On visiting NYC again

NYC from the top of the Hearst Tower

NYC from the top of the Hearst Tower

I recently flew to NYC for a work trip. A lot of people assumed I’d be excited to return to my old stomping grounds, as I have tons of friends in the city and had some pretty memorable experiences back east. I was certainly thrilled to go for business, but on a personal level, I was conflicted.

In July of last year, I knew I needed to move on from New York. I’d entertained the idea of relocating to LA in pursuit of screenwriting for a while, and now that I finally had the opportunity to try to make that a reality, I believed it was time to get out. I knew in July that I was ready to leave, but it wasn’t until late September that I acquired the confidence to abandon all I’d created in the concrete jungle for a calmer, sunnier, and healthier life in southern California.

A month before returning to the west coast, I switched my online dating profile to the LA network, which was quite small since this particular dating site had started in Brooklyn and was struggling to carve out a strong presence in Los Angeles. Thank God there weren’t many users on it, as one guy — known then to me as Ian41 — kept popping up on my Suggested Dates list and I clicked on over to his page to see what he was all about. Pretty soon, we sent each other a long email every single day leading up to my move, and shortly after my arrival, we knew we didn’t want to pursue anyone else.

We were very happy from the beginning, and though I had no job or place of my own (I was living in my grandma’s vacant condo in Long Beach at the time), I was more fulfilled than I’d ever been with my Upper East Side apartment or outwardly glamorous media career in NYC. That said, I still felt bad about the fact that I couldn’t necessarily take care of myself. Without stable employment, it was going to be challenging to pay rent, let alone move to LA proper.

When I made it to LA, I took some screenwriting classes, endured a few lousy entertainment jobs, and learned that the assistant route just wasn’t for me. I’d love to produce and write screenplays someday, but I am not going to become an abused runner in hopes that maybe, just maybe, I’ll meet the right people and make it big as a result. So nearly a year after my NYC fallout, I applied for a non-entertainment position at a trendy startup. I wouldn’t be writing, but I’d finally feel good about my professional place in the world again. I ended up getting a job offer on my birthday, when I also learned I’d be flying to NYC for a week to train at HQ. So many changes were taking place, but for once, they felt like good changes. I was so ready to finally feel financially stable again.

Luckily, I also had a family vacation planned right before training, so I flew to Massachusetts first and then took a train to Penn Station from there. It worked out well, butNYC it also meant I’d have to be away from Ian for ten days — the longest we’d ever been apart. I stayed at his house the night before my flight, sulking at bed time because I was scared to go through such an intense process without him. I’m used to coming home to him after stressful experiences and days, and not being able to hug him and debrief on the couch afterward just didn’t seem right.

My first night in NYC was the hardest. I walked from my Times Square hotel to Dos Toros burrito shop on 14th Street. It was a long journey, but I could use the exercise and time to think. It reminded me of how thin I’d been during my NYC days, and all the moving around definitely contributed to that. Nobody walks in LA. I also had to get used to the reality of jaywalking. When I first saw people doing it on 29th Street, I thought to myself, “Are they insane?” Then I remembered that’s normal in NYC and that I’d been a major offender during my own days in the city. Soon enough, I was jaywalking without a care, scrambling to cross the street with green lights hanging above me and taxis zooming in my direction.

On my walk back to the hotel, a lump formed in my throat. It was dark out and suddenly I was reminded of all the nights I’d walked home alone in New York City, sometimes holding back tears or not even bothering to hide my disappointment with whatever had just happened. The truth is, the loneliness I felt living there was unbearable, and even more so upon returning. Suddenly my life with Ian in LA felt so far away, like it had never happened. I’d dreamed it all and was back in the city that had broken my heart in every possible way.

Longing for Ian and his family, all of which I consider my family now, I bought postcards for them at a tourist store. There was a sale for 10 cards at a price of $1, but I only purchased three: one for my nana, one for Ian, and one for Ian’s parents. I scribbled notes for all of them on the street and then proceeded to drop them in the nearest mailbox. I text messaged Ian to let him know, and right then, he emailed me a funny YouTube clip of a “great NYC pizza place” to check out during my trip. The video featured Steve Carell going into a Sbarro, and sure enough, there was a Sbarro across the street from me at that moment.

I relayed this to Ian, who seemed to think the incident was humorous as well. Suddenly the pit in my stomach was gone. I was in NYC solo, but Ian could share the experience with me, and I knew that no matter what, I was going home to him. One day we’d venture to NYC as a pair and try out the real pizza together, but until then, we could mock the crappy chains populating Times Square. It was all going to be fine.

The rest of my trip was spectacular. I loved waking up in Times Square and walking down to HQ in Chelsea. I remember thinking that my life in NYC might have been better and easier had I lived near work and avoided the subway. Had I simply done it wrong during my time in NYC?

When I explained this to Ian, he mentioned staying in NYC for several weeks one summer to work at his company’s firm in the city. They put him up in a four star hotel by the office and he believed living in New York seemed like a breeze. It’s never a breeze, but it’s certainly easier if you can walk to work, and that wouldn’t be very affordable.

It’s also not practical most of the time. If you’re not pushing through crowds on a snowy day, you’re sweating through your clothes on a humid summer morning. Or you’re being jerked around by a wind tunnel, and maybe even attacked by a rainstorm as well. It rained a ton my second and third day in NYC, but I still forced myself to stay away from the subway and use my legs. It wasn’t so bad for a week, but reminded me of how awful my work days in Manhattan used to start thanks to heading to the office in all sorts of bad weather. When you arrive at your desk in wet clothes with nowhere to set down your battered umbrella, you know your day isn’t set up for success.

