Musing Mondays: Why Now Is As Good A Time As Any

Start doing the things you dream about today. Yes, Googling “How to do [insert whatever it is you want to do]” counts as working towards your dream. Reward yourself.

I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about my future lately, and what I want to do in that future. And though thinking about all of this has left me more questions than answers, I have figured out a couple of things: 1) The office 9-5pm (or for entertainment 9-6/7pm) is just not my scene, and 2) I want to travel and experience the world.

Okay, so I didn’t really really just realize I hate working in an office and my desire to travel, but thinking about my future made me realize that these are things I should be pursuing now.

Why? Because why not? Why is now not as good a time as any other? As I get older, (hopefully) establish a stable career, (hopefully) start a family, I’ll only have more and more commitments. Down the road, when I get sick of renting (HA, already happened) and want to look into buying a home, I won’t have the freedom to spend (what little money I have) on travel that I do now. So why not? Sure, it means untangling a lot of logistical knots, sure it means trying to figure out an end plan for what to do/where to go when I get back stateside, but isn’t that worth it?

And I came to nearly the same conclusion about quitting the office lifestyle and going remote/freelance: Isn’t it worth buckling down now, building up work as a freelancer now, so that I can have the flexibility I need to focus on writing? Because the end goal is getting paid to write and stay home anyways, right? So why occupy all of my time at an office doing a job that won’t set me on the trajectory I’m looking for, when I can find work from home, and devote more time to writing. Sure, it means giving up a steady, stable, moderately cushy (for the likes of me) paycheck, but it also means the possibility of a more rewarding, bigger payout much sooner than possible when devoting my week days to an office.

This isn’t my big, public “I’m quitting my job” announcement post; I have starting formulating a short-term trajectory and plan to fulfill my travel dreams, and eventually transition to a remote work lifestyle. For now, I’m continuing to work and save up as much as I can. But I tell you all of this to say one thing:

Stop telling yourself no.

There will always be bumps, always be commitments that seem too important to set aside. As someone who grew up in the Midwest, raised under the mentality that a stable job and income was more important that pursuing a passion, I understand that it’s downright terrifying to give up the comfort of home, the safety of a close-knit family, and the familiarity of friends and a certain lifestyle to accomplish the things you’ve dreamt about doing. But you should do it anyways. Not because putting in the effort necessarily means you’ll be successful or accomplish what you set out to do, but because trying and failing is still more of a success than never trying at all. Don’t live your life in regret and full of wondering what might have been. Go out and do. You’ll be surprised where life will take you, and what you wind up doing might turn out to be something you had never even thought of, but that you love even more than your original dream.

Don’t put up walls–I don’t want to hear any excuses about why you can’t do something you want to do! Figure out how to make it possible! I’d love to know what you want to do, share it in the comments, and if I know of any resources that might be helpful, I’ll share them with you!

-tlc

A Visit Home

There is nothing better than taking a break from a LA-centered life and visiting home. It’s always amazing to me to experience the juxtaposition between busy, overfilled LA and quiet, casual KC. It’s kind of terrifying at the same time, though, because all of the beauty and peace that comes with quaint KC also comes with this jarring sense of isolation. I mean, don’t get me wrong, internet works just as well here in KC (better, actually, thanks to Google Fiber) but for some reason, even the opportunities to be accessed via internet feel very far away when I am in KC, which is a strange change compared to LA’s smog-covered dumpiness and endless opportunity.

I don’t know what it is about Kansas and KC. Perhaps the physical distance between places here translates into a more psychological sense of boundaries or barriers imposed by distance? Maybe it’s simply the take-it-easy attitude with which the people in this city tend to take their lives. The heartache, the struggle, and subsequently the achievement are quieter here, somehow subdued. I don’t know if that’s a good thing or a bad thing.

It makes me wonder every time I am in this city whether or not I would prefer it over LA. The people here certainly seem to be less self-absorbed, but then again, everyone tends to have their fickle moments. The traffic is way better, but the distance you have to drive to get from place to place means you’re on the road just as long. The people in LA are, on average, better looking (as many of them are aspiring actors/actresses) but the people in KC have a better idea of who they are and where they’re headed at a much younger age. Not to mention people out here are nicer (Midwest Manners are a real thing).

But really, the only thing I truly miss (besides my nephews) is fall. I miss the change in weather, the change of leaves, and your basic pumpkin-flavored everything as the Christmas season slowly edges closer and closer to those of us patiently waiting for Christmas music. And suddenly, when the whole choice whittles down to weather, I know that, for some unknown reason, I made the right decision in moving out to LA. I’m not sure how long that choice will be right, but it’s right for right now and I’m glad.

I sure do miss fall, though. And free parking that’s easy to find everywhere you go is nuts. This is great.

-tlc

Why I’m Grateful To Be A TwentySomething

I talk in this blog a lot about the trials and lessons of being a twentysomething. It is, after all, that uncharted, turbulent time when technically everyone calls you an adult, but you still feel like you’re growing up. That means there are a lot of nights of anxiety, and a lot of decisions that feel like the equivalent to jumping off a cliff, or holding your breath far beyond when your vision starts to blur.

Or at least, I have these moments.

But it’s not always like that, and in the midst of everything, I am so grateful I have this time in my life to just sort of stumble around blindly.

