Well… not quite. More like L.A. tourist. Today is day 3 of my west coast vacation and all is well. I’ve done a lot of sightseeing and with sunny skies and 75-degree temps, there’s really nothing to complain about.
The “shakes” subsided when I saw the Thespian at LAX, and since initial awkward jabbering, it’s like old hat here. It’s funny how time can change your perception of people. For example, for some reason, I remembered him shorter and thinner and less athletic. I have no idea why. He later told me he thought I’d be “Plump Jenny.” Weird. Also, offensive on both parts.
So, past initial hellos, things have been great. He’s lived here for a long time and has shown me quite a bit already. Here are some of the things we’ve done.
We’ve also just hung out. I’ve been a tad out of sorts. Between N.J., Austin and L.A., I was in 3 different time zones in 4 days and my eating, sleeping and body have been off. I’m starting to feel more calibrated now.
Today we are going to check out Mulholland Drive and the Burbank area. Then I am really excited to see the Kaiser Chiefs perform at El Rey Theater tonight. I don’t know their music well, but live music is always a blast and you can’t really go wrong dancing and boozing the night away.
It has been an interesting journey since I left New York January 31. I’ve said goodbye to friends and lovers, sold off sentimental and material possessions, donated countless bags of clothes/purses/shoes and moved home to New Jersey. While the process has been both cleansing and rewarding, it hasn’t been without nerves.
I always feel nervousness and anxiety in my belly, and today, 38,000 feet in the air, I sort of want to throw up. As I look at Virgin America’s seat back map I can’t help but feel excited and anxious at the same time. My mom drove me to the airport (third time in 1 week, she’s a good mom), and when I said goodbye, mentally I knew I wasn’t coming back for a while and got a tad teary, but it wasn’t real yet. I don’t feel like I’m actually making the move.
Maybe it’s because there are other nervous factors working against me at the moment. For one thing, I’m not flying to Austin quite yet. I’m on my way to Los Angeles. Early February, I booked a one-way flight to see an old college friend of mine, let’s call him Thespian. We had a brief PG-13 romantic affair when I was about 20, and then he moved to L.A. to pursue acting. We’ve kept in contact throughout the years, loosely planning trips across the U.S., but with relationships, finances, etc., it just never worked out. Until now.
Unemployment helps open doors (doesn’t that seem backward?). And I’m not sure this door should be open. It just happened. While I was figuring out possible “next steps” my older brother offered me the opportunity to go to San Diego to live with him, his wife and my niece, look for work, chill out. So, naturally when I told Thespian he was like, cool, swing by and I’ll show you the sights before you head south. Before I knew it, plane ticket booked, TripAdvisor loaded.
So, for a couple of weeks we have been planning and scheduling and I was super duper excited, regardless of the outcome, until I met this guy John at the airport. And yes, I seriously always meet people at the airport and I have a theory about it. Strangers don’t care what you think about them, they just like someone to talk to before they fly off never to be seen again. So, there’s John, on his third bloody Mary, second Jack and coke, and he says, I’m fucking my boss’s daughter and she’s married.*
Not one to judge, I just said, sounds like she’s the one that can’t say anything and you’re in the clear. He laughed and agreed and asked me where I was jetting. I told him my little situation and now I want to throw up. Not because there’s anything wrong with Thespian, I’m still excited to see my old friend. But more so that telling this complete stranger that I left my home, will eventually move to Austin, had no apartment, no start date, no where to live for a while and I was staying with a man I hadn’t seen in over 10 years…hearing the words leave my mouth—did that ever happen to you? You just hear it leave your mouth? I just had to laugh and I heard my sister’s words in my head, only you, Bean.
I’m 535 miles away from LAX. I’m looking out the window at the mountains somewhere over Utah. My palms are sweating and while I’m not regretting ANY of the decisions I’ve made, I’m just realizing this journey didn’t end with an offer. It’s really only taking off.
It’s been a week since I’ve written. It’s not because I’m lazy, I promise. So much to say, and this three-hour plane ride from Houston to Newark is the perfect time to get it all down. Especially since Captain Hilarity, the funniest flight attendant in the skies comically inspires me. He started with something about those in the exit rows who just don’t give a function and ended with calling attention to a woman standing holding up 145 other passengers. Ah, the little laughs get me every time.