The work-related stuff was incredible, but I also had a small window of time for catching up with old pals. I told everyone to meet at Smithfield bar on Wednesday evening, and sure enough, I was the first to arrive. I headed to the back of the room to grab a table, where I sat alone for about fifteen minutes before my friend Sophia showed up. It didn’t feel weird to be out and about by myself, but I remember thinking the NYC version of me wouldn’t have been comfortable ordering a drink solo at a popular bar downtown. I would have felt the need to play with my phone or insist to the waitress that more people were coming so as not to seem like a lone wolf. As I implied earlier, however, LA can be kind of an isolating place because of the lack of community, so being alone hasn’t been a source of discomfort for me in a while. I was also underemployed for more than a year, and that kind of solitude can definitely turn you into a bit of a lone wolf. Fine by me.

from sophia

From Sophia

Sophia brought me a box of Dunkin’ Donuts munchkins, as I’m obsessed with the east coast treasure and have made that pretty clear on social media. Shortly after Sophia got there, my other guests arrived. Almost everyone was a former coworker from somewhere, but I only see them as friends now. One girl kept talking about how happy I looked. I agreed but followed up with, “Well, I’ve also gained some weight. LA will do that to you.” It’s true: I’m constantly in my car.

Still, I’d take my healthy weight and hearty diet over what I was during my time in NYC. I lost about seven pounds last summer due to stress and major indecision, but once I got where I was meant to be, and found the person I was meant o be with, I began to look like myself again. A bigger version, sure, but with more to love this time. I also think I’m more fun to hang out with, as I am always happy to order more drinks and food.

We all caught up on our career paths and personal lives, and one former coworker said he admired me for moving across the country and carving out a new life for myself in SoCal.

“When you first parted ways with [our former place of employment], I didn’t know what to think,” he said. “But then I realized it was kind of bad ass. Now you’re doing something entirely different in LA.”

As you know, I came out here to try to write for film and television. That hasn’t happened, and I’ve kind of tabled that dream for the time being (even though I’m working on some scripts of my own), but I also realized along the way that ambition will never be the most important thing to me again. I’ve never been happier than I am now, and I know I’m going to continue having a full, amazing life with the person I love.

old budes

My buddies!

I relayed this to the group, fully aware of the fact that the version of me they used to know never would have said anything like that aloud. They’re an ambitious bunch, but they also value their mental and emotional health, so they were pleased to hear this as such.

The following night, I went out to dinner with one of my boyfriend’s relatives. Like me, she was in town for work, and we met up near my old office. It was surreal walking through the neighborhood of my former place of employment, especially given the changes to the surroundings. One of the major building scaffoldings was gone, filling up the space with the brightness of the sun but also leading me to wonder how I might have handled days of bad weather had that been removed during my time in NYC. I thought back to the countless occasions in which I hurried across the street to get under the scaffolding, dodging whatever horrible weather was attacking New Yorkers at that very moment.

It occurred to me as I strolled near my old work building that my experience in NYC could have been quite different had I chosen not to work in media. What if I’d applied to my new place of employment while living in NYC? Would I have been happier overall with another career path? I thought this over so much that I actually walked past my old office without even realizing it. It dawned on me that I remembered the street name but not the building number itself. Rather than find the exact address on my phone, I kept moving, not wanting to be late to see my boyfriend’s cousin.

When I got to LAX late Friday night, my boyfriend was waiting for me in the arrivals area. We were exhausted but elated to finally see each other again after nearly two weeks apart. Though I hadn’t eaten in more than 12 hours, I couldn’t finish the burrito he’d picked up for me earlier in the day. I was still processing being back, but by the next morning, I was ready to indulge some of the New York bagels I’d packed in my suitcase. We enjoyed a sesame and plain bagel with cream cheese and lox, and we also had a Sopranos marathon the following day. With a mimosa in hand and my head on his shoulder, I could finally appreciate the east coast, but from where I truly belonged.

Exactly one year ago today, everything changed for me

Bryant Park

Bryant Park

A year ago today, I spilled Pret a Manger yogurt all over myself in Bryant Park, barely missing the broken computer bag on my lap. I was on the phone with my friend Marjorie at the time, and for ten seconds, I stared at the disaster in front of me. I had nothing to wipe it up with, so I just used my ratty, yellowing H&M sweater, knowing all too well I’d have to throw away the item of clothing. Just an hour earlier, my life had changed forever — for the worse, I initially thought — and my new job was to clean up the mess with whatever scraps I still had. It was opening weekend for The Conjuring, and I bought tickets to the first showing because what better movie to see when you’re already having a rough day than a demonic horror based on a true story?

That morning, I’d been unceremoniously dismissed from I job I really cared about but ultimately wasn’t right for. Just weeks earlier, I’d blogged about the loneliness of NYC in the summer and how the show New Girl made me realize I eventually wanted to abandon NYC and try to become a screenwriter in LA:

So, in 2.5-3 years, I would like to relocate to Los Angeles — my birthplace, for better or worse — and give screenwriting a try. I know, I know, you can’t just move to LA and create the script for “New Girl” or some other incredible sitcom, but I’m willing to start from scratch and work my way up again, and the good news is I won’t be too old to take a big leap at that point. I’m not far away from hitting a ceiling in the print/online media world.

Relocating to Los Angeles seemed like a long way off, as I had an established career and life in New York, where I’d been residing for nearly two years. I had a strong social structure, talented and fun assortment of colleagues, tiny apartment on the Upper East Side with a hilarious, pint-sized Italian girl with the best laugh I’d ever heard, and good thing going in my improv level two class. So what if I kind of wanted to do something else and live in my birth state, where I’d be closer to my whole family and so much happier? There was more to life than happiness. New York taught me that the moment I set foot on the Penn Station train platform. Life wasn’t perfect in Manhattan, but I was finally settled. I was comfortable.