Why? Well, frankly, I look at the people in their 30’s and 40’s around me and see two groups: those who have their lives “together” and those who are either starting over, or still figuring out what they want. Both are okay, but neither is where I want to be right now. Of course some day, like many–if not most–other people I know, I want to be in that first group of people, where “together” means a happy combination of career and family. And, of course, I know that if I’m in that second group, that’s fine, too, because “together” doesn’t always have to mean career and family. But once you have those two things, there isn’t a whole lot of room to be selfish or focus on yourself. You have kids and a spouse to think about, bills and responsibilities, people who are depending on you to be a stable, reliable resource. Which means putting off things like chores, or taking time off from work to focus your energy on a side project isn’t really a possibility for most people at that stage in life. So if you ever feel down about not knowing the love of your life, not working your dream job, and not living in a mansion somewhere near a beach, just remember that your low-profile and freedom now gives you the opportunity to do these things:

1) Travel on a whim, for long periods of time, to random places “just because.”

Sure you’re poor and paying the rent is your biggest concern right now, but think about it this way: You don’t have that many possessions. You’re bank account already practically qualifies you for welfare, what’s there to lose if you move your stuff back into your parent’s basement for a few months, save up a couple thousand, and hike across Europe? You have no one waiting for you back home, and given your salary if you even had a full time job, it probably wasn’t something you’d like to stick with long term, anyways. If you’re ready for a change and want to spend some time discovering more about yourself while you meet awesome people and learn more about the world, traveling in your twenties is the perfect time to do it. You’ll never get a chance like this again.

2) Be a student.

Okay, so now that I’ve been out of college for a little over a year, I don’t recommend going to grad school without giving yourself at least a year in between. Obviously, I can’ t speak for the experience of those who do go straight to grad school, and granted, it was definitely something I deeply considered my senior year of college, but I’ve learned so much being in the real world this last year that I wouldn’t have been exposed to if I had stayed in the nice warm shelter of school. One of the things I’ve learned is that for the line of work I’m trying to do, having a master’s degree in Creative Writing–or really, any kind of degree in any subject–isn’t going to really give me a leg up. It’s just going to put me in more debt, and delay my entering the real world by a year or two.

Still, getting my masters in Creative Writing is a dream in the back of my mind, if for no other reason than giving me an excuse to spend a year or two living in some cool new place, focusing entirely on building up my arsenal of original work. And, working at a University is my fall back dream career, so there’s that, too. And no matter when you do grad school, if you do grad school, it’s definitely easier to get through when you don’t have a family to support. I would also assume that it’s an easier feat when the knowledge you picked up in your undergraduate classes is fresher in your mind.

3) Try out different “fun” jobs.

There is no better time or excuse for jumping from job to job than when you are first starting out in the world and trying to figure out what you enjoy and where you would like to fit into the bigger picture of society. I did this with internships, by working in marketing, publishing, and film development, discovering that while all three were exciting in their own right, none were exactly right or exciting for me. Still, there are a variety of dreamy odd-jobs on my list that I would only be unashamed to try because I have zero responsibilities beyond paying my bills right now. These include the following:

-Working as a Disney Princess at Disneyland.

-Working as a park attendant of some sort in the Wonderful World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios LA when it opens next Spring.

-Working as a Studio page and/or tour guide at any of the film studios around LA.

-Working as an extra for films and tv shows.

-Working as a house sitter/dog sitter for wealthy clients.

-Working as a personal assistant to a celebrity.

-Working for Buzzfeed.

-Working as a travel guide and/or a travel agent.

-Using an etsy shop and being an Uber driver as my primary source of income.

etc, etc.

4) Spending irresponsible amounts of money on take out, exploring new restaurants and bars, and being a semi-permanent ‘tourist’.

Granted, this might be a little more feasible for someone living in LA than in Kansas, where everything is a chain restaurant and being a ‘tourist’ consists of spending the day at the Renaissance Fair, eating giant Turkey legs, but still. Being in your twenties is the best time to find what will become “the best place to eat brunch,” “the best movie theater deal in town,” “the diviest bar, ever,” “the greatest hangover cure,” among you and your friends, because once you start working longer hours, have a spouse and/or kids to come home too, and a mortgage bill to pay, putting off chores or responsibilities no longer makes you “fun,” it just makes you immature. So do it now while you’re not tied down.

5) Consume all there is to know about whatever interests you.

This doesn’t mean you have to have your nose in a textbook. If you’re really interested in script writing, maybe this means regularly binging on Netflix (at least, that’s the excuse I use!). But it could also mean taking a day to learn new techniques on sewing, knitting, hunting, gardening, photography, whatever! Now is the time to learn and develop a hobby, because when you start involving one, two, three or more people in your life (aka have a family) you’ll find that any free time you have will be spent doing laundry and watching Sesame Street. This, at least, is what I’ve gathered from observing my siblings.

I could probably go on and on about things to do, and things to be grateful you can do while you’re in your twenties, but this post is already long enough. And if it isn’t obvious, this is a start to another thing you should incorporate into your life–no matter what age you are: Be a little more positive. When I start to feel down about where I am in life, I just think about all of these experiences that I’m able to have and then I act on them, because there is no better time than now. Take charge of your life, and enjoy being a twentysomething.

