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My First 3 Months in LA: Isabel Maina

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My First 3 Months in LA: Isabel Maina

Picture courtesy of Jeff Gunn

My First 3 Months in LA: Isabel Maina

Before even moving out to Los Angeles, I encountered troubles. I was moving out with a high school friend and we couldn’t, for the life…

Before even moving out to Los Angeles, I encountered troubles. I was moving out with a high school friend and we couldn’t, for the life of us, find an apartment. We’re both from Rhode Island, so our only options for apartment searching was to use websites such as apartments.com, rent.com, zillow.com, and try to converse with landlords over email or phone.

We started searching in June of 2016, when we actually had a third roommate. We were planning to move around the beginning of August. The three of us found a place, but then the third roommate backed out, leaving my friend and I forced to start over. There was no way we were going to be moving during the summer. So we gave ourselves a few months and said we would try to find an apartment to move into by October.

Long story, short, that didn’t work. We realized that the only way we would ever find a place to live was being in LA. So, my friend and her father went out for a couple weeks in October to look at places. I would be flying out at the end of that period if they were able to find something. They did. But the lease didn’t start until December. We contemplated whether it was worth waiting another month and a half to go, and ultimately we decided it would be the better option to sign that lease and stay in Rhode Island a little longer.

How to Pack for your Move

Packing was harder than I thought it would be. There’s no “how-to” on packing your entire life to move to the other side of the country. I was also flying, so I had a limit to two checked bags and a carry on. On a side note, I used Southwest, which allows the two free checked bags. Their ticket prices are also the lowest I had found, and if you need to change your flight dates, like I had to, you can cancel your flight. Southwest saves the funds used for the ticket(s) and you can use it to purchase another flight from their website.

Anyway, throughout the year I had given away a lot of things. That’s something that everyone should do before moving–get rid of anything that you don’t need or can’t bring with you. I put any remaining personal things I couldn’t bring with me to LA in storage boxes and brought them to my dad’s house. When packing to leave, I only brought clothes I knew I would need and left any leftover clothes at home, which my mom would send out in small installments over the coming months. I moved here in December, so I mostly brought jeans, sweaters, long-sleeve shirts, and some t-shirts too, just in case it got really warm. I also brought a few jackets, because it did get chilly, especially at night. Work out clothes is a must, because hiking is something a lot of people do here. Make sure to also bring clothes appropriate for interviews or for working in an office setting.

My Arrival

I arrived in LA with about $3000 to my name (first month’s rent and deposit had already been paid for). My friend and I really lucked out with our apartment. We were able to buy things off the previous owners, which gave us a nearly furnished apartment. We were also in a great part of West Hollywood and our rent was definitely on the lower side. The apartment was found on Westside Rentals, but again, we learned that you have to be in LA to actually secure a place. Like I said, we lucked out, so know that finding a furnished and cheap apartment isn’t something you encounter often. But if you do, take advantage of it. Otherwise, furniture can be bought at Ikea (which is where I got my bed). Target is also a good place. Check out antique stores or Good Will stores, you could always find something worthwhile there.

The first month was terrible, I’m not going to lie. Within the first week, my phone was stolen and my computer’s hard-drive failed. I was lucky that my mom was able to order me a new phone ASAP. The computer however, took at least a few weeks to actually fix. All my pictures, videos, documents and music are stuck on the broken hard-drive until I am able to afford to get it extracted. But, at least I had a working computer. During that three week period of me not having a computer, I went to the West Hollywood Public Library almost every day. I got myself a library card so I could use one of their laptops from opening to closing. Every day I applied to jobs, using entertainmentcareers.net, craigslist.com, linkedin.com and just looking at every TV network website I knew of.

Why I Moved to LA

This is probably a good time to say why I moved out to LA.

I graduated from college last May with two BA degrees in Elementary Education and English. But the real reason I moved to LA? To write for television. I have wanted to be a writer since I was seven years old. It wasn’t until end of high school/beginning of college that I knew I specifically wanted to write for television, but nevertheless, I always had a passion for storytelling. During college I was able to take a couple of film classes, but unfortunately wasn’t able to add a minor or anything because of my already busy schedule. Before my move to LA I was able to make a couple connections in the industry through mutual friends, which reassured me a little, because at least I knew someone. Even though that was my dream, I made sure to apply for a California teaching credential and apply for employment in LAUSD. I am almost technically an employee of the district, but still have a few medical/paperwork things to do for me to be an employee and have the ability to substitute teach and apply for full-time positions.

My First Month

So, back to that terrible first month. It didn’t help that I was away from my family on Christmas for the first time in my life. It also didn’t help that LA weather is not at all “wintery” when it comes to my experience with winter. I was missing the cold, I was missing the snow and I was missing the time I would spend with my family. So, Christmas was definitely not a fun day, for either me or my friend. I also didn’t have any kind of job yet, not even a part-time one, so I was freaking out about running out of money. I even made a spreadsheet so I could always keep track of how much money I had in the bank. I definitely also cried quite a lot.

