Making Personal Growth

I was speaking with my cousin today – a totally awesome dreamer and creative who is my same age and yet has accomplished so much more than I probably ever will – and we were discussing the pros and cons of work that is creatively satisfying (if not quite what you want to be doing) vs. work that is mundane yet stable. The conversation brought up a lot of insight as to what is most important: your immediate happiness, or your ability to satisfy your personal creative and financial needs while working towards eventually meeting your career goals.

The answer: It’s a toss-up, really. Both hold merits, and it likely just comes down to individual needs and specific job opportunities. But what the conversation really reinforced for me was the idea of personal growth.

No matter what you’re doing, make sure you’re doing it for you.

The obvious consensus here is that you should always be taking into account what you want to be doing with your life. Meaning, not just creative and career goals, but things you want to achieve for yourself physically, emotionally, and mentally. Hence, your personal growth. Any job you have or decide to take should lend itself in someway to helping you reach these goals, whether that’s through immediate exposure (i.e. being an assistant to someone who is doing what you want to do and who will mentor you), or through stable flexibility (i.e. a job that isn’t really what you want to do, but that allows you the flexibility to work on what you want to do in your downtime OR gives you enough of your week that you can focus on your passion as a sort-of side job).

And herein lies the dilemma and heartache, because which do you choose? There are risks to both; the first, which might be more creatively satisfying in the moment, may have you spending much of your creative energies focusing on that which does not directly help your own goals. The second will allow you to spend your creative energies how you wish, but without the guarantee that you will find a direct way toward meeting your career goals. Both provide risks and benefits. Perhaps the decision will not be up to you; perhaps you will only come across the opportunity for one or the other.

You will have the opportunity to choose one thing: to pursue your own work, always. Meaning that while there are plenty of stable jobs out there that you could pursue, you have the ability to choose one that lends you the flexibility or opportunities you need to create the career you want. This might not be easy to find, but it’s worth the work and search.

Just some thoughts. Good luck on whatever your career endeavor may be.

-tlc

Taking A Moment

So last Thursday was my last day (for now!) as a PA at Instant Mom. In the midst of coming to terms with that and looking ahead at an open schedule, I totally forgot to post a blog. It was the first Friday that I didn’t publish a post all year. Oops. There goes my perfect record. I imagine this is how kids who have perfect attendance feel when they come down with the flu.

Okay, on to actually making a point.

I use this blog a lot to talk about change and dealing with that, especially at a volatile stage in life, like post-graduation. The funny thing is, every time I think I’ve come to terms with change, I am actually faced with that change and learn something new about the difficulties in letting go, and the dangers of nostalgia. Yes, I said dangers of nostalgia, and if you don’t believe me that nostalgia can be dangerous, just look at the slate of blockbuster films lined up for the next five years. Nostalgia, folks: killing creativity one multi-million dollar franchise at a time. (Mr. Columbus, if you’re reading this, I would happily renounce everything I’ve ever said to be a part of the Goonies sequel.)

Overall, I think it’s good to be happy, even when you know change is coming, and coming shortly–I mean, that’s the point, right? Why even bother if you’re not happy with the way things are (change them!). But my newest worry is that such a nomadic lifestyle career will make longer term commitments more difficult. I don’t know why, I just find things to worry about. It’s who I am. But it’s a valid point, if you’re used to constant change, how do you learn to trust something more stagnant or stationary? How do you continue to find excitement, year after year? Will this affect my relationships and friendships?

It’s a weird idea to cross my mind, because my career trajectory at this point (even if I never work another PA gig) is not going to find me in the bowels of an office building, typing away at a computer screen all day (the hope is to do that from home, eventually!). But it’s a valid question I have to ask myself, because how do I go from here, in LA, to something smaller, quieter, and more quaint, should the need ever arise?

Well, the truth is, I don’t know. But honestly? I know I’ll be fine because this past year has taught me to have confidence in my ability to find happiness. And I know that whatever comes next, no matter how far from what I’ve imagined, I’ll make the most of it, and it will be great, because this last year has taken me far, far out of the realm of who I thought I was, and really made me exam my fears, my goals, and what I really want out of life. Do I have answers for any of those things? Good lord, no. Do I have a sense of who I am in relation to those things? I’d like to think so. I guess we’ll both just have to wait and see.

Until next week (I won’t forget again I promise).

