After 9 years in Los Angeles, Catherine reflects on her decision to move to San Francisco
I moved to Los Angeles in 2005, fresh out of high school and ready to tackle my first taste of freedom. The rivalry between the Bay and L.A. was palpable among my friends at LMU, and shortly after starting my freshmen year, I was already homesick for San Francisco. Every opportunity I had to fly home for an extended weekend, I took. Then after opening my eyes to the world and studying abroad in Florence, my perspective changed. My senior year I embraced the limited amount of time I had left in college, took an off-campus internship, and really started to explore the city I had lived in for three years beyond the neighborhood around LMU.
Though I started to find my groove—particularly once I was working full-time at a magazine and working events in glamorous Beverly Hills and exciting West Hollywood—it wasn’t until a couple years after college that I finally admitted to all my Bay Area friends that I loved L.A. I even started to feel a sense of pride in the city (though I will never ever support the Dodgers), especially when people told me how much they hated it.
Many people decide to start fresh after college by moving to a new city; I was not one of those people, though I did face the obstacle of making new friends after my college friends slowly but surely left the area. The last time I really felt like I started a new chapter in my life was when I originally left home. Serendipitously, while cleaning out my place, I found the video from my cotillion and watched it with my parents. My 18-year-old self gave a speech about leaving for college, moving to L.A., and what I’d learned up to that point in life. It was so fascinating to look back at the girl I was before I started this L.A. adventure… and to feel the difference in what I went through then versus what I’m going through now.
Back then I had so much direction and focus: I knew my purpose in moving, I knew what I would study in college, I knew what I wanted to do after (though at that point I thought I would be a high school English teacher first). Now I’m leaving L.A. with more life experience and a better sense of who I have become, though what the future holds may still be hazy (or should I say foggy).
The Decision to Leave
I experienced a mix of emotions as soon as I made my decision to leave L.A.: Sadness about leaving the place I made my home for so long. Nervousness about the unknown. Confusion about closing this door.
I had built a life for myself over those nine years. I was settled in my apartment. My bedroom was my sanctuary. I navigated the streets of West L.A. from Sunset Blvd. in Brentwood to Century Blvd. by LAX fairly well. I knew the best routes to West Hollywood and DTLA given the time of day. I had a go-to list of restaurants to recommend to anyone who asked (just give me the cuisine you’re looking for, the number in your party, the atmosphere and vibe you want, and I can come up with 3 suggestions). I was a regular at some establishments. I could craft my week to include socializing at a moment’s notice. I had made real friendships with people I met after college, some I know for the long-haul. I had customized my own Los Angeles. That’s really the key to making a city your home, making it your own.
So why, then, would I give that up? Why would I decide to pack up and leave a city where I was 100% comfortable and invested, happy with my surroundings, and felt like it was my home? I listened to my intuition, and the universe guided me:
- When I saw Sara Bareilles in concert and heard her speak about the song “Manhattan” then perform it, I felt like I was on her same path. My time in L.A. was coming to an end.
- When I flew home for Thanksgiving, my gut told me it was the last time I would have to travel home on the busiest travel week in the U.S.
- While I grew up experiencing earthquakes and encountered more than a few since moving to L.A., one 4.1 quake earlier this year awoke me in the middle of the night and made me very aware of the distance from my family should the big one hit.
- I always wanted to live in San Francisco in my 20s.
- After I quit my job I knew that if I wanted to progress forward, my life needed an overhaul and that included starting fresh and tackling the challenge of a new city.
Onward and Upward: The Next Chapter
I made a list of things I wanted to get done in L.A. in my last summer there. I got through maybe a third of it. Ultimately I do feel a sense of closure about what I’ve accomplished in my life there. That includes the discovery of favorite spots and restaurants, getting different experiences (concerts, beach visits, hikes, road trips, etc.), but also working my way up at a magazine—something I wanted to do since middle school—and really making a new place MY HOME on my own (surviving away from family, creating and keeping amazing friendships, overcoming loneliness, knowing my way around these streets).
I feel so happy looking back on this chapter, and I am grateful to L.A. for what it’s given me and taught me over the years. My time in L.A. is over, but I think I conquered it.
I’m starting to settle into my new life in the Bay Area. It’s not the same place it was when I left for school. I plan to explore the city and meet new people as if I am in a brand new place. I frankly have no idea what else is waiting for me in San Francisco; friends, family, and a new adventure for sure, but I’m anxious to see what else is just around the river bend. While I’m in transition, I made a pact with my new city to focus my energy and love in building my life here. L.A. will always have a special place in my heart, but I need to end that chapter and begin my new relationship with San Francisco.
Earlier this week, I was driving my car home, and luck would have it that there wasn’t a cloud in the night sky. I had a clear view of the San Francisco Bay and the lights of the Peninsula. In that moment I knew: I am at peace knowing that moving here is absolutely the right decision.