Lessons Learned 2 Years in LA: What Doesn’t Kill You Makes You Stronger

I have said it a million times, and I will say it again. Making it in Los Angeles is hard.

There’s the gas prices. The traffic. Rent. And the people, oh the people.

I joke that living in LA is like being in high school all over again. There are the super popular kids clad in their designer shades with their puppies in tow. (Just to give you a taste of my personality, growing up, I always thought the popular kids were stupid because they didn’t think for themselves. Not cute, boo boo. Not cute.) Short anecdote: Freshman year of high school, a girl who would go on to be the queen bee of the popular girls invited me into the clique, but I avoided them at lunch simply because I knew they disliked one of my middle school friends. (Even at 13, I wasn’t about that “follow the leader” life.)

Then, there’s the ultra artsy Los Angeles people who take weird to a whole new level. I thought I was weird, and then, I met people here. Let’s just say everything goes in the City of Angels. Nothing I see shocks me at this point. There will always be something in 10 minutes that will out-weird what just happened.

If you let it, Los Angeles will eat you up, spit you out and then eat you again. That is…. if you let it. It can also make you a stronger, and, dare I say it, better person. In my second year in my dream city, with every turn, it seems I have faced a new set of obstacles. There were some moments when things were so bad I simply had to laugh to keep from crying. My friend Jade and I became masters at the “laughing at your pain” mantra.

“Los Angeles will eat you up, spit you out and then eat you again. That is…. if you let it.”

There was the job lay-off at 26. The roommate remiss of caring for her dogĀ  (i.e. a regularly pee- and poop-stained carpet. You’re welcome for that imagery.) There was the vandalized car window. The getting rear-ended by an uninsured driver at a red light that nearly totaled my car. The five hundred plus dollars spent to get my Jeep fixed in order to pass the California smog test, just to spend nearly the same amount to get my California tags and plates. (Yay, me!) Then, there was the hurdle of getting over the three-year friendlationship that I thought just might be “the one.” Oh, and just this week, there was the moment where I nearly flooded my friend’s kitchen (sorry, Jade) and had my things attacked by ants in the bedroom the next day. (Shower, please?)

Like I said, rough year. But with every rainy cloud, there was a silver lining. There was crossing the finish line of my first half marathon. (I literally could not feel my legs but have never felt more proud in my life.) There was the benefit concert that an old roommate, myself and few loyal friends teamed up to create. I stepped out of my comfort zone and played MC/hostess for the night, and we raised more than $1,000 for Syrian refugees.

There was getting to go back home to Michigan, Oklahoma and Georgia (yes, I have a lot of homes) to see family and friends and get so much quality time, hugs and kisses to fill my heart up. There was the starting my freelance journalism career (more like stumbling into it) that pressed me to be more confident than ever in my writing, editing and negotiating skills. There was stepping out of my comfort zone, auditioning for my church’s music team and making it!

There were also some laughs. (Well, actually lots of those.) There was the time I ran through a fountain on Hollywood Boulevard and ran into a huge sign in front of hundreds of people. There were the awkward dates that made for lots of witty banter with friends later on. (A Mercedes-Benz will not compensate for bad grammar folks.) There was the guy I met at a party who told me I look like someone who has money. (Apparently, I look like I make money moves.) There was reconnecting with my middle school crush and realizing I can do so much better. (His loss.)

With every turn of the page this year, there has seemed to be a hurdle. Clearly, I must be on to something good. As one of my favorite authors, Shauna Niequist says in her book Cold Tangerines, “Nothing good comes easily. You have to lose things you thought you loved, give up things you thought you needed. You have to get over yourself, beyond your past, out from under the weight of your future. The good stuff never comes when things are easy.”

“The good stuff never comes when things are easy.”

2017 has shown me that I am stronger, tougher and more resilient than I realized. There have been a number of times when I’ve told my friend Sam that I was quitting, packing up and moving back to Oklahoma. I never once meant it. You see, what I have learned through of all this adversity is that I am no quitter.

While I may get knocked down, I always, always get back up. Oftentimes, I have sold myself short, in friendship, in love, in career, but not anymore. If I want the best, if I want more, then I have to ask for it. No one will believe in me unless I do. LA has taught me that people will walk right over me until I say, “Enough.” Living here has taught me that a “no” isn’t a bad thing, but it just leads you to the right “yes.” It has taught me that rejection does not equate to failure but can be information to redirect you where you need to go.

