A Week of Firsts
I moved to Los Angeles a month and a half ago. During this time I had a Covid scare, sprained my ankle (it is still swollen three weeks later, should I see a doctor?), and applied to 70+ jobs… I only heard back from two.
It’s been an emotionally draining month. I went from living with my parents, four siblings, three cats, and two dogs, to being alone in a small studio. It’s just me, my instant ramen, and my crippling anxiety telling me to do... anything.
So I decided to challenge myself. Seven days, seven chances to do something for the first time. I talked to friends, some in LA, some not, and devised a list:
Attend a comedy show
Visit the Abandoned Zoo
Explore the Time Travel Mart
Make a meal using only farmers market food
See the Venice canals
Check out the Barnsdall Art Park
Visit the Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens
But like most last-minute plans, this fell apart. I couldn’t get tickets to the Huntington Library, the buildings at Barnsdall Art Park are closed because of Covid, and I just couldn’t find the motivation to make anything other than hummus and carrots.
But I texted Blossom contributors Christina Lyn Jevicky and Katie Wilkerson and made plans with them to keep me motivated through the week (because I honestly just wanted to sleep instead of explore LA). With their encouragement and enthusiasm, I felt prepared to start the week ---- at least in theory.
Day 1: Monday
I woke up on Monday ready to spend a lazy day at home before realizing that this was the first day of my challenge. I was already regretting it.
I looked at my original list and picked the easiest thing on there: Explore the Time Travel Mart.
The Time Travel Mart is right by Echo Park and is only a short drive from my place. They are part of 826LA, which is a non-profit that supports school-age children with literacy and creative writing skills. It’s an eclectic store selling items from “past, present, and future.” Most of the things there are gimmicky and cute, but they also sell books written by the children who are part of 826LA’s summer camps.
They claim that they are a “convenience store for time travelers.” I think it’s just one big metaphor, showing the power that stories have.
I bought the book written by the 2019 students of 826LA’s “Write On!” summer camp. The kids talk about aliens, coded messages, and how to improve Echo Park. It’s cute and inspired me to visit the park to better understand their words.
Like a lot of places in LA, you can see the class divide. One section of Echo Park was filled with day workers and homeless people napping, and the other half had tourists, young people reading or on dates, and people walking their designer dogs.
I saw a couple debating whether or not the swan boats were worth the price, kids fishing on the lake, and two friends fighting over who forgot the lighter for their joint.
It was nice to be there. I don’t know if I’ll go back anytime soon.
While there, I skimmed through the 826LA book. The ideas to improve Echo Park are fun. Sebastian C. wants the park to start renting scuba gear to guests, Aaron M. wants to open up a race track (the first place winner of the races wins a Lamborghini), and Meggan M. wants to expand Echo Park to include both a Burger King and a Six Flags.
Other kids asked for more attainable things: bigger playgrounds, splash pads, clean bathrooms, and vending machines with cold drinks.
I hope they get their wishes.
Day 2: Tuesday
Have you ever received a letter from a realtor or charity organization that looks handwritten? I’m making those.
I started a new job on my second day of the challenge. It’s not a job I want, but it’s a job to have, and I’m grateful for it. Even if I’m on my feet eight hours a day placing sheets of cardstock under robots that write spam letters.
I’m learning how to change motors, operate small robots, and solve minor computer issues. It’s not a hard job, and I spend most of the day listening to music. The worst part of it is trying to be friendly with my coworkers. I’m introverted and anxious about messing up.
By the time I’m writing this, it’s been three weeks since I’ve started this job. I still have barely talked to anyone else at this company. It’s also the first job I’ve had where I’m not sacrificing all of my being to work there. I clock in and clock out, then go home to work my other two remote jobs. I’m generally exhausted, but I’m grateful to have a reason to leave my house every day.
Day 3: Wednesday
As soon as I started this new job, I received an email from a Really Cool Company™ asking me to interview with them. This is the day before the interview, so with Katie Wilkerson’s recommendation, I cast a spell for the first time.
I’m not a witchy person. I claim that I’m semi-spiritual, but I really don’t know what that means. I wouldn’t say I’m a believer, but I also wouldn’t say I don’t believe in magic either. I’m very much coasting in the “I don’t know, so I won’t pick a belief either way.” It’s the agnostic in me.
Katie walked me through the process. I bought a taper candle and melted the bottom of it so it would stick to a plate.
I then had to dress the candle. I poured olive oil on it, because it felt like something you should do, almost like an offering. I then placed four quarters on the plate. They were from Texas, New Mexico, New York, and California ---- all the places I’ve worked and earned money. Finally, I sharpened a pencil over the candle, to help manifest a creative career.
Then was the hard part. I had to speak my intentions out loud.
I struggle, like really struggle with saying positive things about myself. Everything good that has happened to me professionally I know (or at least have convinced myself) is not because of me. Things just fall in my lap. I’m in the right place at the right time. I have to scramble to put out work that won’t make it obvious that I don’t know what the fuck I’m doing.
Katie encouraged me to say things like, “I deserve this job, I’m getting this job, I’m qualified and smart and capable.” And I really did try, but I wasn’t convincing. I was uncomfortable saying these things about myself. What made me more deserving than other applicants? Am I really truly qualified? Am I actually capable, or have I just tricked every person who knows me to think that?
I actually had a stomach ache from the anxiety of simply saying these things.
Katie ended up sick of hearing me struggle to say the simplest of affirmations and switched tactics. They had me repeat after them. I don’t remember what I said, because even repeating positive things about myself intensified my anxiety.