-tlc

 

Surviving in LA: What You Shouldn’t Spend Your Money On

I’m sure by now you’ve heard it at least once–and if you live in LA, then you’ve definitely heard it a thousand times (and know it to be true)–that it costs an arm and a leg to live in LA…and maybe a kidney and a lung as well.

But at the same time, you can make a bigger living out in LA, too, so why all the fuss? Why do so many people struggle to make ends meet? There are so many different types of jobs and all kinds of paying work that you can find out here, why does everyone (including yours truly) feel the suffocating pressure to have more–need more–money? It goes beyond the natural human tendency to be greedy. It’s an exhausting fear that anyone and everyone living in LA who can’t afford a Range Rover as their everyday-commute car experiences.

Let me break it down for you: ignoring the socio-economic and political roots behind poverty and its persistence (because getting into that discussion would be an entirely new mess to untangle in itself) let’s just assume that the target group I am referring to are twenty-somethings and young thirty-somethings who come from upper-lower class and middle class backgrounds, trying to make a go of it in LA in job fields that aren’t rolling in the dough (i.e. any job that doesn’t exist in silicon valley or Seattle–I’m convinced even the baristas in Seattle know how to code). Often these jobs are gig-to-gig, and not steady office jobs, but even steady jobs can be somewhat of a challenge financially. So here’s why, even with an income coming in that is marginally better than the income you could get for the same job in the midwest, the financial struggle in LA seems so much more daunting: besides the constant reminder that you are poor by comparison to that guy driving the Ferrari in the lane next to you, there are just more expenses.

End of story, that’s it, show’s over, enough said.

Even if I didn’t take into account that real estate out here drives rent prices through the roof (literally), the cost of driving a car and routine maintenance (because that smog is killer on a car body), along with the price of food (meat will cost you your firstborn, so you might as well go vegetarian) and unforeseen costs (i.e. things that shouldn’t cost you money but do because people out here what to squeeze every dollar they can out of you, like parking) make it difficult to feel like you have a dollar to hold in your hand.

That being said, here are some tips I’ve learned to help cut back your expenses and save every dollar you can to prepare for the jobocalypse (that thing where the gig you’re working on now wraps up and you don’t have another job lined up because life):

1) Furniture–There are so many people moving in and out of LA every single day, it seems like there is always an estate sale going on, and tons of curbside pick-up opportunities. A word of caution, though: even wood can carry bed bugs, along with termites and other pests so be careful choosing what you’ll bring into your home. I also say this in the midst of attempting my own apartment, and though I stand by what I say, I should also warn you that it does take some patience. Whole apartments were not furnished for free in a day, people.

2) Fruit–Okay, so you might have to buy some fruit in the grocery store if you eat a lot of it, I get that, but chances are, if you drive around whatever neighborhood you live in, you’ll eventually come upon a lemon, lime, orange, avocado, or even pomegranate tree. Our new apartment has an avocado tree in the backyard, and I used to pass a pomegranate tree on my way to my first internship every day. You guys, you can seriously live off of avocados for weeks at a time. WEEKS.

3) Food–Speaking of food, holy crap is there so much free food if you know where to go! Especially if you work in the industry on a production, there is ALWAYS food! And if you’re super nice to the Crafty person, you might even get to take home leftovers. I literally have not spent over $25/mo on food in three months’ time. It’s insane. A lot of free networking events will also have food, and if nothing else, go to the grocery store and buy individual ingredients for a simple dish, like soup, make a large amount of broth and prepare your ingredients, then freeze the meal in individual serving sizes and live off of that. I’ve still got the makings for about another five chicken vegetable soups in the freezer, and I prepped that back in January.

4) Clothes–Here again, estate sales and garage sales are going on ALL THE TIME. And it’s not always gross, worn, ugly stuff. You can find some legit trendy vintage stuff for an affordable price. If that’s still too shady for you, there are a million and one thrift stores around town. And we’re not talking all those trendy thrift-but-we’re-as-expensive-as-nordstrom stores. We’re talking decent, clean, affordable clothing. Besides, a person doesn’t need a whole new wardrobe every season, or even every year, particularly if you don’t have the budget for that.

5) Mani/Pedis–If you’re a woman (or a guy–no shame) who needs to Treat Herself (Himself) every once in a while, just go to the beach! The sand serves as a natural exfoliator and the beach is so relaxing anyways! So much better than sitting in a cheap massage chair and having a strange man pick at your nails.

This is a short list, but I’ve once again managed to turn this into a long post, so I’ll stop here for now. If you want any opinions on a specific thing you spend money on, or would like more advice on this subject, let me know in the comments and I’ll see what I can drum up!

-tlc

Finding A Place In LA And Making It A Home

After nine months of living in temporary housing in LA, my roommates and I have finally moved into our own apartment with a year-long lease. It’s both terrifying and exciting to think about making that long of a commitment to such a come-and-go place that has such temporary feel to it. I came out here to test the waters, see if I could make a go of it, if I really liked it out here and if things felt right. In that time I’ve learned so much about who I am and what my choices mean for me and my future. I’ve shed that strange bubble we build for ourselves in school, and that strange feeling you get coming to the end of college–as if you are nearing the final stretch of your life, and only have one possible path to live out, instead of the beginning of your life and the many paths you have to choose from for the rest of it.

