New York vs Los Angeles {bittersweet, nostalgic, enchanting}


The age old question. New York or LA. As many of you know, I've spent the past year living bicoastal. By living, I mean living. Forget tourism, forget sitting in the audience watching somebody else's show. I was the starring role, the director and the backstage crew all at once. It was my own show, that everybody yet nobody was watching. The majority of people didn't actually attend the show, they just checked in with people who actually bought tickets. Not because they truly cared, but because they wanted to hear that I failed. But little did those lurkers know, I wasn't living my life for a good resume and a successful list of accolades. I was living my life for genuine connections; for that feeling I get in my soul when doing something I love or meeting someone interesting. And that's really all there is to it.

This past year was everything I ever wanted. It was filled with more culture and experience I ever thought I would get the chance to experience in my entire life. It's like I wasn't just breathing in H20, I was breathing in the sea salt and the sand of LA and I was breathing in the aroma of fresh trash and urine in NYC. Every falafel cart and coffee shop was intoxicating me, bittersweetly, and I couldn't get enough of it. Suddenly, the scent of fresh pine and dying leaves was virtually unappealing and I wanted more of this 'trash glamour' lifestyle. I was willing to make sacrifices and feel pain just to be apart of it. I was willing to work hard. Because through all of the stress and the craziness, every now and then, there's that one moment that makes you feel more alive than ever. I didn't need drugs or caffeine for my senses to be intensified, I just needed to BE in a city. That's all it really took for me to feel that one indescribable feeling we all long for.

Maybe you've been hearing about me from your friends. Maybe you've been checking on me through social media. But nothing is what it seems. I rarely document everything I do online, it's mostly just random glimpses of my life and business, to be quite honest. It may seem like I am living some glamorous life, but it's far from that. I work to travel. I am always writing. I am always doing business. I am always making connections. I am not some privileged white girl using my parents money. My mom did give me $20 bucks once, (ba dum tst) but I want the world to know I do actual work for everything I have. My life has so much depth to it and if you think my life is just what I post on instagram + my blog, you have a lot to learn, my friend.

So, anyways. I attended Marymount Manhattan for a semester while living in New York, and I was shocked and almost felt bad for a lot of my peers. "My parents only give me 600 dollars a month of spending money. UGH!," they would say. I would look straight at the ground and chuckle because I was that flabbergasted. The words were taken right out of my mouth. I guess the reason I felt any sense of empathy for them, is because they will never know how it feels to struggle and go through life 100% independently. (I'm generalizing, I went to school with a lot of awesome individuals.) I've been trying to be independent since I came out of the womb, ask my mother. It's a feeling I thrive off of, but hey, everyones different, right? A lot of my peers were in New York, watching Netflix every night and occasionally seeing a broadway show. Most of them didn't leave their dorm. This also made me rather sad. I was getting up extra early and going to bed extra late. I went to every borough, every neighborhood, every eatery, I really tried to do everything. And that's from the poor girl who while being a full time student, was working AND doing an internship. 

I'm not bragging or fishing for compliments here, it's just I've dealt with so much criticism and gossip in the past year and I want to make it clear. I'm generally a private person, but what the hell. There it is. You guys happy? No, I didn't fail out of college. It was my choice to leave. No, I wasn't a stripper. But not a bad suggestion. No, I wasn't homeless. For crying out loud, you guys are getting creative with your rumors.

The longer I was in New York, I kept on thinking, "Damn, I need to go to LA." When everyone found out I was leaving New York, they acted like it was the end of the road for me. "Well, what's next? Are you gonna move in with your parents? Go back to school? Get a job?" And I told them all what I was going to do. I was going to go to California. No one believed I could do it. Even the ones who were polite about it assumed I wouldn't actually go.

But I did. And it just felt right for this chapter of my life, you know? It was new. It was similar to NYC but also quite the opposite. It was revitalizing and for the first time in a while, I felt like I was apart of something again.

Throughout the past year, I felt this agonizing need to write about my experiences in New York and Los Angeles and compare the two. I've written little blurbs about my experiences and I've posted a few photos every now and then. But what am I actually doing? How do I feel about all of this? What actually happened? This post is supposed to answer those questions. And hey, maybe it doesn't answer your questions. Either stop being so goddamn nosy or just contact me for crying out loud. (ba dum tst part two)

I'm already feeling quite nostalgic and I think there will always be apart of me that is lost. I can't ever chose between LA and NYC. But I can express my feelings, because that's kind of what I do.

