Week 20: Working the dream
I had the day off on Tuesday, and I went to the beach to run a few miles and then read in the sunshine. After my run, as I was walking along the ocean and looking at the palm trees, I had a “wow” moment: I live here.
I moved to Los Angeles a year ago Sunday, and I still have these “wow” moments all the time. I guess that’s what happens when something you’ve dreamed about for as long as you can remember becomes a reality.
I did it. I live in California. It’s warm and sunny almost every day. I can go to the beach pretty much any day off. I can bike to the ocean from my apartment.
As one of my friends recently captioned a photo on Instagram, “Sometimes I get jealous of my own life.”
But you know what? Other times, I feel bad for my own life. For instance, when all my friends are out on a Friday night, and I’m stuck at work until 1:30 a.m. Or when I realize I haven’t had a night off in 13 days.
In my year here, I’ve learned two things. First, I’m living my dream, but it’s just that: my dream. It’s definitely not for everyone. Second, there is a dark underbelly to this cloud nine.
Mine is a dream that includes fighting city traffic, paying rent higher than most mortgage payments, working 50-plus hours a week and having my car broken into for no good reason. It is not a dream that includes cheap groceries, home ownership in your 20s, lots of space or lots of free time.
What’s more, I’ve realized over the past year that my dream is never set, never fully reached or achieved. This is a dream I have to keep working for every day, to continue making it happen.
Los Angeles isn’t a place you can live halfheartedly. This is a place you must commit to, a life you must invest in. L.A. is big. It’s crowded. It’s competitive. It’s expensive. It’s exhausting.
You have to really want to be here — because you have to really work to be here. Getting around, earning a living, paying your way, advancing your career … it takes more effort in L.A. than in most other places. All of my friends work very, very hard. That’s what we have to do to live this dream.
Given that it takes so much effort to build a life here, If you don’t really want the pros (and you don’t have a trust fund), the cons would very quickly make California not worth it. You could have a much simpler, less stressful, more affordable life elsewhere. Many people would choose to go that route.
Instead, I work two jobs. I want this dream, but one year ago, I promised myself I wouldn’t forego being smart about money and saving for my future in order to live my L.A. life in the present. I work very hard because I want to be here and I am happy here, but not at the expense of preparation for my future.
Let me be clear: I am not complaining. I couldn’t be happier about my move. I love Los Angeles, and to me, all the effort and exertion are worth it — so worth it — but I have learned over the past year that not everyone would feel that way. Luckily for me, I do. It’s not easy, but I get to live my dream.
You could say I’m having my cake and eating it too. But that cake doesn’t come for free. I’m working my butt off every day to bake that cake.
Currently watching: Orphan Black, season 3
Currently reading: The Game by Ken Dryden
Song of the week: The Pitch Perfect 2 soundtrack
Plans for the weekend: Not much on the docket yet for Memorial Day weekend. I’m hoping for some beach time and BBQ time with friends.