I’m not saying I’m committed to LA for the rest of my life, or even for the year’s time of my lease; I’m simply choosing to take the next step in building my career here in LA. And let me tell you, it feels so good to finally feel somewhat settled. I’m still not LA’s biggest fan, but I also don’t feel so foreign here anymore. I’m starting to appreciate things about this city, its people, and what it has to offer.  It’s both beautiful and ugly at the same time.

I saw all this knowing that this city can chew you up and spit you out. I write this at a time when many of the friends I’ve made since moving here have given up on the shiny fake hopes that Hollywood radiates and are seeking refuge and peace in other places. I am both happy for their bravery and peace with departure, and saddened by the heartache and distress this place has caused them.

In high school, I was always the quirky, loud girl who didn’t quite fit in with any of the crowds I hung around. A lot of this was because I never felt like I truly had a place among the other students and my friends. The other part was that I didn’t know how to make life-long friends yet. I ran from drama like it was the plague, but gossiped because I didn’t know the difference between gossip and conversation. It’s funny now because LA is the physical, geographical embodiment of everything that defined my inability to fit in in high school: It is both dreamy and harsh, friendly and lonesome.

I never had any desire to move to LA, until I realized that I might just be crazy enough to try and pursue the dreams that never seemed like a possibility, even in college. Kansas is a very practical place (well, other than Brownback, who is completely delusional–but that’s another post altogether) but I am an impractical dreamer. And though I’m not a NYC writer, or a Londoner like I once fantasized, I’m somewhere, doing something I never thought possible. And I love it.

So, for all this rambling, maybe the only point I have for this post is this: Go somewhere and do something you want to do; something you think you’ll love.  And find a place and make it home.

-tlc

Things That Every Twenty-Something Should Know

Okay, so a couple weeks ago I did a post on missing home and how I’ve come to realize that the only thing that is truly important in your life–and subsequently the only thing that will really make you happy–is the people and relationships that you surround yourself with.

That’s lesson number one.

But there are a few other things that I’ve picked up as time has gone on. I won’t list them all out here because that would be a long post, and I don’t think I could possibly think of all of them off the top of my head right now anyways. Besides, I have to have something to write about for future posts, don’t I?

So here are a few things that I think every 20-something should know:

  • Travel
    • Live outside of your comfort-zone/Travel box: Everyone has a travel box; those cities, states, and places that they’ve visited before, lived before, or have family and friends residing in. Move outside of that, even if it’s only for a year. You’re in your 20’s, you’re probably already poor, and hopefully you don’t have too many obligations to other people at this point in your life. Now is the time to go and explore the world, see a different place, and make new friends that grew up in a life different from your own.
    • I might not always love living so far away from my family, but I’ve learned so much and grown so much by moving away. I’ve discovered that I can rely on myself to get through almost every situation that I’ve come across. It’s really empowering, and in a lot of ways freeing. It’s shown me that the world really is full of possibilities, and that you can do the things you put your mind to. If you stay in your box forever, you have to learn to settle for the things that only your box can offer. Get out and explore. Learn something about somebody completely different from yourself.
  • Feed Yourself
    • Cooking, even if you aren’t great at it, is not only a life skill that everyone should be made to learn, it’s also the only way you’re going to be smart about saving money and about what you’re putting in your body. I don’t care how healthy a restaurant makes itself out to be, there is no telling where your food has been and what all is used to cook it. The only way to know this is to do it yourself–and frankly, it’s a whole lot cheaper, too.
    • It’s also an extremely satisfying and rewarding feeling to be self-sufficient and provide a meal for yourself. The less people you need to rely on to survive, the more empowered you will feel. Besides, coming from a family of farmers, I believe everyone should support small businesses and farms by shopping as much as possible at your local farmer’s market.
  • Clean Yourself
    • A clean home is a happy home. Take a little pride and ownership in the place where you live and take care of it! Not only will your everything last longer–we’re talking clothes, furniture, appliances, everything–but you’ll feel better and more relaxed because organizing and cleaning up after yourself won’t feel like a permanently unchecked box on your to-do list. BONUS: Things like vacuuming and dusting are actually great workouts that burn an impressive number of calories. Google it.
  • Keep Your Plans
    • Flaking is an easy rabbit’s hole to fall down. Check out this article that gives a pretty good observation on this plight that’s plaguing our generation of 20-somethings. This one, I’ll admit, I’m a bit hypocritical on because I’m definitely guilty of doing it. But when you make plans with someone and you don’t honor that, you only dig a shallow grave for that friendship/connection/relationship. If you don’t really want to hang out with someone, don’t make plans with them. If you make plans with someone but think there’s a chance something better might come up, 1) don’t think like that because that’s douche-y and 2) don’t commit to things on nights that you might want to do some other activity.
    • Personal relationships are so, so important. And I think as you get older, it becomes harder to meet new people and make those friendships that will truly make you happy. This is because as you get older, you get more set in your ways, more set in your routines, and old friendships take time to grow. So start young. Start now. Meet people, and be genuine. Put the stupid cell phone away and go out to dinner to talk. Close Facebook and plan a day/night out. Call instead of text. Be a little bit old school. Don’t let yourself become isolated by your technology.
  • Create
    • Nick Offerman calls it “Finding a Discipline,” but whatever you want to call it, find some way to spend your time that isn’t Netflix. Think of it as a physical way of investing in your future. If you love to craft, make things! (If you get good, you can sell your art on Etsy.) If you love music, make music! If you love to exercise, work out! If you love to help, volunteer! You get my drift. Then find a way to share your pass time passion with others. Who knows, it might wind up being a means to a living. Even if it’s not, you’ll be happier having something to take your mind off  the stress around you, and having a purpose to look forward to in your free time.

