NYC to CA: A pipe dream for the snowflaked?
February 28, 2018 12:26 PM   Subscribe

I just came back from a week in LA- my second trip out there. Knowing full well all that glitters is very much not gold, how terrible of an idea would it be for someone just starting out in his career, and with a physical disability, to make the move out west?

You've read/seen my library of questions, amongst which talk of depression, disability, joblessness and other snowflake material were recurrent themes. That being said, things are looking up with the help of medication. I have my first temp job and am planning to enter a career, at least for the foreseeable future, where remote work is a possibility, though I would likely max out at about 60k a year ( medical coding/billing). I'm also not sure I want to stay in medical coding and would likely investigate, at the very least, other career choices- ranging from medicine to publishing and the arts.

This trip to the Golden State was my first truly independent venture into the world- that is, without the support of family or a group - only of two friends- and it was exhilarating. I know they're tired, well-worn tropes but... but... the energy of CA, the opportunities that seem to be available even outside of entertainment and tech, and the weather...oh my goodness the weather.... did so much for me.

I don't know of any other place in the US, or the world really, that is at once:
- Warm/sunny
- Has a relatively trouble-free, if long, commute to the water, or to distant parts of the state, even for someone in a chair
- Has such a selection of free/ish cultural attractions
- Has people who just... I don't know...seem happier, on the whole. And take things more easily and are more open to alternatives and doing things differently.

Again, I know full well that California carries with it a rose-tinted reputation that doesn't always stand up to scrutiny. The homeless situation is depressing as hell. The streets can be messy and hard to navigate in a chair, especially in DTLA. Life's necessities are expensive, but not to a degree that I as a New Yorker got sticker shock.

I don't necessarily want to live in LA. Some of the experiences I had there were unpleasant, and I know there is beauty outside of the 1st/Grand area or the environs of Beverly Hills.

But, I ask the Green:
- Should I plan to move to CA for at least a year?
- How do I go about getting jobs out there- in medicine/science/research for now, while being here, and with a stutter?
- Do I start by going to school there instead? If so, what should a psych/neuroscience grad do next?
-What are people really like?
- Where in CA should I live? Is LA doable? Worth it? If not, where would you recommend and why?
- Can you help build a roadmap of the next 12 months of my life, if I am to do this?

I know these are BIG asks, so any and all advice appreciated. Thanks hivemind!
posted by marsbar77 to Grab Bag (28 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
If you could get a remote job, like you mention wanting to do, it would make it fairly simple to at least try out living in LA (and perhaps do the local job search when you get there).

Having lived in both NYC and LA, I'm not sure that people in LA are necessarily happier, and I'd argue that there's as much to do, if not more, for free in NYC. That said, I love the sunshine and warmth too. If you can work remotely, it just seems like it would give you more options. You could get a sublet and, if you didn't like it as much as you hope, you could return to the East Coast.
posted by pinochiette at 12:45 PM on February 28, 2018

I think you should totally do it!

Yes, it is a different culture and I believe people do act another way in California. I know it's a stereotype but I think the culture is more kind (and on the flip side, much more passive aggressive). There are advantages and disadvantages to both cultures, of course. It sounds like you are looking for a California vibe. I think a lot of progressive cities in California are highly, highly open to (and often celebrate) living life differently. I take it for granted living here, but it is a different world elsewhere.

LA has expensive living costs, but it sounds doable within your income and is certainly an art mecca. Everyone is working hard and chasing something. I think if your heart is pulling you there, follow it. That said, other cities are definitely going to embody that chill California vibe more, like Santa Cruz. Los Angeles can be a lonely city, and it is a ton of work, but it is also incredible.

One of my friends came to California (the bay area) for a 2 month long visit and academic program. He had been living in NYC for years, and had an entire life in NYC. After 2 weeks in California he told me he wasn't going back to NYC. He was in love with the weather, but he was more in love with the optimism he felt from being here. He notified his landlord and officially moved as soon as the program ended. His life got much sunnier in more ways than were weather-related, and he was thrilled. Join the ranks!
posted by sweetjane at 12:54 PM on February 28, 2018 [2 favorites]

Only do it if you can keep a large sum of money in reserve to move home when the time comes.

It's hard to answer your question because LA is the friendliest loneliest place to live. It's also the natural progression of things if you live in NYC. I just maybe started to deeply love LA and accept it as home a few weeks ago, I've been here since 2002. We've been through a lot together, and it's home now, but I gave up a lot to really dig in and get established here.