TUESDAY: OK let’s start from the beginning. Got on a plane in Newark and headed to Austin, Texas, for my final interviewing stage. The agency I have been speaking with for almost two months booked me a hotel, got me a car and I believed were ready to SHOW ME THE MONEY! But first, I did what all people do in a new city. I went on a date 🙂
His name is tree hugging, Earth-loving, environmental lawyer and I met him in an airport in New York a couple months ago. I really love airports apparently. Really nice, Austin-born gentleman found me on LinkedIn and we’ve exchanged a few emails. Basically, if you ever make it to Austin, let’s grab a drink. So, he picked me up at my hotel and in the warm dusk of night we had a drink (outside!) and some wonderful dinner and then we shared a gigantic piece of red velvet cake. I’m in love. Seriously. It was the best cake I’ve ever had (and you thought I was going to say something else). With early agency meetings, it was an early night and with a quick kiss on the cheek I bid my cowboy adieu.
WEDNESDAY: The agency lies in the Hill Country part of town and as I drove (like a grandma) up the multi-lane highway I saw monstrous mansions aligning the tops of the cliffs overlooking the city of Austin. Maybe one day I’ll get to see the view from up there. I bet it is stunning, you know being God’s country and all.
Walking into a new potential job is a little like walking into high school for the first time. You’re the no-named new guy. I did feel like that. Until I actually made it down the hall and immediately saw the chalk board wall full of song requests, a couple of turn tables, a shelving unit full or DJ equipment and records and music festival and band posters lining every inch of space. As a music lover, nothing makes me feel more at ease than a real life soundtrack. From there, it just got better.
After a couple of meetings with directors, CMOs, fellow writers and persons of all advertising walks of life, I was done. Part 2 of my day consisted of meeting with my agency-appointed broker, Steve. Steve is awesome and his apartment locating services are free. Remember, I don’t have an offer, so telling Steve my budget is a little like a guessing game. I have ZERO idea what a salary offer would be, so I gave him a range.
Me: $850 – $1300.
Steve: Are you serious? That’s everything in Austin. I have 11,000 listings.
Me: I’m leaving Thursday, ain’t nobody got time for that.
Steve: OK, what are you looking for? What’s a deal breaker.
Me: Washer, Dryer, Pool, Gym, Updated kitchen, Dishwasher, Hardwood Floors, Carpeted Bedroom, Walk-in-Closet, Hot Single Neighbors.
Steve: Oh, dear Lord.
Believe it or not, this man found me an apartment with EVERYTHING I asked for in all ranges of budget. A 1980s gem for $850, a brand spanking new resort NEXT DOOR to “my office” for $1050 and the well-known, cosmopolitan apartments known as The Domain for $1225. Every single one of them could have fit my full-sized bed I kept in my tiny one-room apartment in the wardrobe. I’m in renter’s heaven—700-800 square foot bachelorette pads just waiting for me.
Oh, and did I mention the security deposits in Austin are around $150. I’m not kidding. You don’t need first and last month + 1 month security. I had to fork over almost 4 grand for my UES joint. I can get one of these for a $45 application fee and a smile. Alas, no job, no apartment. I left Steve. Feeling confused, longing for an offer and went back to the hotel.
Exhausted, I put myself to bed early… until my other lawyer friend called and told me if I came downtown around 9:30 to see a band called The Spazmatics I wouldn’t be disappointed. Hell, if this guy, Mr. All Business is making such promising claims I had to take his word for it. I got there before him and he showed up with two beautiful ladies. It sorta crossed my mind, who wouldn’t be disappointed tonight? It turned out to be a fun night and I’m glad to got to hang out outside, see the nerdy 80s cover band and Mr. All Business and I had at least 3 things we agreed on. RECORD! (I can get into our friendship later)
Thursday: Lunch date with a couple of the folks over at the agency. We had a great time, talked, and got to know each other. But, what was it all for? Where was the offer? Would there be an offer? With a trip to LA approaching in less than 48 hours I was determined to know what was next.
I got my answers in the Austin airport an hour later. My contact and future boss called me to offer me the job! With a brief discussion about the logistics we both agreed that after two months we were happily committing to employee/employer.
