Moving to L.A. is scarier than you may realize. Not just because you are moving across the country, but also because you are moving to a city that doesn’t make sense for at least the first year that you live here. As an organized, highly motivated, new Los Angeleno, you probably think you’ve got it all covered. You found the apartment, you managed to get all of your stuff across the country, and now… you are here! Congratulations. But now the real work starts. As it turns out, moving to L.A. is much easier than living here.
As someone who moved to L.A. 16 months ago from Chicago, I’m by no means an expert, but this city is finally starting to make sense to me. Because I flailed around before getting into the groove of living here, I wanted to offer some advice to newbies that I wish I had read this time last year.
Challenge #1: Remembering why you are here.
It can be surprisingly easy to lose sight of why you moved to L.A. Maybe you came out here to pursue your dream of acting and as soon as you talked to a few casting directors, lost all hope and decided to try to be a business woman. Maybe you came out here to be a writer, but then you got distracted by your very comfortable, non-judgmental couch and now spend all of your time napping rather than writing. Maybe you discovered the beach and, realizing you had found paradise, chucked all of your goals into the ocean.
Quick fix: Make a vision board. Seriously. Make it huge and put it somewhere where you can see it everyday. Write down helpful analogies. Imagine that all of the actors in L.A. are pieces of crushed ice in a glass and you are just waiting for your turn to float to the top, which will be any second now. Use any analogy that reminds you that the world and the industry are bigger than the one or two people who told you “no thank you.” Remind yourself that, even though you have to start over here, and starting over sucks, that doesn’t mean you should just give up. There actually is hope (but only if you try) and whatever work you put in will be worth it.
Challenge #2: Meeting people.
As a new person in L.A., it can be shockingly easy to stay in your own bubble, rather than going out to meet new people. This is especially true if you are a mildly cynical, introverted person who would rather pull your hair out than engage in small talk. Meeting people here is hard. It is physically sprawled out, most people are transplants with few deep community ties and everyone expects flakiness as the norm.
Quick fix: When people offer to get coffee with you, get coffee. When people invite you to something, say yes. When you meet someone new and interesting, invite that person to do something. It may seem insignificant to turn one person down or to flake on one thing, but it isn’t; not when you are new. Every new connection you make means something and will add to your sense of feeling like you belong here. If you simply avoid making connections, it will take you ages to feel at home and you’ll miss out on some potentially really great new friendships.
Challenge #3: Getting involved in a new city.
In your former city, you had a lot of stuff to do. You knew where to get coffee and brunch and who to hang out with. You knew the best bars and comedy shows and even where to find good bagels. In L.A., you won’t know any of that, and going out to find these things can seem so daunting at times that you will just stay home “to put that pile of clothes away” and turn on Netflix and open a bottle of wine.
Quick fix: Get out of the house. Remind yourself: you can drink wine and watch Netflix anywhere, so why are you paying unreasonable rent to live in L.A.? You could easily be living in the middle of the country, or even on a desert island somewhere if you’re just going to stay at home all day. In much the same way that meeting people makes you feel at home in a new place, knowing where your favorite things are and having actual activities to do will make you feel at home too.
Warning: Even the most astute, self-reflective person may not realize that he or she has become a hermit, especially because there is so much “moving in” stuff that you can use to bury the fact that you are being a total anti-social cave-dweller. Here are a few signs that you have slunk into a dark hole of isolation.
- You haven’t talked to another human being (outside of coworkers) in over 24 hours.
- Your trashcan is full to the brim with takeout containers.
- You know the names of the dogs in your neighborhood, but you haven’t met any of your human neighbors yet.
- The people who live next to you say something to the effect of “wow, you’re always home!”
- You have a car but you’ve only refilled your gas tank a handful of times.
- You used to hate domestic stuff like baking, but suddenly you are baking 3-4 cakes a day from scratch and you have “no idea where you find the time!”
- You are caught up on all of your favorite shows.
Conclusion: The point of all of this is not to scare you. I’m not saying that if you move to L.A., you will become a housewife who has thrown away all of her goals to sit in a high-rent apartment and watch TV within a few months. I’m saying that you could become that. The antidote to the challenges of living here is just to push yourself. Moving is stressful and you won’t want to push yourself, you will want to relax and pat yourself on the back for making it to the West Coast. But you have to push yourself. When your instinct is to say no, or stay in, or give up, you have to push past it and keep going. The smallest triumph when you are new can snowball into something amazing if you keep moving forward. So just keep moving forward. You can do it, really.