If you want to live here on a 1 year sabbatical type thing with the resources to make that happen and get home again, you should do it.

If you are wishy washy, you can blink and 10 years will have flown by you and you will be STUCK. The weather makes you soft. Period.

Do you drive? Because that will be a huge factor for you. I don't see a lot of wheel chairs, LA is not chair friendly the way I felt NYC is. I could be wrong, but that's my impression. I feel like I saw more chairs in NYC than I do in LA. The bus is a nightmare to use, a huge time waster. If you drive it will be easier.

I think there are a lot of academic and science type career opportunities here because we have universities and aerospace and tech going on, but I can not speak to that directly.

We have the constant threat of earthquakes, traffic is ridiculous lately because a measure to reassess city planning failed last year and now we have a HUGE development boom happening. The infrastructure can't support what's going on right now. Homelessness has exploded in the last five years, the streets are less pedestrian friendly if you are female, with young children, or in a chair. It just feels fucking dangerous because people who are high or unstable are everywhere, it's stressful to navigate if you are in one of those vulnerable categories.

All that said, I like WeHo because it is central and I can get anywhere from here, it is equally easy for me to go to the beaches, the west side, DTLA, or Burbank/Glendale/Pasadena. Or the Angeles Crest Highway, Palm Springs, Joshua Tree. All easy. I'm in the middle. If you stay in proximity to Griffith Park, life is pretty sweet IMHO.

This is my 2 cents. Good luck with your decision.
posted by jbenben at 1:03 PM on February 28, 2018

At least on the job front, I recommend looking at UCLA — there's almost always openings for medical coders. Here's the current listings. They're mostly union gigs, so fairly good ones. If you're also thinking about going back to school, there's a staff discount on classes.
posted by culfinglin at 1:06 PM on February 28, 2018 [2 favorites]

Driving seems like a major potential issue here. I would not hold out NYC as a paradise of accessibility by any means, but most of CA is so dependent on driving that, if you don't, your life could end up very constrained.
posted by praemunire at 1:06 PM on February 28, 2018 [2 favorites]

LA is extremely passive aggressive. YES. THIS.

That's why LA is lonely. Complaining is not currency here and will not win you any friends. No one will give you an honest opinion. No one will talk about news or politics, if you talk about these things beyond feel-good slogans, if you want to dig deeper, you will be shunned.
posted by jbenben at 1:08 PM on February 28, 2018 [2 favorites]

Mostly the issue with moving to California is that nice areas of it are very expensive. I grew up with that so it fazes me not, and I have no idea on the differences between NYC and LA money, but that seems to be a thing everyone says.

As for public transport, if you're moving somewhere Californian and expensive anyway, you might want to look at the Bay Area. It's not warm all the time there like LA is (usually around November to February is on the "hits freezing temperatures" if not snow, and may or may not be raining) and I don't enjoy SF "beaches" because they are icy cold all the time*, but I think the public transport is better. I can say a lot of my former SoCal coworkers are all "never going back!" about SoCal compared to NorCal. I like them both myself, but if you can't drive all the time in LA you might want to look farther north.

* though to be fair, I think LA beaches are also very chilly, if sunnier. I really only like Hawaii beach though for actual beach activities involving water.
posted by jenfullmoon at 1:15 PM on February 28, 2018 [2 favorites]

I can't really give you the entire framework, there's a lot of moving parts and you need to decide what order of handling them is your priority.

But I will put in a recommendation for San Diego as being much more manageable in size, with easier access to the coast, and it has a huge biomed/pharma industry.

And while I'll agree that walking down the street shouting about news and politics is maybe not a great way to go, the thing about LA (and to a great extent SD too because it's got a big diverse population too, and a strong young contingent because of all the universities) that I really like is that whatever your niche is, if you're willing to do a little gruntwork to find and access it, you can likely find Your People somewhere. Gay bowling league, feminist knitting circles, people who like to fix old clock radios and talk about old Doctor Who episodes, they're out there somewhere. It can be hard, especially in LA, to get people to show up anywhere consistently, it's a big place and it's sometimes a very big-feeling commitment to go do a thing and people flake a lot (or get stuck in traffic and never get there). But it's out there somewhere.

