Five Years, Five Things

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“Forward.”

That’s Wisconsin’s motto. It’s rad, and I’ve taken it to heart during all of the five years I’ve been in LA. Five years. Five years to grow and bloom into an adventuresome Californian with a warm Midwestern heart. I know I’ve adapted to LA because I now describe my traffic route upon arrival (“I took the 101 to the 405 to the 10…”), but I remain a Wisconsinite at heart because I sometimes apologize for existing in someone’s vicinity.

These five years have included many challenges and triumphs, and have brought big changes to my life. I would never have guessed I’d end up where I am, but I’m grateful for the twists, turns, and second chances that have brought me here.

Where You At?

My current status is as a week-long Hawthorne resident. The new place is about 20 miles (1.5 LA traffic hours) from the San Fernando Valley, where I safely lived out my first five years enjoying proximal hiking, sweltering summer heat, and snow-capped winter mountain vistas.

Map of my new place in relation to the old ones

Check out how close LAX is to Hawthorne, friends.

The Valley was a suburban kind of wonderful. I never lived far from Ventura Boulevard’s roulette wheel of “New American” eateries and gastropubs. My commute was always reasonable. Nearby mountain hikes were plentiful. The drive to go brood on Malibu’s cliffs was a quick 45 minutes.

But a sea change hit, and now I’m typing up a post in the South Bay. That’s almost Long Beach, man! What happened? Here’s the highlight reel in five points for my fellow Millennials that can’t consume content unless it’s a list.

1. Space

No longer on my own out here, I’m living my best life with a wicked smart and supportive partner – and our little dog, too.

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Roberto is a handsome, witty, bearded fellow from the East Coast with nicer hair than me. We met working together, and became friends after a visit to the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory’s open house. The cosmos brought us together, and after some space lecture dates at the observatory we couldn’t be separated.

I’m a big fan of love, and the happy recipient of a rare second chance at it that is vibrant, intimate, and colossal all at once. My mother says she can see it in my face, but what do mothers know? (Everything, somehow.) It feels like I’ve found a home, and he must have thought so, too. This past summer after two years together he proposed under the stars in our balcony hammock. If I could have said yes harder, I would’ve.

2. Work

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I left Instantly – where I met Roberto – at year two, and spent three years on an in-house design team for a medical group. We won awards, and I grew under excellent mentorship, but I was ready to make a change. Roberto left Instantly/SSI for a career that has blossomed, but was located in El Segundo – 1.5 LA traffic hours from our home in the Valley.  It seemed the South Bay was the answer to both a new job for me, and a shorter commute for him.

So here we are in Hawthorne! I’ve taken a new position at a SaaS company a block away from his office in El Segundo. Our commutes are short, and I have high hopes for my new team and my projects. Our new place is a tri-level townhome with a garage, double oven, and a shower with windows that look out at the palm trees and mountains. I can watch the planes coming in to LAX while I wash my hair.

3. Growth

I’ve got to toot my own horn here a little bit. While all of these major changes have been happening, I’ve completed a few feats of physicality that I want to cheer about.

Just this year, I completed my first 10k run, after a year of recovering from a broken foot. Before the break, I hiked the Bright Angel Trail through the Grand Canyon. It was hard. I’ve been casually rock climbing, running, doing that yoga, and maybe more than casually hiking.

I grew in other ways, as well: upped my freelance game, tightened my photography skills, paid off my student debt, and got laser eyes. I can see the future, and it’s bright.

4. Solitude

Perhaps my greatest growth, however, comes from hanging out with and taking care of myself. After my first year and a half in LA I separated from my ex-husband, and had to learn to be alone. I spent some time overextending myself and attending therapy, but eventually healed my way into a healthier routine of self care. I’m a fan of the solo spirit quests, the continuous finding we’re all supposed to be doing.