So, here I am, 42 days after being let go from a special hell, solo celebrating with a G&T on my flight back to the northeast for the last time until TBD. Unemployed no longer starting TBD. I feel great. I feel more than great. I’m elated. I’m going to say goodbye to my spectacularly supportive parents and head out into the great (un)known. Maybe I’ll even stop in Tennessee, but that’s another story.
Happy Valentine’s Day! While some scoff and scour at the overblown Hallmark holiday, I embrace it. As a matter of fact, I’d go as far as to say that I actually look forward to it. Yes, I’m single. Yes, I’m living with my parents. Yes, the only thing I will be spooning later is cookies and cream ice cream, but you know what, it could be worse; it could be St. George Day. He’s the patron saint of soldiers and soldiers usually mean war… see where I am going with this? So, let’s all make love and not war today.
You know what else, ladies, Valentine’s Day is often shortened to V-Day. You know why? Because vaginas are in control today. And to stay in control, here are 8 tips whether you are single or not:
You want something from your man, make it obvious. Men aren’t picking up on your dropped hints and they aren’t mind readers. I once hinted at wanting a claddagh ring and got two sports jerseys instead. I learned my lesson (so did he).
Make your own romance and stop expecting it. Your man is not Ryan Gosling from TheNotebook. Stop it, just stop. Light your own candles and lead the way.
Stop being jealous/envious of ladies in the office with flower deliveries today. Their men just saw a 1-800-Flowers commercial last night and placed a rush order. Flowers are nice and lovely, but it’s not like he just hot air ballooned in and proposed with Kate Middleton’s ring. And if you got flowers today (or are talking to someone who did), OMG they are sooo beautiful and you are sooo lucky!
If you’re single, go out and get your nails done, call up another girlfriend just as awesome as you are and get your single on tonight. I call this Palentine’s Day and you bitches deserve just as much attention as the attached girls.
Buy a stranger a drink. Just do it. You’ll feel good and they will feel good and today sucks for some people. So, stop complaining about your “status” and do something nice for someone else.
Don’t stalk your ex. Involved or not, just don’t do this. Who cares what he’s doing today? Remember the awkward sex and scamming he did? Think about that and move on. You broke up for a reason.
Shave. This goes for men, too. Look hot today. For one it’s a Friday, time to get your weekend weird on. But tonight you may be getting some serious one-on-one time and chaffing and in-grown hairs are not sexy.
Valentine’s Day is about love. So call your mom, dad, sister, brother, best friend, long lost high school sweetheart or bring home a special treat for Fido. Just surround yourself with people who you love and love you in return and you’re good to go.
As I sign off for the day, I leave you with this. No one found love feeling sorry for himself or herself. One way to feel absolutely amazing is the scientifically proven orgasm. Orgasms release endorphins that give a natural high and a euphoric state of mind—and they burn calories! So whether you’re with someone special for a decade, spending the night with Mr. Right Now or having a quiet night at home (with The Notebook obviously), do yourself a favor, be your own Valentine and get off.
Not a typo. Is it just me, or is everyone else living in the eastern seaboard just like fucking fed up with this weather?! Every week it’s snowing or going to snow or sleeting or raining or just flat out ruining shit. Now, given my circumstances, I’m pretty flexible. I don’t have to trudge through wet, slippery subways or go into an office that’s been left empty by Jersians who didn’t make it in, or those (managers) working remotely. I realize that.
That being said, after almost 7 weeks of interviewing with an agency in Austin, my final step was canceled due to this incoming snow storm. The agency booked me a flight, car and hotel for Thursday to Friday, and that was no easy task in itself. We had to communicate frequently for timing and after 2 days on the phone I was good to go. Until Southwest Airlines sent me a text saying EWR was closed. CLOSED?! How is an entire airport closed?
Now it could be worse. I could be asked NOT to come. I could no longer be considered a candidate. But these are Texans and as I hear it, Texans are welcoming folks. Even to the point where these Texans have paired me with an apartment broker who can work with me remotely to find the housing of my dreams. Now that I’ve sold all my stuff maybe my dreams just come with an air mattress and strong shower head (I will be alone after all).
