Transplant

I recently made a list of things I have done in the past ten months and seventeen days.

Exactly ten months and seventeen days ago, I woke up in my apartment in Indianapolis to a loud thunderstorm and with a killer flu. Coincidentally, this was the day that I was supposed to move to Los Angeles all on my own. The day before I had graduated from Butler University. My family and best friend William had traveled from Illinois to Indianapolis to say goodbye before I left. I had whittled down my earthly possessions down to two small suitcases and a tote bag. My senior year apartment was empty of decorations and clothes. All that was left behind were the white, bare walls where my posters used to hang. Everything else I owned had been donated or tossed. All I had to do now was get myself to the airport and manage to get on a plane for the first time, both with the flu and without proper ID.

You see, my move to LA was very much spur of the moment. As the months of my senior year went by, I realized shit was getting real. I was constantly being asked what my “post grad” plan was by friends and family.  I knew I had wanted to leave Indianapolis, but not for any significant reason. By the time April rolled around, I responded to a craigslist advertisement:

Photo by Tom Benson (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Seeking young gal to live in HOLLYWOOD with three other gals. Only $500 a month, best deal in town!

I wanted a challenge. I wanted to be a bit reckless. I’ve always had a fear of failure as a kid. The fear paralyzed me, I stopped trying new things and played it safe. But as I spoke to the leaser about the open bed it took little time to convince me, even without seeing the place in person. I was buzzing with excitement once everything was paid for and I got a package in the mail containing my lease agreement and apartment keys. I then loved to humble brag to others when they would undoubtedly ask once more about my post-grad plans. Oh it’s no big deal but I’m moving to Hollywood. It was something I had done on my own volition. It was a leap of faith.

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I never got a driver’s license, not in high school or college. All I had on me, that day at the airport in Indiana, was a temporary ID with a black and white photo of my dumb face on it. I was sweating nervously as I got to the airport fearing I wouldn’t be allowed on the plane. After figuring out how to check my bags, I made my way to the line to get inspected by the TSA. When I opened up that folded paper temporary ID, the guard immediately huffed and said “You need to take care of this before your flight ma’am.” I was still soaking wet from the downpour outside, and leaking various fluids from my nostrils and eyes. I could tell he took pity on me, watching me tear up and blow my nose on some crusty tissue. After an intense pat down and search, he let me through to my gate.

There is nothing more terrible than having the flu on the plane. As I got on my connection to LA from Chicago, I felt my ears pop and suddenly I could only hear my own labored breathing. Woosh, woosh. It sounded like the humming of the engine was inside I was out of tissues, my nose was chapped red and once we landed I was dripping in sweat. I dragged my suitcases and bag through the crowded airport and stepped foot into LA weather. It was stiflingly hot and dry. I was miserable, sweaty and tired. But loving it.

Photo by Wade Rockett (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

In the past ten months and seventeen days, I’ve moved 4 times since I landed here. I lived on Yucca street, right next to a 7-Eleven and just down the block from Capital Records. The place looked like a converted motel, and when I got there I was almost worried I fell victim to a trafficking scam due to the peeling paint, broken windows, and the rusted gate that never completely locked shut. My apartment looked way smaller than it did in the photos I was sent. It was a studio with three twin beds on the floor with curtains separating the spaces. The bed was clean, however and the floor was freshly mopped with a bucket of bleach courtesy of my new leaser. That would be the cleanest I would ever see that place. I remember the first thing one of my new roommates said to me: “if a guy comes here and starts asking about me, tell him I moved, he’s my stalker.” I lived there from May to the end of July of 2017.

Within the first two weeks of moving, I had been on a date with a guy named Levi who I really started to like. After a month of us dating, I was also surprised with a job offer at Starbucks in Hollywood. As I walked to work every day (and started to hate tourists with a burning passion), I met a guy named Matt and his girlfriend Rachel. They stopped me a few times after work to sit and chat. Overtime, we became friends and I learned that my new boyfriend went to school with Rachel. I felt it was serendipitous, and giving them the opportunity to reconnect made me feel like the universe was trying to tell me something.

Photo by Yohann Aberkane (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

I believe that you should be careful what you wish for. I moved in with my new friends in August to escape the…conditions of my Yucca street apartment. Between the black mold and rats, I was ready for a change of scenery. I moved in with my new friends and switched my location from Hollywood to North Hills in the valley. I lived there from August to December. But as the months went on, I experienced a few health problems. I felt more and more depressed and I lived off $100 a month thanks to my hours being cut at Starbucks. I felt incredibly stuck in a shit situation. Thanks to my then boyfriend’s efforts, “you need to find your purpose again” I applied to school to get my MFA in Creative Writing. I wanted to get my life back on track. Getting my acceptance letter was like finally finding stability. Thanks to a combination of those things, I had to once again move to be closer to school.

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Moving to Culver City with my friends John and Chelsea was the best decision I ever made. It was also the hardest. I was on the verge of a break up with my boyfriend, quit my job at Starbucks to start school, and now I was sleeping on John and Chelsea’s couch. I was and still am forever grateful for their kindness and support during that whole time. I was finding my purpose at school while fighting through my depression. I faced the risk of homelessness as plans kept changing and my Chelsea’s lease on her apartment was coming ever closer. It was hard to juggle my new work study position at school and also helping my friends move out.  It was January, a week before I had to leave John and Chelsea’s apartment when I found the place I am currently living. It’s a shared living duplex, each level with 10 rooms room with one or two bunk beds in South LA. I now have a shit ton of housemates, a clean living environment, and it’s fairly affordable. My mental health is getting taken care of, I am I recently wrote out a list of what I had done in the past ten months and seventeen days, it reads:

I loved and lost a boyfriend

I survived a health crisis

I moved at moment’s notice four times

I had a falling out with friends

I started school and made new ones

I grew up

When May 9th rolls around again, I’m gonna celebrate the same way I did when I moved here. Eating some Panda Express, calling my parents, and looking forward to what I’ll have to say about next year.

  Noel Ortega loves sarcasm, podcasts, and memes almost as much as she loves writing. She was born in Illinois but considers Los Angeles her true home. Trying this whole “grown up” thing while completing a masters in creative writing.