My Big Fat Hollywood Move: In the Thick of It

I don’t know how long I had been complacent before I moved out here, but I do remember feeling like Dustin Hoffman in the opening scene of The Graduate — propelling lifelessly on a moving walkway into his future. I bounced from one non-stimulating experience to another and rotated between the same toxic behavioral patterns. I couldn’t own up to my fault in it.

In the early stages of living in LA, we faced everything from nearly running out of money to our first landlord shortening our lease out of nowhere. I spent endless hours applying for jobs, apartment-hunting, juggling job interviews, and handing my resume out to open hands while Rich held up the fort. Regardless of the effort being made on both sides, we didn’t have the sufficient combined income to find another place before getting kicked to the curb.

On paper, it seemed like LA might not be in the cards. Somehow though, we were fine. Even in that first shitty Koreatown apartment where all the neighborhood cats congregated for weekly orgies and cops drove by looking for drug deals to bust, we were hyped up on the promise of the next adventure.

We traversed the city’s urine-stained streets, checked off all the major tourist stops on our list, and made time for daily walks around our neighborhood where I’d press my fingers onto wild flowers and milk every sultry sunset as fuel to keep going. I’d devour my peanut butter and sliced banana toast on our rotting wooden balcony and manifest. The cross-shaped power line in front of me was my temple.

While LA might not have been the reason I started finding a way out of the muck, the urgency and mayhem of reconstructing a life without the proper arsenal gave me a purpose. It forced me so far out of my comfort zone, my survival instincts kicked in. It was the first step that led into a sprint until finally I was going somewhere of my choosing.

As I picked up momentum, I unraveled years of false information I’d been telling myself: I’m not talented. I’m always five steps behind. I don’t have what it takes. I’m just not good enough, at anything. I thought hiring managers could see the same deficiencies I felt about myself. Truthfully, with how abusive my self-criticism could get, it had become a self-fulfilling prophecy and I’m sure they could see it.

In LA, once the fear of running out of money kicked in, I realized the only way we could stay was if I fought the toxic inner monologue with discipline and will power like never before. I decided to prove myself wrong. I’d prove that even though I was hundreds of thousands of miles away from “home,” I could make it work.

Eventually, through braving a lot of discomfort, some of the things that used to scare me more than anything became routine — from public speaking all over town to finding my own health insurance and everything else I would’ve put off in the past, I was rewiring my brain to adapt to the changes I needed to make.

One morning, I sat on the balcony and asked the cross-shaped power line for a job and a new place to live. I left my intentions lingering in space and carried on with my interviews in spite of that conniving inner voice telling me I wasn’t going to make it. Soon enough, I landed a temp job at a start-up in Santa Monica and Rich and I met a couple looking to share an apartment in Culver City — just days before we were about to lose everything.

At this point, things began to align at lightning speed. The anxiety of making an income and finding a place to live replaced with a cushy job and apartment at precisely the right time. I went from wondering what would happen next to spending eight hours of my day minutes away from the Santa Monica Pier. I’d walk along the beach and take the train to our resort-style apartment complex every night in awe.

Fast forward six months and the temp contract in Santa Monica had ended. I fly back to Massachusetts for the holidays not knowing if I’ll have a job waiting for me in LA when I get back. About a week later, I land a full-time job as a copywriter in El Segundo just in time for the new year — fulfilling a dream to write for a living that I thought might never come true. I start devoting a huge chunk of my free time to making art and reading about spirituality, philosophy and health. I feel free.

Life since moving to LA hasn’t shifted all that drastically from the life I had in Boston in terms of opportunity. No matter how new the experience is, that thrill of novelty wears off and eventually you’re just left with yourself again. If I hadn’t taken the time to work on the things that were dragging me into that dark, stagnant black hole, no amount of moving or wishing things were different would’ve set me free.

I’m still fighting the urge to sink into that stagnant place every day. That might always be part of my story. However, I also know that when I commit to an action and apply the discipline to see it through, manifestations come to life and I get closer to my bliss.

