Lazarus in La-La-Land

At the Griffith Observatory with Little Girl

My new life, as it were, in Los Angeles came to a crisis point a month or so after my arrival in September. My consulting-agency employer unexpectedly ended my contract with a major internet services provider due to some kind of “business model conflict,” and even though all of my colleagues assured me that I’d easily land another contract with a different client, I had no faith in that outcome.

My Chitty Chitty Bang Bang mental health contraption teetered, flipped, and crashed to earth as a soul-crushing dread consumed me in the final months of the year, as my contract end date drew closer.

Having once lost everything that mattered to me, those old wounds got scraped open again by an anxiety that I was about to lose my “new life” in LA, and I’d have to crawl back to the valley and, I don’t know, move in with Court and John till I could get myself righted again. The truth is that the job had changed my life with its salary, and I was terrified to sink back into poverty and chaos, and be forced again to leave the city of my choice for a place I’d only want to flee. I felt shame for all of the furniture I’d bought—with money I’d saved from said job—for my new apartment, sure that I deserved none of it.

The dread was deep and deadly. Everything—people, Zoom meetings, social media, my new city—felt like a threat, and I pulled back from all of it. Knowing that I needed their support couldn’t compete with the terror.

I had to isolate myself in my apartment and try to endure. Life narrowed to the same small bunker I lived in back when I was that astronaut, in the wake of the batshit stuff with my father. I spent a lot of time in my bedroom, listening to true crime podcasts and playing Candy Crush, a combination that kept my head occupied just enough to retain some sanity, with the warm weight of my life-saving chihuahua against my leg.

I developed a compulsive knuckle-rubbing kind of gesture and felt myself revert to a small kid with no confidence in his ability to navigate the adult world. Peter visited LA in the middle of all this, and though I managed to break free from my bunker a few times to see him, that kid wanted to beg him to assure me that I would be ok. That I would be taken care of. I was too embarrassed to say this out loud. And I was in a kind of shock at the depth of my old wounds, and how quickly they re-opened. Wasn’t I better than this?

But I scraped by, and did what I could to land an initial three-month contract with a new client, and spent those three months trying to prove myself in the role, and though I only got the assurance of another three-month contract recently, it’s better than nothing, and I’m learning to relax.

The dread drained away, and I’m beginning to navigate my new city, trying to find some community, or at least a friend or two. Writing, this, I’ve let my half-inch-long attention span drag me to the internet to click around, and after reading a transcript of a focus group of financially anxious Americans, I’m reminded, again, that I’m incredibly lucky to have found a way to make a decent living and save for the future. It’s taken a lot of work, but the job changed everything for me, and my new 829 credit score is about 200 points higher than it was when I first got hired and had blown through the little money I had. Maybe I’m too attached to this new standard of living, but I’m hoping I can hang onto it.

I don’t know why I decided to commit this to the blog, after so many months away, rather than in the 250-page Word doc journal that chronicles the many embarrassments of the last five years (so fucking happy I’m not obsessed anymore over some dude who won’t give me any time).

But I’m looking back on the series of bogeymen my mind created throughout my move to Los Angeles, to see that not a single one of them made it through my door. None of them did what they threatened to do. And I’m raised, again, from the dead.

6 Replies to “Lazarus in La-La-Land”

  1. I’m so glad to read this. I’d been wondering how you’re doing and where you are. That contraption is hardier than you think, perhaps.

  2. I’ve been a freelance graphic designer for over 30 years, and besides daily duels with imposter syndrome, the other constant in my head is worry about money.

    I recently saw a post of some graffiti which has been helpful in reminding me how to face these anxieties: “worry is a misuse of imagination.”

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