I’m moving to LA from Indiana in a month, and it’s slightly terrifying to me. So what do I do when I’m afraid? I let that inner Boy Scout out and prepare for every single possible circumstance that might have even the slightest chance of popping up and derailing my journey.
My best friend, Tory, has been in LA for four years, and my relationship with him coupled with the visit I made last summer have given me just the tiniest taste of the big life changes that are headed my way when I make my big location change. Here are some of the things I’m doing to get ready to live in Los Angeles after twenty-five years in the sleepy Midwest.
Get ready to spend a lot of time in the car. This was perhaps the first and most important thing I learned about Los Angeles. Thanks to something called the Great American Streetcar Scandal (which sounds like a film noir by Christopher Nolan starring the cast of Die Hard), driving your car is pretty much the way most people get around in LA. Tory always called me while commuting, and we were able to have hour-long conversations without him leaving the driver’s seat.
If you live in suburbia like me and are used to getting wherever you want to go in twenty minutes and spending literally zero of that time behind another car, you’re about to be extremely frustrated. So you need to be ready to stay sane in the car. I’ve been collecting good podcasts that I enjoy, figuring out the NPR affiliates in LA, and learning to leave my phone calls for time in the car. This will help you feel like you are using your time efficiently, and at a time when you’re trying to juggle multiple part time jobs or take classes on the side, that feeling can save you untold stress.
This isn’t Pleasantville; stuff is expensive. The days of walking down to the corner store for a ten-cent cup of coffee and a $.99 sandwich are long gone. Everything is more expensive in Los Angeles, especially if you’re from the Midwest. The price of milk (which I don’t even drink, but seems to be a useful metric for understanding inflation these days) has steadily risen in Indianapolis for the last few years, but it’s nothing compared to how much more it is in LA. In fact, this holds true for all groceries. And fast food. And gas. And housing. And just about everything else.
I’m sure someone has detailed another Streetcar Scandal-like scenario in which the dairy lobby has conspired to cheat Angelinos out of their hard-earned dollars by jacking up milk prices, but this isn’t really something to get upset about – things are just more expensive, and you deal with it. Getting upset about it won’t help you when you’ve failed to budget enough for food and you’re eating Ramen and old protein powder for the last four days of the month. A little bit of planning, adding that extra thirty or forty bucks onto your grocery or gas budget, will save you tons of headaches.
You know how everyone dresses at your local Wal-Mart? Yeah, don’t do that. Tory and I were roommates in college, and I saw him get dressed up maybe four times in three years. But when he moved to LA, he was always wearing nice shirts and dress shoes and I wondered what the city had done to my hoodie-wearing, dress pants-eschewing best friend. It turns out that the standard of dress is just a tad bit swankier in Culver City, California than it is at the Meijer on West 38th Street in Indianapolis. Your reputation and the way people perceive you is going to be vitally important, especially if your intended profession lies primarily in networking, so dress the way you want to be seen. Buy an iron. Start wearing a comfortable pair of oxfords instead of those ratty Chuck Taylors. Get a nice suit jacket, one that goes with a pair of dark wash jeans and button-up shirt. In short, look sharp.
The great part about this is that so much business is done in business-casual attire. Despite its popular reputation (graciously communicated to me by my dear sweet mother), Los Angeles isn’t a soulless, plastic town where you have to be fake to get by. When I walked the streets of West Hollywood, despite the bustle and activity, I felt comfortable, welcome, and not out of place. The atmosphere is busy for sure, but it’s also organic, flexible, breathable. Be yourself and look good doing it.
A short memory is your best friend. Both before you go and when you get there, the ability to forget nearly everything that happened to you yesterday will be a trusty companion. Last week, I woke up one morning before work and the first thing I thought was, “I am going to move LA, run out of money, and die on the street.” And then the next morning I woke up and thought, “I am so excited to get to LA and show that town what I’ve got!” Pretty much every day I change my mind about how confident I am in my choice to move to LA. But you know what? Every day I forget all the stuff I thought yesterday and focus on today. I can control today. I can control the hard work I put in, and the way I respond to the challenges and triumphs of the present.
Yesterday might as well not exist, especially when you’re scratching and clawing to make it in a brand new place like LA. You got a ticket yesterday and your rent was due and you only had $7.34 for groceries for the whole week? Flush it. Today’s a new day with new opportunities. Your article got published and someone paid for your coffee? Celebrate for 5 minutes and then get back to work. LA is a place where you have no inertia – neither negative nor positive. If you want to forge ahead, you’ve got to keep chugging, and if you’ve had a setback, it only takes a little bit of forward motion to right the ship and get sailing in the right direction.
You can make it in LA. I can make it in LA. And we’ll help ourselves out by always being prepared, because, like George Watsky says, the moral of the story is work.