If there’s any words of wisdom I can share to you as you wrap up your 2017 and start your 2018, I’d say this: Sometimes, you have to be your own best friend, your own cheerleader, your own advocate, your own defense, your own believer. If you’re going to bet on anyone, bet on yourself.

I’ve been backed in a corner a number of times this year, but I haven’t given up. And I’ll keep not giving up, dusting myself off, holding fast to hope while encouraging yours. Yet and still, I am hopeful, yet and still.

Happy New Years friends! And thank you to all my beautiful family and friends who made 2017 sweet.

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This post later appeared on Hello Giggles.

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I’ve Been Social Media Free for 6 Months and Couldn’t Be Happier

This afternoon, I went for a walk with my roommate’s dog. It was nothing extraordinary. I just wanted to take in the fresh fall air. While, it’s almost winter and snowy in most of the country, in L.A., it’s crisp air, 50-degree weather and golden leaves.

On my walk, I took time to look at the imprint the tree limbs made as they swayed against the wind. I looked at the tops of the trees, observing the changing colors, the lively leaves up top and the dying leaves hanging below. I listened to the wind whistle around me, the car horns honking, the music blaring from the speakers. I smiled at passersby and let one pet the dog’s belly. (Boy, was she happy- the puppy I mean.)

Moments like these, when ordinary, everyday sights and sounds can be appreciated and soaked in used to be rare for me. These days, I am more present. I am more aware of life around me, of other people, of the frailty of time and how quickly it comes and goes.

Maybe this change of mindset is a testament to getting older, growing up and becoming wiser, but it would be narrow-sighted of me not to connect the dots between being more present and disconnecting from social media. In June of this year, I decided to go completely dark online. I deleted my accounts for Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and Snapchat. All that I have left are my LinkedIn page and a professional Facebook I use for work purposes (on which I have a whopping seven “friends”.)

Let me tell you, I have not once regretted my decision. I couldn’t be happier. I sometimes forget I am not on social media until someone asks me about it or talks about something they saw on Facebook or Twitter that day. For me, it feels like a breath of fresh air. It feels like freedom to just be myself without performing for anyone else. It feels like freedom from running a race I could never win. It’s sweet. It’s quiet. It’s simple. It’s real.

“It feels like freedom to just be myself.”

When I first went social media free, my roommate at the time asked me, “But how will people know you?”

To give you a little background about my old roomie, she is the type of person who shares pretty much everything, everything, on social media, car troubles, work troubles, the dress she bought today or the celebrity she meant at Target. Everything from the extraordinary to the mundane, she crafts and cultivates into an exciting post for eyes to see and join in on a conversation about her life in Los Angeles.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with that- if that is what brings her joy. For me, social media is burdensome. It is draining. For me, it became a rat race to keep up with the Joneses. It was a false sense of community and relationship.

It seemed as I was growing, maturing, making mistakes and learning from those mistakes, I was taking people from my past with me into my present, and it didn’t feel good. It seemed unnatural. It was an open door to pry into the lives of people from different chapters of my life while giving them permission to do the same to me.

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I am not sure what I said to my old roommate when she asked how people would know me once I was offline. Now, if I could answer, I would tell her that they’d know me how they always have, through phone calls, through cards and kind notes sent, through quality time spent, through wine nights with friends, through happy hours and bible studies, through community, real, authentic community.

In my time off social media, I honestly can say I haven’t lost one friend. If anything, my friendships have been strengthened. I talk to people on the phone regularly. I remember birthdays more. I check in to ask about hospital visits and sick family members. I am more present, not perfect, just present.

I am more present, not perfect, just present.

Don’t get me wrong. Social media isn’t bad, but the simple fact that millions of people around the world use it daily, multiple times a day should be a cautionary sign. There is no one equation to life that works best for any two people. It makes perfect since that social media won’t work for everyone. I am one of those people. So please, don’t judge me for not being a fan of social media, and I won’t judge you for being attached to your phone and taking photos everywhere you go.

Recently, on a visit to Georgia, my godsister told me that I seem happier. This brought me so much joy. It was better than being told I looked pretty or in shape, that my outfit was nice or that I was successful in my career. She said I seemed happy. And I am. I truly am.