Hopefully, this helps you take that leap with a clearer vision of what waits for you on the other side. You’ve got this. I’ve got this. We’ve got this. I believe.