Sitting around last night with my husband in our friends’ living room and listening to them talk about the kind of apartment they might want to move to, reminded me about why we chose the place we did when we moved to LA. I’m telling you this because I think our checklist for our apartment was a little different than most people’s and the result of that has been life changing for us.
What was the number one thing we were looking for in our new apartment?
No, it wasn’t famous neighbors or living by the beach like you might think (though we did get lucky and get both of those anyways). It was community. You see, at our last apartment, building community was actually our official job (yes, that’s a thing). So while we did have enough community to make us recognize the value of it, there were a lot of aspects lacking from it that eventually led to our transformation into 85 year old shut-ins. Only we were the kind of 85 year old shut ins who didn’t sit around collecting cat feces or filling out mail in surveys, or whatever it is that normal 85 year old shuts ins do, but we instead filled our time with working 90 hours a week. I know, it was ridiculous. What’s the good of spending all your time sitting around your apartment if you don’t memorize every word to every episode of I Love Lucy?!
So when it came time to choose a place to live in California, our search was immediately narrowed down to an area where we would have enticing reasons to leave the house and people all around us to leave the house with. We chose the crazy world of Venice Beach. Venice is the kind of place that has led many of our Orange Country friends to shudder as they ask us if we actually moved to Venice on purpose or if it was just some sort of crazy mix up at the property management office like you would see happen on a TGIF show or something.
Yes, we moved to Venice Beach on purpose.
It’s where majority of our friends live (and yes, they’re normal and they chose Venice on purpose as well). Venice is the kind of place where you actually see your friends out and about because people walk and ride their bikes everywhere. It’s also the kind of place where all your friends from other parts of town will willingly come to visit you on a beautiful Saturday afternoon for a game of volleyball on the beach, to finish it off with a BBQ in your front yard. Most of all, it’s the kind of place where there are boundless amounts of people around our own age with whom we longed to share life with.
I know, I know, it also has drugged out young girls who ask for your underwear on occasion (I do have a soul so I gave her an extra pair), as well as homeless people who use your outdoor shower when you’re asleep or hide their stolen bike collection behind the bushes in your back yard, and then there’s the skateboarders who knock you down while they fly past you yelling, “I don’t stop for tourists!”. Plus, I know some people just wouldn’t be cool with their neighbors sole source of income to be riding around on roller blades while playing an electric guitar and wearing a turban. But all of that is just the charm of Venice and we take the good with the bad. Sure, I’m worried about who’s urine I’m sitting in when I’m chilling on the grass or a bench, or even leaning on the rail at the beach skate park, but I’m wondering the same thing when I’m in those child herpes pits in Burger King playgrounds or swimming in public (cess) pools in fancy neighborhoods!
The point is, we traded in our 2 bedroom/2 bath apartment with a washer/dryer inside our place, a dishwasher, easy parking, 3 pools and 3 hot tubs, and a fitness center… that all cost only a third of what we’re paying now, for a 1 bed/1 bath place with none of those things and the added bonus of drunken passerbyers peeing on our bushes every Saturday night.
But we in no way regret it for a second. Why? Not just because of all the cool stuff I find on walks (see photos below of all the things I’ve found on walks).
But the real reason I never regret my decision is because all the fancy apartments, personal space, and amenities in the world aren’t worth trading in for the incredibly community we get in our current building, where there are neighbors who are forced to get to know one another because of our shared everything, and people who support one another like family because we’re in such close proximity to one another that we can’t help but be involved in each other’s lives.
The trade was beyond worth it.
When our nose is to the grindstone and we’re working at 9pm at night, but our neighbor interrupts us to bring us leftover matzah dessert from his seder dinner and then his roommate gets home from her date so she stops by to fill us all in on it and we end up laughing until midnight instead of working like we would’ve otherwise done, we know it was worth trading in EVEN OUR HOT TUB in Phoenix for this… and that’s saying a lot! And when it’s annoying that we have to ask our neighbors to help us move cars around in order to have a space for a visiting friend to park, we remember how awesome it is that because we interrupted our neighbor, they will most likely contribute a dish to our potluck dinner and end up hanging out with us late into the night around our fire pit. During which time we may find out that she’s having surgery next week and will need some help around the house or she’ll find out that our family is coming to town next week and we may need to borrow some pillows… or Xanax.
