Mac’N’Cheese…With Friends!

I’m sitting in my good friend Joel’s apartment, which used to be my cousin Willie’s and my good friend Joel’s apartment, as I try to come up with an idea for this week’s blog post. The living room seems wider now, since the big squishy couch my cousin owned isn’t here anymore. I’m sitting at a standing desk that’s operating as a dining room table, finding the rhythm of the swaying table top as both Joel and I type away at our laptops. It is truly a low-key night, and I love that.

I know, it sounds boring and uneventful. But nights such as this really floor me. Let me explain; A little over a year ago I moved out to LA, not knowing anyone–not even my cousin! And in that whirlwind of a year I have met so many people and experienced so many things, and it really pleases me to no end that I have made friends that I know well enough to literally drive over to their place, ask for their WiFi password, and then not talk to them for hours at a time.

True friendship, everybody.

I think everyone needs nights like this sometimes. I know I really needed it, having just flew back into LA yesterday from an extended vacation home, and having no current job to go to for social interaction. In what can be a really lonely city, it’s wonderful to be reminded that you aren’t alone.

It’s strange, because–even though leaving Kansas was just as hard as it always is–I no longer feel like a fish out of water here. I am finding a sense of place and belonging in this city that I haven’t experienced up to this point. Kansas has begun to feel a little foreign, with the sleepy drivers and long miles of endless prairie grass. The city sirens and the tiny Mexican man who pushes a grocery cart full of plastic bottles down my street everyday feel normal. They fit into this idea of what my neighborhood is, and it has a quiet feel of home, which is comforting.

For once, I don’t hate LA. I hope that this feeling lasts, and only continues to grow.

-tlc

Everything Is Going To Be Okay

Earlier this morning a friend sent me this graphic about several of my favorite success stories and where they were at 23 years old. Even though others’ failure shouldn’t be a comfort to me, knowing how far all of these people went to change the world (in their own respective ways) is reassuring. So many of us leave college feeling as though we have to have a life plan; as if our time to discover ourselves and build our career is extremely limited, and if we haven’t found ourselves and laid the foundation for our futures by the time we’re 24 or 25 we’ll never find success.

I’m learning very quickly that success isn’t necessarily a number on a paycheck. Success is living a life and lifestyle that makes your happy. Success is putting things out into the world that you are proud of. This doesn’t have to be physical objects, but can be actions, lessons, or the way you treat other people. All of these things have the ability to impact those around you.

So, to keep this post brief, here’s something I’ve learned just from contemplating this graphic:

1) Success means taking risks. If you don’t put yourself out there, if you don’t take a chance on your dreams, you’ll never achieve your goals. As the saying goes, you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take. I know it’s scary to go out on a limb away from any sort of familial or financial safety net, but if you don’t do it, you’ll never get where you want to go.

2) Failure isn’t the end. If this graphic isn’t the perfect example of that, just go read up on all the statistics about Donald Trump filing for bankruptcy. (Not that Trump is a great example of success by any means, but he’s still stinking rich.) The world keeps turning, even after it feels like it should stop. In your darkest moments, this may be a terrible reality, but time does indeed heal all wounds, and someday you will be grateful that life allows us to reinvent ourselves over, and over, and over again.

3) Change is necessary. All of these people made changes in their lives to get where they are today. You can’t expect to have different results if you try the same things over and over again. Sometimes this is really hard to hear, and even harder to put into practice. Especially as a writer, I understand the pain of spending so much time on one project, only to realize afterwards that I’m not getting the results I want with it. Starting over is difficult. Throwing out things you’re attached to so that you can make room for a fresh perspective is challenging. But nobody ever said life was easy.

So there you have it. Everything I gleaned from a simple internet graphic. Too bad most internet graphics spread stereotypes, not positive reinforcement. But that’s another post entirely.

Yours truly,

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

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

LA so Far

I’ve been thinking about how best to describe Southern California and the people of Los Angeles. In a city so big, it’s hard to pick a place to start, and accurate generalizations are even more difficult to pinpoint. It’s taken me a few days of thinking about this to really lay down my thoughts, and in some cases, I still feel that they come off very cynical. It’s really not that I don’t like living in Los Angeles—it’s just that it’s far different from anything I’ve ever been used to, and still more different that anything I could ever have expected.

People have been asking me what I think of Los Angeles so far, and I still don’t know what to tell them. I think they expect me to rattle off straight away something along the lines of, “Oh, I love it!” or “It’s great!” like you rattle off “I’m good, how are you?” whether or not you’re actually good. When I pause, they immediately assume I hate it, and then I’m left having to defend my moment of hesitation when I still don’t know what to say about it.