Of course, that comfort was gone the moment I became unemployed. Suddenly nothing but my lease was binding me to New York, so I was free to pursue my real dream of working in entertainment. I should have thanked my former employers a million times for setting me free, but I was too scared and uncertain of my fate to understand I had a real opportunity to do something amazing: I was less than a week shy of 25. I was young enough to make a complete career 180 and still succeed. Things were looking up.

My brother Michael said my departure from work was a blessing in disguise. Many friends and family members agreed, but they were also worried. Would I ride out the rest of my lease in NYC — enduring yet another brutal winter (the worst in years, as we’d all later find out) — or follow that crazy idea that had recently popped into my head and return to my West Coast roots?

It took me about two months to make the final call, which, of course, was to start fresh in Los Angeles, but a few significant people in my life pushed me to make the move. My mother played a huge role in getting me out here, as she said there were some good UCLA extension classes still open and that I could really benefit from enrolling in the school’s Writer’s Program. My friend Nikki, however, made the best point of all during a phone conversation.

With Nikki

With Nikki

I told Nikki that I hoped to move to LA at the conclusion of my lease in 2014, to which she responded, “Laura, becoming a screenwriter is going to be enough of a challenge. You should get out here as quickly as you can because we already know it’s going to take a lot of time to break into the industry. Besides, you’re going to be in my wedding. You have to be [in California] to help me plan!”

This was true.

The night before telling my roommate Jen that I intended to vacate the apartment within three to four weeks, I started packing up my belongings. My walls were completely bare by the time I went to sleep, and within a week, the room itself was empty save for my bed, a single box of clothes, my laptop, and my iPhone charger. By September, I vowed to leave NY by the end of the month, and I was so checked out of the city in my last few weeks that I switched all my social media account locations to LA, including my newly re-opened dating profile on HowAboutWe.

I’d had some questionable experiences with online dating, but given my desire to start fresh in a new place, I decided to revisit the site and perhaps have a few dates lined up in LA upon arrival.

I had always been told that love sneaks up on you when you’re not looking for it, and only now do I know that statement to be true. I was not looking for love when I activated my profile again. I was actually seeking friends and people to hang out with. Yeah, I thought it would be fun to have an LA romance, but mostly I craved companionship.

My NYC room before I moved out.

My NYC room before I moved out.

At first, I received lots of messages from people in entertainment, and that made me feel better about having to spend a little extra time in NYC. I was already making Hollywood connections and would surely grow that network shortly after moving. But the user who intrigued me most was not an aspiring actor, director, producer, etc., but a lawyer with the sweetest looking smile I’d ever seen.

I clicked on over to Ian41’s profile (I also loved that he included his real name in his username — I was LaurafromCalifornia) and was pretty impressed. He hadn’t filled out much, but he appeared to be well-educated, hard-working, adventurous, and kind. Right after we started messaging each other, I mentioned I wouldn’t be in LA until October but that we could email back and forth until then. We decided to take our correspondence over to Gmail and he said I could email him anytime. I was afraid to take a step beyond HowAboutWe’s inbox system, so it came as a huge relief when he made the first move the following day, September 16, with this email:

Hi Laura,

It sounds like the NYC fall weather is a bad LA winter weather.  At least you’ll miss the NYC winter.  I was freezing when I was there in March, I can’t imagine what it’s like in the winter.  Hopefully the nice weather here will continue in October!

Ian

I responded right away, and before we knew it, we were sending each other long emails every single day. With the stress of neverending moving arrangements, hearing from him became the best part of my day — the light at the end of the tunnel during my tedious cross-country relocation. I suffered terrible insomnia at the time, so I’d be awake when he emailed me at 11 or midnight Pacific time. I’d draft up emails to him but wait ten hours to hit “send” — I didn’t want him to know the girl he was talking to regularly stayed up until 4 a.m. out of misery. Our threads increased in length with each exchange, with both of us easily churning out 1,200+ words each time. They were nice, though, and we continued sending long emails until the day we finally met in person.

Our first date was at a bar downtown, and he told me right away that I should sit by his “good ear” to his right.

“I was hit by a car in London about 15 years ago and I’ve had a ringing in my left ear ever since.”

“My dad was like that,” I said. “Got shot in the head with a BB gun as a little kid. He died of cancer in 2006, but said he was happy to never have to hear the ringing sound ever again.”

Not even five minutes had passed and we’d already shared some pretty significant life events with each other. Sure we’d gotten close via email in the month before meeting, but there was something special about seeing him in person, as well as knowing we could be more than just pen pals.

When we first met, I was fearful about all things-LA. The driving, the parking, the traffic, the unforgiving sun, the struggles of making new friends, etc. I overcame all of this very quickly, and I also realized I was in love very quickly.cutee

I like to tell Ian that I moved to LA under the impression that I’d become a TV and film writer, and while I still want those things just as much as I did when I left New York, I know in my heart that I was really meant to come here for him. Had I not lost my entire identity a year ago, we never would have crossed paths, but I’m so grateful for all the horrible and unfortunate experiences that led me here.

I woke up the morning of July 19, 2013 feeling nervous and ill. The night before, my boss had asked to meet at Pret a Manger around 7:30 a.m., which seemed a little early for a feedback session. I got out of my bed at 6:15 knowing that a difficult conversation was ahead, and I just wanted to get it over with.

Today, the alarm went off at 8 a.m. It’s the weekend, but Ian had some work to do at the office, so we set an alarm as we would on a normal week day. We had some espresso and yogurt (we usually have toast but he just had gum surgery and can only eat soft foods for a while). Though I spilled my yogurt once again, it wasn’t all over me this time. I spilled on Ian’s table. There was a paper towel roll just a few inches away, so I wiped up the mess immediately, not needing to sacrifice my clothes or sit there staring at the disaster, wondering what move to make next. I’ve cleaned up a lot over the last year, and I’m a lot more prepared for damage control now.