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Alone for the moonrise at the Salton Sea

I’ve become a fan of hiking by myself, going out and exploring the world solo. I’m great company. At least once a year I take a day trip off into the wild. Being alone in nature is thrilling and exciting – not lonely. At least, most of the time it isn’t. One trip I got caught in a storm in the desert and thought I was a goner, and that kind of loneliness is no bueno.

Here are some of the beautiful things I’ve seen solo:

Exploring alone inspires me deeply, and helps me reflect on what kind of story I’m writing for myself. It’s a quiet reminder that I’m in charge of my destiny.

5. Adventure

Being alone is great, but sharing adventure with the ones you love is the best. To that end, I’ve been travelling more in the past three years than I have my whole life. I credit that to excellent company. My friends and I get around. I’ve seen 8 National Parks, and every one of them has blown me away. My crew and I are gonna make it through them all.

Only forty-some left to go.

My folks have been out this way a number of times, too, and we make sure to action pack each of their trips. My mom and I fed a giraffe. We rode a hot air balloon. We all got tattoos. Heck, Mitch and I almost died hiking one day because we were so gung-ho we didn’t check the weather and got caught in mudslidesville.

And of course, Roberto and I adventure around as well. We’ve hiked a hidden grotto, held hands at the Lincoln Memorial, adopted San Diego speakeasies, flipped a kayak at Big Bear, and danced on top of the space needle.

My life is full.

I’m about to marry a person I deeply respect and appreciate. My career is in full swing. Our new apartment has a hot tub that I can’t get grounded for hanging out in. I’m fitter now than I was in my twenties, and comfortable enjoying myself as I grow. I’ve seen two California condors. All around me are fabulous people and rich experiences.

I’m not asked if I’m coming home anymore.

Having been raised a nomad, I doubt my “home” will ever be a specific location where I grow roots. I’d like to think I’m creating a life that will be meaningful no matter the zip code. I’ve had a crazy five years out here, but I want everyone to know:

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JB


In memoriam:
Brodyman Dudeman -The true reason I made it this far.

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You were my rock, buddy.

 

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Our Los Angeles

by Jackie Babe

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Our Father, Who art in traffic

Hallowed be Thy fame;

Thy food truck come,

Thy hike be done,

on earth as it is at Runyon.

Give us this day our daily kale,

and forgive us our star tours,

as we forgive those who mixtape against us;

and lead us not into street performance,

but deliver us from earthquakes. Amen.

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Two Years in LA

As of today it’s been two years since I moved out to LA.

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Two rad years.

A lot has changed for me – personally, professionally, emotionally. Here’s a raw and honest update:

Personally, I’m on my own now. I’ve got a cute little studio in Encino (see map) that I share with Brody. It’s not much, but it’s my 425 sq. ft. palace. It has a fireplace for all these cold Californian nights, plenty of kitchen counter space for the cooking I fail at, and a strange outdoor closet on the balcony for all the things I keep hauling around. (It’s never below 40° here, so I guess that’s a great storage option for anything but candles.) Sometimes the place is a mess, but it’s all mine.

Having my own space means I’m answering to no one (except Brody, of course, who gets irritated when I come home late), so I find myself super busy. I’ve taken on extra freelance work, some tutoring, and I’ve made a ton of beautiful, amazing friends that I’m out adventuring with all the time. I hike, visit museums, explore beaches, go to art events and space lectures, watch heartbreakingly beautiful sunsets, and eat a lot of tacos in between hard workouts. I haven’t had time to play video games in months. Mostly this is pleasant, but I occasionally overbook myself to exhaustion. It’s a learning curve, and I’m working on finding a balance between go, go, go and taking care of myself. There ain’t no rest for the wicked, but I’ve never wanted to be villainous.

Professionally, I’m leaving Instantly/SSI at the end of March to start a new design job just a few miles from home. After the acquisition of Instantly by SSI – a much bigger and more traditional company – I’ve found that the culture change isn’t what I’m after and the workload isn’t heavy enough to keep me on my feet. And as we all know, Makers Gonna Make.

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Note: Not an actual tattoo, mom.

