One year ago today my husband and I moved from Philadelphia to California, we stayed with friends in Northern California until moving to LA in November, but we officially left home a year ago today. As I was reflecting on everything that has happened this year, I thought I should write it down and share how it feels. This way I can look back on the experience, but also for anyone else considering a move, in hopes this helps you to be better prepared than we were.
SO, so much has happened since we got into our car and made the trip. Some great, some awful, but we have finally surfaced and as we gasp for air I can safely say I have absolutely no regrets in our decision to move. This is our path, yours may look different, ours looks like this, and just because it has been hard does not mean it is wrong, I can safely assume most of you reading this can say the same of your decisions.
With that said I have composed a list (I love a good list — sue me!,) I will title it:
The Best of Times, and The Worst of Times, a year in California, 3000 Miles from Home.
All the feels
Moving away from home will bring about feelings you were prepared for, but they will still feel unexpected and, at times, painful. I have felt guilt, deep sadness, overwhelming joy (sorry Delco,) abandonment, excitement, to name a few. Each day has offered a new emotion and I have finally figure out why. When you’re already feeling sad because you miss your family, the very idea that they are 3,000 miles away heightens this emotion. Distance heightens every emotion… the idea of 3,000 miles, the realization that you do not know when you will see them again, it makes sad days much more somber, and reunions a million times more joyous.
A New Climate
Living in LA has been challenging. There are so many complications that we have experienced, and then situations that needed resolve, that we were completely unprepared for… example: pollution causes skin irritation, increased chance of cold and flu, bacteria in water causes skin irritation, and you can spend a lot of time trying to figure out what is irritating your skin, never once guessing pollution is the problem. The entire month of January 2017, my husband and I were sick, like really sick. We both experienced respiratory infections and then I had the flu. I partially blame flying for this, since we had traveled home for the holidays, but also, our bodies took some time adjusting to the new climate. The adjustment is still happening. We just experienced our first heatwave since moving. It was a dry heat and living in such an extreme heat for an extended period of time will take your breath away, and your energy, we had no energy and felt a lot like the living dead. We purchased about 10 fans, and a portable air conditioner, we drank more water than ever before and barely ate. Bottom line — experiencing a new climate on vacation is exciting and short lived, moving to a new climate can require some major adjustments.
LA was previously Spanish territory, and then Mexican territory. It was not until 1848 that California was United States territory, so, needless to say there is an enormous Spanish and Mexican influence. We sort of knew this coming here… but we really had no idea. It is an absolute privilege to be surrounded by so much culture, Los Angeles is truly a melting pot of cultures, we have Thai Town, Little Bangladesh, Koreatown, Little Armenia, to name a few. Just the other day we went to go to the grocery store and found a huge section of Santa Monica Boulevard closed for a Salvadorian parade. We are constantly emerged in new and exciting cultures, it is so cool to learn about these other cultures, try to learn from their languages and experiences, and open up our mind. If there is a downfall, it is that neither of us truly committed to learning another language, we are both on the pursuit of bettering our Spanish, and we have LA to thank for that. Wherever you’re headed, try to learn about the culture in advance, so you can be prepared, or at least have your “yo no comprende” ready to go when you’re asked something in Spanish.
Bettering our Partnership
My husband and I have always had a great partnership, we take care of each other and have always been equal partners. But how can I really say that until I have experienced something completely stressful, new, and challenging? Which is what this year has been, a challenge. We have refined our relationship in so many ways, and I couldn’t be more thankful to have such a partner. When the going got tough, we found strength and comfort in one another. Kudos to those of you that have relocated on your own, I do not know how I would have made it an entire year without my husband. He is a rockstar, my ambassador of Quam, all things right and homey, my homey, and most importantly, my partner in all things. The banjo moon in my tie-dye sky, to be specific. 😉
I feel like now that I got all of the hardships out of the way I should mention how amazing everything is. Even when things get hard, we say “at least we’re in California.” It is really, really spectacular to be here. We spend most of our time working on school projects, a little bit of time at work, and the rest of the time we are finding fun new things to do in LA. We love the Hollywood Bowl, hiking the mountains at Griffith Park, Venice, Silverlake and Echo Park, we go downtown all the time, and have become those people that avoid tourists. Moving to a new place has so many amazing benefits, there is so much to do and see that it is overwhelming. The weather is (almost) always perfect, it never rains, so much to the point that we don’t even bother to check the weather anymore. We can do whatever we want, whenever we can, since we have no other obligations (families can be demanding!).
