Life’s Transitions: Moving Across the Country
East Coasting On the West Coast
by Jessica Johnson
Flashback: It was 3:00 a.m. and our friends had just left. For the six hours prior, they helped my fiancé (then boyfriend) and I roll all of our clothes into little bundles and pack them in Ziploc vacuum bags. We had six vacuum bags along with two large suitcases and a dog — all of which had to fit in a four-door Volkswagen Jetta for the 3,000-plus-mile journey we were beginning. The goal was starting over. We were taking our talents to the West Coast while we were “young and childless.” The idea sounded great a year ago. Now the countdown was over, it was time to go.
Ask any native East Coaster, and they will tell you how much they dislike the West Coast (even if they’ve never visited). The reasons are vague and varied: The people are weird, the work style is too relaxed (how many beach days could you possibly need? The answer is … many), earthquakes, wildfires, and no rain. The reasons make a coastal move seem out of the question. That’s what I thought up until I made the biggest transition of my life and moved from Washington, D.C., to Los Angeles, California.
Like many of my peers, I was feeling down and out while searching for a job. After months of applications, networking events, and interviews, opportunity finally came. However, it was 3,000 miles away, in Los Angeles. I had a few friends in California, but knowing the distance between cities, the truth was I didn’t know a soul. My boyfriend had relatives who helped us make arrangements. He also had an offer in LA so there was some comfort in not going alone. Still, once I accepted the offer, I was instantly filled with dread.
Whenever you make a big leap or transition, the stages you go through sort of mimic the stages of grief.
I remember feeling a period of denial:
Am I really doing this? Is he really coming, too? Are we crazy?
The anger phase happened once others started to question my nerve:
Are they trying to hold me back? Is this sabotage? Are they jealous?
I admit, I made a few bargains with myself about staying put:
Maybe if I stick it out for another year, I’ll find something here at home? People do long distance relationships all the time. Can I be one of those people?
As the day drew nearer, I found myself feeling sad:
My whole life is here. Am I making a huge mistake? What if we get there and break up?
But the most powerful feeling, the affirming feeling, was acceptance. Once the apartment was empty and the car was packed, I suddenly looked into the 3:00 a.m. darkness like it was a 6:00 a.m. sunrise. I. Was. READY.
I’m proud to say that day was three years ago. I quieted the fear and doubt, took a final glance at the city I was raised in, and confidently placed it in the rearview.
Since moving, I’ve had opportunities that I had only dreamed of when I was shivering in my basement apartment back home. Looking back, I can’t imagine what my life would have been if I hadn’t made that huge leap. Now it’s your turn to share: Have you made a huge transition lately?