Leaving Los Angeles (Part 2)

After leaving my house, I knew I needed a place to crash for a few days so I could sort through stuff that I had frantically thrown in my car. My friend Valerie offered her 1 bedroom apartment and said she’d stay with her boyfriend so I had the place to myself. She has a super cute apartment about 1 block from the ocean in Long Beach. When I arrived Wednesday evening, I had to unload a lot of stuff from my car. After many trips to and from my car, I finally sat down at her kitchen table. Her apartment was similar to the apartments I had lived in when I first moved to Los Angeles when I was 23. They’re all pretty old, have similar old doors and cabinets, and no air conditioning. I had cried (sobbed really) the entire way to Valerie’s apartment. After unloading the car, I finally ate for the day, a frozen meal I grabbed from my freezer on the way out of my house. Living alone means I eat my fair share of frozen dinners. Deafening silence engulfed every inch of the apartment and surrounded me.

I sat there eating in silence, crying. A feeling come over me that felt like I just slid back in life. I spent 15 years building a life; found and married my husband, bought and sold a condo, bought a house, and built a great career. Now it was all gone. I was jobless, homeless, and had no husband. I was back in an apartment similar to one I had 13 years ago, listening to the neighbors fight through the wall. Now I understood why so many friends were shocked when they found out what I was doing, what I was giving up. Fear sweep over me and I wondered what the heck I was doing.

Over the next few days, I sorted and organized my stuff. I bought a GoPro for my travels, and installed a roof top cargo box on my car. I went for a run on the beach, a path I used to run when I lived in Long Beach. I met up with friends to say more goodbyes. I still struggled to sleep. It’s maddening when you can’t sleep, even though you’re very tired.

I planned on leaving on Sunday so I didn’t overstay my welcome at Valerie’s apartment. A friend was having a party on Saturday so I decided to go. On the hour-long Uber ride there, I chatted with the driver and he was about to embark on a 3 week road trip with his girlfriend across the US. I told him about my plans and how I just sold my house and quit my job. My friend Trisha had suggested that I make business cards with my blog, Vimeo, and Instagram information for people I meet along the way. I had literally just picked up the cards so as I left the Uber, I handed him a card. He thanked me and started following me on Vimeo the next day (that was super exciting!). He helped me grab some drinks from the trunk and said “You’re a little crazy. But it’s a good kind of crazy.” That made me smile. I am a little crazy.

At the party, I was able to see several friends one last time. We ended up going to a local bar afterwards and heard some live music. Once back at my friend’s house, I chatted with a couple of friends and fell asleep on the couch around 3am. It was my last night in LA and I didn’t want it to end. Finally around 4am, I grabbed an Uber back to Valerie’s apartment.

At 10am, I met two friends (Karyn and Mo) for breakfast. Knowing I was leaving that day and recently having had my heart broken (that’s a different story), I cried through most of breakfast (thankfully most people don’t go to brunch at 10am). Embarrassing you say? Yes, very much so. I remember the days in high school and college where I never cried in front of people, ever. My friends used to think I was a little cold because I didn’t really cry. Well, apparently my tear ducts are making up for lost time because I’ve cried more in the last 2 years than ever before. I was feeling so much loss, all at once, that I simply couldn’t handle it. Losing the house felt like losing my husband all over again. Maybe that’s why he was able to move on so quickly and I haven’t? I didn’t realize how much of my life with him was still tied to living in that house. My friends were very patient and understanding. They talked me through everything and helped me feel a little less alone. They asked where I was going that night and I had no clue. I couldn’t decide between the coast, up to Mammoth, or just go through the middle of California. After talking it out with them, I decided to head through the middle so I could get to Oregon and start exploring. I’ve seen a lot of California and had to be in Denver by August 31st so I wanted to spend most of my time in Oregon, Washington, and Alaska.

After breakfast, I went back to Valerie’s apartment and started getting my bags ready to be loaded up. Two friends (Debbie and Robin) stopped by to grab the spare key to my storage unit and a little safe with things like my birth certificate. Did I continue to cry? Yes.

