“Strangers will say ‘Smile! It’s not that bad!’ Literally, that’s what I get as a cat call. That’s my pick up line.” Jill laughs as she leans on her “spot” as she calls it: a ledge in her kitchen. She’s concerned about looking too serious in the hundreds of pictures I’m incessantly snapping. I’ve known Jill for 10 years, so taking photos of her in her antique-like apartment (a charming world with servant doors in the kitchen--literally) is pretty natural. But today we are trying to act natural, which is not the easiest task with someone you’ve grown laugh lines with for a decade.
Jill’s interview is not only about her life in LA, but how she ultimately ended up here and the challenges she faced of starting a life on her own. You should especially keep reading if you’re someone that might be considering taking a new step out of your comfort zone. This girl’s been there.
“That’s my favorite view. I love that window.” She comments as I turn around and start drinking in the afternoon sun with my lens. We sit down to chat, and as she breaks out her hummus and veggies. “Can you hear me eating?” she laughs as I switch on the voice recorder.
Jill is one of those people who you know is a bad ass but is one of the most considerate and kind people. She works in legal offices and her knack for professionalism is sometimes scary, and I always learn a thing or two from her.
It’s not a hot day, but it’s always warm if the sun is out in her apartment. She has no air conditioning (I wasn’t kidding about the servant door in her kitchen, that’s the era of this building) and large windows, but the tall, open-beam ceilings help some of the heat to rise.
We sip on our iced teas and chat.
B: When were you born?
J: April 25 1990…just made it into the ‘90s so everyone can make fun of you. If you’re born in ‘89 no one makes fun of you! “Wait you’re 24? What year were you born? 1990? Wow you’re young!” [She hears this all the time].
B: When did you move to LA & Why?
J: I moved here almost exactly two years ago for work. They hired me part-time and the day they made me full-time and said they were going to keep me I moved out here. So before that, I was commuting from Orange County. I was in the car about 5 hours a day. I ended up moving here, across the street from my job and therefore walking to work everyday.
B: When did you know you wanted to live here in this goldmine of charm?
J: It was definitely hard finding a place, but I found it on Westside Rentals the second I signed up. And I literally worked 100 feet from here so I walked over looked at a unit upstairs. I was like I can’t decide…this place is really cute but its also really old.
There were like two foot sections of paint peeling off the wall. I was on the phone with my mom and she was like “well what’s wrong with it?” I said it’s just ooooolllld and the paint…and she said, “The paint can be fixed. What do you like about it?” And I was like well there are wood beams, a cute fireplace, original wood floors and doors and everything. But I didn’t end up getting that unit. I was so upset. I had to commute for another month or two and wait for another unit in this building.
And I got it. And this one is ten times better than the one upstairs and even cuter and even more charming. I love it, I absolutely love it here—it feels like home. Even in the last like two years it has gotten more homey and decorated and I like that feeling. You should feel that way about where you live.
B: So what’s this neighborhood called?
J: I live in Westwood, and specifically I’m in Westwood Village. [She goes on to describe where Westwood begins and ends; she knows her stuff].
B: Is there a different hood – a dream hood – that you’d like to live in?
J: I really love all of the West Side. I’d want to stay in Westwood or Brentwood or Santa Monica. I feel like you get some neighborhood vibe to it. It’s definitely pricey – it’s very pricey living in Westwood. I definitely lucked out. I’m trying to stay put as long as possible. I must have the cheapest apartment in a mile radius…that isn’t like 5 students in one room. I do like Culver City and Palms. But pretty much this area, it’s my new hood. I don’t really want to leave.
B: What’s your favorite thing about LA?
J: Probably variety. You can go to the beach, you can go for a hike, you can go to Malibu, you can go to downtown. There are a million restaurants to try, and coffee shops. I feel like you don’t get that everywhere you go except a big city. There’s also a ton of attention on a big city: you can read 100 blogs and forums on the best restaurants and never run out of things to try. But I do like that you can fly down Wilshire and be at the beach. Head up PCH and just drive or hike or go to museums. I think its just he fact that there’s so much to do. Which is why everyone wants to live in a city right?
*She takes a sip of her tea and snacks on her jicama.
B: Would you say you have a love/hate relationship with LA in any way?
J: I think the things I hate about it are the things that people traditionally hate about LA or a big city. Hate traffic. Everyone hates traffic. I live smack dab in the middle of “Carmegeddon.” Traffic is definitely a problem. It sometimes takes me an hour to get home from work. I live 2.5 miles away from the office and I don’t have to get on a freeway. I think I hit like 5 stoplights and that’s it. It’s always crowded.
Parking. Everyone hates parking. I’m really bad at reading parking signs. I got three parking tickets within two months of living here. Also I don’t have any specific opinions on movies or music, and the entertainment industry is why everyone comes to LA and why everyone is pretty much here. That’s not a world that interests me, but everyone that’s here is in it. I’m just here to work and be, not anything else.
B: Has your opinion changed of LA since you’ve moved here?
J: I grew up in Orange County, and I was never up here. I came to a lot of Dodger games, so I’d just drive up though Downtown and I never came to Santa Monica or museums. I just shot through Downtown to get to Dodger Stadium and I hated it.