The truth is, I’m still not sure how I feel about this city. I don’t hate it, but I didn’t fall in love with it the way I fell in love with London and Edinburgh. This might partly be because I came out here alone, with hardly any specific plans, and no SoCal enthusiasts to show me around. I think it’s also partly because I’m not sure that a SoCal enthusiast exists—just a lot of people who hate inconvenient weather and enjoy the beach.

There are other reasons for it, too, though—the difficulty of living here, not only because the cost of living is outrageous for someone used to a Midwest standard of living like myself (especially when you’re not getting paid for 90% of the work you do during the week), but because just finding a place to live and reasonable roommates is like threading a camel through the eye of a needle (that’s not a saying, is it?). Everyone wants to live on the West Coast, and LA seems to be the center of everything West Coast, so real estate goes faster than a forest fire here.

On top of that, I’m adjusting to living in the real world—struggling with the frustrating politics and responsibilities that come with adult life, paying bills, and keeping track of everything. I don’t really feel like I’ve had time to let myself enjoy the city, or even really think about the fact that I’m in LA, which means there are literally thousands of opportunities open to me that wouldn’t be back in the Midwest.

So no, I do not love living in LA. I’ve barely gotten to know the place (…is it starting to sound like I’m dating the city?)—but I don’t hate it, either. I miss my family, and I miss my friends, and I miss the quiet tranquility that a Kansas evening can offer. But I like the realm of possibility in LA. I like that nobody here thinks I’m crazy for moving so far away. I like that nobody here thinks its weird when I say I’m trying to work in the industry. I like that 99% of the people I meet have creative minds and want to pursue creative work like me. There’s a lot of opportunity in acquaintances that way. LA might not be the city that never sleeps (people are in bed by eleven and not up till noon here) but it is fast-paced. If I want to make a living as a writer, this is the city to get me started.

So long answer short—What do I think of the city so far? I’m still figuring it all out, but I like where it’s going.

 

Until next Thursday,

tlc

Why being an extroverted introvert is just the worst

I’m sorry, I’m having difficulty concentrating on this post because I’m lost in all the spooky, campy goodness that is Disney’s Tower of Terror.

That’s what happens when you are your own entire category of social habitry that you’ve made up to describe your inconsistent social tendencies–you try to type a blog and reminisce in childhood Disney nostalgia at the same time.

Man, that was a lot of ‘your’s and ‘you’s in that one sentence.

Being an ‘extroverted introvert’ probably seems paradoxical.  In a lot of ways, it is.  But all it really means is that I still pick being a kid versus actually doing adult things like ‘going out’ or ‘talking to people’.

But seriously, life is hard when you want to be a hermit, but you get too lonely to do so.

Probably the hardest part of being an extroverted introvert is the fact that you’re good at neither.  All of your life plans seem a bit out of your control. And the few that are in your control, you happen to mess up, anyways.  Let me give you a few examples of what it’s like to be an extroverted introvert:

1) You have zero plans, all the time.  And the one night you’re actually looking forward to your zero plans, at least five different people text you asking if you want to make plans.

2) You forget your phone in the car, or the bedroom, or just generally your phone is anywhere but with you the entire day, and when you finally find it and check your missed messages, you find that no one has contacted to you all day.

3) You find yourself unable to sympathize with anyone.

4) You find yourself able to reason with those who are unable to sympathize with anyone.

5) Your best friend is a dog that doesn’t live with you.

6) You are great with kids and can hold intellectual conversation with persons 10+ years older than yourself, but you have no idea how to talk to people your own age.

7) You don’t understand today’s rap lyrics.

8) People come to you for advice on things that you have absolutely no authority or experience with because you’ve spent so much time contemplating life in general that you are a quantifiable expert on all things big and small.

9) You find every encounter with the opposite sex, and most encounters with the same sex, painfully awkward.

10) Your life is Chandler Bing, period.

And that’s just the short version.  A more in-depth description of my life would also involve intense Youtube surfing, speaking like a stanza of a Lewis Carroll poem, and the sad realization that real-life celebrities are not as fascinating as their character counter-parts.  Sometimes I ask myself, “How did I become this way?” and then I realize I’m speaking out loud, and I should probably stop before I become certifiably crazy.

But really, the worst part about being an extroverted introvert is that no matter how hard you try or don’t try, making friends or getting rid of them just never works.  It’s a double-edged sword of loneliness and failed attempts at hermit-ness.

Oh, life. How you tease me.

That’s really all I had to say.  I’m going to go sit in a corner and pretend like the world around me doesn’t exist until it’s my turn to hold my nephew again. (Babies are the best, whether you’re a hermit or not.)

Yours truly,

tlc