What I’m trying to say is that I think we made the right decision and that so many things that felt like sacrifices initially are the same things that have actually turned into blessings. I’m not kidding when I say that one of the major reasons we’ve been able to stay in LA is because of our neighbors. It’s been their support, as well as their hard work to help us find clients out here, that has given us the hope and the ability to stay in this place we love.
Relationships are the choice that wins.
I know everyone has different priorities and trade offs they’re willing to make, which is important because everyone’s definition of an extraordinary life is different and requires different things. However, there is still a principle here that is universal that I want to remind us all of. Just because we’re all used to things being a certain way, having a certain level of ease or comfort, doesn’t mean it’s right or that we’re not insulating ourselves with so much protection that we’re actually preventing ourselves from experiencing something truly beautiful and wonderful rather than just comfortable. Choosing comfort over relationships is a waste of life that will always leave us wanting.
The following are pictures of the things we gave up and sacrifices we made to live here….
(This is a picture of our shredded, detestable, laminate tile in Scottie’s office, otherwise known as our kitchen, otherwise known as our dining room. You can see our full dining room table stacked neatly in the corner).
(This is a picture of our giant bed that I have to jump to get into. When we lived in an apartment that was twice the size of our place now, it was just a regular bed. But after the move every square inch had to become an uber space saver. Now it’s our bed, our guest bed (extra mattress stacked on top of our mattress), AND our storage space (via IKEA bookshelves below) all in one).
The following are pictures of the reasons we gave things up and made the sacrifices we did to live here…
(This is a picture of all our neighbors having dinner in the Sukah we built together in our driveway for the Jewish Holiday of Sukkot).
(And this is a picture of us hanging out in our front yard on the pavers that we purchased and laid with the money we achieved through some very fun and unorthodox methods that our property management was not a fan of and shall therefore go unnamed).
(The photo on the left is our neighbor trying to break into her own apartment with the assistance of an untrustworthy ladder and several men who have had too much to drink, after locking the keys inside during Scottie’s birthday party. The photo on the right is my husband and our neighbor who together built a Jewish Christmas tree for our front yard during the holiday season).
(Spontaneous Fantasy Football draft party in our living room).
(This is just after we cleaned out our shared garage for a reality show episode being filmed about our neighbor).
(This is a picture of what happens on the weekends when our friends from all over LA come to visit us in Venice).
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I once knew a girl who had a plan.
She had a plan because she had “Manifest Monday’s” with her best friend every week. This day would consist of them getting together and writing their own personal lists of things they wanted to see happen in their lives. Big or small, they’d write the dream down and then write down the steps they needed to take in order to get there. And guess what? Their dreams came true one by one.
There’s power in knowing and defining your dreams.
There’s something magical about writing down the things that require bravery just to think about them. I’ve heard that goals that are written down are around 80% more likely to come true than goals that are vague and not clearly written down (I’m not completely sure if that percentage is accurate, that’s just what I’ve heard). Even still, you can write things down until your fingers are raw, but they are still much less likely to come true than they are if you also write out the steps you need to accomplish them. Once you have the dreams and the steps, don’t forget that there’s power in numbers. It’s a big deal when you voice something out loud to someone that seems crazy. Mostly because it means you might actually do it!
Manifesting my Manifest Friend.
I actually wrote this post before I even knew my Manifest Friend who I’d eventually find myself voicing my crazies out loud to. I’m glad I waited to post it until I found her, not only to hide my hypocriteness, but also because now that I do have a wonderful Manifest Friend, I actually understand the significance of the words I wrote about how important it is to find one!
