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.
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.
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:
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!
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.
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.
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.