Saturday, May 22, 2010

Of LA, maybe moving and: How did you overcome the paralyzing force of fear in your life? And were you happy once you did it?

The boyfriend and I went on a quick fact finding mission of sorts down to the Southern California/LA area to visit friends and to get a feel for the place. The drive was long. We had a fun time. LA is much as I remember it: a pretend city that is mostly suburban sprawl hell, covered in smog, full of itself, and entirely too dependent on freeways.

The boyfriend loves it. He wants to move down tomorrow.

My people essentially originate from the area. Sorta. My Great, Great Grandparents were both indentured German servants, who eventually settled in Nebraska, and then onto California.

My boyfriend and I visited the house my Great Grandfather built in an orange grove while my Grandfather crawled around in one of those adorable white lacy dressing gowns they put both baby boys and girls in. The house, once a symbol of my father's idyllic 1950s childhood, is surrounded by apartment buildings and city muck. My Grandparents sold it a few years before they died, my Grandfather bitter about having to leave his families' legacy, but they were well into their 80s and the neighborhood has ceased being safe a long time ago and they couldn't get around anywhere anymore (hell, getting to the neighborhood itself was a feat). The folks who bought my family legacy were promptly foreclosed on and the house was busted for manufacturing meth.

I'm surprised to see the house is still standing and happy to see that the area seems to have turned around a bit; folks were walking their dog down the street and people were sitting on their porches, something that didn't happen five years ago. The house itself had new siding and flowers and a basketball hoop. I would have stayed to stare longer, trying to capture moments of my childhood visits to them and praying for some kind of sign for what to do with my life, but there was no parking and it is creepy to stare at someone's house, so I got a few covert pictures and we left.

I've been to the area many times. As a child to see family. As a teenager on very, very long school road trips to visit video editing and post production houses, to see television sets, to tour the industry, and later as a last high school hurrah for senior trip. As a young adult I've been in the area to see friends, to attend college conferences, gone to Disneyland. Last year I managed to survive a family trip down to Disneyland, my now adult siblings and I, my parents, and my niece, all in one car and two hotel rooms, to share in taking my niece on her first trip to the happiest place on earth. That was five months before my Grandpa died. My own father, then faced with his own mortality and the fact that his children have all grown, seemed to struggle with his place in the world on that trip. I am struggling with mine too, in a new context: move to LA or not?

I don't know.

I have a half created metaphor for the city floating around in my head that I haven't bothered to flesh out: That LA is essentially Lindsay Lohan; marginally talented, once had promise, sucks you in with the allure of that promise, and then you find yourself with a coked out walking cadaver, a shell of reality, all smoke and mirrors and clawing desperation to make it to the top. LA has lots of jobs, sure, but it is all smoke and mirrors. And did I mention ugly? I've been lucky enough to visit some very pretty places and Hollywood, Burbank, Pasadena, Glendale and even Santa Monica are none of them. Brentwood and Beverly hills are okay to look at, but not real, like play pretty houses in the center of city mire.

Part of me knows that the city I live in is a pit. But a new part of me is emerging; the part of me that is scared to give up a (crappy, miserable) job in this economy. Suddenly the part of me that has always yearned for more and wanted to get out and finally DO SOMETHING is silenced. It is silenced by something saying that I am too old, that I am not talented, that it is selfish of me to want to be a writer (and work in comedy), and that I'm damn lucky to even have a job right now and I should hold on to it with all my might.

Suddenly too, even though it is currently snowing outside, again, a new part of me has popped up and is saying that this city isn't so bad, hell, it is even pretty compared to LA and Las Vegas and, well, all of central California, and most of the central United States, and and and...

I don't know.

I keep returning to I. Don't. Know.

I've scrambled and suffered for a decade. I've had multiple setbacks. And always, in the back of my mind, the mantra has been "When I get out of here I am finally going to try it, to do it, no matter what" because at least trying is actually 99% of the real accomplishment, you know? Yet now I'm surrounded by fear and confusion and...failure. Why do I feel so old all of a sudden? What am I supposed to do? I'm quiet, I try to hear my inner voice, my authentic self, and it...has nothing to say. Nothing to say but I don't know.

I know 28 isn't old, per se, but I should have done this at 18. I'm paralyzed by failure, and doing the wrong thing. Will I be a fool to give up a hated job in a dead end city to move to a city that I mostly hate, even though that city has friends and opportunities and will likely have my boyfriend along with me too?

And how much of this silence is my wonder about the boyfriend, and the relationship? He is totally serious about moving down, getting a good job, and SUPPORTING me while I pursue my dreams full time. He is committed in many ways but there is no ring; do I even want a ring? Do I secretly believe that a ring would somehow protect from relationship woes and trials and issues? I want an insurance, a guarantee, that the relationship won't fail and that he won't hate me if I don't "make it" and that we'll be okay, always, but such a thing doesn't exist, does it? Vows don't make a difference. But I also, as much as I love him for the offer, can't imagine not working a * real * job, being dependent on someone else. That is...wrong. Too many things, my answer: I don't know.

What is the right thing? How do I let go of my notion that there is always a right thing, aand a wrong thing? I want a divine oracle to tell me definitively the answer but in life there is no such answer.

How did you do it? What did you do? Were you ever faced with a major decision, that meant forsaking a "safe" thing, did you feel like a fool? I finally have to choose a path, you know, instead of just hanging out at the fork, and that path means the other path is closed to me, but doesn't it also mean that new paths open up?

How did you overcome the paralyzing force of fear in your life? And were you happy once you did it?


Breathe Gently said...

I wish there was an easier way to make decisions, that's for sure. I guess the idea is always to go with your gut and accept that a) it's going to work out brilliantly or b) it's going to suck, BIG TIME, and you may just need to admit defeat and back the eff out of there.

Personally, living in London is a HUGE jump from where I was living back in suburbian Sydney.. and it's about the most 'city' I'll ever get. After spending 2.5 years living in it, I just want to get back. I think I'm done now. I've done the late nights, the public transport, the smog, the hard water, the rude people and crowds.. give me suburbia any day.

But that's not to say I won't miss it like hell when I leave.

We can't win.

I don't think there's anything wrong with wanting 'insurance' with the boy through all of this. Those are some tough choices that need making. My assvice? Follow the gut.

Sallyacious said...

This requires a longer and much more thoughtful response than you're going to get at the moment from me. But here's what I think in a nutshell, which I will elaborate on at a later date in an email:

There are no guarantees of anything, except that one day, you'll die. Period. It's the only certainty, the only thing you can count on. Once you grasp that, the questions change.

As you may or may not know, in March and April, I was in a panic. I had a minimum amount of income I needed to be making to survive here, and was qualified to make that income, if anybody could get past the spottiness of my resume. Because it's not your typical, career ladder climbing resume. It's the resume of a person who followed her heart and her dreams and who had someone (at that time) to support her while she did it. I was afraid that as a side benefit to my divorce, I was going to lose my apartment and end up on the streets.

And then, one day, I suddenly thought, "I'm going to survive this because I have to. There are no other options." And a month later, here I am, in a fantastic job where the management saw my resume and thought, "Look at everything she can DO," instead of, "Huh. She hasn't had a full-time job in several years." (Mind you, I found that company through a temp gig I almost turned down because it was going to pay me next to nothing. As I said, no guarantees, not even that the smart choices are the best choices.)

Of course it's scary to have no guarantees. But if there are no guarantees, it means that ANYTHING could happen, wild success as well as abysmal failure. Why not follow your dreams and see where they take you?