Okay, I have to stop there before this post goes on forever and ever. Gotta keep it simple, right? Anyways, that’s my current two-cents on what 20-somethings should know. I’d love to get other opinions on this, though. Seasoned vets of life might have a different perspective and I always love to learn knew things. Let me know in the comments if you have any thoughts on this.

Good luck in life.

-tlc

The Thing About LA

Okay, so there are lots of things about LA, but here’s one that’s really been on my mind lately: the wealth disparity that is rampant in this city.

Maybe it’s because I’ve been searching like a mad man to find an apartment I can FINALLY call my own (and afford), or maybe it’s the countless Ferraris, BMW Convertibles, and Teslas I watch speed past the street buskers, vagabonds, and tent cities camped out on curbs everyday, but hot damn if the immensity of wealth and lack thereof isn’t plastered on the billboards out here! (Sorry, I’ve been watching a lot of Orange Is The New Black lately, so the voice in my head has been coming out a little prison-queeny, if that’s a thing.)

I’ve struggled off and on for the last nine months to like LA, and I’m telling you, it’s hard. It’s really, really hard. Don’t get me wrong, there are fantastic things about LA: the weather, the beautiful people, the horizon, the beach, the beautiful people, the iconic landscapes, the beautiful people–but even the beautiful people have a tough time making me forget about the smog, the traffic, and the shame that there are probably hundreds of beautiful, big houses that sit empty around this city, while there are thousands who go cold and hungry living on the streets every night. Check out this article about how Jessica Alba is turning her old house (which sat EMPTY) into a vacation/travel home for renters. I mean, I applaud the woman for her business savvy and wanting to do something to fill a need she saw, but come on! I know she’s not the only one with property just lying around this city going to far less use. And even though LA is full of employment opportunities (not just in the entertainment industry) rent is still too damn high.

LA is difficult because it’s a lonely city, and the traffic issue bites residents in the butt in more than one way. Consider: yes, getting anywhere during high traffic hours is stressful and, frankly dangerous, but more so than that is the fact that you can’t go anywhere without a car (which costs money), you can’t park anywhere for free, and if you aren’t EXTREMELY careful, you’ll earn yourself a traffic or parking ticket of some sort, (which costs a BOATLOAD of money). Needing a car to get anywhere makes LA extremely isolating, but it also makes it difficult to split an apartment with multiple roommates–something New Yorkers have down to an art. Often, apartments in LA don’t come with enough designated parking to even match the number of bedrooms within an apartment–frequently, they don’t come with designated parking at all. And as I’ve just said, parking in LA is hardly ever free. If you live on a street where there is always ample street parking, count your blessings because you have found a gem, m’dear.

So, the need for parking and the isolating factor of the city’s culture and structure makes it not only difficult to meet potential roommates, but also finding that sweet balance of fitting the needs of everyone you live with and still being affordable. It’s hard enough for me–someone with a full time job AND side jobs (so I actually have some money I can put towards savings)–I couldn’t imagine what it would be like for someone who works a similarly paid gig while having to support a family, or someone who can barely afford rent but also needs a car for work–you get my drift. And all the while, I only have to look towards the hills to see those sparkling mansions with their private pools and 5-acre yards.

To get to the point, I guess what I’m saying is that I am starting to like LA. (What? That didn’t come across in what I’ve just mentioned?) No, really, it’s grown on me a lot since I got here, and that’s why I care so much (well, that, and also because social injustice). But the wealth disparity is a real hard lump to swallow.

So, if you want to move to LA, just know that there are still very visual injustices in this world. But the weather is nice.

-tlc

On Missing Home

When your family makes up about 90% of your best friends, it’s hard to move away from them. Even now, eight months later, it’s still hard not to have the option of seeing my family regularly. The only time I am ever envious of my friends who don’t have close relationships with their parents and siblings is when I’m feeling homesick–so, about once a month.

Missing home can make for a confusing time emotionally. Consider this: while I love the wide-open spaces and quiet calm of the prairie, and the sweet peace that comes from the small, mannerly Kansas population, I hate everything about the way the Kansas government is being run right now, and I hate the often overly-conservative, small-minded opinions that the majority of the voter population holds. While I would love more than anything to be able to plan a day trip home on the occasional weekend to see my parents, or to be a short car ride away from babysitting my nephew, my work life and social life would be stunted. Sure, I could find a copywriting job somewhere. I could find a copywriting job anywhere, truthfully. But would it be driving me towards a fulfilling career in an industry that interests me? No. Would I be making new friends and growing my social circles? Probably not. Kansas City isn’t a very sociable city for singles and people who don’t already have friends and relatives living there. Why? Because you have to drive so far to get anywhere, so you only go out in groups.