The awful feeling of impending broke-ness carried on into January. Until my friend/roommate told me about a temp agency she had applied to and was hired at. So I applied, had an interview, and was hired. In hindsight, I wish I knew about this before I moved out, because then I would have at least had an income as soon as I moved to the city. For anyone coming out to LA with no job and a fear of running out of money while frantically looking for a job, check out Robert Half. Submit your resumes to a bunch of positions in the “office and administrative” category (which is the one I submitted resumes to), and within a few days, you’ll get a call to set up an interview. In January, I only got one job and I had to push them to say that I was available and would take anything, and come end of January, the jobs were coming in. I have worked consistently since then, so it’s basically a full-time job even though it has been a few temp jobs. Regarding the teaching, I have kind of put that to the backburner, but am hoping to get everything done by the end of the month.

I also moved out to LA without a car, which I’ve been told is a necessity here. But now, with Uber and Lyft, it really isn’t. That is what I use to get to where I need to go and it’s easy, comfortable and efficient–well, just as efficient as having your own car or taking the bus. The traffic can be hell here. I always do the carpool, because 1) it’s the cheapest and 2) you can meet some really cool people. It’s also good to let you know that parking can be a bitch. The signs can be confusing at times, because there can be multiple in one small area. Parking is also usually only one or two hours and run on parking meters, which you pay for. But be careful. I can’t emphasize enough, read the signs. Or else you’ll be handed a nice, pricey parking ticket. Luckily, my friend, who has a car, hasn’t gotten one yet.

My Overall Thoughts So Far

That feeling of eventually becoming broke? It’s still there. But luckily I now have consistent income and have restrict my spending (including canceling subscriptions I didn’t need), so I am able to stay on top of all my bills. I’m still applying for full-time jobs while working and writing. I actually had an interview a couple weeks ago at a big television/film company and should get a reply any day now to whether I’ll be moving on with the interviewing process. I’m crossing my fingers!!

Now it’s March, it has been three months since I moved to LA. I am finally settling in, and I cry a lot less than I did in the beginning. I remember people telling me I was being brave for moving out to LA with no job, never having visited the city before, and being thousands of miles away from home. Looking back, yeah, I guess I was. I didn’t realize it when I was in a pool of tears because I thought I wouldn’t make it, but now that things are starting to work out, I’m like, “Shit…I guess I was being brave.”

Just the thought of wanting to move to a different place to follow your dreams, that takes bravery. Wanting something different, knowing that where you are isn’t where you want to be. Never stop yourself from thinking those things, never stop yourself from doubting whether you’ll ever actually do it–or have others doubt that you will. Prove them wrong.  Show them that in the face of uncertainty, you were brave, even if it takes a few crying sessions to figure that out.

Isabel Maina

Isabel Maina is a writer originally from Rhode Island and has recently moved to Los Angeles. You can learn more about her and her work here.

10 Comments

10 Comments

  1. Rell

    August 28, 2017 at 4:39 pm

    Nice story how you liking it so far? I moved here in 2014

    • LaTonia Thedford

      August 31, 2017 at 9:56 pm

      love your story 🙂

  2. Chanice

    August 28, 2017 at 6:28 pm

    Very inspirational, I am from Toronto and my dream is to move to LA to pursue Acting.

  3. Jessie

    August 28, 2017 at 8:17 pm

    I cried a lot in my first few months as well. I still cry (6 months in), but not as often.

    Awesome to you for cutting back on spending! That’s been my biggest thing here – staying conscious to not fall into the spending trap.

  4. Takara Sights

    August 28, 2017 at 9:24 pm

    This reminds me of my story 🙂 I’m 1.5 months into my new LA life and my computer also failed the first couple of weeks. Sometimes when we level up in life we get a small shit storm just to make sure we’re ready! You sound awesome, keep living the dream!

  5. David Perry

    August 29, 2017 at 10:27 pm

    Thanks so much for sharing. I feel so much more motivated and excited about moving to LA next summer.

  6. Wend Mar

    August 30, 2017 at 3:13 pm

    Thanks for your courage and story. You motivated me!

  7. Adriana

    September 6, 2017 at 8:39 pm

    Thank you for sharing your story with us Isabel! I just moved here on the 26th (of August) and i’m not going to like i have cried three times so far, but i’m confident everything will work out, because everything always does at the end! Hang in there it sounds that you’re doing good! I would love to meet you and have a cup of coffee (or tea for me) lol.

  8. Le'Marcel

    September 12, 2017 at 2:41 am

    Thank you for the inspirational true story. I am honestly going through hell trying to relocate now. I am very happy to see things are working out for you. I truly believe that I have to be in LA to secure a place, finding a place is a struggle for me now and trying to land a job. I am moving there to act and do pop music. With your story, I know everything will work out. sadly I am only in Vegas and experiencing the same thing.

    Le’Marcel

  9. Randya Allen

    September 17, 2017 at 3:27 pm

    Omg this is LITERALLY my story to a tee. I am a recent grad (hey, English major!) though I’m only just going into my third week here. I’m with my sister and though I’ve had a mini cry so far I know we’re gonna be okay! I’m working on a blog and your story has inspired me to definitely put it there! Sending you positive vibes on your journey!

    -Randya

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