I do agree that accessibility here is not as fantastic as it should be, and not driving would be a pretty serious hindrance, if you don't.
posted by Lyn Never at 1:17 PM on February 28, 2018 [3 favorites]

This place has a guide to wheelchair travel, and you probably know it already. The SF Bay Area seems to get pretty high marks for wheelchair accessibility. In the 1970s Berkeley built the first wheelchair-accessible route in the United States. California is expensive. More folks are moving out of the SF Bay Area right now than are moving in. Still, it is a delightful state (I am a native) and why shouldn't you move to Los Angeles or another part of the state? By all means, pack your bags and head out here--after you have made a budget, saved up some money, and have a Plan B if things go south. Best of luck!
posted by Bella Donna at 1:29 PM on February 28, 2018

No one will talk about news or politics, if you talk about these things beyond feel-good slogans, if you want to dig deeper, you will be shunned.

This is not entirely true. I am very outspoken on social/ political issues, and have lived pretty happily in LA/SD for over two decades now. Like Lyn Never said, if you're willing to put in the time and effort to find like-minded folk, you will eventually find your tribe. They may not be native Californian, but there are plenty of transplants here that make that a negligible issue. LA is much more spread out - as you can probably tell - than NYC, and that can be a hindrance to getting around and meeting people, but it isn't insurmountable.

If you are not able to own a car and drive it, I strongly suggest that you will find Southern California very challenging to navigate. Walkable neighborhoods tend to be very expensive to live in, but also, to access the cultural attractions you speak of will require a car. Public transport is inefficient (although it has gotten tons better even since I last lived in LA five years ago), and to the best of my knowledge isn't as chair-friendly as it should be.

That said, I LOVE LA. I'm a Canadian transplant, my family has lived in NYC for 30 years, and I lived in LA through college, grad school, finding my first corporate job, and beyond. The South Bay is a particularly lovely place to live, central to a lot, and less congested/expensive than most places north and east of it (Culver City is a close second.)

I also want to recommend San Diego as LA lite. Here you're much more steeped in beach culture, life does tend to be slightly less frenetic, traffic is slightly better. The major issue I have with San Diego is that there's far less to do here if you're not into the beach, and craft beer. People here tend to be very outdoorsy.

Good luck! California is awesome if you find your niche!
posted by Everydayville at 1:43 PM on February 28, 2018 [3 favorites]

Starting with the obvious, NYC is very tough city for anyone with a disability. All the infrastructure was created before we started paying attention to such things. Any newer city has a good chance of being an easier place to live. So one of the questions to ask about LA, is how does it compare San Diego, or Austin, or Tampa?

I will say that LA's reputation as being car-centric goes from a negative to a plus if have a car and can drive yourself around. California's liberal politics may make it easier to get care and accommodation, but the state government's difficult financial situation may make some of those promises hollow.
posted by SemiSalt at 1:48 PM on February 28, 2018

I adore California, it’s my chosen state. The sun and weather is a huge factor in my happiness. It is what keeps me sane and grounded.

I say go for it. There are some things you want to remember around stressors. Any type of moving is challenging. Getting a new job is challenging. I move very often and have found that the first year is the loneliest. You need to keep all of that in mind as you move forward. I have found that the excitement and exploration without expectation is what keeps me happy the first year. I share my adventures on fb with friends and family so I don’t feel so alone. Keeping all this in your awareness and being ok with it will be a factor.

Have fun and live your life!
posted by Vaike at 1:57 PM on February 28, 2018

Just to clarify: I don't drive but would want to learn, albeit using an appropriately modified car. I did use the buses and trains extensively this past week. They take forever to get you from A to B, yes, but I found them to connect far better and have a much better chance of coming when they're supposed to than anything NY's MTA has dreamed up. The drivers are generally friendly and everything is clean so... maybe I'm easily placated, I dunno.
Definitely see what people are saying about the passive aggressive thing, especially with regard to my fellow white people. Even after a week, that was jarring, as a New Yorker.
posted by marsbar77 at 2:24 PM on February 28, 2018

Also, totally not harping on LA proper. Anywhere decent and decently affordable would be great. I LOVE SD.
posted by marsbar77 at 2:28 PM on February 28, 2018

Unlike NY, every new business with a toilet for customers must be disabled accessible in CA.
posted by brujita at 2:41 PM on February 28, 2018

If you are able to transfer into a sedan or SUV fairly independently and your wheelchair can easily be transported in one, then waiting to learn how to drive in LA might be ok, as you can use services like Lyft and Uber until you have your own vehicle.

