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Beginner's guide: living on your own for the first time in a new city

Mar. 1, 2018
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Moving to Los Angeles from Canada three weeks ago was one of the hardest things I have done in recent memory. I moved completely alone right after graduation with a little bit of money and an unpaid internship. That might sound like I am complaining, and of course adjusting was difficult, but I found it to be the most rewarding experience. I have learned so much in the past few weeks, and I want to share my tips with you about how to live on your own for the first time—especially if you are in a new city.

Move with a Purpose

Whether it be moving because you have a new job or moving because you solely want change, move with a purpose. Are you moving because you want to work on your mental health? Are you moving because you need time to focus on your creativity? Or do you need to move so you can save up financially? Whatever the case may be, create goals for yourself, and stick to them when the move happens. Remind yourself why you are moving, and remember your purpose whenever you are feeling insecure. Additionally, moving with purpose involves being realistic about what is in your capacity. Moving with grandiose expectations can be dangerous, so please, be honest with yourself.

Cultivate a Calming Space

I am not sure if this is normal for everyone, but when I first moved to L.A., I cried every day multiple times for the first week. Yikes. I know. Yes, I have a Cancer star sign, but regardless—moving can be very stressful! It is so crucial to immediately start creating a space in which you feel comfortable. For me, this meant taping pictures of dogs to my walls and doing face masks regularly. For you, it might require listening to Norwegian death metal and talking to spirits in a seance. Whatever you have to do to feel calm, make sure you take time out of your schedule to make it happen. The first two weeks might be rough, but it starts to get better. Building a cozy home space is helpful for grounding yourself in your new, unfamiliar surroundings.

Build a Budget

OK, so… you have moved into your new place and it is pretty good. You have clear goals and a comfortable space to rest your head at night. Now, you are ready to start having some adventures. I would suggest at this point to build a budget. I am sure you moved with enough money to support yourself for a few months or you already have a job lined up. Even if you do have a well-paying job, it is important to manage your finances. My budget is simple. It is an Excel document on Google Drive that I update whenever I spend money. I have categories for rent, groceries, my phone bill, my metro pass, my gym membership, eating out, and extra spending. There are also apps like Mint and You Need a Budget that can help you do this. Through updating my budget and creating hard maximum-spending amounts for each category, I found that I was spending a shocking amount on snacks. Honestly, I didn’t have Hot Cheetos before I came to L.A., and it was pretty incredible but definitely dented my budget. Don’t get me started on all of the amazing vintage stores in the area. In learning this about myself, however, I have been able to limit my frivolous spending. I have even grown to enjoy having self-control. I’ve also found so many free events in this process. It is always a struggle to remain on track, but be nice to yourself. Try your best to have a good time while keeping your finances on your mind.

Build/Solidify your Community

This one takes some time and patience, but it is worthwhile. Initially, I found myself very nervous to go to events alone (which was weird). I love being alone, but I was worried that if I went to an event alone, people would judge me and not want to hang out. If you are having these thoughts, get this negative energy out of your head. Sure, it might be nerve-racking to attend something alone, but you have to encourage yourself to go to the events in which you’re interested. Give yourself a goal of going to at least two events per week. Then, see if you can start getting to know people by talking to people at the events. Join an organization that is doing rad work in the community, or a club that teaches you a new skill. Making yourself vulnerable is difficult, but it is powerful. You will begin to get better at it and develop some meaningful relationships. For example, I am writing this article because I forced myself to go to the Junior High gallery for an event one of the first nights I was here. I met some really great people and am now doing something I love because of them. This category involves reaching out for support in your established community, too. Even if they are far away in a different city, people back home want to hear from you and support you. If you are feeling alone, reach out.

Hopefully, these tips help you in your move. This is not the be-all and end-all guide whatsoever. If you are going to take anything away from this article, I want you to remember to be kind and patient with yourself. Moving is stressful, and it might be difficult and take some adjusting, but you can do it and you will thrive. Good luck.