So tonight, instead of printing boarding passes and ironing shirts I’m foregoing dinner for a Hersey’s Chocolate Bar and bottle of white, with a side of whine. There is good news. The agency isn’t holding me accountable for the weather (Texan’s are smart) and after many more frustrating back-and-forth phone calls, I’ll be heading to Austin next Tuesday through Thursday.
This HAS to be the final decision by both them and myself because on Saturday I leave for L.A. with a one way plane ticket, and from there I am headed to San Diego or starting a life in Austin. Both are exciting prospects and the best part… NO SNOW! So, I guess I don’t really have anything to whine about. I mean it could be worse. My friend Amanda is stuck in Asia with canceled flights for days.
Now… who has advice on “must-dos” in L.A.? I’m thinking hiking in Malibu, tackling my fear of heights at Universal Studios and of course seeing the Hollywood sign.
One of my favorite things to do these days is to read articles about how to travel on the cheap, how to get around an unknown city, etc. One of my favorites is Nomadic Matt. The wanderlust definitely has me in its grips. And more and more it amazes me that these travel bloggers actually keep up with their actual blogging. Believe it or not, my employed counterparts, it takes time.
Being unemployed gives me the freedom to think about what I am/will write. I’m focusing on funny or interesting things going on around me instead of the character count of a headline for an SEO project. I’m in tune with my desires both impractical and realistic, not in a state of constant panic that only office politics can bring on. I realize this period of my life will be fleeting, doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy waking up not hating it. I mean, I haven’t even pushed a snooze button since January 9. Who wants to postpone this kind of freedom?
Maybe that’s the secret of real-life travel bloggers. They make the time to write, find Internet connections and download pictures all because they’re living the ultimate paid unemployment. As a newbie, I don’t understand the whole thing and I’d never claim to be a travel blogger, but for those getting paid to see the world, no strings attached, respect.
Speaking of travel, I’ve motored my way from Richmond to Southern Maryland. A 2-hour drive north landed me in my older sister’s driveway.
About Ms. Ryan
An obsessed alumnus of Hokie nation (Virginia Tech University for those that think hokie is something that breaks a lot), Master’s Degree in Aerospace Engineering, employed by the United States Navy as a civilian systems engineer…she’s wicked smart. More stats:
Owns a 3-bedroom house, 2 cars, 2 cats (one has diabetes)
Looks most like our mom
Shit = together
Even after this impressive list, she’s also single. I’m not sure there’s many unmarried, non-PTSD man-folk around the Solomon’s Island area. Military men, although hot (hello Fleet Week!) tend to be risky endeavors. During a visit years ago, we ended up at a karaoke night and she met this guy, let’s call him Jim. Jim and her had some good times, but like all good things, they must come to a bitter, torrid end and alas, I keep my hooking up skills to myself now.
EXCEPT, honorable mention, in Las Vegas in May 2013, celebrating my mom’s 60th birthday, the three of us ladies, plus Mara and Amanda met these two, nice looking ex-footballers in the Cosmopolitan Hotel. Since our flights were a day before Ryan’s, we told her to exchange numbers with one of them (the cuter one, I’ll admit). Fast-forward to story time and apparently he wines and dines her, gives her some chips to gamble with and she leaves her fair suitor high and dry in the city of sin. For Ryan, what happens in Vegas will follow you to your Irish-Catholic grave.
The truth is we are as different as different can be. I am excitable and flighty, Ryan is grounded and reasonable. I rather exercise and she chooses to eat clean. She loves numbers and I love words. Until adulthood, our differences tore us apart. We didn’t agree on anything, and when we were children she didn’t let me play with her or her friends. Having more than 5 years between us is a big gap when you’re young.
Luckily, times have changed and we are closer than ever. We’ve even taken a 2-week vacation to Ireland in 2012, with minimal fighting! We rented a car in Dublin and drove our little “lipstick car” around the island. Literally. Belfast, Galway, Killarney, Kilkenny, Cork, Wicklow… I’m missing some. But I’m told by some Irish friends I’ve seen more of Ireland than they have.
And I guess now I’m trying to see parts of my own country. Ryan supports it although she may not always understand my choices. She doesn’t have to, I’m just glad she’s got my back, and when I’m passing through, a spare room.