But if unassisted transfers are tricky for you or you need a van, then if it's at all logistically possible, I think you'd do best to get your license and get comfortable with highway driving before moving to California. LA is a very car-centric city and things are FAR APART; so moving there when you already have a useable car lined up will make your life there much better.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 3:21 PM on February 28, 2018

I notice you said you were open to going to school. Both LA and SD are great cities for that, and going to school would be a great way to meet people - definitely easier to do that rather than make friends as an adult who isn't going to school in a new city. It's hard to say what a former psych/neuro major should do, because it really depends on your interests. There's social work, public health, counseling, etc.

USC is my alma mater, and I have wheelchair-bound friends from both undergrad and grad school who found the campus very accessible. As a starting point, perhaps you could reach out to groups of people who have similar mobility needs as you, who could give you an idea of what it's like living here.
posted by Everydayville at 3:28 PM on February 28, 2018

California stands apart, I think, in the way we welcome people seeking renewal and reinvention. We care a little less than other places about where you came from, or what your ancestors did, or what it says about you on paper.

California is also not kind to those who arrive without a plan—or an overstuffed wallet—and then fail to gain their footing. Aim to have over 6 months of pessimistically calculated living expenses saved up, plus whatever you would need to return home and get situated there if necessary, as you can burn through that money fast.

YMMV quite a bit on what the people are like, depending on what part of the state you're in. SF, LA, and San Diego all have different feels to them. Outside of the major coastal cities, people's politics tend to lean much more towards "red state". As a CA native who spent a fair amount of time studying and working with East Coast folks, I sometimes miss the more open and forthright Eastern communication style compared with the softer but more passive-aggressive style out here.

Unemployment rates are low in the coastal cities. That said, unless you have several years of experience and/or are in a heavily recruited field you may find it hard to get your foot in the door with an entry level position or a non-professional-track job. Lots of people move out here in search of that magical CA lifestyle which increases competition for those positions. The more you can build CA-based professional connections before moving out here, the better off you will be.

Since you are from NYC you might not experience sticker-shock when you look at CA housing prices, which is a common problem for people moving in from lower cost-of-living states. However, if you are relying on public transit to get around, at $60K/year you may have a hard time affording a place to live in the areas that have halfway decent transit coverage. Spoiler alert: those areas are not large. Lower cost neighborhoods and suburbs are much more car-dependent. Do some research on neighborhoods that look interesting to you and checkout Craigslist listings for rental prices in the area.

Our state college and university system is excellent, and attending school would additionally help you feel part of a social community. You'll need to establish California residency before you can qualify for in-state tuition prices—this takes some time. UC Los Angeles, UC San Diego, and maybe San Diego State would be good places to look. San Diego in particular has a concentration of biotech firms. The SF Bay Area does as well but SD is less expensive.

I'm an SF Bay Area native and lived in San Diego for 10 years so I'd be happy to answer specific questions about those regions via MeMail.
posted by 4rtemis at 4:40 PM on February 28, 2018 [5 favorites]

I moved to the Bay Area to attend Cal (Berkeley) and began a 15 year love affair with California. The sunlight is different there, it's magical. Driving on 580 listening to "I Want to be Sedated" on the radio---what an amazing feeling. And swimming in an outdoor pool on the day before Thanksgiving, tremendous.

And yet it can be a very unforgiving place. Hold on to the social network you have where you live now, you may need them.
posted by Napoleonic Terrier at 6:30 PM on February 28, 2018

The sunlight is different there, it's magical.

I know, right? It's like it's RIGHT THERE! I didn't recognize my own skin after a few days (in a good way).
posted by The Underpants Monster at 7:01 PM on February 28, 2018 [2 favorites]

As for the how...

I got a job with a big corp that shipped me out to CA on their dime. You should try for similar I think.

I would research big corps and then find their recruiters on LinkedIn. Send your resume to various headhunter shops in the Bay Area/LA/SD, etc. Most of my neuroscience peeps are doing lab work at smaller firms. It certainly wouldn't hurt to apply to the small guys. My friends are paid well enough and the jobs don't sound too bad.