I could reference Joan Didion's Goodbye to All That, and poetically and symbolically write about my experience in New York. I could tell you about my lovers and my haters. I could tell you about the late nights and the early mornings. I could even reference Taylor Swift's "Welcome to New York," because yes, it has been waiting for me, but dang it drives me crazy. And I cannot forget one of my favorite series of articles by TimeOut: 31 reasons LA kicks New York's ass and 31 reasons New York kicks LA's ass.  But instead, I will just tell you bits and pieces of my experience. The pros and the cons, the humor, the pain and the truth. I will never be able to condense it all into one essay, but it's better than this mysteriousness I've been unknowingly living with.



                         The Pros of Living in Los Angeles

  • They have Disneyland. Disney always wins, and is a huge factor for me. 
  • They also have San Diego Comic Con, plus a whole lot of other cons. Nerd heaven.
  • They offer more spicy food than almost everywhere in the USA. Flamin hot everything. Jalapeno flavored everything. Sriracha flavored everything. I can get used to that!
  • Beaches, forests, mountains, parks. Nature of every kind.
  • I have this weird feeling of freedom and opportunity while in California. Like anything can happen any moment and your "big break" is waiting on you.
  • The weather. It's never too hot, never too cold. Always perfect.
  • You'll actually be able to afford your own apartment. An apartment that is a decent size. Take that, NYC!
  • AVOCADOS.
  • It's easier to escape. In New York, you have to pay for an uber/taxi, a plane ticket and someone needs to sublet your place for you to just go to Connecticut or something. In LA, you could just go to the beach in 30 minutes.
The Cons of Living in Los Angeles
  • Driving. The drivers here aren't that bad, but the traffic is. You can expect to spend a few hours driving on a daily basis. Plus the gas, insurance and car payments. The struggle has never been realer.
  • Earthquakes! Haha, not really. I mean, they're overdue for a natural disaster so it deserves to be on the con list.
  • You don't get to be in New York. If you know what I mean by this, I appreciate you as a person.
  • Everything is really spread out. Correlating with #1, you will need to drive everywhere. But you know that cool mexican place? That relaxing park with a view of the city? That coffee shop that does the intense latte art? Yeah, they are all miles apart. As TimeOut said, "You can meander happily for an entire day in New York with no idea where you'll end up. In L.A., you'll drive to one cool neighborhood, go into the three or four places they have there, then get into your car and go to another "cool" place. It's too structured, dammit!"
  • PARKING. Why are almost all of the cons relating to driving? But yeah, expect to pay for parking. And not every apartment building offers parking so expect to deal with unrealistic street parking as well.
  • People care about you more here. Some would say this is a pro, but I mean, in New York I can walk around and go anywhere I want without being bothered. Everything is an issue in LA. I'm walking down the street and everyone wants to say hi to me. I go into this restaurant and everyone is either giving me a dirty look because I'm not blonde and rich, checking me out and making me feel uncomfortable or trying to small talk to be polite. Does this make me a terrible person? Call me in 5 years and I'll let you know. 
  • The fear of missing out. This might just be me, but everything is on the East Coast for me. I grew up in Ohio and then moved to New York. Old friends, old jobs, old feelings. You can never truly get closure but sometimes you just have to move on. I know I can always go back, but the fear of missing out is always with me in LA, regardless of all the opportunities ahead of me. 