I always thought LA was gross and dirty and I’d never want to live here. And I ended up here and I love it. I really spent a lot of time thinking LA was this horrible disjointed city that had way too many “areas” but I didn’t really know that Century City and Santa Monica and Malibu and the Valley and all those places existed. I just pictured the Walk of Fame and Downtown. Now I wouldn’t mind working in Downtown, I think that would be cool.
B: What’s your secret spot?
J: There’s this beach in Malibu that I always go to. I’d get up on a Saturday and at like 8, grab a Starbucks and just drive. And you can get there in no time cause nobody is on PCH. I don’t even know what beach it is…it’s just a little stretch of sand over the hill of Pepperdine. So it’s kind of far, like 15 miles. I just pull over and I’m in my own little beach. I go there all the time. I take friends there. It’s kind of far but you don’t have t o pay for parking you don’t have to fight crowds. I’d go get my tan on, stay for a couple hours, and then leave without any traffic.
B: Do you still go or not so much?
J: I went 4-6 weeks ago and during the summer it’s really nice. And my apartment is horribly hot so I would just get up and go. I do like to hike too, and there’s a trail in Santa Monica that was the hardest hike I’d ever done but it was the most beautiful view I’d ever seen. I think its called Los Liones? Seven miles round trip and super steep. I almost died. It’s so picturesque I can’t believe this place exists, but it’s very hard to get to. I guess Malibu’s my spot cause its just quiet up there and you can just go be on your own and explore and its not far and its pretty.
Diddy Riese is very close too. I can go grab a couple cookies for like 50 cents.
B: I know it’s hard to pick a “spot” since we have the same feeling of, “let’s go somewhere new every time we go eat!”
J: Well there are thousands of places around here! I’ve been to every restaurant in Westwood Village and there’s so many more things opening. It’s nice cause you can just walk and it’s block after block of restaurants.
B: So what actually keeps you here? Why do you actually stay?
J: Well I have friends out here now, but at first I only had like one or two so I was nervous to move out here. I wanted a good job and I felt like I could get that out here. And I lucked out and got a fantastic one right out of college. I always thought if I want a good job at a law firm I had to move somewhere else [out of Orange County].
I wasn’t afraid to just move out on my own…I’m not saying it wasn’t hard, because it was and I didn’t know anyone and I would just go to work and go home. I was like, “Is this what it’s supposed to be? Am I supposed to be more fulfilled than this?” because I think not like I had some fantastic career, but I had a good job. But it was hard because it just takes time, and I met good people through work and friends. It just takes time.
Now I feel like I’m home and I have my own life out here. Now I’m in it and I’ve been here a couple years. This is life…I don’t feel like I’m still stuck in the figuring-it-out stage.
I think that this is a really good place to be when you’re young. I don’t know if I’ll live here forever, but for a while. I don’t want to be back in Orange County. I feel like there’s a lot more going on here. More potential. So whether I want to change jobs or meet new people I feel like there’s a lot more variety. It’s about getting out of your comfort zone.
B: I’m glad you said that, cause that’s the reason I write –get people out of their comfort zones. Your life’s trajectory will look much different if you do.
J: Took me a while…took me a good year to feel acclimated. That this was home and I knew my spots and I knew where I was going. It’s scary. I knew what I wanted, but I knew it would be scary, but I just had to figure it out.
B: So what do you do?
J: Most people have these more creative careers and ideas of their career and I was like “I want to work in an office!” [When I moved out here] I did HR and loved it and put me on the career path that I wanted, even though I didn’t know any of that stuff when I started. But my potential was limited there. So I went to a very small firm of five attorneys and love the people. I became friends with the female attorneys in the office, and I don’t dread going to work…and that’s huge. I’m their office manager but I miss doing HR work. I’m stuck in that confusing career stage that a lot of people are at our age.
B: Well you got yourself to this point so I think it’s safe to say you can trust your intuition moving forward.
It can be a struggle living out here for sure. That’s why everyone has roommates. It’s really impressive I live on my own! *laughs I don’t have ac, laundry, parking. It’s not easy. And everything just keeps going up. Unfortunately that does play a factor in what your career decisions are. As much as I may be personally happy, if I can’t afford my bills then I gotta do something else. Which is sad, but it is just the way it is.
You said you didn’t see yourself here forever, where would you want to go next? Where are you going next?
Well, I think I’ll probably always live in Southern California, just to be in close proximity to family and friends. I have dream ambitions of moving to London, and I don’t see myself in any other part of the country. I don’t think I’m New York, I don’t think I’m Pacific Northwest, not South…I’m California all the way. I think realistically ill always be a California person. Specifically Southern California. We all know that’s better! *laughs
How do you know you’re an Angelino?
Oh God, maybe road rage. My road rage is embarrassing. I really only do it when I’m by myself though, I can’t do it in front of other people cause I’m ashamed! Ya, I just think of traffic and parking. Parking becasue you always have to keep a few bucks on hand since you know it’s only going to be valet. That’s pretty LA.
Or when I have to go 8 miles and leave an hour before I have to be there and I’m still late. “Sorry, I started getting ready for dinner at 3 o’clock…I did my best!”