The state of the world has shifted drastically since I first started writing this blog. In fact, it’s been stored in my drafts for months because I felt like I had nothing of value to say. Never good enough. Now, as we’re all battling social distancing and the inner demons that arise during stagnant times, I feel like this has its place — my homage to the inner peace that can derive from taking disciplined action toward your goals, even the smallest ones.

I hope this introspective time inspires you to keep finding what feels good in spite of any toxic inner voices trying to hold you back. I hope you start to remember what you’re capable of so you can manifest your dreams, and I wish for everyone a life of their own choosing.

Tarot Thursday: Lessons From The Deck

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What better way to reflect on a tarot card about misgivings and failure than to set off in a completely new direction that could also end in failure? Failure that at the very least will get published on Thursdays in the future for a catchy title’s sake.

Hello my readers, if there are any of you out there. A couple years ago a good friend of mine gifted me a beautiful Salvador Dali tarot deck. We used to reflect on it together in the attic of the first apartment I ever moved to in Salem. Like the two freshly moved to Salem wannabe witches we were, we’d do readings together over red wine and plan our futures. I get chills thinking about those nights and how happy I was losing track of time with magic cards. I thought it would be fun, possibly poignant (possibly stupid) to  pick a single card out of the deck from time to time as a point of reflection – use what the card brings to mind as a writing prompt.

Let’s start with today’s pick, the reversed Page of Wands. Right off the bat, this one hits the mark. It’s generally about being unmotivated, insecure, self-deprecating, and entirely to blame for being stuck in one place. How absurd! I resent the accusation! I’ve been super motivated and ridiculously consistent on this blog. Upright, the Page of Wands is not unlike The Fool in that he/she is a free spirit with a zest for life who is full of creative energy and vitality – basically willing to try anything even if it’s naive. The saying, ignorance is bliss, and the song “Happy Idiot” by TV On The Radio come to mind. If you haven’t listened to that yet, what’re you doing?

I’m no tarot expert and my deck’s been gathering dust on my bookshelf for quite some time, probably because the accuracy of a reading scares me away sometimes. Honestly, this tarot is just reiterating what my Dad said to me last night. Wake up. Be great. Stop moping.

We look for wake-up calls everywhere whether that be through self-help books, following famous Instagrammers and Youtubers whose lives we obsess over and want (meanwhile wasting our own), advice from loved ones, etc., but until we apply all the information we constantly soak in, we remain at a standstill. I’ve been there for a long time, with all the answers floating in my mind just waiting to be utilized. A tarot card didn’t have to tell me that, but it’s a nice reminder all the same.

I guess the point of all this is to say that while these reminders are important, those “New and Improved Me” productivity lists we make for ourselves here and there, the dreams we talk about constantly but never bring into reality, the most effective and longterm evolution comes from just doing. That means doing something, anything, you like, preferably alone, and working at it because it makes you feel good – even if it’s as small as writing this silly tarot blog post.

At my happiest, I wasn’t planning for the future every minute of every day. I was just finding outlets for all the chaos going on inside either by gathering random footage of my life and editing it into short films, writing terrible poetry, choreographing dances to favorite songs, whatever. I didn’t realize how much I was actually pushing forward then, opening the doors to my future without that being the intention.

The Page of Wands is about creative restlessness, discovery, and most importantly, not needing a solid plan to be great or fulfilled. Isn’t that a reassuring sentiment? This is my PSA reminding everyone, mostly reminding myself, to play. Being a dreamer is great but playing is vastly more satisfying.

I hope you enjoyed this first rant of many. Let the tarot begin.

Where’s My “Personal Legend”?

I’m currently reading this book called “Like the Flowing River” by Paulo Coelho. I found it it in a box of things my parents had stored away in the office.  It was an old gift to my dad from a friend of his that had been gathering dust for years.