Reach out to the grad programs at UCLA and etc. Ask for contacts in their placement programs to see what it would take to attend and get a living wage.
posted by pdoege at 8:14 PM on February 28, 2018

If you live on the west side the transportation is doable. I know people who've happily lived there for years without cars. LA is magical- some people love it and some hate it. If you love it, you'll probably love it for ever so I say go for it. You have literally nothing to lose. Not everyone makes it in LA but they have fun trying. Coming from a lot of places, just being able to spend so much time outdoors is enormously liberating.
posted by fshgrl at 8:36 PM on February 28, 2018

I'd move and live in CA for a year before thinking about school, because the difference between resident and non-resident tuition is staggering. And I agree with those who suggest you might want to think about NorCal, but maybe consider Sacramento or Davis. People who use wheelchairs never seemed out of place to me, and the public transit system, while not as good as the Bay Area, wasn't nearly as awful as LA's. And Sacramento is far more affordable than either. At least for now, anyway. You can always move to LA later.
posted by elsietheeel at 8:52 PM on February 28, 2018 [2 favorites]

LA is amazing. I love it here. These are my people. (And we talk politics all the time.)

Look also inland of LA: start at Ontario and radiate out. Use . I mention this because it’s generally much cheaper inland.

Look also at the central coast—like San Luis Obispo. I concur with the person who mentioned Davis.

I love this state. I love how all these different people come from all over the world to better themselves, and we all get along. It’s very inspiring.
posted by persona au gratin at 11:33 PM on February 28, 2018

You casually mentioned depression, but don't actually explain here. I would say, if you have been going through depression and you are only now getting back on track, I'd try to stick with what's working and not take on too much. The grass is always greener, and sometimes moving doesn't magically make you feel different. But that said, a change of scenery can be a big leap forward too. I would say do it if you think it'll make you happy, but don't rush into it before you are ready.

I've lived many places in my life, though LA was not one. In all cases, I just kind of did it and figured it out. Sometimes it didn't work and I was unhappy. Sometimes I loved it and it was just what I needed. The logistics of moving your crap are the biggest pain, as is figuring out the right place to move into. But otherwise, I think you'll figure everything out as you go naturally. The one thing about moving is that, if need be, you can always undo it and move back with only your time and some money gone.
posted by AppleTurnover at 1:32 AM on March 1, 2018

For most logistical purposes, if you can deal with NYC you can deal with LA. As long as you work out the driving thing you're good.

This is basically free association based on word choice, but you sound like you might enjoy a year in Santa Barbara and environs. (Rent is cheaper in the surrounding towns, or else consider Ventura/Oxnard -- also closer to LA.)
posted by snuffleupagus at 5:22 AM on March 1, 2018 [1 favorite]

What's your safety net like? Do you have family who could help if it doesn't work out? I ask because I am a huge proponent of big moves. I think it's a great way to shake yourself up in a good way, get out of your comfort zone, etc. And as an East Coaster living on the West Coast (Boston native in Seattle), I think there's so much to be learned from living in a different region of the country. It's kind of corny, but there really is something to how the West Coast opens up possibilities and optimism, etc. for a person from the East Coast.

But I do think it's important when making such a huge move like that to have a backup plan if it doesn't work out. That could be family who are willing to put you up in a spare bedroom, it could be a savings account, it could be the friend you know will give you a job if you need it.

One thing: California has a stronger version of the ADA than the federal one. I've known several disabled people from California who moved to the East Coast and were shocked by how much harder it was there (on the East Coast). So definitely look into services, etc. that would be available to you and make use of them.

This internet stranger thinks you should do it. No, it won't be the rose-colored vision you have now and that's fine! It'll be an adventure, which you seem to be ready for. If you love it, great. If you hate it or you're meh, you'll move back to NYC and have some good stories to tell.
posted by lunasol at 8:56 AM on March 1, 2018

I say do it. As others have mentioned, my biggest concern for you would be the driving. Car ownership is not super cheap and, despite the advances made in our public transport infrastructure, life without a car here can be punishing. (I'm speaking of all of LA and Orange counties here.)

Definitely consider some of the less bohemian areas of town for affordability. Some interesting areas to look at:
Communities in the San Gabriel Valley (northeast of Downtown LA): Monterey Park, Alhambra, Pasadena, Arcadia (but this last one's a little far from the center of things)
Parts of North and East LA: Boyle Heights, Lincoln Heights, Highland Park, Eagle Rock
And, of course, the Valley: Reseda, Canoga Park, Sherman Oaks, Van Nuys
posted by bluejayway at 9:20 AM on March 1, 2018

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