It was the day before Thanksgiving. I was drinking wine and eating dates with my kick-ass mentor who curses as brilliantly as she breaks ceilings in the media world. And apparently, she’s also a whiz at sniffing through my bs. She saw that I was miserable and burned out running my consultancy and how badly I wanted to get back to my writer / creative self. She encouraged me to move to the biggest market, Los Angeles. What did I have to lose (besides you know pride, ego and alotta dough)? So I picked up my life in Washington, DC and moved all the way to LA. At 35 years old. Granted I realize that in many ways this was a luxury, a privilege since I literally was only responsible for myself as a single woman without any children. But still it was a HUGE risk.
Would I recommend this? Hell yeah and hell no! It’s not for everyone, and it’s luckily worked out for me despite the bumps.
This week I’m celebrating my four-year anniversary living in Los Angeles. I celebrate this anniversary because it’s a big freakin’ deal that:
1. I took such a big ass leap.
2. That I’m still here.
3. And I’m thriving!
In celebration, this year I thought I’d compile some of the things that I (re)learned.
Here we go:
1. Be ready. Sure, having savings is a damn good idea, but most importantly, you have to be mentally ready for the onslaught of change that’s gonna come your way: new environment, new job, new friends, new traffic patterns. I know that if I would have moved even a few years earlier, I wouldn’t have been ready ’cause my mind was kind of a self-doubt gutter. So before you take such a leap, get your mind right.
2. Have a compelling why. You need to know why you want to make the leap. Because when #3 (see below) happens, you’ll have to cling to this conviction. I moved to LA to pursue a film / TV writing career in a more serious way than ever before. To tell stories that center the overlooked. That reason is hella compelling in my life. That reason is what keeps me focused and grounded. So when times got tough, I remembered my why and used that to fuel me. I also noticed that people who tend to move to LA and then leave quickly, it’s because they don’t have a compelling enough reason to be here.
3. Expect sh*t to hit the fan. That’s what sh*t does. It is how you deal with the shit, how you process and move on (or don’t) that will make the difference.
4. Have faith. Lots of it. Keep it with you at all times like hot sauce.
5. Trust. You’re gonna have to trust folks. This includes the random dude who comes to pick up your keys so he can ship your car across the country. You have to give him the keys. You also have to trust yourself, your ability, your instinct, and your talent. And a force that is bigger than you who has perfectly ordered your steps perfectly.
6. Embrace your inner fool. Moving across the country at thirty-five is foolish as hell. People will think you’re nuts. You are, in the best kinda way. Fools stay winning.
7. Protect ya neck. Folk will project their fears on you. Especially those who tried what you want to do and weren’t successful. Especially those who want to do what you’re going to do and are blocked by fear. Don’t let them.
8. Everyone will have an opinion. Realize that said opinions aren’t as important as you previously thought. Because you’ll realize that you’re way more important.
9. Joy trumps happiness. Happiness can be fleeting, but joy, joy is a bad mofo that can be stubborn in the best possible way. Sh*t definitely hit the fan in the four years I’ve been living in LA. There was the job that fell through. The apartment that fell through. The futon-living. A little homesickness. You get the drift. But joy had my back. Joy ain’t going nowhere, even when silver linings aren’t readily visible. Joy is like, nah, I got you.
10. Use your network. No for real. Reach out to EVERYONE. Your Mama’s old friend from church. That girl you had one class with in college. One of your richest resources is who you know and subsequently who they know. Use it to your advantage.
11. Ask for help. I’m a prideful woman, but my move forced me to ask people — folks I knew really well and folk who didn’t know me at all — for help.
12. Humility goes a long way. This life change is humbling AF. So go ahead and humble yourself in advance.
13. People will surprise you. People you think will help you won’t. And that is okay. Release expectations. People who you don’t expect to help you, will. Embrace it all.
14. Friendships may fall off. You may be busy setting up your new life that you fall off. Some of them may stop calling you. Remember that effort goes a long way on both ends.
15. It may be hard to make friends at first. Folk already have established lives, so not necessarily looking to add new people to their circle. Give it time.
16. Pace yourself. Don’t try to do everything at first. You will tire real quick. Get your basic needs covered first: shelter, employment, hairdresser, before tackling other stuff. Take it one day at a time. Once I got my needs covered, then I started working on the dreams and now I’m pouring more energy into my social life. Speaking of:
17. Do sh*t. Get out and explore your new surroundings. This activity alone continues to spark excitement for me. Every day, the city is new.
18. Go to the beach. I don’t understand folk who don’t go to the beach (unless, like you’re allergic to sand). It is one of the awesome, free benefits of living here. Plus, it calms the nerves.
19. Get your self care tools up. This business is nutty, you hear me? I learned quick that I needed to get my self care in order. I do yoga, hot ass yoga, therapy, meditation, hiking, and more. You need to have an arsenal of tools to employ when stuff gets out of hand.
20. Document the journey. I started keeping a journal a couple of years in (wished I would have from jump) to capture my thoughts and experiences. And whoa, what a read it will be a year from now.
21. Be Patient. Stuff will take some time to gel, pop off, come together. Give yourself time. Get rid of any ticking clocks or I’ll give this X number of years to make it work mandates. Just throw those out the window and settle into the long-haul.
22. Detach from expectations. Expectations have the tendency to not just limit us, but to also make us inflexible and sometimes down right delusional. Expect greatness, but don’t try to dictate how said greatness will look. Trust me, you’ll save yourself a lot of disappointment and heartache.
23. Go home. If you can, go home at least once a year to refresh, renew, reground and sometimes validate your decision.
24. Celebrate the small victories. Find an apartment with parking? Get accepted into a program? MOVE TO LA? Celebrate it all.
25. Don’t stop pushing. Push. Push again. Push some more.
26. Enjoy the journey. This is the only life we have. Let’s cherish ALL of it.
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