I don’t know if the spell worked, but I learned a lot about myself.
Day 4: Thursday
I’m not going to lie, I had no clue what I was going to do until about 1am Thursday morning. I was sore and tired from my new job. It was also hot. I really didn’t want to walk around outside. I also didn’t want to fight to find parking anywhere. So I decided to do the scariest thing I could have done ---- I made an appointment to get my first bikini wax.
After some frantic Googling on the different kinds of waxing and what is best for my skin type (sensitive), I settled on a sugar wax. I don’t want to call it a caramel, but it’s kind of a caramel that sticks to the hair but not the skin, for an (apparently) less painful wax.
I made an appointment with Sugaring LA, which had a last-minute appointment.
I’m not going to lie, I’ve been single for two and a half years, and wasn’t dating within that time, so I was rocking a 70s bush. My skin gets irritated if I even so much as look at a razor, so I was enjoying a few pain-free years. But with my recent venture back into dating apps (yikes) and the upcoming weekend where I knew I’d be wearing a swimsuit, I knew it was time for some patriarchal beauty standards.
The girl who waxed me was great. She got everything done fast and kept a conversation going to distract me from the fact that she was staring right at my vagina.
Out of everything I did this week, this is the only one I did solely for me. Not as a checklist on an article, not as a friend’s recommendation or hangout, but just for me. And even though it hurt (but not as bad as I thought it would!), it’s probably my favorite thing I did all week. It was 10 minutes of self-care, and probably the only thing I’ve done to take care of myself in months.
Day 5: Friday
On Friday’s “to-do” list was to attend a comedy show. My friend Christina and I had been talking about seeing one together for weeks. We found a show in Santa Monica and bought tickets.
I saved my lunch break for the end of the day and left work early to get there in time. It was supposed to be at this little café, but when we got there, the place was closed. We called the event, messaged the comedy show on Instagram and Facebook, and even went to the hotel next door to ask the receptionist if they knew anything about this event, but no one could give us answers.
It wasn’t until the show was almost over that we heard back. They had changed locations and they refunded us the money. We quickly went on Google to find another comedy show for the night, because I did not drive all the way to Santa Monica for nothing.
We ended up settling on Westside Comedy Theater, which had a show for later that night. We settled into this theater that honestly looked like the picture definition of “comedy club.” They had Truly on tap (which is still so weird to me, but I did order one), and a bathroom that was ~mostly~ clean.
There were five performers, and four of them were hilarious. The woman who closed out the show, though, was… problematic to say the least. She has C-level celebrity status from a stint on a television show years ago and came out on stage like she was God’s gift to earth. But it wasn’t until she started bullying a man for wearing a mask that I lost all respect for her. It was the first interaction since I moved out of Texas where I saw intense Covid-denier energy.
I just hope she was vaccinated.
Day 6: Saturday
Saturday I woke up early and drove back to Santa Monica to pick up Christina. We then drove down the PCH to Malibu for a waterfall hike. This drive was one of the best parts of the day. The highway was empty. It was just us, my playlist (I’m sorry all my music is sad, Christina!), and views of the ocean.
We parked on a lookout point, and even though my fear of heights made my stomach churn, I couldn’t look away.
We walked to the trailhead where Katie met us, and we hiked for a couple of hours.
The trail was filled with other people and dogs, all trying to beat the afternoon sun. Being up early and enjoying the fresh air made me feel so productive, like for once, I had my shit together.
The trail took us to an abandoned mansion that had burned down years ago. It’s now just a popular spot for hikers to visit and picnic at.
The hike mostly reminded me that I am out of shape, but it was nice to be out in nature.
Later that evening, I went to a pool party in the Valley. It was a joint birthday/album release party for a rapper Katie knows.
Social situations make me uncomfortable. I enjoy having gone to parties, but I hate being at parties. I’m much more comfortable just seeing someone one-on-one. In big groups, I always end up playing a part. I pretend I’m bubbly and extroverted when I really just want to shrink into myself and hide.
I definitely had a little too much to drink, and I know I said embarrassing things. My alcohol tolerance has gone down since the pandemic started, and I’m having to relearn my limits all over again. But having a buzz is one of the only ways for me to stay “on” and not think too hard about what I’m saying. I worry that I come across too strong. People tell me I’m intense, and I’m scared that’s how I’m perceived by everyone.
I hope one day these fears go away.
Day 7: Sunday
The last day of the challenge brought me to Will Rogers Beach. I met up with Christina and her boyfriend, Katie and some of their friends, and a guy we met at the party the night before.
At this point, I felt pretty exhausted. My social limit was running out, but I still had fun.
Christina and I tried to swim in the ocean, but the surf kept knocking us down. I spent the rest of the day sitting on my towel, sand falling from my hair every time I moved.
We sat on the beach until sunset. It wasn’t my first California beach sunset, but it was the first one as an adult with friends.
We ended the night at this eclectic beachside restaurant. It was overpriced but delicious. Eating dinner there is one of my favorite memories since I’ve been to LA. I was tired, cold, and covered in sand, but I finally felt settled in this city.
This challenge was hard. I don’t think I’ll try another week of firsts for a while. I’ll take my first experiences when they come around, and appreciate them for what they are. I’m glad I pushed myself out of my comfort zone and made new friends and saw new places. It really was a special week.
I’m still figuring out a lot of things. I don’t know who I want to be, what I want to do, how I want to spend my days, or who I want to spend them with, but I’m glad I had this week to explore all of those things. And I can’t wait to see many more beach sunsets in LA, even if I’ve seen them a thousand times before.