All days seem ordinary until something more happens. I had plans to go to Richmond Friday, but I woke up early to some concerning messages Thursday morning. My long-time best friend, Nina, lives in Richmond and she asked me to come early. Of course I had no problem with this request… what am I doing?
So, I hopped in my mom’s car (I don’t own a car, and I hate driving, which could pose a problem for non-Manhattan living) and headed south. It was pretty exciting seeing the snow disappear into [dead] grass and the car thermostat rise. It’s sunny and 47 today and feels like spring break to me.
I made the trip from central Jersey to Richmond in about 5.5 hours, just in time to hear Nina’s story, pop a bottle of wine and order some Chinese. Being able to “be there” at the drop of a hat is another reason unemployment is awesome. Having scheduled the trip anyways, I was more than happy to spend an extra day with a friend I rarely get to see anymore.
But that’s the thing about best friends. You don’t need to see each other every day to keep the bond alive. You can go months and months without face-to-face contact, and when you’re together again it’s as if no time has passed at all. I definitely wanted to make the trip to see her before I went west or south or southwest or wherever.
I met Nina in elementary school, third grade I think. I took my first friend vacation with her and her family the summer between 5th and 6th grade and we’ve been pretty much inseparable since. Of course we’ve had ups and downs, but like all girlfriends, we bounce back, and after 20+ years of friendship we’re more like sisters.
So anyways, here I am in Richmond, hanging out and waiting for her to get out of work for the weekend. Later today I’m going to the James River Cellar to pick up some specialty wines for my sister (and perhaps sneak in a tasting). Then, I’m getting my hair did! Whooo hoooo! Why now? Because the agency in Austin is flying me down next week to continue the interview process.
I’m getting farther away from NYC and closer to finding my new, fulfilling life every day! I’m staying in Austin for 2 days, recommendations for quick eats and drinks are welcome!
In 1986, my parent’s purchased and broke land on an isolated cul-de-sac in a small, country town in central New Jersey. We didn’t even have paved roads, actually you could literally sing, over the bridge and through the woods as you drove to our humble abode. There, 4 children and 2 parents enjoyed countless parties, sporting events, some temper-tantrums and all the wonderful things Irish-Catholic families bring. I am blessed and lucky to say the least.
Unfortunately, even the luckiest of family’s enter periods of tragedy. For the Fitzgerald clan, that period showed up in 2006. Two months before I graduated from West Virginia University, at 21 years old, I received a phone call that forever changed this family and its old house.
My 16-year-old brother had been involved in a freak accident while trying to light a fire in the living room fireplace. It exploded and he was trapped. Miraculously, he escaped the fire and was medevac’d to the burn unit at St. Barnabas Hospital. Thankfully, he was the only one severely injured, but the house was gone. Literally, beams and window frames remained of the once popular pool-party destination.
I didn’t make it to graduation. I barely even lived in Morgantown the remainder of the semester. I visited my brother, fighting for his life, as often as possible. The emotional disintegration that occurred for months (years) after that accident compares to nothing in the world, I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy. It’s hard to function when everything collapses, and for me that meant being lost. Just like my Millennial counterparts I had assumed I’d graduate, move home, look for work, save a few bucks and continue on with adult life.
Instead, I got a job waitressing, threw a mattress on the floor of a broke-down, rotting apartment in Bound Brook, N.J., and continued to do my best. I’m not the only one. My parents, struggling with medical bills, insurance claims, full time jobs, surgery after surgery and sleeplessness somehow harbored the strength to rebuild. But they, and our family had help.
An unbelievable amount of kindness streamed in. Blankets, home-cooked meals, monetary donations from schools, everything one could possibly imagine. Help came in the form of an email with prayers all the way to a check contributed by a company I interned for a year prior. My brother’s classmates even made him a quilt with memories and inside jokes. In tragedy, we found good in the world and within each other.
The house was rebuilt without the living room with the fireplace. My parent’s and my brother moved back in. Recovery had begun. It’s been almost nine years since that dreaded phone call. And today, I write from a table, salvaged from a fire and refinished, that we’ve had 26 years of celebrations, hardcore poker matches, drunken shenanigans and endless ball-busting conversations at, and for the first time in 12 years I am home.