I’ve thought a lot about my choice to move to a new, big city where I don’t know anyone, and the truth of the matter comes down to this: there is only one question you ever need to ask yourself; “Am I happy?”

This is so simple, and yet I think you will find–as I do–that it is the hardest question you will ever have to answer in your life. Am I happy? Well, about what? Your life? Your relationships? Your career?

So here is what’s at the heart of the matter when it comes to me missing home: I’m not sure how to answer this question. Am I happy? Well sure, somedays I’m really happy, and I love LA, and it’s exciting, and I’m excited, and there’s so much to explore, and life is good and life is beautiful. Am I happy? Well I’m not exactly where I want to be in life yet, and I don’t have a place I can call my own yet, and I have to live on a pretty tight budget which makes it feel  like I’m always working or number crunching, and my family lives pretty far away in a different time zone and my work commitments mean I don’t have a lot of options for visiting them or them visiting me, but am I happy? I guess in a sense I’m mildly comatose.

I love Amy Poehler’s comparison of a career to a bad boyfriend. It’s so true; my career is never going to make me happy; it’s never going to completely satisfy me. I’m always going to feel like I’m somewhat running in place, reaching for the next thing and never getting there. But do I feel accomplished? Oh heck yes. Am I proud of where I’ve gotten so far? Beyond belief. I’m working on a freaking studio lot as a Writer’s PA. When I think about where I am in terms of what I’ve dreamed my whole life, I am immensely proud to say that so far, when I’ve set my mind to do something, I’ve accomplished it.

But in the end, what my eight months in LA has shown me so far is that family and your relationships will always be more important than any job, no matter what. In the end, it’s made me realize that if it’s the difference between getting to see and spend time with the people I love, and having a lucrative career in television, my family is more important. Right now I feel as though I am straddling somewhere between these two things–family and career, and I’m not sure which life is going to pull me towards more. But I do know that if it takes me away from my family too much, and prevents me from building new relationships with more people, than it’s not worth it. You should never pick your career over your family. I think my greatest personal challenge right now is finding the balance between the two, hence the homesickness.

-tlc

How to Live in LA on Essentially No Money

A few short months ago I moved out to LA with just barely $4000 to my name, no job except a small social media gig that gave me 8 hours of work a week, and absolutely no idea where life was going to take me. I still don’t know about that last thing, but now, after working two unpaid internships and remaining unemployed (for the most part) I still have about a quarter of what I started with. In a city where I’ve been told that it takes at least $3000 a month to live, I’ve made a go of it averaging about a $1000 a month in expenses. How have I made it this long with a roof over my head, gas for my car, and food in my mouth? I’m certainly not starving myself, that’s for sure. Here’s how I did it:

 

  1. HOUSING

 

Finding a place to live in LA is difficult, here’s why: LA is sprawling, and the second largest city in America, and everyone seems to think the weather here is the bomb dot com so they all come running. Because of that, real estate is insane and things move quickly because, when you find a good deal on an apartment, you can bet that about 300 other people also believe they’ve found a good deal on an apartment. No matter where you live your commute is going to take up all of your free time, and–if you’re like me and you like nature–your choices when it comes to housing that isn’t sandwiched in the middle of a busy city are a million dollar hole in your pocket on the beach, or dead grass on something that sort of resembles a mountain.

Average rent in LA runs about $700/mo (on the cheapside) and $900-$1000/mo (on the: I have a good, stable income and can afford to rub it in your $700/mo face). Currently, I pay under $600, and I live in a house in a calm, convenient part of town. How did I get so lucky? Well it takes some diligent searching, but it also takes some thinking outside of the box. When I came to LA, I asked myself where I might find safe, affordable housing with strangers I could trust. This question led me to reaching out to friends, family, pastors of random churches I looked up online, and even some church website classifieds. In fact, it was through this last suggestion that I found the home where I am currently staying. So just ask yourself: “what type of people do I want to live with, and where would they post room vacancies?” And then search from there.

 

  1. FOOD

 

The key here is rather simple, but isn’t all that easy if you aren’t a connoisseur in the kitchen. The secret is to cook at home. FOR EVERY MEAL. It might not seem like a big deal to go out to eat, even if it’s only once a week, but here in LA, a CHEAP meal is going to run you $15+. For those of you who don’t do a lot of grocery shopping, if you play your cards right, $15 can get you enough ingredients to make a week’s worth of meals.

The trick here is to be mindful of price tags when you go to the grocery store. It’s great if you want to eat all-natural, organic foods (you should definitely make sure to provide yourself with plenty of fresh, healthy options: it’s cheaper to eat well then to go see the doctor) but buying organic for everything is not necessary, nor does it do much good for your wallet. If you’re really concerned about pesticides and chemicals, do a simple google search for what foods you should buy organic, and which are okay to buy normally.

Know which stores have cheaper prices on what. Here’s the deal: I don’t know why, but every grocery store has that one thing, or that one category of thing that is slightly cheaper than most of the other stores nearby. It’s how they retain customers against the competition. It’s good to be observant of prices and figure out which stores offer the best deals on what. In general, weekday mornings (especially the beginning of the week) tend to offer the best and lowest deals on things like produce. Also, this tends to be the time with the fewest number of people in the store, so if you can go in the mornings during the week, I highly recommend it. However, spending precious gas to drive from one store to another for five cents difference on an item is counterproductive, so plan out your grocery store trips and always be looking for the lesser of two evils.

