27 May 2018

a new yorker moves to los angeles

It’s possible to leave New York for good.

Yesterday, my old friend Merrill and I were hiking the Canyon Drive trail and she asked me what’s changed for me since I’ve moved from New York. We talk about New York a lot, she and I, because we’re from the city and we often romanticize the place we used to know growing up in the 80s. She grew up on the Upper East Side and I, in Brooklyn. We talk about the days when one would never go below Avenue A, the graffiti on the subways, the porn and pimps in Times Square before Guiliani took a vacuum to it, and the racial composition of Brooklyn, which, over the years, has become increasingly white.

I told her about Cynthia Nixon’s campaign on Twitter, and about the MTA and she said, the MTA has always been garbage, to which I responded, yeah, but it’s like the garbage of the 80s. It’s as if we had made progress (i.e. the mythical 2nd Avenue subway, safety, trains that actually run) and suddenly we regressed to the 80s, where, if you got your arm caught in between a subway door you’d remain like that until the next stop. Or the time when the B train decided to stop running, just because, and I was stranded in Southern Brooklyn. Or the times of day when you’d never venture on the subway platform in fear of your life. While the subways are demonstrably safer, the rides and delays bring back memories. Those were the days, we sighed, Natalie Merchant style.

So, what’s changed? She asked. And I said, everything. Then I made a joke about the only way I’d ever go home was in a body bag.

Here’s the thing: New York will always be home, but now it feels distant, out of reach. It’s like opening the door to your house and seeing the furniture rearranged. You know you had the table here and the bed there, but somehow they’ve disappeared or changed form. And every time I go back the city feels less familiar to me–sort of like a good friend I used to know, but we’ve lost touch over the years. New York has too many bad memories and I feel smothered whenever I return. And all the furniture I used to know and love has been replaced by new and shinier things. Things that seem hollow and transparent. Unreal.

I suppose my view will soften in time. Perhaps my trips back will feel less painful and there will be a time when I can let my hard feelings go. I’m hopeful for that time and the ease and quiet it will inevitably bring.

What do I love about Los Angeles? Everything. The spring jasmine. Cactus. The evening chill. Space on sidewalks and in apartments. Humid-free summers. Avocados that taste like avocados. Dinner parties. Fine wine in supermarkets. The beach, mountains, and desert in reach. The untouched towns. Legal and affordable CBD. Salads you actually want to eat. The abundance of healthy food and flexible meal options on menus. The art and photography museums. The Huntington Library. Wanderlust yoga. Garbage disposals. Nicer people (this is up for debate and is something Merrill and I bickered over during our hike. She thinks the people aren’t nicer compared to New York, rather I’ve just gotten nicer. We’ve known each other for a while, and we have the kind of friendship where we feel comfortable calling out our bullshit). Wearing pajamas to the grocery store and nobody caring. The tacos. SPACE. Did I say that already? Whatever, it bears repeating.

What do I hate about it? The bread (I’ve found ONE good bagel place). The too-bright light. Beverly Hills. The lack of public transit from the west to east side because of…wait for it…Beverly Hills. Water you can’t drink out of a faucet. The fact that it takes a month to get anywhere, and if you don’t live within a 5-mile radius of your friends, forget having a social life (one of the reasons I moved from the Westside). Rattlesnakes in the canyons and coyotes climbing down from the Hills. A celebrity-conscious culture because they’re everywhere. Especially where I live now. People who are fervent about eating local and organic to the point of annoyance, but don’t have a problem doing blow and Botox. The lack of a professional network (all of my clients are on the east coast). When I tell people I’m a writer and they ask what screenplays I’ve written and I shake my head and say no, I write books. The traffic and the professional ghosting.

How have I changed? I’m less self-absorbed. I’m patient. I’m kinder. I don’t go at life so hard. I don’t put up with the shit I used to. I’ve become more private and less angry. I’m present. I’ve gotten clear about my career. I savor and value time.

Felix is living his best chubby life.

Even though Felix has clearly been living his best, belly-bearing life, I’ve had a ride. Come August, it’ll be three years since I left New York and I’ve felt ALL THE FEELINGS. Two years ago, I got diagnosed with depression at 40 after I seriously contemplated suicide. After a year of intensive talk therapy and meds, my psychiatrist determined that my drinking problem wasn’t really a problem, it was a means to cope with my lifelong depression. I drink now, but not that much–mostly wine with dinner or with friends. Not like how it used to be in New York when I’d start drinking and couldn’t stop.