Ian, my roommate, and me at the Hollywood Bowl seeing Robyn!

Ian, my roommate, and me at the Hollywood Bowl seeing Robyn!

Earlier this week, I cried for the first time in months about the approach of July 19, not because I longed for the past, but because I was disappointed by my situation and seeming lack of progress a year later. 365 days after the fact, I’m working but underemployed and always, always, always on the hunt for my next opportunity. Why couldn’t I have landed something full-time and forever by now? It made no sense to me.

I brought all this up to Ian, who of course saved the day by laying out the facts. Sure I’m not a successful showrunner or even a writer’s assistant, but I’ve come such a long way in the past year. I switched cities, landed three different jobs in the entertainment industry, completed two screenwriting classes and a workshop, joined a writer’s group, and began writing for HG. I also have a strong group of friends out here … and oh yeah, the best boyfriend I’ve ever had. As my former coworker Alex Alvarez said over fries and cocktails a few months back, I’m doing a lot better than I think.

So there’s where I am one year after a defining moment that flipped my whole world over. I was scared to start fresh again and move to the other side of the country, even though it was my home, but things are slowly coming together for me.

Being full with just a handful of friends

With Nikki

With Nikki

This evening, I talked to my dear friend Nikki for more than two hours, which is a huge chunk of time for busy folks like us. I’m juggling multiple gigs and an internship and she’s getting married exactly two months from today, so chatting on the phone for that long might seem crazy given everything on our plate. But it was really nice to catch up, and as Nikki always does when we touch base, she made me realize how good I really have it.

After I explained that I’ve been doing a ton of freelance work and research on upcoming TV writing fellowships, she inquired about my social life.

“I know all about your guy, but you haven’t mentioned much about your friends in LA. Who do you hang out with these days?”

“I’m really close with this girl named Kelly from my internship,” I said, “There’s also my roommate Dawn, fellow HelloGiggles columnist Angie, and our mutual buddy Lidia. I’m not attached at the hip with anyone else but it’s going super well with those ladies.”

“Laura, that’s plenty. Most people would agree that’s a lot of friends!”

“Well, quality is what matters.”

Having 3-4 trustworthy pals is more than enough, and they’ve all been there for me during trying times here in SoCal. As my parents told me in junior high, a handful of loyal friends is all you really need, I just got so stuck on the idea that I constantly had to be out and about during my 20s. NYC and D.C. made me feel pressured to do something fun, adventurous, and crazy every weekend, even when I was tired, being blown off, miserable, or too intimidated by the volatile weather to leave my overpriced walkup. On top of work and the insanity of surviving in a giant city, I had FOMO and YOLO on my back, and it was all weighing me down.

LA is different for me. I’m much happier having a dependable group of friends and not simply an exciting one, but to be fair, my closest friends in NYC were gems as well. The need to seek chaos and trouble, however, just isn’t what I want anymore. I’ve got a manageable, rich (in quality, not money. I told you this isn’t Gossip Girl!) social circle here, and we’re all finding our own way in this town.

Speaking of which, Nikki added that I’m writing about LA a lot more and NYC significantly less these days. There’s a reason for that: I don’t want to live in the past anymore, even though I thought I knew who I was back then.

Sometimes I feel like Charlize Theron in YOUNG ADULT.

Sometimes I feel like Charlize Theron in YOUNG ADULT.

When I first moved here, all I could talk about was my former East Coast life, and Ian listened because he cared and recognized it was important for me to vent. I defined myself by previous jobs, an egregious mistake if there ever was one. I wanted to show my LA pals and boyfriend that I’d been successful on paper and respected once upon a time, not simply a 25-year-old intern, part-time babysitter, Chipotle addict, and budding slacker. But I am more than my place of employment, and for the first time in my life, I believe I’m more than my writing.

I’m a 25-year-old who strolls past Mickey Mouse stuff every week, finds children hilarious, loves residing in protein-heavy and delicious burrito land, and values the work, heart, and soul put into a good TV show. I lack rhythm and grace but love Zumba and yoga class, as I’ve been obsessed with stretching, circulation, and feeling centered since middle school. Print may be dying, but nothing soothes me like a book, newspaper, or magazine.

Roxy with all the diaries I kept as a child. I've always been an "oversharer"!

Roxy with all the diaries I kept as a child. I’ve always been an “oversharer”!

Receiving mail has always been a highlight of my life, and I don’t know what I’m going to do when my 14-year-old dog Roxy eventually passes away, as she’s one of the sweetest living beings I’ve ever known, not to mention a direct portal to a charmed upbringing that abruptly ended with the death of my father. Froyo is all right, but thanks to my dad, I’ll forever be an ice cream girl. I’m a natural redhead but blonde at heart, so I get my hair done every two months, much to the chagrin of outsiders who think I should embrace my greasy, clownish locks. Yeah right.

Friends are a close second, but family is the most important part of my life. As long as I have those things, I’ll consider myself a winner, TV writer or not.

With mom

With mom

At Chipotle in 2008 --- wearing sweatpants!

At Chipotle in 2008 — wearing sweatpants!

In Hawaii

sbb

Weird people are bothering me again and I’m relieved

See, I'm a magnet for the eccentric!

See, I’m a magnet for the eccentric!

