In 2012, I learned a lot more about value than I did about money—the value of my family, the value of friendship, and the value of making the best of what you’ve got. Stressful or not, I’ve got a great life going on in New York. It’s challenging. It’s exciting. There is always something to do.
But last Mother’s Day, after a particularly difficult workweek, I freaked out a little bit as I Skyped into the family party. I counted my available vacation days in my head and calculated whether I’d even be able to leave town for Christmas.
My entire family lives in California in the same town where I grew up, and most of them within a 15-mile radius of one another. While I loved my life in New York, I was really unhappy to be missing all the births and deaths and weddings and holidays that come with having a huge family. So, with the promise of a short-term job (election work), a subletter in my apartment, all my non-furniture belongings in storage, and a few thousand dollars in savings, I hopped on a plane to Los Angeles and hoped it would all work out.
Almost everything went awry, from my job disappearing before it started, to Hurricane Sandy destroying my entire storage unit while I was stuck in the California sunshine (you can, indeed, be stuck in the sunshine), to my New York subletter ducking out a month earlier than he said he would. Yet emotionally, it was worth every penny I lost.
With the countdown to my NYC return down in the single digits, here’s what I learned in 2012:
• Never believe your ex-boyfriend when he says he can get a job for you. Never. Particularly if he works in politics. You will end up an underemployed “freelancer” for four months and be bored out of your mind. You will consider, far too often, if your life has any meaning.
• Always get the expensive storage insurance that seems really unnecessary and is not included in the price quote. Because the only thing that could possibly threaten to destroy all of your belongings (once-in-a-hundred-year-flooding), inevitably will. I did not do this. I am returning to New York City with no winter clothes, no books, no pictures or art or personal touches. But post-Sandy, I’ve got a great renter’s insurance policy!
• If you think you are going to live for four months on a freelance income, don’t write for the company that is notoriously late paying freelancers. Or at least have a few months of living expenses saved up.
• If you can, call your grandparents more often. Build great adult-to-adult relationships with your parents. Babysit your cousins’ kids. The laugh of a four-year-old will make your problems seem just a little better.
• Sacrifice a lot for your family. But don’t sacrifice everything.
Despite having had a great time, and feeling so close to a lot of my family members, I can’t wait to get back to my life. At the end of the day, there is nothing more valuable to me than following my dreams. I’ve loved the comfort of my childhood home, but I’m bored, the bartenders suck, there is no public transportation, and I don’t have a job. The thing I am qualified to do (write about million-dollar art transactions) doesn’t exist in this sleepy little beach town. Supporting my decision to live 3,000 miles away is the most valuable gift my family will give me.