Around 3:30pm, I was ready to head out but first had to stop at my storage unit to drop off a few more items and go to Best Buy to buy a keyboard for my iPad mini since the laptop I wanted wasn’t available anywhere. My friend, Trisha, met me at Best Buy with her kids so I could say goodbye. We didn’t get a chance to say goodbye earlier because of timing. I’m glad I was able to have a face to face goodbye with her and she encouraged me that things would get better. Around 4:30pm, I was ready to head out from Best Buy and hit the road. Trisha asked me where I was going first and I said “Probably Merced”. I didn’t have a hotel booked so I figured I’d see how far I made it.

As I drove through Los Angeles, getting stuck in some traffic, I felt a sense of loss. Los Angeles is where I had just spent most of my adult life and it had become my home. I moved about every 4 years growing up, living in different cities in Missouri and Colorado, and each move was hard. The hardest move was when my parents were separated and my sister, mom, and I were living in my step grandmother’s house while she was touring Europe for the summer. My dad showed up in the evening about a week before school was supposed to start with a loaded Uhaul filled with all of our stuff from storage. My parents said they were getting back together and I needed to pack my suitcase because we were moving back to Missouri (we were currently living in Canon City, CO). I didn’t get to say goodbye to my friends and we were gone by the morning. This was very dramatic for my 13-year-old self because I’m someone who needs closure. I need to say goodbye and I need to stay in touch with people. I don’t like losing people.

With this move, I didn’t get to say a proper goodbye to my house, and having no clue where I would spend the next few months felt overwhelming. I drove over the mountains and into farmland as the sun set and realized it was June 24th, the one-year anniversary of when my divorce had been finalized. All I could think was “This has to get better, right?”

Post edited by: Misty Kosek

Leaving Los Angeles (Part 1)

I had been anticipating leaving Los Angeles for several months so I thought I’d be ready to say goodbye. Once I gave my resignation at work and it was Facebook official that I was leaving, I went through many “goodbye” lunches, dinners, and conversations. I was so preoccupied with getting ready for a going away party I was throwing, going through the process of selling my house (inspections, repairs, appraisal, etc), and finishing up projects at work that I couldn’t really process anything.

Everything was going according to plan with the sale of my house and we were on track. My realtor (and friend) Jenny, was extremely helpful letting a plumber in my house to do repairs while I was at work and reminding me of even more papers I needed to sign.

For my going away party, I hired a taco cart, a bar tender, and rented some cocktail tables. I wanted to have one last celebration in my house and go out in style. I put in a lot of effort to design the back yard of my dreams and it was a perfect spot for entertaining. But throwing a party is work. The party was a blast and I couldn’t have been happier to see my friends. I even made a DIY photo booth, which was great fun! The party flew by so fast, I felt like I didn’t even get a chance to talk to people. It was a lot of “hellos” and then “goodbyes”. I didn’t feel sad to be saying goodbye. I felt incredibly blessed to have all these wonderful, smart, kind people in my life. I had been in California for 15 years and I was proud of the life I made there. Not to brag, but I really do have amazingly talented friends that are a blast to be around. It was a night I’ll remember forever.

My last week at work was full of events. On Wednesday, I had the traditional “goodbye happy hour” at a local restaurant called Geezers. I had attended too many to count for people leaving the company and it was strange having one for me. I felt so honored that people took the time out of their night to stop by and say goodbye and have a drink. On Thursday, the Vice President at my company was retiring after 33 years of service. I had worked with her on several projects so I was very happy to be celebrating with her. There was a huge celebration that day with catered food in the courtyard. Then Friday came, my last day. My department had decorated my desk and brought in goodies to celebrate and wish me well. I still had to finish some projects at work but by that afternoon, I finally told my boss that I wouldn’t be able to finish some of it and it was unreasonable to think I’d actually do work on my last day (others who had a last day that day came in for a couple of hours to say goodbye and left). I was very stressed out trying to send out my goodbye email, saying goodbyes in person, eating delicious snacks, and trying to move electronic files over.

I still couldn’t process anything. It’s a weird feeling knowing you should be feeling something, but you just can’t. I was so busy trying to finish stuff and had dinner plans that evening. Plus I had less than a week to be out of my house and hadn’t even packed. I was happy at the thought of adventure and felt confident that’d I’d see these people again one day. Plus technology helps to stay in touch. It wasn’t until I had a conversation with the branch manager, Andy, that I started to feel it. I have a tremendous amount of respect for him for his intelligence and his character. He asked about my plans and we chatted about it. But then at the end he said, “Christy, you made such an impact here, not just in terms of your work, but you became part of this place. You became part of the people. Not many people do that. It will be noticeable when you leave.” I got chocked up and knew if I talked much, I’d start to cry. Those words meant so much to me and I will never forget them. I knew it was all starting to hit me.

