It’s easy to love Los Angeles. It’s sunny and warm and exciting and big.
What is hard, is loving the Hollywood you experienced. It’s so much more enjoyable to revel in the Hollywood from movies, books, and media. The Hollywood you thought you were going into when you first decided to move to Los Angeles. The industry you thought you were going to conquer, or at the very least, never give up on.
Having worked in the film business off and on in Austin and my boyfriend being a local director and film professor, I meet a steady stream of people who are en route to Los Angeles. When you’ve experienced LA for yourself, and you’re talking to a young person who has limited concept of what the film industry in LA is actually like, it’s hard not to give your two cents. It’s hard not to sound jaded, regardless if your time there was good or bad. I can separate the joyous moments from the terrible that I experienced in LA and I can sum up that ultimately my time there was worthwhile. That still doesn’t mean there wasn’t shit and still doesn’t mean I have to do everything in my might not to tell a young person about it.
There was a time in Los Angeles that I never thought I would become this person. Everyone who gave up on the city just didn’t have what it took. I on the other hand did. At least I thought I did. I was determined to make it work. So determined that I was in complete denial about how miserable I was. Drinking home alone, going to a psychotherapist, yelling at my family, and alienating myself from friends at 21 should have been a clear indicator, but I refused to face it. Instead I thought that this is what adult life is all about if you wanted to be a success. In a way, I also thought it was romantic. I was a pretty little mess, right?
And so we’ve all heard my story before about how one day I realized I was not happy and that I needed to go somewhere else while I was still young and before it was too late and I picked Austin for the hell of it and that is where I’ve happily lived for the past three years. For two of those years, I missed Los Angeles terribly. At least I thought I did. Occasionally a vapid pang of regret would waft through me when I saw pictures of friends hanging with celebrities and attending film premieres and festivals (what I would come to find out is that Austin is a mini-Hollywood within itself, just without all the bureaucracy- which is both good and bad). Ultimately those aches would go away and I’ve settled comfortably into a life that I’m more than happy with. I get to still be involved with the business, but in a way that is more manageable to me and in a town that is more, for the lack of a better word, balanced.
Now I’m that 28 year-old who didn’t make it in Hollywood, who lives in a mini-Hollywood and who wants to warn the 21 year-olds going to Los Angeles what they are in store for. I want to tell them that you might just end up working in reality TV for the rest of your life just to pay the bills. I want to tell them that you take whatever jobs you can find and may never “get around” to directing/producing/starring in that great idea you always had. I want to tell them that beautiful or powerful men and women will act interested in you, but they don’t want you. In fact, they may just treat you like garbage. I want to tell them that your love life may suck ass. That your career maybe won’t enable you to have a healthy relationship. I want to tell them that it might be hard to discover who your true friends are, that it may take years in a city like Los Angeles. I want to tell them that every day could be a painstaking struggle and unless you really want it that badly, life is too short to deal with bullshit. Or I could tell them that maybe it will all work out OK.
But it is not my job to break their spirits. It is not my job to take away hope from someone’s dream. If you’ve decided that Los Angeles is a stop on your life’s road map, then you need to experience it for yourself. Otherwise you will regret it. When I was offered that job to work for an A-list celebrity at 20 years of age, there was no stopping me and no one tried to. My parents knew I had to take this chance and experience it. Ultimately I made up my own mind to move on. I regret neither decision- moving to Los Angeles or leaving it. And everyone has to figure that out for themselves.