I can’t even begin to explain how meds and therapy have saved my life and I’m grateful for that. I value my life every. single. day. Some people have told me not to talk about depression online, but I’ve never been good at listening to bad advice and I think it’s important to keep talking about mental illness as a means to educate people and remove the stigma. Still, I know people who think that sad = suicide and I have to calmly explain that people who have depression and get sad sometimes are experiencing human emotion, not simply contemplating the end. The illness doesn’t rest in the binaries, and the nuances bear exploration and explanation.

I lost a few close friends of mine, for reasons I won’t get into because I want to respect their space and life, but the breakups were painful. Especially with one friend whom I’ve known since my book publishing days and I never conceived of the day when we wouldn’t be close. That break took so time to recover from. Another friend was someone with whom I went to college, and I can’t quite forgive her trump vote and her gleeful excitement over this hateful time we find ourselves in. I didn’t make the decision lightly, but there are lines and she leaped over the one I’d created.

I’ve come to realize that some friendships are necessary for a period of your life and sometimes those relationships carry an expiration date. And that’s okay as long as you enjoy the relationship for what it was during the period you needed it.

I’ve also made some new, extraordinary friends and have cultivated deeper relationships with existing ones. I love the people in my life right now and I feel more connected to my friendships than ever.

The food game is strong.

I never thought there would be a time when I didn’t want to make and photograph food. But there was a year when I felt practically allergic to my camera. I didn’t have the interest or income to whip up new dishes on the regular and the idea of doing so when I did have the cash felt exhausting. For a time, I wanted to eat my food instead of photographing it, and I think having sat between the two extremes I’ve come to a place where I get excited about new cookbooks and good food and sometimes I’ll want to share it and other times I’ll just want to Dyson it.

That was one extreme from which I moved away from and the other was the obsession with my body.

I’ve had lifelong issues with food and my body and I went through periods of bloat, bulimia, extreme exercise and dieting, and I’ve straddled the size spectrum (from a double 00 to size 8/10). I was a size 8 for most of college and when I graduated I spent the next fifteen years being surgical about what I put into my mouth (insert all jokes here). Then I had a four-year job that eviscerated me and my health and I gained 40 pounds. I spent a year and thousands of dollars to drop them to regain half that weight when I fell into a deep depression during my first year in Los Angeles.

I’ve come to realize, albeit really fucking slowly, that I’m not healthy on either side of the size spectrum. Now, this is not a general disclaimer about weight or health–this is specific to ME and MY BODY. I tried the 6-day a week exercise routine I had in New York and I kept saying, fuck this noise. It was too hard, too expensive, too painful, and too cruel on myself. I wanted a workout I would actually enjoy and if that meant not being thin, well, fuck it.

I like moving my body, but I don’t like punishing or torturing it.

I’m also aware that exercise is only a small part of the equation. I was on that low-carb life that was gluten, dairy, and five hundred-other-foods-free, and, in retrospect, I wasn’t happy with that either. Now, I’m slowly getting to a place where I have balance. I don’t like the sweets that I used to because my palate’s changed, but I realize I can’t have chips and guac every day. I’m working on that part of my life right now and my body may fall where it needs to fall as a result and I’m also learning that that’s okay too.

My body, like for most women, is a work in process. And I’m trying to wear blinders to how society thinks a woman should look versus what is healthy for each individual. Being thin doesn’t necessarily mean you’re healthy.

When people prattle on about L.A.’s obsession with weight and appearance, I have to laugh because New York is exactly the same. I lost count of how many bone-thin women were “doubling up” on their SoulCycle classes while subsisting on kale and green juice.

Appearance is endemic to our culture, not our geography.

flowers in bloom.

During the hike, my friend Merrill and I were talking about privilege and she looked over at me and laughed over the fact that I’d brought a Tod’s bag to a hike. Seriously, Felicia. But! But! It’s a cross-body! It’s functional! It’s the bag I wear all the time! We fell into guffaws over my ridiculousness, and then I said, in all seriousness, that this bag is one of the few designer items I own. I’ve either sold, donated, or given away the rest of it and I only have that which I need. I have a few pairs of shoes, a few bags, and the same ten things I wear ALL THE TIME because I’m a creature of habit who isn’t fashionable. I never want to think about what I have to wear; I just want to pull something easy and comfortable out of my closet. And this put me to thinking about objects and the empty spaces they never cease to fill, and how my desire to fill those empty spaces got me into severe debt to the point where I filed for bankruptcy this year.

