Prior to leaving, I spent two months canceling law firm business contracts, transferring remaining law case files to a colleague, saying good-bye to friends and family in California, and selling my L.A. condo. All were part of a veritable whirlwind of daily activities completely off the grid from my previous 39 years as an L.A. lawyer. Every day was a new task or problem to solve but the giddy and delicious feeling of approaching a brand new life mobilized an energy source that I never knew I had.
Upon my arrival to Indiana, I received some informational calls from my colleague regarding the cases he took over. Two former clients also called to discuss their legal matters but that was pretty much it. Prior to my retirement, I had sent letters to all of my clients regarding my impending departure from the practice of law and that substantially assisted in my transition.
LIFE POST L.A. LAW
I’m sure many of you reading this are wondering what my new life is life: It’s wonderful! There are so many great things about it that it’s hard to name one thing as the best. Overall, the reality of having pretty much endless free time still amazes to me. I wake up daily with a full slate of possible activities, none of which involve law: I have no court appearances, so I create my own calendar based on what seems like a fun idea to me. So far, I have joined the YMCA where I swim 2 to 3 times a week at 7:00 a.m. The Y is a social hub of all ages and economic backgrounds here, where I have met a lot of retired women who enjoy swimming.
After my water workout, I meander over to the exercise equipment room for a short period of lifting weights and working out on the machines. I love people-watching and being the outgoing person that I am, I frequently strike up conversations if people seem in the mood to talk. It helps to have some structure and I feel good about becoming part of a weekly/daily activity.
I have also discovered some great bike paths that run next to the Wabash River in Lafayette where I now live. The trails are wonderful and I take advantage of the daylight to ride, pedaling under large canopies of trees which allow periodic visions of dancing sunlight. So far I have encountered virtually no one, which is fine by me. I rather like having my own semi- private bike path.
REINVENTING MY LIFESTYLE OUTSIDE OF CALIFORNIA
I am recreating my own version of a California-Indiana life style. What I find here, compared to California, is very positive. Here is my list of the Top Five:
1. Driving and Traffic: Nothing here is more than a 20 minute drive by car. The YMCA is 10 minutes. Parking is abundant and all of it is free. The restaurants near my home are a 5 to 10 minute walk and that is propelling my interest in walking quite often as walking is an activity that is 100% enjoyable, especially since I am never in a hurry.
2. Clothing: There is no longer a requirement for wearing a suit or dresses to court or carrying a heavy briefcase. Casual outfits, comfortable shoes and minimal make up and jewelry are my uniform now. If I am going out to dinner or a social event, I don nicer duds and put on some make-up. Shopping for clothes is very similar to LA but I find I don’t really need to shop that much. Everything I already own works here as well.
3. Socializing. I am meeting new people every day. People are very friendly and welcoming here in the Midwest. Sometimes I join my new friends in a restaurant but often, I am invited to people’s homes to socialize. The dating pool is also a positive place to hang out. As a single woman, I am finding it easier to date than in Los Angeles. I am finding the men of my age are financially self-sufficient, accomplished in their careers and have a spiritual center which leads to a healthier lifestyle. I have dated a few guys here and it has been very positive.
4. Culture: Indiana for me is culturally rich. There were Indian wars here, and settlers who established the patchwork quilt of delightful small towns and villages. Driving to see these places is fun and offers up interesting stories from talkative locals. There are also sports teams: the Indiana Colts football team and the Pacers basketball team. Additionally, we have the Indianapolis 500 as well as a huge drag racing culture with racing tracks less than an hour from here. Education-wise, Purdue University in West Lafayette, enrolls about 30,000 students. It sports a beautiful campus, but my heart still belongs to my alma mater, Indiana University. I am planning a trip there soon along with a visit to the many covered bridges in Southern Indiana.
5. Cost of Living: It is so much less expensive than Los Angeles to rent or buy property here. A very nice 2 bedroom apartment is around $1500 to $1600 a month, which includes parking. Less fancy digs go for $500 to $800 a month. A 2000 plus square foot, 3 bedroom house on half acre costs approximately $220,000. Because it’s so affordable to buy a home or condo, most people don’t rent. Groceries, gas, food, and utilities are less than California, as well. Bottom line, the money you made and hopefully kept from working in California goes a long way here.
WEATHER: CALIFORNIA HAS THE LOCK ON THAT ITEM
I would be lying if I said California weather is not something I miss. Indiana gets snow, rain and has humid summers although the short time I have spent here has treated me to lovely warm weather with lots of sunshine and pretty low humidity. As far as the winter goes, the roads are good and I hear snow is removed quickly after it falls. I plan to try to reorient my body temperature and attitudes toward winter when the white stuff arrives. I am also checking cheap flights to warmer climes if my weather stoicism fails me!
In conclusion, I am: (1) using lawyer skills to gather the evidence of what is fun and worthwhile to do here, (2) interviewing folks who know the state, weather, and culture, (3) still deciding what I will do over the next several years.
Mostly, I am happy living in the moment because I have so much free time. I’m sure I will travel abroad or in the States and I look forward to doing that without being on the clock.
The present verdict, as I see it, on my transition is Judgment for Laurie on having the wisdom and taking a leap of faith to move to her hometown of Lafayette, Indiana