Meat: always buy meat on sale. Freeze everything! (Just make sure it’s sealed well). On the weekends (or on the days when you have the most flexible/free time) cook in bulk: make meals with multiple servings, then freeze the extra food in one serving packages as fast go-to meals later. Only buy what you know you’re going to eat! This means planning meals ahead of time and only buying ingredients for those meals, plus staples that you know you will use for snacks/on-the-run bites-to-eat like milk, cereal, bread, mac’n’cheese, etc.

 

  1. CAR/TRAVEL

There is absolutely no way getting around LA without a car. I mean, people do it, but we’re talking HOURS spent planning out bus routes and waiting/walking to public transportation. The truth is, getting around LA is going to cost you money no matter what, but there are a few things you can do to ease the pocket pain:

#1. Buy a Costco membership. Considering the cheap prices for things that are nice to have in bulk, like personal hygiene items and vitamins, it’s worth the $50. Also, with a Costco card, you can use their gas station, which is always at least 10 cents cheaper a gallon than any other local gas station. Not to mention, if you sign up for the American Express card and use it for purchases, you get points back that go towards a monetary refund at the end of the year (so with enough purchases, your membership can be free).

#2. Be mindful of when it is useful to take the metro. For instance, (so long as you have a place to park your car where you don’t have to worry about getting ticketed for street cleaning, etc.) there are bus lines that will take you pretty much directly to the airport, meaning–should you ever decide to fly out on a weekend trip, or for the holidays–instead of spending $12/day on parking at LAX, you can spend $1 on a bus ride that will take you to the LAX parking lot, where you can catch a free shuttle to your terminal. If you want to spend the day up in Hollywood, or you’re taking an improv class up there, or going to see a movie at the Egyptian theater, or whatever (there are many more reasons to avoid Hollywood, rather than spend time there) and you have a few hours to kill, it might be worth the time to drive to your nearest train station (there is usually a free parking lot for metro users near the station) and spend the $1.50 to take the train up to the Hollywood exit. $3.00 for a round trip ride and two hours of travel time (especially if you have a book or something you can work on in the mean time) is definitely worth it to avoid getting screwed over by the ridiculously expensive parking fees (If you decide to go anywhere remotely tourist-y, expect to pay  at LEAST $10 to park. LA makes a killing off of screwing tourists over, and unfortunately locals have to deal with the prices as well because if it.) Also, car pool when you can! Sharing the burden of parking expenses is always a good alternative.

#3. Avoid the freeways when possible. I’ll admit, LA can be a stressful city to drive in. People are much bolder in their willingness to squeeze past vehicles on small streets, and speed down roads. However, people also tend to be much better at defensive driving, and, considering the number of vehicles on the road everyday, the number of car wrecks is surprisingly low in comparison to other cities. However, if there’s one place in LA where people tend to drive more recklessly, and where getting into an accident is significantly more dangerous and terrifying, it’s the LA freeways. This is because the combination of speeding, high volume of cars, and too few exit options (meaning, if you miss your exit, it’s that much harder to get turned around and back track) results in a massive (pardon my french) shit show of cars weaving in and out of almost solid blocks of metal going 80-90 mph, attempting to get to their exit smoothly and at the fastest pace possible. If you want to save yourself the cost of taking your car into the shop after a wreck, avoid the freeways unless it’s like 6 am.

  1. ENTERTAINMENT

This one is tough, because nearly everything in LA costs money, even if it’s just for parking. And while I don’t think it’s wise for everyone to just stay home all the time and never socialize (you’ll wind up hating living here and never make any friends if you do that) it’s also not wise to say yes every time someone suggests you go see a movie, or go out to dinner. There are lots of things you can do for cheap around LA: class by donation yoga (where you can park your car in a garage for an hour and half for free), hiking, Griffith observatory, the Getty (though you do have to pay for parking), the beach (as long as you don’t mind a bit of a trek, if you’re lucky and savvy enough, you can find free street parking), going to a taping of a TV show, sometimes even improv or stand-up comedy shows. You just have to do your research. However, make sure to set aside some money (and be willing to spend it!) to do things with your friends that do cost money. Just remember to be smart about your spending: go out for drinks during happy hour, so you can get the best deal on what you want to eat and drink. Don’t buy fancy cocktails (mixed drinks are always the most expensive things on the menu–unless they sell high-end wine) unless you only want one drink and then you stop. If you want to go see a movie, choose wisely: remember this is the heart of the entertainment industry, so you can often get your hands on screeners of films vying for Oscar nominations. However, if you can’t, or if you just really want to see it on the big screen, keep your eyes peeled and your ears open for deals on special screenings, like AFI nights, or premiers. If you don’t even have access to those (either you have zero connections to the entertainment industry, or you just have no luck looking) shop around for the best movie theater deal. I’ve heard that–if you already have, or are willing to pay for the season pass to Universal Studios (it costs the same as a day pass, so might as well get the whole season) the AMC on the lot is a pretty good deal and validates parking.