I’m open about that too–what I learned and how I’ve taken responsibility for the poor choices I’ve made. It feels good to no longer have an insurmountable weight on my back, feeling Sisyphean about my debt and my inability to pay it off. I filed for Chapter 13, which basically means I pay all my creditors back in a five year period with manageable monthly payments. Student loans are separate to this, but it’s definitely a lot less than what I was dealing with before. And it’s a relief to be smart about my money and buy only what I can afford. No more shopping my feelings or buying things I’ll invariably regret later. Every purchase comes with careful thought and consideration.

Do I miss my impeccable credit? Sure. Do I feel a little ashamed? A little. But the relief subsumes all of that. And who cares what anyone thinks? Everyone has their own burden to bear.

Finally, I’ve gotten laser-focused when it comes to my career. I’ve written a lot about this on medium, on second acts and being comfortable in the fact that I’m different. I’ve been thinking a lot about the woman I used to be, the doer, the creator, and how I lost a part of myself in a job I was in for four years. The irony is that without that job I wouldn’t have the expertise and network I do today so I have to consider the complexity of these decisions.

I’ve made the decision to solely focus on brand development and storytelling for small businesses, agencies, and start-ups–predominately working with women and POC. I’m tired of getting white men richer and I want to use my experiences to raise those who’ve rarely blown past the ceiling. The shift has proven a smart one and I’ve got plans for a podcast and live coaching classes in the works. We’ll see.

All I know is that this blog was the first step in going back to the woman who did things instead of talked about them.

10 Comments

  1. Bushra wrote:

    What a fantastic post! Your journey has always encouraged and inspired me to think, think, think about where I am at and how I can make things better for myself. You’re amazing.

    Posted on 5.27.18 · Reply to comment
    • admin wrote:

      Oh my goodness, Bushra! Thank you 🙂

      Posted on 5.27.18 · Reply to comment
  2. Marci wrote:

    Wow! I have been following your blog for years and with this post you really seem like a person who has taken ownership of her mistakes and success and melted them together to be a new and better version of herself. You seem calmer and kinder (not that you were mean before) and someone who truly understands who they and want they want. Congratulations!

    Posted on 5.27.18 · Reply to comment
    • admin wrote:

      Marci,
      Thank you for writing (and for reading all these years)! I do feel my move here has changed me in ways I hadn’t imagined, and although a lot of it came at a cost I don’t regret any of it. I had to trudge through all the shit to get to where I am now.

      And I’m definitely kinder. I wasn’t always my best self through the years and I’m actually proud of the person I am now.

      Warmly, f.

      Posted on 5.27.18 · Reply to comment
  3. Melissa F. wrote:

    Always love reading your posts, Felicia, and am glad to see you back in my Feedly. Sounds like things are better for you — I remember those dark times you had several years ago.

    Also dealing with a friend breakup like you experienced — I always imagined us being in each other’s lives forever, and we’re not, and it’s the most difficult thing.

    Cheers. Glad you’re well. Keep writing — about all of it.

    Posted on 5.27.18 · Reply to comment
    • admin wrote:

      Melissa,

      Aren’t friend breakups the absolute WORST? They’re much more devastating than partner breakups. I’m sorry you’re going through one and I feel your pain. I’m sending lots of love, light, and strength along the way.

      Warmly, f.

      Posted on 5.27.18 · Reply to comment
  4. Barbara wrote:

    So nice to read your words again; so much growth and so much I identify with ( esp friend break ups and how devastating they are). I love your writing and have missed it.

    I was just thinking of you yesterday as I made some strawberry arugula salad recipe you posted about years ago. …

    Posted on 5.29.18 · Reply to comment
    • admin wrote:

      Barbara,
      So great seeing you again! that salad WAS good. I’m glad you’re still a reader and thanks for the love.
      Warmest, f.

      Posted on 5.29.18 · Reply to comment
  5. Arlene wrote:

    I’m so glad your blog is back!