You know those moments when you’re like “I think my chest is collapsing, or wait, maybe the sky is falling…. or whatever it is, everything in me seems to be caving in”? And you know those other moments when you’re like, “I feel like skipping, I think I’m going to skip… maybe I’ll whistle a tune while I’m at it!”. OK, well having a Manifest Friend means that even if I start the day in the first moment, I end up in the second moment by the time we finish our meeting together. I can’t quite explain this phenomenon. Maybe it’s having someone who relates to my struggles…Alanna is an actress/model/musician so she knows the pain of never knowing when your next paycheck is coming, of having to self motivate since there’s no boss to do it for you, and of having your finances be dependent on whether or not people like you, etc. Maybe it’s having someone to be honest with, even when it’s about the things on your “I’m not so good at and I need to fix_____” list. Maybe it’s having someone to encourage you when they hear about something particularly brave or ambitious that you’re trying to accomplish. Whatever it is, all I know is that every time I leave our little once or twice a month meetings where we discuss our progress on the goals we emailed one another with at the beginning of the month, I’m amazed at how much brighter the world seems and how much smaller my problems feel.
Today is your day.
I know they don’t grow manifest friends on trees, but if you start looking, you might be surprised that you actually do find a ripe one! And I’ll give you super, extra, one-up, flower power, bonus points if you start searching for that person today. I don’t care how you do your manifesting; you can work together on identifying your dreams and the steps towards them (as my Manifest Mondays friend did), or you can just work on holding each other accountable for your specific monthly goals that you’ve identified on your own time (as Alanna and I do). However you do it, just do it.
The steps to take.
1. Define your dreams by writing them down.
2. Write out the steps required to accomplish those dreams.
3. Discuss these with a friend.
4. Rinse and repeat.
So for all the rambling I do about community and how we’re all here to support one another, blah, blah, blah, I’m going to set an example by asking for some major help from you.
Honestly, I feel ready to quit writing Rare Existence.
Rare Existence makes me feel like a failure. There. I’ve said it. I had pretty high expectations going into this that are not being met. I believed if I built it (with truly quality content), they would come. I thought it would just spread because that’s what stuff does when it’s good. When you see something awesome, you share it to increase your own awesomeness ratings in the eyes of your Facebook friends, right? So either I’m just plain wrong to expect this, or my content isn’t good enough to give people a bump on the awesomeness scale. Either way, I feel like a failure.
This is very, very bad for me since part of my own plans for an extraordinary life involve the growth of Rare Existence. This makes me feel like a failure at my extraordinary life, which in turn makes me not what to write about it anymore, especially on the blog that reminds me of what a failure I am in the first place!
I know the logical thing to do would be to examine my marketing or other issues that could be the real problem before giving up. But of course feeling like a failure is bringing my insecurities to an all time high at the moment so all I’m hearing is “Why bother working on your marketing? You don’t need MORE people to see how bad you are at this”. At the point I’m at, I’m really starting to question whether that is the truth.
So the thing is, I could really use your help right now.
I feel pathetic, desperate, and embarrassed to be asking you for this, but I can’t get it out of my head how much I tell everyone here to be vulnerable with one another- especially when things are going badly, so I feel I must do the same.
What I need from you is your vocal support. If you read and love Rare Existence, I just need you to say “aye” to cast your vote to keep it afloat. Leave a comment here, send me a note… just SOMETHING to show me that you exist on planet earth and that you want to keep reading Rare Existence.
I feel like if I know the problem is not my ability to write things people like to read, but rather my ability to market, then I will have just the amount of hope I need to push through and fix the problem.
If you have constructive criticism:
… about how you think I could grow Rare Existence, get more feedback from readers, etc. I’ll take it. But please remember that I’m fragile right now so be gentle OK? I typically publish all my suggestion comments, but since I’m not feeling super brave at the moment, don’t be offended if I choose to process your suggestions on my own rather than share them with the world while I’m figuring all this out.
To connect with me:
… you can email me at Breanna(at)rareexistence.com, or you can comment here. Thanks for your readership, your support, and your patience while I’m all weepy and weak. Forgive me if I don’t do my usual once a week posting for a little while, I might need some time. Thanks for the grace.