The wavering is gone! West coast here I come. For weeks I’ve put my airplane ticket purchase on hold because I’ve been unsure what may arise with the agency in Austin. No, I haven’t heard back other than, we’re still making decisions. It’s been confirmed several times that I am still in the running, and for that I am excited, but I can’t just sit here and wait. I’m not doing myself any good waiting for the long, drawn out interview process to work (or not work) in my favor.
So maybe “the” wavering isn’t gone, but more accurately, mine is. On February 22, aboard a nonstop Virgin America plane, I will land at LAX to start my new west coast life. I’m staying with my talented friend Logan in North Hollywood for about a week. While there, I hope to see many friends I only know these days through Facebook, check out the L.A. scene (it is my first time after all) and even get a small freelance interview. Who knows? Anything is possible with the right outlook and attitude.
At the end of the month I will head south. San Diego will take the place of my residence for an undetermined amount of time. This is where it gets interesting…
My brother, sister-in-law and almost 3-year-old niece live in San Diego. When we discussed me coming out there in December we set some basic and understandable ground rules that had the overall feel of let’s see what happens. My hope is that everything goes smoothly and respectfully, obviously. But everyone knows that house guests, like fish, go bad after 3 days. I hope this isn’t true. I need more time!
And speaking of time, many things are happening between now and getting on that plane. But I guess you’ll have to tune in to find out.
Bigger picture: After lots of research, I think I ultimately want to end up in Australia. I’ve been doing some investigating on creative writing programs down under and there are some really interesting and inspiring offerings. If you’ve been to the University of Sydney or the University of Western Sydney, I’d love to hear from you. Better yet, if you’ve done a writing program there (or in Australia in general), and have any advice or warnings, let me know. Applications are due around April for postgraduate courses, so I should get started. You never know, I could be blogging half way around the world by July!
But, back to reality. Time for country people things! Shoveling the never-ending falling snow from the driveway and baking brownies.
It took N and I 2.5 hours to pack up one U-Haul cargo van in New York and only 11 minutes to unpack it in New Jersey. That’s the welcome difference between a driveway and big hallway to empty belongings out into and a narrow 5-story walk-up. For all the exercise I hadn’t received in January that may have made up for it. I’ll have to start actually working out now that I can’t call my apartment both my home and gym.
It’s official. I’m out. Gone, baby, gone.
So far, living with my “new roommates” has gone pretty smoothly. Everyone rests easy knowing this layover in the town I grew up in will be short and sweet. I’m actually looking forward to pulling my weight around here. My parent’s have both been on pretty successful low/no carb diets for a while, and I have agreed to have dinner waiting when they get home from work. I love to cook and having access to a big, open kitchen will be a fun experiment. Tonight, for some Super Bowl treats, I’m trying my hand at jalapeno shrimp poppers.
I’m hoping the time spent at home will be a little like city rehab. Even though I have successfully severed the city, it’s still in my system. Late nights, not enough exercise and water, over-indulgence of food, booze and men. Even my bank account took a beating this month. Everyone needs a break once and awhile, and mine is coming in the form of a countryside retreat while I figure things out.
As I stare out the window of a back bedroom I see a snowy field and think how easy it would be to get lost out here. Lose focus and let the months pass without ever concocting a plan. Without ever purchasing a plane ticket. Without following through. But that’s not me. I said I would move to New York City and I did. I said I would leave, and I have—not because it scared me off, but because the world is bigger than velvet ropes and skyscrapers and constant competition. I’m not 100% sure what that means, but I aim to find out.
How am I so sure I won’t be sitting in this same seat a few months from now looking at a swimming pool instead of a white-covered terrain? Character. A long time ago my father’s best friend told me something I will never forget, Character is what you have when no one is looking.
No one is watching me. No bosses are staring over my shoulder. I’m not punching a time clock. I’m not on this journey for anyone but myself. I am a person of character and that is why I know for certain I will succeed whether I am in Austin or Australia. Like President F.D. Roosevelt once said, The only thing we have to fear is fear itself, the only thing I have to fear is getting in my own way. And I say to that possibility, to the unknown, to the risk and to the dares worth taking…Bring it.