Just over a week ago, I hopped off the plane at LAX with a dream and my cardigan. I moved from the Windy City to live and work in Los Angeles for the summer and it was a fantastic decision. However, I had some serious misconceptions about what it would be like living in L.A. I blame the majority of these misconceptions on Instagram.
Here are the lies I told myself:
1. "Los Angeles traffic really can't be that bad," I said.
Reality I was wrong. It is that bad. No matter what estimated arrival time your GPS tells you, plan to be late to wherever you're going. There is no rhyme or reason to the madness. L.A. traffic patterns are completely unpredictable and unavoidable. According to Inrix, the average Los Angeles driver wastes up to 59 hours. I repeat: FIFTY NINE HOURS.
2. "It's going to be way too hot," I said.
Reality: Los Angles weather is perfect. And especially perfect by my standards, because Chicago weather can never make up its mind. It's sunny and 75 every day here and if it's not, the world might be ending. Unless you're in The Valley, where it's always sweltering hot. I've already learned (the hard way) to avoid The Valley on days where my hangover requires cooler pastures.
3. "I'll figure out parking once I get there," I said.
Reality: WOW. WRONG. Parking must be carefully planned out, especially since my roommate doesn't know how to parallel park. I, on the other hand, am a professional parallel parker and no "Street Parking Only" warning on Yelp will scare me away. Tandem parking, however, is a whole other animal and I'm not sure if I will ever wrap my head around it. What if someone boxes my car in?! I'm stressed just thinking about it.
4. "I'm a Midwest girl forever," I said.
Reality: Being from the Midwest, I like to believe I'll always return there. But Los Angeles has made me question my resolve to remain a Chicagoan my entire life. I couldn't help but fall in love with the palm trees and beaches. It's a definite step up from the polar vortex that engulfed the Midwest all last winter, leaving dead plants and seasonal depression in its wake.
5. "In-N-Out is a quick and authentic California meal," I said.
Reality: If by "quick" I meant "exceedingly time consuming," then yes, In-N-Out is quick. And if by "authentic" I actually meant "packed wall to wall with Los Angeles residents" then yes, In-N-Out is also authentic. I will admit that the burgers melt in your mouth and it's well worth the wait, but my romanticized view of the restaurant was not remotely accurate.
6. "It will be easy to budget my money," I said.
Reality: No matter what I've budgeted, I always end up spending a little more. The "$" price range on Yelp ends up being more like "$$", "$$" costs more like "$$$," and anything more can be categorized under "$$$$$$$$$$$$$." I don't mind occasionally spending a little more, but I'm on a budget and sometimes I genuinely want a "$$"-priced meal and a reasonably-priced shopping experience. Apparently, we can't all get what we want.
7. "I can't wait for the post-work casual bar scene," I said.
Reality: My roommate and I were getting ready for a casual cocktail and asked our friend what kind of place we were going to. "A club-y bar," he replied. Little did we know this meant waiting outside for 45 minutes in line, waiting another 10 in the VIP line and then finally being rescued by a friend who knew the bouncers. Los Angeles has me seriously questioning my street cred. I'm sure there are plenty of "chill" places, but we have yet to find them.
8. "I am going to see celebs everywhere," I said.
Reality: My only celebrity sighting thus far has been Brody Jenner. He stepped into an elevator that I was exiting. *swoon* The biggest lie I told myself, though, was it was socially acceptable to freak out about these kinds of things. False. If you see a celebrity, you are supposed to act cool and collected like seeing that person doesn't even faze you. But if you know a celebrity, calmly drop their name in proper humble brag form. There are no other options.
9. "Hollywood is beautiful and glamorous," I said.
Reality: I think I pictured Hollywood a little more Beverly Hills-esque, to be honest. It's turned out to be quite the tourist trap (albeit historic and iconic and all that). It's a little outdated and we wish old Hollywood were kept up the way the Beverly Hills Hotel has been.
10. "All Californians eat is avocado, kale and boba," I said.
Reality: I'll admit that Californians do consume these foods like they're permanently going out stock at the local Trader Joe's, but there are a lot of other foods Angelinos are just as passionate about. Take Mexican food, for example. Angelinos looooove Meixcan food. And iit's super easy to find good Mexican food here. And the SUSHI?!? Incredible and fairly easy to find places.
11. "I can't wait for the fresh ocean air," I said.
Reality: The first thing I was asked after disembarking from the airplane was, "Did you see the layer of smog covering the city?" Welcome to L.A.! I thought the whole smog thing was just an urban legend. The city is constantly chopping the charts for air pollution and the layer of orangey smog is visible if you're cruising in the air above.
12. "It's going to be a tough decision picking what fitness craze to commit to," I said.
Reality: It wasn't a tough decision because I picked none of them. Zero. Goose egg. My reasoning behind it was: A) They are very expensive and I'd rather spend my money at the bar. B) Joining means having to drive to classes in L.A. traffic. And C) there are too many to choose from. From yoga to barre to SoulCycle, there is certainly no shortage of options. However, I've elected to use my building's free gym. I'm very proud of my economic decision.
13. "My life will be so Instagram-worthy," I said.
Reality: I have been here for approximately 10 days and have posted two Instagrams. Two. I really thought things would have picked up by now. Things on my Instagram bucket list include: A pic of me while hiking the Hollywood Hills, some sort of a photo of palm trees in front of a colorful sky, and a #foodporn pic at Nobu. Currently taking bets on whether I will accomplish this goal.