How are your friends?
I’m assuming you have fun together. If you’re a girl maybe you go dancing, shopping, spend long hours talking about relationship problems or your kids schooling. And if you’re a guy you… I don’t know… play sports and drink beer together? Is that what guys do? I’m mostly basing that on movies. Either way, I’m sure they provide lots of companionship, good memories, etc, etc. But my question is, do they provide true wisdom? When you come to your friend to tell her about the guy you just met that you really like does she ask “how cute is he? What kind of car does he drive? And do you think he’s gay?” and then leave it at that? Or does she say, ” does he have goals in life, how does he treat his mother, does he have anger melt downs, and does he ever look into your eyes or just at your boobs?”
Do you have at least one friend who ask you THE RIGHT Questions? If not, you need to find one (or two, or three).
Relationships that challenge you, inspire you, encourage you, etc. are kind of a lost art. They aren’t typically talked about or looked for. If someone listens to you and helps you when you need it, that’s considered good enough. Don’t get me wrong, those are good things but there’s more than just that. Especially if your friend is just “helping you” by picking you up at sleazy guys’ houses when you’re two sheets to the wind, and never actually approaches you (when you’re sober) about your decision making. A good friend, in my opinion would do both. You need both. We all need both if we’re going to grow.
The people you are around are intertwined with your level of personal growth.
If you are around lame people, you’re not going to get very far. In other words if YOU are the friend always picking your only friends up at sleazy guys houses every Saturday night, you may have a problem. I know I sound like your mom now, but if you don’t have people in your life to tell you this, I’m willing to do it for you…. for now that is because you still need to find better friends who will tell you this kind of stuff so I don’t have to!
There is nothing in the world like having intelligent, emotional, heart felt discussions and debates with people you know well and care a lot about.
Having people who ask insightful question to challenge you in your life is a gift like non- other… even if the questions are the difficult kind… especially if the questions are the difficult kind actually.Â If the person you hang out with the most inspires you to be a better person- both directly and indirectly- and if you can return the favor, then you are both going to go really far… together…. which is the best way to get anywhere anyways. Go find friends. Go be that kind of friend.
P.S. Special thanks to Liz Boyd, Julia Schmidt, and Kristen Stanley for being 3 of the friends who have challenged me the most at different points in my life. And thanks to Jordan for challenging my ideas about extraordinary living enough to inspire me to write countless blog posts about our conversations!
We all have haters… some of us have haters who are more hateful than the average, but we all have people who want to bag on what we’re doing or tell us the “right” way to run our lives.Â Haters are like vultures who gather around someone who is venturing out of the pack into dangerous territory, just waiting for them to fail so they can swoop in and clean up.
If you are doing something unique, you can bet you’re going to hear about it in a negative context at some point… which is just perfect because you’re already insecure and afraid enough without hearing that others think you’re a hot mess as well! When you’re teetering on the edge of major decisions that are very different from the ones people around you are making, you are obviously going to feel very vulnerable and fearful.Â At that point, all it takes is one hater to make you turn back around and head for the hills of comfort and normalcy.
I mentioned in my first post that community is key on this journey… and it really is.Â If all the people in your life are criticizing or even laughing at your new ideas and challenges you’re extending to yourself, you’re going to cave eventually!Â However, if you have at least one outlet of people who are on your side who are struggling through the same things you are, it can make all the difference in the world!Â If you’re part of a group of people who are bonded around personal growth and moving forward with their lives for the purpose of finding who they are meant to be and benefiting those around them, you can’t help but want to move forward along with them!
Since I fully believe in the value of having an encouraging community, I’m going to use my Facebooking Ninja Skillz skills to help you find a group like that (if you already have a group like that, first, count your blessings and second, bring them along to connect with others!). Rare Existence has a Facebook page that is all about creating a supportive community to help you on your journey of extraordinary living!Â This Facebook page is a newbie so it has some growing and changing to do, but you can be a part of prodding it along as it prods you along in your journey!Â Join up and reach out to others and who knows, you might make some lifelong friends out of it!