    Posted on 5.31.18 · Reply to comment
    • admin wrote:

      thank you, sweet friend! xo

      Posted on 5.31.18 · Reply to comment

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  • I’m honestly crying tears of gratitude. I should tell you that I’m not a cryer. Unless it’s those Sarah McLachlan animal shelter commercials and then I’m a puddle. But I’m getting really excited about how this @medium series is coming together. I’ll probably top 50K words including the downloadable resources. And I’m even more humbled that my friend @lorissas (we’ve known one another since 2002 and we’ve worked together since my book publishing days) created these gorgeous custom graphics. I really want my collection branded in the blues and to reflect my vibe as much as possible. I’m spending my own $ to license photography and illustrations.
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All because I’m really fucking tired of faux marketers who don’t know of what they teach. Or they teach what has worked for them, their blog or IG, which doesn’t necessarily translate to big brands. Then you have scammers who make it hard for the legit marketers who have to go through hoops because companies have gotten burned by incompetence.
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I also want to make use of my educational privilege. I went to an excellent private college and Ivy League graduate school. I had the privilege of working for brilliant marketers, from whom I learned everything I know. And I want to share that as much as possible. For free. This is my goal in 2019–create and share tons of pedagogical content. For free.
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I’m so excited!!!!! Shout out to @omgstephlol for believing in my vision and putting up with my craziness.
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#fuckfauxmarketers #makinguseofmyprivilege, #brandstrategy #marketing #marketingtips #strategy #thehustle #freelance
  • THIS WEEK. Well, let’s see... I wrote a total of 32K words, accepted an offer to be one of a few operating owners of a funded content start-up (no $ now but I think this will blow up), I had another interview with an agency in Philly and we talked money, balance, neuroscience and I like their vibe. I’m not moving cross country just yet so let’s all take a pause. I finished a good book, started another. Got my mammogram results back—no cancer! I got angry with my health insurance company like the rest of America. Part of me hopes I can get a full-time job so I can enjoy a consistent paycheck for a hot second. Celebrated a month off the sauce (let’s not get telenovela about this). I cleaned my house and burst into tears talking to my bankruptcy attorney because apparently no one cares that you’ve been making on-time payments for over a year and you’re going through a rough patch. It stormed and I loved it and prayed for more rain. It’s sunny now. I have a first line for a new chapter but I can’t write because all I’m thinking about is work and how I’ll make rent. But here it is: “Love in their home had become its own form of violence.”
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I met up with @bhatmon who always makes me smile and if I move back east she’ll be the one true thing I’ll miss. I listened to podcasts, read science articles, and wished that I could get a neuroscience degree but a kind reader pointed me in the direction of MIT’s free classes so I’m jazzed. I emailed a rescue service and filled out an adoption application but no one ever wrote my back so that made me sad.
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I have no idea how I’ll at for anything but I can’t freak out over that which I can’t control and like that. And love is kind of violent if you really get to thinking about it.
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I’m annoyed that I’ve lived get for over three years and I haven’t seen nearly enough. And on it goes.
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#weekendvibes #weeklyrecap #realtalk #instayum #thehustle #amwriting but am I?
  • Love can sometimes create its own form of emotional violence.
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I used to rummage through photos as a means of being cruel to myself. You used to be thin! You used to be slightly fashionable! You used to be disciplined! And as the edges softened, as your wont to do as you get older and let a lot of the hardness within you go, it occurred to me that the things I used to want and love were violent. I was ruthless to my body to get it to a certain shape instead of eating to sustain myself and moving to feel. I went at everything so hard! Then I worked all hours of the day and night until it made me literally sick. My hardness, my love and desire to look and be a certain way, was hurting me.
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Now. I’ve softened in all senses of the word. I’m calmer. I have a different (and healthier) view of my body and what it means to be beautiful, and I have strong boundaries that guard against the people with whom I work and the projects I’ve taken on. I’ve fired abusive clients. I make clear when and how I work. And I put me first. I have a lot of writing to do to make $ to pay rent this month but I rested yesterday because I need it. I didn’t realize how tiring writing could be when you’re doing it for 10-12 hours a day. Sometimes you need rest.
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Now, I look for pictures like this when I’m happy. When I’m laughing as feeling joyful and hopeful. Because I’m trying to be kinder to myself.
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#tuesdaymotivation #bekind #beingboss #boss #thehustle #amwriting