I think part of the reason we love it so much here is because we learned quickly where LA had its shortcomings; the #1, in my opinion, is traffic or commuting. So we decided not to drive, at all. We both ride our bike as much as possible and use public transportation all the time and we walk, we walk a lot. We still have our car for when we want to go on a trip, but we almost never drive. When people come out to visit traffic is one of the first things they comment on, and we can honestly say we have sat in very little or almost no traffic, which has increased our quality of life. When moving somewhere, try to find out what makes living there hard and combat the difficulties as best as you can. For us, this way of living has been amazing, and we feel like we’re doing our part to help the environment.
Be Your Best Self
Living away from home, where everyone already knows too much about your past, is a great opportunity to reinvent yourself, or at the very least really reflect on who you are. What is important to you? How do you want to live, what do you want to do? DO IT. And although I do not think you need to move away to live your best life, or to reflect on who you are, it did help for me. I have always wanted to be a vegetarian, over the past few years I would make comments to my husband about giving up meat. I barely ate meat, sometimes chicken would give me an upset stomach, and I never really felt like it was a necessity. But there was always something that got into the way, or an excuse, to not be my best self. Since moving to California I have given up meat, and I am so proud of myself, there is no other way to say it. I don’t feel like I’m missing out on anything, and I always have fun making different meals. What makes this easier is there is no one in California to ask me why I gave up meat, they don’t care. My sisters also gave up meat and they have told me about how hard it is for some people at home to understand. They are asked: “why would you ever give up meat?” or “how long is this diet going to last?” and I think that is a sign of a small town, where everyone thinks if you’re doing something, and they aren’t, it must be wrong. No one out here gives a crap about what I do, I have no one to impress or to worry about, so finally, I am free to be me — without explanation.
The First Month
The first night we were in LA I cried myself to sleep. I was so anxious, and scared and having a WTF moment, I could not possibly grasp the magnitude of it all, and that resulted in tears. I remember thinking “where am I?” The first month was a complete emotional roller coaster, I was excited, and depressed all at the same time, which is an intense set of emotions to have. But I remember one of my friends saying to me before we left “make sure you give it a year, don’t come home until after a year.” Her point was, don’t let these emotions ruin what could be a good thing. Because no matter how prepared you are, you’re going to have intense, unexpected emotions, and that can make for some hasty decisions. I remember telling myself before we left that I have never needed to be courageous, ever. I have never been in a situation that truly demanded that I have courage, and this was my moment. Have courage, things don’t happen to people who wait for it, “fortune favors the brave.” I survived the first month, and so will you.
Philadelphia is the greatest city in the world. I have always had a deep love affair with Philly, I lived in center city for about two years, worked there for 7 years, and when I lived 15 minutes outside of the city, I would find any possible moment to go down there, many times on my own, to take pictures or just walk around and find something new. Since moving to LA, I have only fallen more deeply in love with Philadelphia. I get so excited when I see someone with an Eagles hat or a Phillies tee shirt on. My husband wears his TSOP (the Sound of Philadelphia) shirt at work, Amoeba records in Hollywood, and I get so excited when he tells me that someone called him out for it. I love Philly, and I think I love it so much because I am here. I see how amazing home is now that I am far away, I love soft pretzels and Wawa, and Rocky, and 2 street and the Mummers. I love the Eagles chant, what I once thought was the most obnoxious sound in the world, is now a sign of home and when I hear it, in LA, it has brought tears to my eyes.
Miss you PHIL, we’ll be back someday 🙂
So, through the best and worst of times, it will all be worth it.
Go out and get your LA… whatever it is for you.