Today starts a new spring/summer series that will us take across and around the country all from the comfort of our desks and couches. And what better time, since Memorial Day just unofficially kicked off the warm season, and all I want to do this time of year is travel and lounge.
This spring, I’ve asked some of my dearest and furthest-away friends to write tales of how they ended up in their current cities and what life is like for them there. Together their stories will take us on a virtual and American summer tour. You hear a lot about life in San Francisco here, so this summer I’m opening up my San Francisco-based blog to include tours of young professional life near and far.
So often when I ask people how they ended up in their current city, it’s a random sequence of events that got them there or a total whim. No matter how we ended up where we did though, I think we can all relate to settling into young professional life and the challenges and fun associated with it. I’m calling this series “Life As A Twenty-Something In…,” and I hope you enjoy taking virtual spins around neighborhoods that could be near or far from you.
We’re starting the series today in Los Angeles, where my younger sister Taylor has made quite a life for herself post-college. This is her story.
To Live and Die in L.A.
When I lived in Santa Barbara, the Los Angeles International airport (LAX) was my local airport. For non-California natives, that equates to an hour and half drive. And with two sisters on the east coast at the time, cross country flights were frequent. On one such flight, I walked through LAX searching for my gate and came across the cheesiest L.A. ad: side-by-side advertisements of Blake Griffin and Kobe Bryant with a huge text treatment that read, “That’s so LA.” I took a picture and sent it to my sisters and years later we still use this phrase to mock the things most closely associated with the City of Angels.
I’d never been a fan of Los Angeles; in the very brief time I had spent in the city, I had concluded that L.A. was smoggy, crowded and full of inauthentic losers (seriously, there is no better way to phrase it). Yet, I now live here and it didn’t happen by chance.
Reading outside in January. Aw, L.A.
Here’s a little background: I attended university in Santa Barbara and after graduating, found a job as a marketing assistant for a CPA firm. The position was less than great, but I was in close proximity to my then-boyfriend, best friends and sister and I lived in a version of California paradise. Why would I move?
Well, the reality of a part-time position set in and that constant pang I get to reach beyond my potential hit me after about three months.
One weekend, I visited my two best girlfriends in L.A. and they made it their mission to sell me on moving to smog-city. We bar hopped in West Hollywood, made pizza with random dudes in a Venice restaurant and brunched in Santa Monica. I tried to keep my guard up, but L.A. made me swoon with its towering palm trees, sunny weather and realistic job market.
Soon after my weekend jaunt, I found a job in L.A. in digital marketing and moved to a small apartment in West L.A. with hopes of meeting new friends, excited to explore my new town. But what I thought was a promising relationship with a new city proved to be frustrating, inconvenient and unfulfilling. Sitting in traffic for hours to go mere miles was REAL. And meeting people in such an expansive city was HARD.
In the first few months of living in L.A., I was not a happy camper. When I shared my woes with friends and fellow Angelinos, they assured me that the first year of living in L.A. is the most challenging but then you fall in love (the exact opposite of the honeymoon phase).
Try as I might to leave, L.A. has kept me here and, now, nearly two years later, I finally understand the L.A. adage so many Angelinos shared with me – I have fallen for this city after a year of hating its guts!
L.A. is full of diverse neighborhoods, talented individuals, fantastic restaurants and bars, and plenty of opportunity. So I invested in it a bit more. I moved into a new apartment in a quaint neighborhood, landed a fantastic new job, and started uncovering the many things L.A. has to offer. While it’s not a forever city for me, and it wasn’t love at first sight, these are the things about Los Angeles that keep me put… at least for now.
An afternoon at Malibu Wines? Twist my arm.
The weather. It really is warm and sunny 85 percent of the time and that is something a girl can get used to. Winter wardrobes vary only slightly from summer wardrobes, and a light jacket or tights are what set the two apart.
The Montana Ave. district.
A neighborhood I call my own, the Montana Ave. district is filled with coffee shops, cute dogs, happy families, tree-lined streets and darling boutiques. I recommend Groundworks for a cup of coffee, Only Hearts for an indulgent lingerie splurge, and Father’s Office for a great beer.
Neighborhood diversity. Santa Monica is family oriented, and full of yoga studios and Lululemon-clad men and women; Venice is home to pseudo-hippies, real hippies and delicious health food; Culver City is the new kid on the block with laidback restaurants and bars; Silver Lake is a full of handsome, bearded men and the hippest happenings; and Downtown LA is making its comeback with artsy friends and hip bars that deserve your attention. There is so much to see and explore!
Friends in various ‘hoods. As alluded to above, L.A. is a large, sprawling city with many different pockets, so it’s fun to have friends in various neighborhoods for exploration reasons… and convenience. My girlfriends and I can hit the town in West Hollywood, Venice, Santa Monica or the South Bay and know that we have a couch to crash on and snacks to eat at the end of the night.
It’s my favorite place in the greater Los Angeles area because it provides an easy escape from the busy city. Just thirty minutes up the Pacific Coast Highway (PCH), this seaside town is home to the best fish houses, a divine Greek restaurant (Taverna Tony), beautiful hiking trails and coveted beaches. Having a beach day in October is not unheard of in this neck of the woods.
Taylor’s gorgeous big girl office.
It’s been my dream to work in the fashion or beauty industry and L.A. is the West Coast hub for these fields. Here I have jumpstarted my career in the beauty industry with the most amazing company that will make it hard to leave at any point in the future (think catered lunch every day and an office with three windows. It’s enough to keep me happy for years to come… someone pinch me).
I am convinced that I have the best group of friends in L.A. A regular weekend includes browsing the farmer’s market, doing a puzzle over beers, and dinner parties that turn into dancing at beachside bars playing 80s hits. How could you leave friends like these?
Vintage and thrift stores. I am something of a thrift shopping aficionado and my local thrift shops have a steady selection of second-hand goods worthy of another Macklemore and Ryan Lewis hit. As a mere overview, I have found Chloe boots, J. Crew cashmere sweaters (yep, multiple), vintage leather goods and a Dior chemise at my neighborhood Goodwill. The thought of giving up my proximity to this gem is not something I like to think about.
Food and drink. SugarFish, Wurstkuche, Gjelina, Gray Block Pizza, Golden Road Brewery, Yang Chow. I could go on forever. L.A. is full of foodies and restaurateurs waiting to fill you up with delicious food and drink. Come visit and we’ll eat together.
KCRW. I will venture to say this is one of the best public radio stations in the country. KCRW is a branch of NPR for Southern California that covers local and national news, plays a fresh selection of music and has interesting segments about life in L.A. My favorite is “Good Food” with Evan Kleiman. She has the sweetest voice and the best knowledge of LA restaurants and eateries.
While my perspective of L.A. has changed quite a bit in the two years that I have lived here, there are still elements of this city that boggle my mind. Like, how is it possible that couples raise children in this city when traffic can keep you from your kids for hours? What if there was a serious emergency and you are dead in your tracks on the 405? And, why do people commute to jobs 2 hours from their homes? Why not move closer?
I am also a huge fan of public transportation and Los Angeles has a dysfunctional system. I look forward to living in a city with buses and trains and better walkability! And of course, I can’t stay away from my family for too long. I will eventually make my way back up the coast and settle in Northern California, but for now I am enjoying busy, sun-filled days in L.A.
If you want to come visit me and make fun of the people that are “so L.A.” over coffee or cocktails, please don’t hesitate. I’d love your company.
Thanks, Taylor for letting us into your fun life in Santa Monica! Next week we venture to the East Coast for a taste of life in D.C. Stay tuned!
Me and Taylor.