I’ve experienced more growing pains my first week in LA than over the course of my entire life. A native New Yorker, I arrived here last week after months of entertaining the idea. I did a lot of legwork back in New York beforehand – ensuring a short-term roof over my head, setting up a couple of job interviews and practicing my driving (more on that in a moment). And yet, I still feel utterly unprepared for my new life in LA.
It Takes Drive Here…Really
My biggest immediate hurdle has been transportation. You have no business being in LA if you can’t drive.
New York is not a driver’s city so despite having obtained a license years back, I never had a serious incentive to know how to drive until I worked up the nerve to seriously make the move to LA – two months ago. If I had it to do over, I would have not just practiced driving, parking and maneuvering in recent weeks, but got it down to a instinctual science several months back so as not to be a Nervous Nelly on the road once I got out here (like I am now).
What Doesn’t Kill You…
I’m definitely getting my Kelly Clarkson on out here, getting stronger and flexing self-sufficient muscles I never knew I had. Being a transplant forces you to step outside your comfort zone and test your inner strength – basically grow a pair.
It’s a real cajones barometer. Familiarizing yourself with a new area takes time, and I was incredibly flustered when I first arrived in Burbank. But by day four, I knew exactly where the gym was, the Trader Joe’s, the Starbuck’s, and I have a much better sense of the streets and how to navigate them. Naturally these things make a new area feel more like home and the longer you inhabit it, the more comfortable you feel.
Who And What You Know
Thanks to a very well-placed, gracious friend-of-a-friend, I was able to set up a couple of interviews with a major studio and a network prior to my arrival. That’s a bonafide foot in the door, which is a step ahead of many but guess what? I still don’t have a job.
I want to write for scripted television, so despite my previous work experience, I’ll likely have to start over as an executive’s Assistant. Talking with those HR execs presented a much clearer picture of what it will actually take to land one of these gigs.
Sure interning as a production assistant with The Rachel Maddow Show gave me experience working in a fast-paced environment. Of course I can handle myself around celebrities after a decade in entertainment journalism. Being personable and a walking encyclopedia on television and film?
I got that.
But can I do the grunt work required of an assistant I never had to do in previous positions? Like organizing spread sheets in Excel? Or managing an appointment calendar on Outlook? Is my typing speed actually 55 words per minute or more like 33? (Let’s just say I know how I’ll be spending my weekend and it involves lots of tutorials.)
Sucking It Up
Whether or not you should come to LA without a job is tricky. The main reason it took me so long to finally take the plunge was because I was trying to avoid relocating here without one.
No one would argue that’s a big, scary (some might say stupid) step. But the truth is if I had waited until I had secure employment first, I’d still be in New York.
Of course I preferred to have a job and an apartment already in place when my plane landed, but unless you’re super lucky, it’s not likely to play out that way. I’ve resigned myself to the fact that I will be living out of a suitcase as a house guest for a bit. And forget about achieving your dream once you get to LA; to reach even your immediate objectives – like housing and income – will take tenacity, patience and perseverance.
As much as it sucks (and it sucks big time for me because I have about one nomadic bone on my body), you will indeed suffer through some discomfort in your first weeks here.
Even through the distress of having to drive, learning the lay of a new land and pulling my hair out about whether I’ll find employment before my nest egg runs out, I’m so grateful for this week. It really taught me a lot about myself and I’ve grown more here in LA in the past five days than I would have in five months back in New York. And I’m looking forward to growing even more through the obstacles, achievements and overall new experiences that are sure to come with each additional week.