A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. –Lao-tzu
On August 21, 2014, my journey of more than a thousand miles began with a one-way flight from St. Louis, Missouri to Los Angeles, California. As I near my 90th day in LA, I feel a bit more ready to share my journey with those interested in reading about it, interested in relocating to California, or anywhere period.
You know when you tell people you’re making a major move or life decision, folks like to attribute it to things such as a bad break-up, a new man, a well-paying job, etc. I had none of that! Maybe a few bad memories, but ultimately, I decided to move and did what I could to make it happen.
I do believe in life that God and/or the Universe sends us people or gives us signs and symbols to guide us along. My interest in moving to California was sparked by a dream and two conversations. In the dream, I was inside an airport and received a plane ticket to San Francisco, and that was it. The first conversation I had regarding California was with a professor who was telling me about the culture of the Bay Area and how I would do well there as a creative. The second conversation was with a stranger in a park who asked me if I was from California. Suffice it to say, these isolated events were enough to provoke interest.
I was also seeking more artistic exposure, career opportunities, and ways to develop digital media skills. That’s not to say those opportunities weren’t available in St. Louis, but I’d also been there since I graduated from undergrad- I felt a tad stifled and definitely felt the need for a change of scenery.
Oh yeah, I never had a formal “plan.” The first four months of 2014 I was unemployed and struggling to complete my master’s thesis (which, by the way, is still incomplete). Nonetheless, within that first month of unemployment I pieced together my first vision board, which had several things on it including the Golden Gate Bridge and palm trees. In March, I walked into an AT&T store and changed my phone number from a 314 area code to a northern California area code (yes, you can do that). That act for me was somewhat a physical reminder to myself that my move was going to happen.
Towards the end of April, I was rehired by my former supervisor at Walgreens, where I worked prior to grad school. During this time, I was also looking at job prospects and arts education opportunities in the San Francisco Bay area and came across a program at the San Francisco Art Institute. With no formal arts training, I gathered recommendation letters from former professors, developed a brief portfolio and artist statement, took a chance and applied. To my surprise I was accepted into their Post-Baccalaureate Certificate program in New Genres. I also looked into store transfers, but after the initial email was sent out didn’t receive any responses.
Obviously, since this post is about my move to LA, the whole Bay Area/arts school didn’t pan out as anticipated, for financial reasons mostly. So I’ll skip the extended version of how expensive the city of San Francisco is, difficulty finding a roommate/housing, and the cost of attending art school even after being offered a decent amount of financial aid in grant and scholarships. Once I declined acceptance in early July, I was a bit disappointed, but I wasn’t broken. After a week or so, I reminded myself that this move was still possible and gave my supervisor a list of store zip codes in the Los Angeles area that I could transfer to. She sent out an email and within the hour, she received a reply. Bingo!
Preparation and Transition
My lease was up at the end of July, so I was already in minimalist mode because I hate packing and moving. I had started the process of donating things, giving away and selling items including furniture. By the last week of July all I had was my car, clothes, books, wall art, and other personal belongings. August 1st I was back at home with my parents. I hadn’t heard any more details from the California store so I decided to follow-up with a phone call. During that call, the man I spoke with wasn’t as sure of an opening as in the initial email. After the call, I concluded that the Cali move was a bust. Maybe it wasn’t time after all. I made my peace with living with my parents for a moment; and those California dreams were quickly turning into “maybe I’ll move towards the end of this year or sometime next year.” That is, until that email came through on the 9th or 10th of August stating that an opening was indeed available. I called the store to confirm and they penciled me in to start on August 24th.
This is truly faith and inner knowing in action. Nothing with my move was set in stone. The uncertain got certain, real quick and I only had about 11 days to get my *ish together! I didn’t have a large sum of money saved up (although I don’t doubt that would’ve helped). The point is that when things fall apart they actually, and sometimes gradually, fall into place. I had been conversing with a friend of mine from St. Louis who had relocated to LA about two years prior. Since she had once been in my same position she was eager to assist me with my move and transition to LA life. She has been a godsend for real.
To help my mind stay in positive space I reassured my move in various ways. First, by talking to people who had already taken the plunge. I talked to my friend who had relocated to Texas a year prior with $100 to their name and that friend is doing great. That’s crazy faith and inner knowing. I had found a sista on YouTube, Te’Erika Patterson, who documented her journey from Florida to LA and provided a lot of useful information. I reached out to her and she was actually the first person to greet me upon arrival in LA, which can be seen here.
The Warmth of Other Suns, Literally and Figuratively
There were books that helped me too, like re-reading sections of The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho and reading about the various journeys to California by African Americans during the Great Migration in The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson. I revisited sections of Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers and read for the first time, Instinct: The Power to Unleash Your Inborn Drive by Bishop T.D. Jakes, which reinforced my own ideas surrounding trusting the inner voice/knowing of spirit and willingness to take risks.
Of course! It’s natural. There are going to be family members, friends, and strangers that want to know why you want to move, what’s wrong with where you are, and try to impart some type of wisdom or advice into your life. That person for me was my dad all the way up until the day before I left. Although my mom had questions in the beginning, she came around sooner. My dad is bit more pragmatic and while I valued his reasoning, I knew that deep down the decision was ultimately mine to make. It was important that I stick to my guns, not to prove a point, but to stick with my decision and trust myself.
Lessons On Leaving
I thought flight day would be exciting. Nope! It turned out to be the most emotionally taxing day of my life. My mom drove me to the airport and in true momma fashion she cried. I cried intermittently throughout the flight when I wasn’t napping. What had I gotten myself into? My dad cried before I left the house and I had never seen his eyes well up like that. It was in that moment that I really felt unsure. Like maybe he was right when he suggested Chicago or Memphis, but those cities didn’t appeal to me. Even though I grew up with winter in the Midwest, the thought of Chicago style winters and that brutal wind was a bit drastic for someone who doesn’t like being cold. As much as I love New York City, I wasn’t quite ready for walking NY city blocks in the snow. Besides, all of those places were familiar. I had never been to California and perhaps the unfamiliar is what drew me in most.
Now That I’m Here
LA is definitely an attractive city, but it’s not for the faint of heart. It’s not all glitz and glamour, if you’re looking for that sort of thing. Making LA home requires more work than a little bit and remember, this gal didn’t visit before taking the leap. I don’t regret my move. However, I don’t hate it and I don’t exactly love it either (at least not yet). I’m okay with that. I’m going to take my time. This is a part of my journey and no one can live it for me so in the meantime I’m learning the city and taking it one day and one dollar at a time.
Journey with me!