My biggest fear about leaving Manhattan was losing the awesome stories that come with residing there. I couldn’t even grab coffee at one of the four Dunkin’ Donuts on my block without being harassed, cursed out, intimidated, or cat called by Second Avenue construction dickheads, and though it exhausted me to have every aspect of life feel like work, I could never say I was bored. No matter how miserable NYC and its residents made me, I was always getting into unusual situations that were well received at brunch, parties, reunions, and beyond. This kind of life doesn’t make a person happy, and I know this because I spent almost every single night sleep walking, sleep talking, or sleep yelling, but those little episodes made for compelling stories as well (to everyone except my poor roommate, who regularly woke up to my outbursts). It wasn’t until the end of my NYC experience that we laughed about it together, and I hoped LA would bring fewer bed time troubles my way. I’m thrilled to report I sleep really well now and rarely shout, even though I continue to mumble and spew nonsense on occasion.

I arrived in LA three months ago, and one of the first things I did was go on a date with my current boyfriend Ian. We hung out downtown and I spent most of the evening making NYC comparisons. The bartender kept refilling my water glass on his own, so I told Ian how much nicer and more hospitable LA servers seemed to be than those of NYC. Then the bartender started chatting us up and I pointed out that that wouldn’t have happened in New York, as everyone is too busy there for small talk with randoms. When I waited outside Ian’s building, I thought the guy standing a few feet away from me was the doorman. He of course wasn’t — he was just a well-dressed fellow — and I chalked my confusion up to spending two years in NYC, where doormen work in overpriced apartment complexes.

I talk about it less and less nowadays, but one of the concerns I expressed to Ian was becoming restless and unfulfilled in LA. As Emma Thompson points out in Saving Mr. Banks, nobody walks here, so there are fewer opportunities for peculiar interactions to ensue. Everyone is either driving or working, so it’s a little harder to be accosted by crazies on the street. You might think that’s a good thing, and to an extent, I do too. But I also crave excitement and feel most comfortable around the unconventional.

Weird things have been happening lately, and though the old me would be angry about it, I’m relieved. I’m only 25, and my funny NYC stories shouldn’t be the only material I have for future TV shows and beyond. California is also known for being an oddball hotspot, and I’m glad to be living that again.

On the flight back to LA this weekend, a guy sat next to me and asked whether I was wearing perfume. I’d sprayed some on my neck earlier that day but hadn’t expected it to last, so I was surprised he’d picked up on it.

“You smell like my ex-girlfriend.”

“Oh gosh, I’m so sorry,” I said, worried I’d brought this pour soul back to a time he’d rather not think about.

“No, good memories. VERY good memories,” he said.

Then the plane took off and I struggled not to laugh. The rest of the  flight was fairly normal, but I had another dose of weirdness the following day when a pair of Jehovah’s Witnesses showed up on my doorstep. They actually knocked for ten minutes (I didn’t think it was knocking at first), and when I finally cracked open the door, one of the women hid behind the other. Something about it felt off, and I couldn’t understand why the other person felt the need to shield her face, but at least I know not to answer the door anymore. I was protected from all that in my various NYC apartment buildings, and now I’m back to the days of dealing with bible salesmen and religious recruiters.

I’m feeling more at home in LA as the colorful characters continue to approach me, so don’t be surprised if I start documenting these experiences more frequently. No place will ever be as weird as New York, but I’m starting to realize that’s not such a bad thing.

I’m 5 months out of NYC and (almost) fully settled in LA

You know what I’ve been doing since I got to California? A whole lot of sleeping. Not excessively — just at decent hours for once. In New York, I’d often stay up all night for no reason at all, but here I go to bed before or around midnight and am energized when the sun comes up around 6 a.m. Did I mention I’m living in an awesome part of LA now? Bye bye Long Beach, hello Los Feliz.

I moved to the Silverlake/Los Feliz area last week and am in love with my neighborhood, partially because I’m on foot so much and it makes me feel like I’m getting some exercise again. I’m right by an incredible hole-in-the-wall Mexican joint, a reasonably priced yoga studio, an arts and crafts shop, a great dive bar my boyfriend loved during his own days living in Sivlerlake, and, of course, Starbucks, my go-to coffee shop. The sun streams through my bedroom window everyday, the house is full of positive and creative energy, and I am not too far from the Disney Studios, where I’ll be interning. LA is so big, but I’m also pretty close in location to my boyfriend, so we never have to deal with traffic when getting to each other’s places. My other new friend Angie is nearby as well. I am surrounded by all the right folks, and the sense of community fills me with so much happiness. In NYC, I needed lots of people around me at all times to feel complete, but here I am just thrilled to be around a few gems, and they all helped me transition more than they’ll ever know.

Everything came together in a cute way, and though I don’t have it all figured out, I’m getting there, and not just by baby steps anymore. It’s taken me a while to find the right house and career opportunities, but so it goes when you choose to abandon the outwardly impressive life you’ve built for yourself across the country and start fresh in your birth city, which you never called home in the first place. I had some connections when I came to LA, but relied on none of them to land the opportunities I’ve received so far. I put myself out there and applied for around 70 jobs. Of those applications, I scored four interviews. The odds were completely stacked against me, especially as a newbie 25-year-old with zero entertainment industry experience, but I kept trying, because I didn’t leave NYC to be a failure in LA as well.

As hard as I’ve been on myself about the tragic, abrupt manner in which my NYC experience ended, I don’t consider my time there a complete failure. I could have continued plugging away and forcing myself to endure like the rest of Manhattan, but I knew by summer that I wanted something happy to talk about for once, not just something funny or insane.

A million years ago, I signed up for OKCupid, which I promptly deleted as it felt too much like MySpace. The site didn’t resonate with me, but a questionnaire inquiry really struck me during my short time on the service: “Would you rather have interesting things happen to you or good things happen to you?”