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At first, when I started reading the first two chapters, I wasn’t immediately hooked. I forced myself to keep reading only because I trusted our family friend’s taste. I’m glad I kept reading. Each chapter of the book is comprised of a short story that contains an overall message which tends to be inspiring or motivating in some way.

One chapter in particular about the “importance” of a college degree stuck out to me. Coelho writes that often people attend university because,

“…someone, at a time when universities were important, said that, in order to rise in the world, you had to have a degree. And thus the world was deprived of some excellent gardeners, bakers, antique dealers, sculptors, and writers.”

He then alludes to a famous Robert Frost quotation:

“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference.”

Coelho makes an interesting point that “we each of us have our own personal legend to fulfill.” In fact, this notion seems to be one of the primary themes in his writing. He purposefully inspires the reader to ask herself “What is the meaning of my life?”

Though I respect this belief, I find it irritating constantly hearing this from people who already have it all “figured out”. There are fortunate people in this world who know early on what their “personal legend” is. They barely struggle to find it at all. Those of us who are still searching have a hard time knowing where to begin.

It would be lovely to follow Coelho’s advice and to simply stop everything in order to fully devote myself to my passion. What happens when you don’t know what your calling is yet? Where are the books that guide the indecisive, the Renaissance men and women, to their specific path? I have yet to find and read those. I refuse to accept we’re simply lost. There’s a path for us too but it’s difficult to find.

I honestly don’t know what my life’s work will be. I find utter satisfaction and passion in various things. For instance, lately I’ve devoted a great deal of my time to artistic expression. I’ve been falling in love with art again. Upon showing my friends and family the artwork I’ve created, many of them said something along the lines of “Why didn’t you go to art school?”

Sometimes I feel like I am wasting my time at university, just going through the typical life path motions. I believe that being busy isn’t necessarily a good thing if it means I’m just avoiding figuring out what it is I truly want in life.

I wish I had less questions and more answers.

Alrighty, then.

6407_10200376853125253_1437698959_nI’ve always been the kind of person that needs to be occupied in order to feel sane. Maybe that’s because I’m a Leo and, according to an immensely reliable yahoo.com article, “if not actively employed in some work or purpose Leos become melancholy and despondent.” I’ve come to terms with the accuracy of this statement, especially lately.

Recently, while dealing with this whole ‘I don’t know where I’m going with my life’ and ‘who am I?’ nonsense, I realized that I feel worthless unless I am actively working towards a particular goal. This constant dissatisfaction is what drives me to accomplish anything in the first place. It’s ironic that during this particular period in my life in which I want to accomplish actual things, I am stuck inside completely immobile. Well, not entirely incapable of moving but stuck inside and in need of crutches.

Just yesterday, I found out that I have a stress fracture on my left hip and that the healing process takes six weeks of absolutely no pressure on my left leg. Definitely not the end of the world. People get injured all the damn time. It’s just interesting that all of these life-altering circumstances are piling up on top of one another right at the beginning of this year. I mean, I just dropped out of college and was about to get a job so as to get my life together only to find out that now I have to be content with solitary confinement. When I hear myself actually say all of this, I can’t help but laugh. I’m sitting here, leg propped up on a cushion, laughing at myself.

My only way of coping through all of this is to believe that there will be a triumphant calm after this storm. Though, honestly, as bad as all of this sounds, I am pretty content with my free time. Today, I only had two mental breakdowns, which, for someone who loathes being without plans and stuck inside, is definitely reasonable. My breakdowns usually stem from my obsession with not wasting time. If I watch T.V for an hour, I feel guilty. If I’m on the internet for too long, I feel guilty. I need to be occupied with activities that feel rewarding. My goals for these six weeks are as follows: Read, a lot, because I have no excuse not to at the moment. Write. Eat well, considering my immobility could turn me into a ball. Play and write music. Basically, stay creative and motivated. Like I keep telling myself, “Ain’t nothin’ gonna break my stride”.