I’m not exactly sure what the final straw was, but somewhere between 70s classic rock songs about California and a defiance to renew my imminently expiring driver’s license in my current state, I came to celebrate the fourth anniversary of my 21st birthday as a resident across the country.
I had two bags and a big dream as I watched the pavement blur below the ascending jet. Moving jobless from Philadelphia to Los Angeles wasn’t NOT a big deal, yet I was treating it as some grand experiment or adventure to “see what would happen.”
I was absolutely, positively, 110 percent sure that I was crazy.
Home became a house in the Valley. Bed was a couch in the living room. Work was desperately trying to make something of my writing, hoping someone would see it and want to hire me.
Research was reading -- lots of reading -- and a few times per week, I was a 25-year-old intern in the entertainment industry. Living off of my savings was a bold move, but one I felt I had to make.
I learned tricks to help my survival without depriving myself. My craft beer hobby and penchant for whiskey were put on hold since “two buck Chuck” was significantly more budget-friendly.
The 99 cent store became my go-to for household item purchases. And clothes? I had enough for one or two loads of laundry and would not be purchasing any for a very long time. This was the struggle.
It was the struggle of a Del Taco budget and praying my student loan payments wouldn’t bounce. It was the challenge of living carless in a commuter city and hoping someone would offer to take me on errands with them so I could get out of the house.
This was life as a struggling Millennial -- a life that’s anything but uncommon today. I wasn’t the first 25-year-old intern, and I surely (sadly) won’t be the last.
Millennials are at odds: We're trying to do what we dream of while still managing to pay the bills, and somehow, we can’t get both or even one of those hopes to come to fruition.
Sometimes, we have to pick location or salary; paycheck or dream job; stability or freedom. We’re well educated, yet we hit walls everywhere we turn. It’s not fair, but we’re doing our best.
To get to my internship, I worked around everyone else’s schedule, which meant always having a book with me to kill time. I destroyed my debit cards on apps like Lyft and Uber when no one was around. I came to California for independence and adventure, and yet I was unable to do the most simple things like go grocery shopping on my own. (The pizza delivery guy and I are still on a first-name basis.)
Ultimately, I chose the adventure over what was easy. In a tough job market, most of our generation became complacent in a mediocre to less-than-desirable job, because they’re lucky enough to have a paycheck. Taking a risk can seem foolish, but it’s something I’ve always admired in others, so I decided to be the kind of person I admire myself.
I learned that I enjoyed living with very little. I felt light and liberated. My lack of independence meant that I got to know my housemates much better than I would have otherwise. I observed so much more of the desert beauty in LA from the passenger seat.
I recognized kindness and took it more deeply to heart; no small gesture anyone did for me went unnoticed or unrewarded. There’s a bond that forms between comrades in the fight for financial freedom and independence, and it’s a bond that lasts for a lifetime.
Even with all of the obvious obstacles, my first months in LA were somehow the most beautiful time of my 20s. My future in LA as of now is uncertain; I’ve begun to seek work in other locations -- some on the west coast, some almost 3,000 miles away.
Life is too short to be unhappy, and while the job market is horrifyingly desolate, its deserted nature opens up the possibility of taking unconventional roads to happiness.
It may be a struggle, but the view is so beautiful.
Photo via We Heart It