It was then that I realized I’d been going with the former for way too long, and NYC had been making that way too easy. The wild and unbelievably outrageous stories about entitled Wall Street guys were fun to share over brunch and happy hours every other weekend, and I still talk about the worst ones to remind myself just how awesome my current boyfriend is. The craziness is only entertaining and laughable for so long, and eventually you’re even sick of the ridiculous scenarios you’ve gotten into and your friends don’t even know what to say anymore.

There’s plenty of room for interesting stuff to happen to me in LA, but at the moment I’m indulging all the good in my life. I went to a foreign film movie premiere with my mentor/manager/BFF Budd Burton Moss the other night, and this weekend my boyfriend and I are going to a HelloGiggles event and ice skating downtown (even though it’s supposedly the apocalypse, according to my roommate!). My new roommate and I turned our home into a Winter Wonderland as well — here’s our adorable tree:

the tree

laura and dawn

When the holidays are over, I will be interning in sunny Burbank.

The past few months have been interesting in their own way, but most of all, they’ve been good. Keep it coming, please. My soul is richer than it’s ever been.

Remembering Hurricane Sandy a year later

East Village Hurricane SandyLast night, my spec sitcom course spent the first fifteen minutes of class talking about earthquake trauma. The professor, a native New Yorker, suffered severe anxiety and stress following the Northridge quake in the 90s. I don’t actually remember it even though I was living in LA at the time, but my mom says I ran around in circles in our Glendale residence yelling, “Make it stop!” My parents told me to stand under the doorway, but I wouldn’t listen. My instinct in dangerous situations has always been to run. That’s how I reacted exactly a year ago, when Hurricane Sandy barreled through New York and nearly flooded our building on the Upper East Side.

My roommate Jen, her boyfriend Bradley, and I thought the storm was a joke at first. We assumed the media was hyping up “Frankenstorm” to make everyone panic and have something spooky to talk about right before Halloween, but when all our respective offices and the subway closed up shop for the week, we started to worry. We worked from home the day the storm was set to hit, and for most of the day, everything was calm. We had power, lots of food, coffee from Dunkin Donuts, which was open, and heat. It was boring in a “Paranormal Activity” way, as I stated in an old blog post, which I wrote from a restaurant a couple days after the hurricane as Jen and I were without electricity. Before that, we kept waiting and waiting for something to happen, and when it finally did, it changed us forever:

I’m not going to waste any time trying to come up with an interesting introduction paragraph, partially because my Internet access is limited thanks to Sandy, so here goes: yesterday was the scariest day of my life.

In the afternoon, I said Hurricane Sandy felt a lot like the “Paranormal Activity” franchise. I just kept waiting and waiting for something to happen. Once the storm made her way to the UES, she made quite an impact. We were hit with heavy winds a half hour before losing electricity. Then came the boom and hysterical screams. I looked out one of my windows to see tons of water and a broken wall. The cinderblock wall, which separates my building from the next door, totally fell apart.

It only got weirder from there, as I wrote in a blog post for STTF:

After rushing to the living room window, I gasped. Our building was surrounded by water. The courtyard was flooded about eleven feet. I glanced out my bedroom window and saw waves just a few feet below me. There was also an inflatable toy duck floating around. If we were to get any more rain, I feared, the water would reach my window and flood our entire apartment. My heart rate skyrocketed and I headed into the hallway, where I found many of my neighbors huddled up.

“Jen, we have to evacuate right now,” I yelled from the doorway, clearly going through the fight or flight syndrome. “Our building is surrounded by water.”

“If we were going to evacuate, we should have done it already,” she replied. She was so right, but I didn’t listen.

“I have a friend who lives in Harlem. He has power. I’m going to go stay with him,” I replied, throwing on a zip-up sweater and my Hunter rainboots.

“You’re going to run 30 blocks in 90 mile per hour winds? That’s how people die in these storms, Laura. They go outside and get knocked out by a tree or something.”

“I don’t want to drown here,” I told her.

“Well if you’re going to go anywhere, you need to put on better clothes. Your hoodie and sweats aren’t going to cut it in this weather.”

That’s when her boyfriend stepped in and asked me to stay put. They didn’t want to worry about me weaving through the streets of New York during a hurricane — let alone in the eye of the storm.

“You know, Laura, for someone as paranoid as you, you take a lot of risks,” Jen said, inspiring all of us to roar with laughter. “You got coffee in the storm and now you want to run to Harlem, which is unsafe in broad daylight, during a hurricane.”

“I ran track in high school. I can do this.”

hurricane-sandy-subway-flooding-537x373Of course, I didn’t end up sprinting to Harlem for “safety.” I stayed put and watched our street completely flood. The water returned to the East River within an hour, but I had to see the eye of the storm myself. If all hell is going to break loose around me, I have to see it unfold. I must like punishment or something, or I just need to know what’s happening at all times. Either way, you can imagine I wasn’t in a good mental place, and I began having heart palpitations, prompting my roommate and her boyfriend to tell me to sit down next to their bed. Jen herself was stressed, but she hated seeing me so frightened, so she did what she could to calm me down.

Shortly afterward, I went out with a few hallmates for a drink and to charge our phones. We were so drained and haggard at that point that the only thing we could do was indulge some alcohol and pretend it was just another night out on the town.

I don’t want to bore you with too many details, especially since I’ve written about Sandy’s impact on me many, many times. Shortly after the storm, I got severe bronchitis and threw out my back from coughing too much. I was so upset by the sight of pools of water outside my window — to the point where there were floating toys mere inches away from my room — that I had to see a therapist. A lot of people did. I’m not still upset about Sandy, especially since my roommate and I didn’t flood like some of our friends, but it was definitely an eye opener for me. Though I wouldn’t leave NYC for another year, that showed me I had to get out of the city sooner rather than later. With changing weather patterns, hurricanes might become the norm over there, and I didn’t want to be in the wrong place at the wrong time when something unthinkable took place once again.

