I had an inspired push by a former coworker near my hometown to move to Los Angeles. She said there’d be so many opportunities, people to meet and space to spread my wings and figure out what I wanted from my life. I thought she was just trying to push me out of the nest because she felt I was overqualified for the assistant job. I’d reorganized our department and then for the larger department above us within six months of working there, so of course, she was right.
What she didn’t know was that I was putting on two faces. I was the overly efficient, happy assistant at work, and then I was the caretaker of my family. The problem was that I was hiding the fact that I was feeling suicidal. When I left work I was bummed because I didn’t feel like I was helping my family enough, with two bickering brothers and parents who worked really hard to make ends meet. I’d given up college because I couldn’t afford it. My college coach said, “Not everyone is cut out for college”, and it was the out I used to quit and start working.
One weekend when I decided to take some pills, the phone rang and my high school friend said she and her boyfriend were moving to LA, did I want to come? She barely recognized the fact I sounded groggy and had been ill for an hour because my body rebelled from taking the pills. I’d answered the phone while in the bathroom plotting another way to end it. It was another option and I said yes almost instantly reminded of my office mate’s push. Here was an option. If I’d just waited a little longer, I’d have saved myself a disgusting experience. But then I wouldn’t have known how to help another friend, years later, but that’s for another day.
Off to LA I went in a friend’s truck with few possessions and $1000 in my checking account. Thankfully I’d found a job pretty quickly. I had faith when I went down there and never lost it until life threw me some interesting curve balls.
Little did I know my car windows would be shot out in a neighborhood wide vandalism spree, I was stalked by someone and only did it really hit me was when a very nice guy from the grocery store track me down that they had to file theft charges for this person because they tried to steal my check. I did meet a very nice tow-truck driver when my newly installed brakes fell out of my car, but he wanted me to have dinner with his family on our first date, he was convinced after meeting me that I was “the one” and thankfully I managed to avoid his calls. Then the shock that my roommates would (a.) cheat on each other before their wedding and (b.) give me 5 days notice to find a new place to live with $12 in my checking account and no paycheck for another 3 weeks (I was working at a private girls school who paid you once a month). I got rid of my possessions, walking my bed frame down the street to some fantastic friends and everything that couldn’t fit in my car was thrown away (really the homeless were very well taken care of from our dumpsters in this apartment complex. I even asked a nice couple to come up to my room to see what they wanted.). I was homeless for weeks and when I was lucky enough to find a friend or co-worker who would let me shower or sleep on their couch, I counted my blessings. Not sure where I had the energy not to give then and there. I’d sit in my car late at night and envision myself living in a nice house with a private yard. It really was only weeks before it happened. One of the school Deans came into my office with a co-worker/friend asking if we wanted to housesit for some teachers going on sabbatical for 6 months. My co-worker and I squealed a yes and started planning what we’d do while we had the amazing opportunity.
We had a few dinner parties of our favorite foods and Pictionary, but my favorite part was sitting in the back yard just daydreaming. Not sure why, but I finally felt independent and on my way to greater things. There are always those embarrassing moments though. My friend DS asked me to attend a wrap party for his latest movie he’d written. I was so excited I’d gone shopping for something I thought was elegant and appropriate. When I arrived, I was dressed nicer than the female star. Someday I’ll share the complete snarky conversation with said actress in the bathroom. Suffice it to say, she was not happy that I’d outshined her in a bright red caftan outfit. I told her I was trying to impress my friend who’d brought me (really I should have listened to him asking if I didn’t want to change before leaving the house), but she decided to ask who my agent was and she’d blackball me in town. I couldn’t help it, I laughed out loud and walked out. I felt brave at the time, but she was a woman of her word, she went around to every exec in the room and insist she know who my agent was to harm me. An exec from the studio, whom I’d met at a party, asked what had happened. When I explained, he gave me the name of an agent to use if she asked again. Turns out, it was an agent she use to have and whom she would never be caught talking to, so I was supposedly safe. I thanked the exec for her priceless expression but I learned my lesson, to listen more and always smile graciously (as a friend says, like you know a secret, but the crazy person isn’t nice enough to share it with) and go about your business.
My 40s advice would have been to nudge myself to make plans and actual baby steps towards any dreams. I was a small town girl who’d moved to the city, I survived living in my car, thankfully for a short period of time compared to many others, and I could have accomplished many more things than I thought I was “allowed” to. I’d met a celebrity whom I thought was incredibly talented, but obviously insecure. And then I found a job working at the very studio that only a few years earlier, while sitting in a movie theater with my mom dreaming of that icon at the opening credits as my future employment. In only a few short months, I’d met people who inspired me, taught me lessons of what to avoid in my Hollywood life, and learned many valuable examples of what not to do by those I tried to help whether it was giving them a ride home after a bad date or trying to talk someone into rehab. They each had their value in my life.
It took me many years to realize my dreams came true, I just had to have faith and go with the flow.