Go West

I never wanted to move to California. There was a brief period of time in high school–literally spanning only one Saturday afternoon–when I thought it would be cool to go to Stanford. I knew about Stanford because everyone on TV wants to go there. This was also before I understood that getting into Stanford is hard. It took no more than a bird’s-eye sweep of the school’s website to realize, oh, I am not the target audience for this…situation. And that was the last time I ever considered living in California.

So I guess it’s a little strange that all my belongings are now packed into a moving cube to be shipped across the country to, you guessed it, California, USA. And not just any part of California, no, no. We are talking Los Angeles, a place I have described as “a relentless series of strip malls” and “too hot” and “definitely not for me, Jesus Christ, no!” Well, things change, minds change, moods change, goals change, body temperatures change (actually, not really, I am sweating right now) and you wake up one day and realize that maybe now’s the time to try the thing you had never planned on doing. There is nothing more sophisticated to this decision other than, simply, I changed my mind.

But again: if not now, then when? We want to be engaged now, and we want to live in Los Angeles now, so now it is.

Tony and I made this decision together. He’s the other half of this equation, Tony is, and we figured there was no better way to celebrate our summer engagement than by totally upending our lives and moving across the country. It has been, truly, a relaxing and carefree time for us, not stressful at all. In fact, we recommend everyone make several major life choices in the same 6-week span of time. Did I mention we also bought a car? Well, we did! Classic summer relaxation tactics. But again: if not now, then when? We want to be engaged now, and we want to live in Los Angeles now, so now it is.

Tony and I went to Los Angeles at the beginning of the month to look for apartments. Los Angeles was experiencing a heat wave of unparalleled intensity and anomaly on this particular weekend, and for much of our time apartment hunting, I had a heat migraine. I managed this issue by sleeping in our rental car by day and putting a bag of ice on my face at night. First we saw a bunch of shitty apartments. Then we saw some nice apartments. And then we signed a lease for an apartment, and gave the loudest sigh of relief and headed to the Bubba Gump at Santa Monica Pier as both a reward to ourselves as well as a reminder that the Pacific Ocean is pretty great and it’s right there and boy would we be chumps if we didn’t go to the beach, right? It should be noted that upon discovering there was a Bubba Gump at Santa Monica Pier, there was simply no other option. It was too good. Too right. In 5 years in Chicago, I have not once been to Navy Pier, but god damn it if I wasn’t going to eat some franchise shrimp in Santa Monica. Among the many things that Tony and I love and share together, one is an affinity and total earnest love of chain restaurants. Put us within even relative proximity of an Arby’s and it’s game over.

Have you been to a Bubba Gump? Because I had not and let me tell you, all I want to do now is talk about Bubba Gump. I should also mention that Tony and I both feel very strongly about Forrest Gump;  a mild review is “problematic” and a harsher review is “manipulative garbage.” We do not like this film. We DO love chain restaurants. Do not overthink this, because we certainly haven’t. The most accurate (and troubling) detail of Bubba Gump is that the restaurant treats Jenny the same way as the movie, which is to say, the character is punished. The “Jenny” section of the restaurant is located on the two small half-walls that create the bathroom waiting area. It is Freebird-era Jenny who eyes you on your way in as you shrug and say, “Those shrimp were heavier than I anticipated.” Jenny cannot catch a break–and I think it’s terrible! Anyway, to answer your question, yes, we did answer all the Forrest Gump trivia questions correctly. In fact we answered so many correctly that our waiter had to come up with more trivia questions and then we answered all those correctly and we were almost late for our flight back to Chicago. But we do not like this movie.

Besides, you will end up punished for all your bad decisions, just like Jenny!

More importantly, though, Tony and I promised each other that we would return to the Bubba Gump at Santa Monica Pier if ever we need to recall or re-evaluate why we moved to LA: a renewal of vows, of sorts. I think it’s good to have a plan like this one, a high-sign to give when a check-in is necessary. (Also sometimes we might go there just to go, it won’t mean we’re miserable, it will just mean we’re on the beach and want shrimp, which is a perfectly normal thing to want, so like, preemptively lay off.) The risk in wanting things right now is the uncertainty in answering “But then what?” You can talk in circles with each other, identifying all the ways it can go wrong, or all the ways it can go right, but at the end of the day it goes as it goes and you just have to be satisfied that you did the thing at all. Unless the thing in question is like, an honest-to-god, objectively bad decision, in which case, don’t tell anyone you got your advice from me. Besides, you will end up punished for all your bad decisions, just like Jenny! Now that advice is coming straight from the horse’s mouth. Also, please don’t tell me that moving to LA is a bad decision. Now is not the time.

I am sometimes overwhelmed at the trajectory of my life up until this point. I don’t believe in luck, but I do believe in good people and good places and I believe in myself. I believe that this move will be difficult, and I also believe that it will pay off in abundance. I believe that a lifetime of writing anything about everything has been the best gift I could have given myself. I believe Jessie Spano when she expressed both excitement and fear. I believe in shrimp.

I never wanted to move to California. Until I did.

Photo courtesy of KM/”I dig my toes into the sand” courtesy of Incubus