I remember the day like it was yesterday. I pulled in off of Los Angeles’ 405 highway to the evening skyline. I was home. I could feel it in my bones. I was home.
My journey has not been linear. My story has been one of highs and lows. I can look back on my 20s and remember so many moments where I felt defeated. There were many coffee shop dates where I sat with friends and through tears expressed my doubts, fears and the lies of being a failure floating in my head. Looking back, it hasn’t been easy, but it has been worth the journey.
Looking back, it hasn’t been easy, but it has been worth the journey.
As a kid, I always dreamed of being a writer. In high school, I quickly learned that magazine journalism was “it” for me. I was the senior editor of my high school newspaper, and I remember one of my classmates congratulating me on being just like Rory from “Gilmore Girls,” (a Black version, of course). This made me happy because I love Rory’s Type A, overachiever, meek but strong persona. She was my spirit animal, even the parts of her character that made awful dating decisions (but that’s another story for another day).
In college, I landed an internship in New York City at, what was then, one of Time Inc.’s top magazines, Essence. I thought—no, I knew—that this was “it” for me. At 20 years old, I had an apartment in Manhattan with other young and hungry aspiring journalists. I was born to be a big time magazine editor living the city life like in all my favorite movies, “13 Going on 30,” “The Devil Wears Prada” and “How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days.” I was meant to live and work in New York. I just knew it.
The only problem was I didn’t really love New York City. Don’t get me wrong. I liked it. It had all the glitz and the glam that the movies portrayed, but it also had all the grit and grime. (No one tells you that living in NYC means carrying your groceries in the 100-degree summer heat or about the high humidity that greets you as you step out of the subway.) There was no forcing it. I didn’t feel at home.
After graduating from college, I moved to Minneapolis where I took an internship at Delta Sky, one of the top travel publications. (If you ever fly Delta, the magazine is neatly tucked in your setback pocket. It’s a good read.) Not feeling quite at home once again, after my internship ended, I went back to live with my parents. My mom was sick so I also decided to go home to help.
This move felt like a derailing. I wasn’t supposed to move back in with my parents after leaving. That was always something I said I would never do. (I think the exact words of my younger, more naive self were something like, “Once I’m gone, I’m gone.”) It didn’t feel good to pack up my bags and move back to Oklahoma. It felt like failure. It felt like losing.
It didn’t feel good to pack up my bags and move back [home]. It felt like failure.
I spent two years in Oklahoma working as a retail manager at a little girls’ clothing store while also working as an editor for a women’s ministry magazine. It wasn’t perfect, but I found purpose as best I could. I still had my big city dreams, and my ideas of more sometimes kept me up at night. There were so many moments where my heart grew weary, and I wondered if this would be my story, if this is all I’d do.
That two year season taught me so much. Through trial-and-error, I learned the importance of growing where you are planted. When I left Minneapolis to move back in with my parents, I knew I wanted Los Angeles to be my next move, but I didn’t know how long it would be before I got there or how I would make it happen. I didn’t know how long I’d be in Oklahoma. It could have been five months or five years.
I realized the only thing I could control was my attitude in the waiting. I could be miserable or choose to find the good in that season, in where I was planted. During that time, I built some of my best friendships. During that time, I got to travel to Ireland with the women’s magazine I was a part of. I got to travel with my best friend to new places. I got to know myself better—my likes and interests, my weaknesses and the areas where I needed growth. Even in the waiting, that season had purpose.
I realized the only thing I could control was my attitude in the waiting.
After two years of being home, my restless heart kept churning, hoping for my next step. I took a trip to Massachusetts and Connecticut to visit my friend Lucy, and it was there that something finally clicked. A 24-year-old me sat in Lucy’s parents’ home, sharing with her mom my frustrations of feeling stuck and unsure of how to make my dreams into a reality. Lucy’s mom gave me the most simple, yet actionable advice that I remember to this day.
She said, “Why don’t you start taking steps toward moving to Los Angeles? Why don’t you try?”
I remember thinking, “Wait, what? I can do that? I can just step out? I can try and move toward the thing I want?” I realized no one was stopping me but me. Lucy’s mom freed me up to dare to do the thing that seemed so scary and impossible. She challenged me to begin chipping away at my dream. So I did.
She challenged me to begin chipping away at my dream. So I did.
I went back to Oklahoma, but this time, I gave myself a deadline, six months to pack my bags and move to Los Angeles. I made a list of every friend I knew in California. I called them all (interview style) and took time to learn about the city, about the media landscape (from my friends who were journalists), about best areas to live and how to find an apartment. I took a second job at Starbucks to save for the move. I worked as a barista from 4 a.m. to 9 a.m. and then at my retail job from 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. each day for the next six months.
I would later transfer with Starbucks to a Los Angeles location, my first L.A. job. (It wasn’t glamorous or perfect. I had many customers yell at me over their morning coffee.) I worked at a Studio City Starbucks for a month before I landed my first full-time job in Los Angeles as an editorial assistant. That was four and half years ago. Today, I have the honor of working in my ultimate dream job—using writing to inspire and bring hope to women.
The last four and half years in Los Angeles has had its ups and downs too. My journey since living in L.A. could be its own separate article, but just like the journey to getting here, it hasn’t been easy. I have had several awful living situations. I have been laid off from a job. I have had bad bosses and quit a few jobs. I have been fired from a nanny job. I have moved to Europe and taught English to high school kids and taught at creative writing summer camps outside of Los Angeles.
The journey wasn’t perfect, and it isn’t meant to be. The journey built character and strength to keep going on hard days. The journey made me both determined and humble. I don’t know if I’d be where I am today if it had not been for the advice of my friend’s mom—to just take one step.
Take a step of faith. What is stopping you?
Is there a dream that you are wanting to pursue but have not because of fear? How can you take one step toward that dream today?
Image via Taylor Butters