Hurricane Sandy

After Sandy

Right now, my mom is visiting from nor Cal, and we went out to lunch just a few hours ago. I told her about my column for HelloGiggles, potential new roommate and living situation in West Hollywood, and full-time job leads. On our walk to Mimi’s Cafe, she noted the 75 degree weather, a stark contrast from what I experienced this time last year in NYC.

“Can you believe a year ago you were trapped in your apartment with no power for weeks?” she said. “And now you’re here in the southern California sunshine.”

It’s nice to be in a location free of hurricanes. The Northridge earthquake deeply upset my New York native professor, and my hope is that a possible earthquake in California won’t be as disruptive as Hurricane Sandy. I grew up with earthquakes, but you never know how bad one is going to be — or where you’re going to be when it shakes things up. My fear is experiencing one all by myself in my condo, but even if someone else is here as it happens, it’s not like their presence is going to change anything or make the situation less terrifying.

When Mother Nature decides to get back at us for neglecting the environment, we’re totally at her mercy.

The best revenge is not wanting it at all

While I was growing up, my mom always said the best revenge is happiness, and though I agree it’s a freeing feeling, I’ve concluded the greatest revenge is actually not wanting it at all.

I’ve had my fair share of tussles and conflicts, and when these situations have ended in particularly awful ways, I’ve hoped for (my perception of) justice. If someone wronged me, I wanted them punished by Karma, threefold, in good time. Many years ago, I was so torn up about a former flame that I considered calling his mom, with whom I was friends, and listing the terrible things he’d done to me and others. I considered this because she never shut up about how perfect her son was, and I thought she needed to know about the damage he’d caused countless others. I never ended up contacting her about it, and I couldn’t be happier with my decision to stay silent. Not only would that have been malicious, but done nothing for me. Would I really feel happy that one mother discovered her boy was anything but perfect? As his parent, she was already aware of that, whether she made this clear to others or not. She only shared the positive with us because no one wants to hear bad news.

Why am I telling you this? Because I’m only now realizing how much trouble I left behind in NYC. I had several unsolved issues with people, and rather than patch things up before heading West, I flew home with unfinished business and loose ends, deciding to just put everything behind me and start fresh. A part of me wanted instant gratification in LA, and while I’m happy with the friends I’ve made, my classes, and my opportunities, I’m simply not interested in thinking about New York anymore. There’s too much excitement in SoCal for me too dwell on what went wrong on the East Coast.

Last week, I attended Queen Latifah’s talk show in Culver City, and I’m actually going back sometime this week. I had the chance to talk to her, as I was seated in the second row surrounding her couch. I sat beside three older women, all of whom were wearing turquoise like me, so when Queen Latifah approached us for a handshake, she said, “Oh hey, it’s my blue crew!” I had such a blast at the show, and I really enjoyed meeting so many great people. I mostly engaged with the old ladies, but I also talked with fellow aspiring actresses and entertainment industry types. It was a lively atmosphere and I can’t wait to return this week.

front row

Front row! Owl eyes!

Queen Latifah

the queen

vip room

VIP room

It’s easy to get hung up on sour relations and downright unfair treatment, and while I’m going to wonder for the rest of my life why some people did what they did to me in NYC, it’s much more valuable to just have fun and focus on the things I love about LA: UCLA extension, my mentor Budd Burton Moss, my classmates, the sunshine, the UCLA campus, going to TV show tapings, meeting other creative types, the friendliness of everyone, listening to streaming music in the car, walking around in sandals and sundresses again, burritos, the list goes on and on.

If good things come your way, you’ll be too caught up in the positive to think about revenge or Karma. If that’s not the ideal way to live, I’m not sure what is.

My final ‘Goodbye New York’ post

ManhattanDuring my “last supper” tonight, my roommate asked whether I’d heard about the recent hate crime in Union Square. Ever since we moved in together a year and a half ago, I’ve scoured the news cycle and reported all the craziest stories back to her at the end of each day, so when I told her I was unfamiliar with the situation, she was surprised.

Earlier this month, a man went on a racist rant downtown before assaulting — and killing — an innocent passerby. The victim fell to the ground and cracked his skull, slipping into a coma before dying at the hospital.

“The guy apparently said, ‘I’m going to punch the first white man I see!'” Jen explained. “And so he did.”

“Unbelievable.”

“I can’t believe you hadn’t heard about it,” she said. “You’re usually the one telling me about all these horrible things happening in New York and the world. It could get really depressing.”

“I unplugged earlier this summer. And it’s been awesome.”

An hour later, I finished my Blue Moon and met up with Tom and Meagan at Pony Bar. On the cab ride there, I pondered Jen’s comment about me totally missing a major local news story. It was a shock to the both of us because I’ve been obsessed with the news for our entire friendship, in part because I worked in media for so long. Once I decided to break away from that scene, I changed my internet habits. I unfollowed certain news outlets on Twitter (no more NY Post or NYDN), became more selective about what I read, and limited my computer time. I got off my couch, walked around the city, interacted with people, and lived life on foot, not online.

DC summer 2011 with Kate!

DC summer 2011 with Kate!

I’ve changed since moving to DC (which came before NYC) three years ago. That marked the beginning of my long, memorable, turbulent East Coast journey, and while I’m sad to put a stop to the stream of memories right now, I know I’ll make even happier ones on the West Coast. I can truly be myself there, and I can turn to family when things get rocky. And they will be rocky, even in sunny California.