The Pros of Living in New York
  • You get to be in New York. Next.
  • There are a lot more opportunities here in terms of business and art. You can easily pick up a quick job as a waitress or something. Then you can get an internship, a good job, some quick artistic gigs, whatever. I can't even tell you how many emails I get about being invited to events. There's always events, you know? LA doesn't have as many, and if they do, it will take you too long to get there anyways.
  • You get to be apart of something. Everyone in New York is in this secret club. It's like, sure, it's -20 degrees and we are all depressed and living paycheck to paycheck and breaking out and we're all dying due to intoxicating our bodies with pollution and alcohol, but we're all in this together! Cheers to that!
  • THE SUBWAY! YES. My love for the 456 has no bounds. It's so easy to get around. You can go to every borough within a day with no troubles. Plus, it's so relaxing. I don't mind commuting when on the subway. God bless the subway. Miss u bby.
  • You never run out of places to eat. *pushes glasses up* I once heard a little factoid stating you could eat at a different place everyday in NYC and never eat at the same place twice. Oddly enough, I believe it. There's so much diversity here in terms of food and you don't need to travel to experience it.
  • Coffee. LA keeps on trying to beat NYC in the coffee game but they just can't. Sorry West Coast.
  • It's harder to meet people here (naturally, at least), but when you do, it's genuine and beautiful and real. 
  • This is personal, but when I was younger I held New York in my heart. And then once I got there, and I couldn't really let go of it. No matter how much it sucks, I love it.
The Cons of Living in New York
  • Finding an apartment is really hard here. If you want your own place, you need perfect credit, you need to make 40 times the amount of the rent. You need to find room mates, lower your expectations and deal with selfish tenants and annoying walkups. Believe me, I was apartment hunting here for a while. It was rough, man.
  • The. weather. I really only like autumn in New York. Winter is too cold and summer is too hot. 
  • Grocery shopping doesn't really exist here. Just kidding, it does. But you have to dedicate a lot of time to it. Most people just use seamless, go out to eat, or make pit stops at Duane Reade to buy overpriced chips and ice cream. When I actually wanted to properly go grocery shopping, I had to go all the way up to Harlem, spend hours inside of Target, go all the way back to my place, and then it was already night time. Or, I could go to the local Whole Foods and spend my entire paycheck on a few organic/vegan dishes.
  • You will probably become uglier, inside and out. Although I was walking 5 miles a day and barely eating, I gained 20 pounds in New York. I really don't understand how this happened. And my mental health was bad too, which is obviously more important. It's hard to focus on yourself and have some me time while living in NYC.
  • It's really business heavy. You're always going to need to be moving fast, hustling, and going somewhere. There's a whole lot of work here but not a lot of play. In LA, it's okay to say you're taking things one day at a time or freelancing. People in NYC may give you a dirty look at the thought of that. 
  • At the end of each day, my entire body aches and I can barely gain the energy to make myself dinner. But it's because I was doing something I loved in a city that makes me feel alive. Should this go in the pro or the con section? The world may never know...

To compare LA and NYC, I would say everything TimeOut said is pretty accurate. I still stand by my previous statement, I will never be able to truly choose one. I will never settle down in one city and abandon the other. I will always live this bicoastal life of wanderlust and adventure. There's apart of me in both cities. I left some parts of me with people and some parts of me in places. And deep down, I know that will always be there. There's an urban legend that states when you travel, if you leave apart of you (physical or spiritual) somewhere, you will always come back. I buried things in the sand of Huntington Beach. And I had to leave A LOT of things in New York because nothing would fit in my suitcase. But physicality aside, I know I left a mark on people in both cities. Bittersweet, nostalgic yet enchanting...adjectives that will always follow me around. 


New York and Los Angeles are like separate worlds, separate dimensions that I can teleport to. You know how in Kingdom Hearts Sora travels between the worlds and he gets all sad when he leaves one world to go to another world but he knows he made a difference in those worlds and he knows he can always come back even though he needs to move on? No? Well, that's how I feel. (Sorry, I've been playing a lot of Kingdom Hearts lately while living this boring Ohio life.) 


But maybe Kairi's letter is right. Who knows, "staring a new journey may not be so hard, or maybe it has already begun. There are many worlds - but they share the same sky. One sky - one destiny."

Sometimes I look up at the night sky and it comforts me. Knowing the same sky hugging the California palm trees is hugging the city skyscrapers. Knowing the same moon I am looking at is the same moon you are looking at. In those moments, I feel like that little girl with dreams. I feel so whole, so free, so myself. And when I look up at that moon, no matter what city I am in, I can only hope that you feel the same. Maybe I'm not really saying goodbye to all that, but I am saying hello to all that and more. So here I am, sitting in a coffee shop, realizing the truth as I put it into words: I never have to choose a city, or a job, or a person, or a place. I already chose to be myself and to live an authentic life. Who knows what that means, but for now, I hope you can understand.

Always, Maria Elena