  • Writing exhausts you. So much so that, come evening, all you can do is stare blankly at a television screen. You can’t read because you can’t bear to see another word.
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I’ve been on a heater, writing for 10-12 hours for the past two days. I wake at four and start working at 4:30. It’s my best time. I’ve finished 3 of my 9 medium pieces and believe me when I say that teaching something, especially solely in written form, is a lot harder than I anticipated. But it’s work that gives me pride. Plus it’s a little money that goes towards paying my bills.
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Tomorrow is a call for a freelance strategy gig with a philly healthcare agency, more work, and possibly a delivery of fried chicken. Here’s hoping.
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#thehustle #amwriting #f52grams #clementinedaily #beingboss #thefreelancelife #freelancewriter #faceplant
  • #tbt of me sweating my ass off in S. Africa, wrinkles et all.
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In the midst of me having a two-day long rage blackout over my garbage $600/month healthcare that won’t even cover my MRI, I learned two exciting pieces of news.
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The medium series is a GO, you guys! I’m shaking with excitement because faux-marketer scam artists and their wack courses are a pandemic. They don’t have experience in what they’re selling. They haven’t achieved for others what they’re selling beyond their own channels. And they don’t actually understand what they’re selling. I can’t tell you how many lead magnets and PDFs I’ve downloaded and webinars I barely lived through where people didn’t even understand the basic principles of brand platform development. They got the terminology wrong. They got the process wrong. Data was non-existent. I was APPALLED at the AUDACITY of these dumb chumps. So I decided to create a FREE mini course that takes you through the full brand platform process. I’m publishing one overview (9K words), and 8 follow ups that flesh out the overview. You’ll get information in layman’s terms, complete with exercises and real-world examples. I’ll also be sharing a link when all of this is up where you can view all articles FOR FREE, bypassing the paywall. I’ll keep you posted on my progress. I didn’t realize how hard this would be, creating lessons that were instructive and easy to understand. I’m setting aside time to finish this while I do client work that pays the bills. I am happy medium is paying me, which is pretty awesome.
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This is the first in a series.
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The OTHER news is that I was offered operating ownership (not equity) in a content start-up that I truly believe will blow up like nitro, to quote Biggie. I love the company. I’d be working with hella smart people and my work would be advising on the brand, marketing and editorial. The offer took me by surprise and I was humbled and honored. While there’s no $ up front, the ownership really piques my interest. I can’t give any more details than that, but this is pretty cool.
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Now I will lie down. .
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#selfie #bignews #bignewscomingsoon #amwriting
  • Get ready for the magic, people. I’ll be back to sharing food posts in 2019!!! I just came back from an awesome party and I’m inspired and filled with so much energy.
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I’m planning a monster tutorial series (with graphics) on marketing strategy, brand development, and audience segmentation and I’m publishing this FREE on @medium. Don’t buy courses from scam artists who’ve never worked on real brands. I’ve got 20 years and I know what I’m talking about. I’m also considering in-person trainings at the corporate or individual level (not free). I don’t want to do courses as I teach best in front of people.
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I’m going to finish this book. I’m going to try to leave my house and network a little more with people I dig. And I’m trying to get to the East coast before March to see my peeps.
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And I’m going to fight for financial stability and be kind to myself!!
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Let’s do this!!! Tell me what you’re doing. And hey, if it’s surviving know that is an achievement in and of itself.
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#bigenergy #bigmagic #tuesdaymotivation #newyear #instayum #cannoli #bigplans #realshit #letsdothis
  • Instead I wrote SIXTY pieces, of which I’m so proud. I wrote over 200K words, which is like 3 books considering my last novel clicked in at 70K words. I feel good having written my way through some of my most darkest moments. Haven’t read my stuff? That’s sad for you, my friend. Resolve that by hitting the link in my profile. Also, big love to @omgstephlol. .
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#amwriting #weekendvibes #authorsofinstagram #medium #icantgoonillgoon #beckettquoteibviously
  • Merry Christmas to all you beautiful animals. I've had the great privilege to work with a lot of exceptional people this year. I've done some of the best work of my career and I'm grateful for the incredible clients, friends, peers, and mentors in my life. Happy Holidays! And here's to a rockstar 2019!
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#merrychristmas #christmaseve #blessup #2019 
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