My time with Instantly allowed me to grow a great deal, and expand my skill set in a wonderful, supportive and collaborative environment. However, I’m really excited for the opportunity to join a new, larger in-house creative team with hopes of expanded collaboration and even more growth. I hit the ground running on April 4.

Emotionally, this has all been a roller-coaster. 2015 was a difficult year. My father suffered a massive brain injury last February, and we almost lost him. He is still in recovery. I started a new job in March. I had a bad cancer scare in September, complete with surgery. I moved out on my own in October. Through it all my husband moved across the country and my marriage fell apart. I stopped drinking for 6 months. I hit the gym. I neglected the blog.

To say I’m seeing a therapist seems like an understatement. I mean, come on, everyone in LA is seeing a therapist. But really, guys – I’m seeing a therapist and doing my best to work through it all. Those close to me know what a struggle it’s been, and how hard I’ve been working to make sure I come out of it all as the best version of myself.

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I’m a strong, independent woman. Check out those guns.

It’s hard to find and admit fault in yourself, and even harder to act on that discovery. But that’s exactly what I’ve been doing. Nobody’s perfect, but striving to be a person you love is the great life goal. That, and having super rad adventures with excellent people that lead to lasting memories. Because in the end, we’re nothing but sacks of experiences and I want mine to be beautiful.

The big question I get is, “Are you coming home?” After a year like that, packing it in and heading back to the warm arms of my Wisconsinite family and friends looks really comforting, I can’t lie. I spent the midnight hours of Christmas eve this year curled up in front of the tree at my parents’ house in an oversized sweater, drowning in mascara on my brother’s shoulder, despairing about how alone I was going to be out here. (We’re all allowed one complete cave-in, right?) I pulled myself together and realized I’m definitely not alone – I have an incredible support system of friends out here, and the people I love in WI are just a phone call, hangout or plane ride away. Despite having a rough go of it, I feel more loved and supported than I have in my entire life. Loneliness is perspective, and I’m anything but.

So to answer that burning question: No. Not now. There’s too much to see and do out here. Too much I haven’t explored with these amazing people in this strange place I’ve grown to love. Will I stay forever, or will the colorful siren song of the Wisconsin autumn call out to me? Could I make California a home, so far away from the family that buoys me? Only time will tell. It will be really tough to leave if I ever do.

Until then, I’ll keep hanging on, because life is crazy and hard, but oh so beautiful.

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You Should Learn Some Phone Numbers

I realized, standing in the hall outside my own locked door at 8:30am on a Friday after taking out the trash that I don’t know a single number that I can call to help me out here. I’m alone in a sea of people. I stood there without my phone, and even if I found a phone to use I had no one’s number committed to memory. All I could think of was that maybe someone had an 818 area code, you know, because that’s the local one. Huge help. I had what I think could be described as a small panic attack. My mind starting boiling.

I ran to the front office of my block-deep apartment complex, where the building manager Carlos noticed the hurricane at his door and asked “what’s wrong?”. He didn’t have a key to my unit. He asked if we should call Jerame – the guy who owns my place. I know Jerame is likely already working on set over at Universal and couldn’t come. I also didn’t know his number. Head rushing hard I figured I could run to my friend’s place – he has a spare set of keys for this exact situation, and lives a few blocks away. Did he leave for work yet? Was he awake? How late was I going to be? How fast can I run in these flats? Carlos gave me the keys to his 1990s Civic and I took it, Mega FM blaring in the stereo (¡Lo mejor de las mananas!), over to my friend’s place.

Flashers on. Run to the door. Push all the buttons. Hit the broken call machine. Curse a little. Run more. Pry the gate open. Run the steps. Knock on the door. Hear his dog. Think maybe he’s left for work, but think maybe I saw his blurry car when I ran past. Knock again. Pretend to breathe. Consider how late I’ll be to work. Drown in my whirlwind of wet hair. He comes to the door, confused and sleepy. I apologize for running through his morning like a freight train. He gives me my keys. I thank the gods for good friends while I run and drive like a maniac. Return Carlos’s keys. Promise him a case of Modelo. Run to my door. Make a sigh of relief as the lock clicks open. I’m 15 minutes behind schedule. I walk back in, grab my salad, and book it to work, making up 10 of those 15 minutes on the road. Because it’s Friday in LA no one notices I’m 5 minutes late, because only 25% of the office is in on time.