I left work at 6pm (and had to go in the next morning for a few hours to clean out my desk). That evening I went out with some friends to the Standard in Los Angeles. We had a great time and I loved seeing the sun set on the city high-rises. The next few days were hectic to say the least. I had to be out of the house on Wednesday at 5:00pm. I had finally scheduled movers to come that morning but still didn’t even have a storage unit rented. Thankfully, I no longer had work so I spent the next few days renting a unit, dropping stuff off at Goodwill, and selling items on Facebook Marketplace. I barely slept for a few days. I kept waking up early, even though I would go to bed very late (around 2-3am). This was not like me (I normally struggle to wake up in the morning) so I knew I must be under more stress than I realized. In the process of doing all of this over a few days, I met a friend for tacos, had two friends over for dinner, had lunch with another friend, and had multiple doctor appointments.

Then the day came, moving day. I was up early to finish packing. The movers came and started to load up. The stressful thing about moving into storage is every item I picked up I had to ask myself, “Is this worth paying for storage? Do I need to bring it with me? Should I sell it? Should I donate it? Should I give it to a friend? Should I throw it away?” I plan on traveling for around a year so I needed winter and summer clothes. I didn’t want to buy these items again later (especially since I was now unemployed) but I was trying to travel light. For items I was planning to take with me, I just sort of throw it all together in various bags and suitcases. The movers didn’t finish unloading into storage (thankfully it all fit!) until around 3:30pm.

I was exhausted, sweaty, and dirty. I still had to clean my house so I asked my realtor if I could have until 7:00pm. The buyers only gave me until 6:30pm. I raced home and frantically cleaned the bathroom, vacuumed, and cleaned the counters. You know the end scene of Adventures in Babysitting where they have to clean the house and pretend nothing happened? That’s the scene at my house as I attempted to make the house presentable. I had the items I planned on taking with me in my car but too many items that I needed to sort through and either add to storage (like my vacuum) or simply empty, like all the food in two refrigerators. My realtor came over and loaded her car since my car was too full. As I finished cleaning up and emptying the refrigerators, I only had about two minutes to stop and say goodbye to my house.

At 6:25pm, a car pulled up and I was afraid it was the buyers and I didn’t want to see them. I got in my car and then saw their realtor walking up the driveway. I got out and he asked where the keys were so I showed him in the backyard. I was standing on the side of the house in between my car and the back gate. The realtor told me how exciting it was that I was going to travel. And all of a sudden, it hit me. I always knew it would hit me suddenly but I honestly thought it would be in a couple of weeks once everything had changed in my life. It didn’t just hit me, it punched me. My throat immediately had a knot in it and I was on the verge of crying. I didn’t want this realtor that I had just met to see me cry so I barely spoke. I told the realtor that I didn’t get to say a proper goodbye to my house. I touched the side of my house with my palm and said “Goodbye house”.

I hurried off to my car because I could feel the tears coming. As I backed my car out of the driveway, tears starting flooding down my face. The pain in my chest was overwhelming. I looked at the front of my house as I backed up and instantly a flood of memories come flashing back to me. Happy memories of when my ex-husband and I bought the house and how happy he was to have a house to call our own. I saw the time he planted all the plants, cut the grass, put up the backsplash in the kitchen, and installed the bathroom fan. I had asked him to move out 2 years prior and I filed for divorce 6 months later. What surprised me is that I hadn’t thought about him very much over the last year. The first year apart (after 9.5 years of marriage) was an almost unbearable amount of pain, sadness, and grief. I thought I was finally doing better. When I did think about him, it was more about what lessons I could learn so I don’t repeat the same mistakes. But in that moment of pulling away from the house, it was nothing but happy memories. Memories of the life we had built together. Memories of having a partner. I thought I had come to terms with the fact that a house is just a house, it’s just a material thing. But the memories that were still tied to the house surprised me and hit me to my core. As I drove to my friend Valerie’s apartment to stay for a few days, the tears wouldn’t stop. That’s when I knew this was going to be a lot harder than I thought.

Posted Edited by: Misty Kosek