  1. HOUSEHOLD FURNISHING/SHOPPING

There really isn’t a lot of this that you probably need to do. If, like me, you moved here from out of state, you probably didn’t bring a whole lot with you. Wait to purchase things until you find long-term housing. Often you will find roommates who are either from instate, or have lived here long enough to purchase things like couches and tables. Most apartments come with kitchen appliances, and once in a blue moon you can find furnished apartments. When you do need to purchase items, there really are pretty much three go-to sources that will help you find what you need at the cheapest price: Costco, Ikea, and Craigslist.  Craigslist is a good place to start for things that can be cleaned up and you don’t have to worry about where they’ve been, like dressers, tables, and light fixtures. People are moving in and out of LA all the time and don’t want to spend money on moving items with them, so often you can find great deals on furniture here. Ikea is great for bigger furniture investments, like beds and couches, because, along with typically being a good deal and fair price, this furniture is also designed to be space-conserving, so if you wind up moving to a smaller apartment, you don’t have to worry about getting new furniture. Costco is great for those smaller things that you don’t think about right away but will wind up realizing you need, like kitchen utensils, cleaning appliances, and things like humidifiers. Just make sure to double check Amazon to get the best deals on pricing.

For fear that this post is already a novel, I’m going to stop there with the advice. That covers pretty much all of the basics of what spending tends to look like out here. I’m no coupon queen, and I haven’t researched stores for the best deals on everything. I’m sure there are lots of other secrets to living in LA cheaply that I haven’t come across yet. If you’re reading this and you have any suggestions, or if you’re curious to know about something I haven’t covered in this post, leave me a comment in the comments section and I’ll try to answer it, or feature your suggestion in a later post.

-tlc

A Wandering Thought

So I’ve been out on the West Coast long enough now to warrant a visit home. Granted, it was a short weekend trip, but well worth it to spend time with my family, my adorkably chubby baby nephew, and the freeing spaciousness that is Kansas City. Nothing gets you homesick quite like the stark contrast between the peace and quiet of a spacious suburban home and the never-ending cluster(ahem) that is LA.

Before now, I’d never really considered the qualities that make Kansas City such an awesome place to live: Quiet, plenty of parking, low city traffic (rush hour there is like off-hours here), good neighborhoods, beautiful fall weather, and plenty of space. All this Royals pride with the team headed to the World Series (who0ddah thunk?) is great, too–apparently they’ve dyed the water blue in every fountain in the city; a daunting task for America’s city of fountains.

It made returning to LA–despite the sun and the beach and the mountains–that much harder. It’s difficult to leave everyone you love (and who loves you) and everything you’ve known growing up and find comfort in a place where you know so few people. I’ve been lucky enough to meet very kind and generous people and make a handful of friends very quickly, but when–as they say–old friends are good friends, and old friends take time, it’s difficult to feel that I have a place in LA.

In a way, I am a sort of vagabond–My housing situation is short term, and I don’t have a steady, paying job–this contributes to the lack of home feeling. But, this seems to be the way with most people in LA–hardly anyone is actually from here. As I once heard someone say, LA is a city made up of orphans. Perhaps that’s why we’re here, in the city of Angels. We’re all seeking our own to guide us.

Now obviously I’m not actually an orphan, but sometimes it can feel this way when you’ve traveled far from home and are living on your own. What’s nice is that since most of us are orphans, it’s a bit of a point of bonding. People band together when they know they are alone in the same ways. I went to a church service last night and felt surprisingly at home–the service was filled with many young people working in some respect in the entertainment industry, and without speaking to anyone, I could just feel that we were all seeking the same thing.

No, not glamour or money (though a little bit of the latter would be nice). We’re all seeking a community. A safe space to call home and validate our place in this city.

LA is like the Regina George of cities: she’ll invite you in and include you if she thinks you’ll benefit her in some way, or she’ll compliment you on your ugly skirt that no one actually likes.

Or maybe LA only seems like Regina George. Because I seem to think she’s much nicer once you get to know her. I’ll have to give it time, though, because I can’t confirm either way at the moment.

No matter where I end up after December, I know I want to be a writer, and I have found a home in my pursuit of that career. So in a way, no matter where I am, I can always take comfort in that. And I’m trying to measure my success less on the accomplishments, jobs, and responsibilities I’m gaining (or not gaining) right now, and focusing more on the journey. This is some advice that I’m trying to follow right now, and maybe it’ll be good for you, too: Don’t compare yourself to others when measuring your success. Have goals for yourself and the ambition to go for them, and plan far enough into the future to help you achieve those goals, but don’t think too much about the future. Enjoy everyday, enjoy the moment, and glean everything you can from your experiences right now. Hope for opportunities, but know that if you’re open to it, life will steer you in the direction you’re meant to roam, be that what you had in mind or not at all.

I’m learning that success is not how much money you have, or where you live, or who you are–success is being surrounded by the ones you love and who love you. Right now I’m feeling pretty unsuccessful, but I know that the ones I love are excited for me and supporting and so, even though I’m not physically surrounded by them, I feel their love. And I hope, no matter where I end up, that I can grow and share that loves with others.

Maybe someday I’ll be successful. Maybe you will be, too.

Until next Thursday,

Yours truly,

tlc