While packing for my flight, I found a crumpled piece of paper in my giant red suitcase. It’s a receipt from the Best Western in Falls Church, Virginia, where I lived at the start of my DC career. Though my friend and I had locked down an apartment in Virginia, we couldn’t move in until the end of August, so I spent my first night at the cheapest hotel in the neighborhood. Because I’ve always been a little bit fearful at night, I slept with the lights on and didn’t even go to bed until 2:00 a.m. My mind has a weird way of convincing me every room I’m staying in is haunted, and if I’m unsettled or stressed about something, the irrational theories pull me in, a distraction from what’s really bothering me.

What I did three years ago is similar to what I’m doing right now. My plane to California departs at 10 in the morning, and here I am typing away in an unlit room at 2:18 a.m., refusing to go to bed despite orders from multiple friends who want me well-rested before my cross-country flight. Maybe I don’t want to sleep because when I wake up, it will be time to leave the Upper East Side apartment forever and my decision will finally hit me. No more grabbing bagels at Bagel Express or sugary coffee at any of the three Dunkin’ Donuts on my block. There’s no Dunkin’ where I’m going, and there won’t be any decent bagels either (sorry, California, but bagel masters you are not). No more toting around my metro card or sweating profusely on the subway platform among dozens of people who’d rather be in a taxi or traffic, anywhere but underground.

Nemo stormLike the girl I was three years ago, I’m leaving behind a city that caused me immense heartache and heartbreak. I said farewell to my college town in May 2010 and wouldn’t let go of a certain someone until spring 2011, when I simply got tired of asking myself over and over again why I’d always be number five to this person. If I couldn’t be his number one, I feared, I could never be anyone’s number one. Now I’d just say this: what kind of person needs 5+ lovers to feel loved?

I’m not going through anything like that right now, but I have some unfinished business in NYC, and I guess that means I made my time here count. If I’ve learned anything from dating in my 20s, it’s that closure is overrated — having a backbone and standards is not. Don’t dwell on the folks who can’t, or won’t, face you when they know they’ve been awful. They might keep quiet out of guilt, and you could say this makes them good at heart. But shame and embarrassment don’t humanize these folks — they make them cowards, and life is too short to cry over cowards.

People in New York always ask where I’m from. No one has ever assumed I’m a native New Yorker, and though I’ve lived many places, it’s hard to pinpoint what’s considered home to me. I lived in LA until fourth grade, resided in the Bay Area until high school graduation, attended college in Tucson, Arizona, got my first job in DC, and finished my media career in New York City. I’m a mixed bag, but what really matters is where I’m going, not so much my past.

Don’t misunderstand me — my past has been interesting. Through all my adventures and misadventures in NYC, I was never, ever bored here. I was temporarily bored in DC, but mostly I was cold. Make a California girl walk a mile to the subway at 4:30 a.m. in January and you’ll definitely see her at her worst. You won’t find me doing that, or trying to trudge through this, ever again:

Wednesday, January 26, 2011, northern Virginia. YUCK.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011, northern Virginia. YUCK.

Outside my northern Virginia apartment

Outside my northern Virginia apartment

I ended my NYC adventures on a high note because I spent the last week visiting with great people. Without sounding too cheesy, I was touched by those who reached out. It was hard saying bye, as there’s always the possibility that we’ll never see each other again. I hope that’s not the case, and I’ll do my best to visit as much as I can, but as I’ve said before, it’d be hard to get rid of me. As long as there’s an internet, my work will always be available, and I’ll be up at all hours of the night on g-chat, waiting to talk to another crazy person awake at that hour.

So long, for real this time.

Nemo storm

NYC from the top of the Hearst Tower

NYC from the top of the Hearst Tower

NYC

The Plaza in New York City

The Plaza in New York City

View of Manhattan from Brooklyn

View of Manhattan from Brooklyn

tiny nyc room

Bye bye, Harry Potter apartment

This was my room for the last year and a half, but I’m parting ways with it now, as I fly back to California for good tomorrow morning:

tiny nyc room

In a weird way, I’ll miss the coziness of a tiny room. There’s a lot of warmth and good energy in this apartment, and I hope the guy who’s moving into my room appreciates it as much as I did.

Staying on the couch tonight, my final night in New York City. Though I’m excited to start fresh in Southern California, I know I’ll miss this place everyday, and hopefully I can take a piece of it with me to the West Coast … I mean BEST Coast :)

So chocolate gives me debilitating migraines now

There’s nothing like spending your last week in NYC feeling sick thanks to a bucket list item you’ve just completed.

Last night, my friend Sara and I went to Serendipity 3, an NYC tourist hotspot with amazing comfort food and treats, so I could try the restaurant’s siignature Frozen Hot Chocolate before leaving Manhattan. It’s apparently a New York rite of passage — a rite of passage for which I was unprepared. Things were off to a rocky start from the beginning of the night, when I jokingly said the venue was “mean” for posting a sign reading “Absolutely no strollers allowed inside” on the front door. The hostess told me it wasn’t intended to be “mean,” but protect customers in the event of a fire, as strollers take up lots of space and cause others to trip. I felt bad about making the silly, stupid comment in passing, but I mainly said it to make a point about NYC being small and uncomfortable.

The food itself was awesome, but before my pasta arrived, I enjoyed the Frozen Hot Chocolate, which contained lots of whipped cream and chocolate shavings. Sara couldn’t have any, as she gets really bad migraines and chocolate is a known trigger:

Frozen Hot Chocolate

The drink lived up to its tasty reputation, but by the time I got home, my head was pounding. Every few months, I get debilitating migraines that cause me to shake, sweat, and even throw up, and unfortunately all those things happened last night. I know it was the chocolate because I rarely have it anymore, but anytime I do, I get pounding headaches, so it looks like I have to avoid fancy desserts in the future — or just control my portions better. Either way, it’s time to act a tad more grown up and stop ordering hot chocolate, even at places like this:

Cute!