Los Angeles, Be Kind

I'm writing this from my new room, in my new apartment, in my new neighborhood. I've been here for about 2 weeks now. If I may toot my own horn a little bit: my room is huge and beautiful. It is highly likely this is the largest room I will ever live in. Gonig from to my tiny, absurdist 192 square foot studio to this apartment, feels like I am exhaling after one year of holding my breath.

That was a good year, though. Despite the constraints in parking and living space, it was my year out of Carson. My neighborhood was walkable, full of personality and history, and I enjoyed telling the 20+ friends I hosted on my couch about the district. My best days could be walking to the coffee shop alone, or walking to the El Rey to see a band I liked, or getting safely drunk at the little local bar. The weird stuff on La Brea that half the people just pass by and wonder about, I got to take a step inside. I still think I'll go back there, some day, when I move up in the world and can afford to live in a human-sized apartment.

As much as I liked it there, it always felt like a half measure. It was great and I was grateful, but it still didn't feel like I had attained the full, basic normalcy of adulthood that I wanted.

The constraints in parking meant I couldn't go out exactly when I wanted to without sacrificing a mile of walking. All reupping of groceries & supplies had to be done on weekend afternoons, and I scheduled my nights out to the ebb and flows of parking. I went into work late every Wednesday just so I could sneak a nearby spot after street sweeping. The constraints in living space meant I could never really cook without a stove or oven. My lack of counter space meant even making a salad took an hour, while the miniature fridge necessitated frequent trips to the market and inclined me to pre-cooked foods. I couldn't fry an egg without setting off the smoke alarm, much less initiate any kind of diet & exercise game plan. When I brought back a date, there was always the hesitance about how they'd view my stuffy, compacted living. Life was good, but it didn't feel like I had reached a new plateau.

Now, though, I think I'm there. I think the last 5 years have all led up to this moment, to a living situation like this, and I think I'm ready to begin.

When I graduated in 2009, I had vague plans of working for a year, saving up money, and then going to graduate school for writing. The economy threw a wrench into these plans. I spent 3 months unemployed, lowered my standards, and worked a minimum wage retail job for nearly a year. I applied to 3 graduate school programs and got into one, which was debilitatingly expensive. The more I looked at my prospects as a novelist (or whatever), the more I realized that this was like trying to win a lottery where the grand prize is an $7,000 advance.

So I looked for different routes. I did a few months at an unpaid magazine internship, which was a fun way to roleplay the type of life I wanted. I spent even more months floundering in another spell of unemployment and its accompanying depression as I tried to land any job that didn't sound like I was wasting my degree. I got close enough: data entry and administrative duties at an online retailer, which let me stack my savings account and build a safety net for my eventual move into the world. All the while, I was living at my parent's home, raring to get out and really, at long last, build my post-graduate life.

I know the flaw in this redemption story; I could have reached this point earlier if I had more determination and more willingness to take on risk. Others have ascended the ladder quickly simply because they seize the moment, doubts be damned. If I could forego my well-chronicled financial anxiety and my need for a safety net of savings, I probably could've been at this point in my mid-20s, instead of my late 20s. I know those are social years that I will probably never get back. I know, and I think about that a lot. I wish I didn't take this long.

But all that matters is that I'm here now and what I do with this opportunity. I've always put Los Angeles on a pedestal as my personal Big City Dream, the Center of the World. I was excited to work within its bones, and then I was ecstatic to live along its heart. It's only now that I feel like I'm really without unreasonable restraint, which is just a fancy way of saying no more excuses. There is no reason not to have the best years of my life.