Eating breakfast at my desk, I let the flood my head recede. Left in the debris of my morning is a clear note: Maybe commit a few life raft phone numbers to memory if you’re going to swim alone in a huge ocean of people.

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A Year in LA

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This past Tuesday marked a year that Darin and I have been in California. I wanted to write about it, but I’ve been too busy. That’s been the theme of the past few months. Go, go, go.

Los Angeles keeps us moving forward. Back in Wisconsin there was sort of culture of contentment – many people were happy to work stable, stagnant jobs, unaware or uncaring that there’s something bigger and better out there. They’re just not hungry for more, for adventure. I was becoming one of those people, unmotivated to change and discover. Why run fast when you can make a living walking? Then we took the plunge and moved across the miles to a place where complacency isn’t viable.

This is a city of immigrants. Hungry people come from distances great and small to be a part of it’s pulse. Like most immigrants, the people are full of ambition, and they’re prepared to go hard, not go home. People out here are chasing and making and doing and they’re definitely not walking. Being a part of the rush is invigorating and exhausting all at the same time. We work hard (9 to 5 is a dream fast-fading) and we play hard (exploring this city is a dream half-realized). I feel it’s all worth it, though.

Darin asked me one rainy night on the balcony what I want out of life. The SparkNotes version is that I want a beautiful life bursting with adventure and exploration. I want the kind of life someone could write a book about. I want to look back in my sunset years and have a library of stories to tell of past days and doings to keep my fire ignited.

That colorful life is what I’m beginning to invent out here.  I’ve met people from across the globe, and work within a company that pushes me to constantly expand myself. I’ve watched the night city from above lit up like a bustling galaxy. I’ve breathed in the vast ocean air from the top of a mountain. And I haven’t even scratched the surface.

How do you conveniently pare all that down into an answer to “So how’s LA?”? I guess the short answer is “It ignites me.”.

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Quick Pro/Con

A quick exploration of the smaller things.

Pro: There will be tons of things to do and people to meet.

Con: We’ll completely neglect our blog.

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A Birthday Trip to The Getty Center

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For my birthday Darin and I finally took a quick afternoon trip up to the Getty Center. We’ve been saying we’re going to check it out since we moved here – it’s only about a 15 minute drive, and it’s free. ($10-15 for parking, though, but you get to take a totally rad tram ride with great views of the 405. So worth it.) We finally made good on our promise, and realized it was a mistake not to come here more often.

The Getty was really beautiful – the art/sculpture collections and architecture were gorgeous – but we definitely didn’t set aside enough time to visit. We managed to see half of one building’s art collections (there are at least four main buildings, for those of you good at math that’s somewhere around 1/8th of the collections), and then resigned ourselves to the fact that we weren’t going to get in enough exhibits, so we went off to explore the grounds. The grounds, it turns out, are reason enough to visit. And Holy Hera – those vistas!

Behind us is all of downtown LA, Santa Monica, and the waterfront.

Behind us is all of downtown LA, Santa Monica, and the waterfront.

We were so blown away by the vistas that we decided to share a few, saving some of the more incredible ones for when/if you visit the Getty yourself. (Also, we were way too stupefied by the more amazing views to remember to video them.) So sit back, relax, and watch us guide you through two incredible views in just over a minute. We apologize for the mumbly, whispering audio. We didn’t want to look like total nuts raving about the views into our phones. Pretend we’re conspiring with you, instead of just crazy.

For those of you who have yet to come out this way, I highly encourage you to visit the Getty. You honestly can’t beat the price or the views. If you’re already out here, call us up and we’ll go together!

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