-tlc

Why I’m Grateful To Be A TwentySomething

I talk in this blog a lot about the trials and lessons of being a twentysomething. It is, after all, that uncharted, turbulent time when technically everyone calls you an adult, but you still feel like you’re growing up. That means there are a lot of nights of anxiety, and a lot of decisions that feel like the equivalent to jumping off a cliff, or holding your breath far beyond when your vision starts to blur.

Or at least, I have these moments.

But it’s not always like that, and in the midst of everything, I am so grateful I have this time in my life to just sort of stumble around blindly.

Why? Well, frankly, I look at the people in their 30’s and 40’s around me and see two groups: those who have their lives “together” and those who are either starting over, or still figuring out what they want. Both are okay, but neither is where I want to be right now. Of course some day, like many–if not most–other people I know, I want to be in that first group of people, where “together” means a happy combination of career and family. And, of course, I know that if I’m in that second group, that’s fine, too, because “together” doesn’t always have to mean career and family. But once you have those two things, there isn’t a whole lot of room to be selfish or focus on yourself. You have kids and a spouse to think about, bills and responsibilities, people who are depending on you to be a stable, reliable resource. Which means putting off things like chores, or taking time off from work to focus your energy on a side project isn’t really a possibility for most people at that stage in life. So if you ever feel down about not knowing the love of your life, not working your dream job, and not living in a mansion somewhere near a beach, just remember that your low-profile and freedom now gives you the opportunity to do these things:

1) Travel on a whim, for long periods of time, to random places “just because.”

Sure you’re poor and paying the rent is your biggest concern right now, but think about it this way: You don’t have that many possessions. You’re bank account already practically qualifies you for welfare, what’s there to lose if you move your stuff back into your parent’s basement for a few months, save up a couple thousand, and hike across Europe? You have no one waiting for you back home, and given your salary if you even had a full time job, it probably wasn’t something you’d like to stick with long term, anyways. If you’re ready for a change and want to spend some time discovering more about yourself while you meet awesome people and learn more about the world, traveling in your twenties is the perfect time to do it. You’ll never get a chance like this again.

2) Be a student.

Okay, so now that I’ve been out of college for a little over a year, I don’t recommend going to grad school without giving yourself at least a year in between. Obviously, I can’ t speak for the experience of those who do go straight to grad school, and granted, it was definitely something I deeply considered my senior year of college, but I’ve learned so much being in the real world this last year that I wouldn’t have been exposed to if I had stayed in the nice warm shelter of school. One of the things I’ve learned is that for the line of work I’m trying to do, having a master’s degree in Creative Writing–or really, any kind of degree in any subject–isn’t going to really give me a leg up. It’s just going to put me in more debt, and delay my entering the real world by a year or two.

Still, getting my masters in Creative Writing is a dream in the back of my mind, if for no other reason than giving me an excuse to spend a year or two living in some cool new place, focusing entirely on building up my arsenal of original work. And, working at a University is my fall back dream career, so there’s that, too. And no matter when you do grad school, if you do grad school, it’s definitely easier to get through when you don’t have a family to support. I would also assume that it’s an easier feat when the knowledge you picked up in your undergraduate classes is fresher in your mind.

3) Try out different “fun” jobs.

There is no better time or excuse for jumping from job to job than when you are first starting out in the world and trying to figure out what you enjoy and where you would like to fit into the bigger picture of society. I did this with internships, by working in marketing, publishing, and film development, discovering that while all three were exciting in their own right, none were exactly right or exciting for me. Still, there are a variety of dreamy odd-jobs on my list that I would only be unashamed to try because I have zero responsibilities beyond paying my bills right now. These include the following:

-Working as a Disney Princess at Disneyland.

-Working as a park attendant of some sort in the Wonderful World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios LA when it opens next Spring.

-Working as a Studio page and/or tour guide at any of the film studios around LA.

-Working as an extra for films and tv shows.

-Working as a house sitter/dog sitter for wealthy clients.

-Working as a personal assistant to a celebrity.

-Working for Buzzfeed.

-Working as a travel guide and/or a travel agent.

-Using an etsy shop and being an Uber driver as my primary source of income.

etc, etc.

4) Spending irresponsible amounts of money on take out, exploring new restaurants and bars, and being a semi-permanent ‘tourist’.

Granted, this might be a little more feasible for someone living in LA than in Kansas, where everything is a chain restaurant and being a ‘tourist’ consists of spending the day at the Renaissance Fair, eating giant Turkey legs, but still. Being in your twenties is the best time to find what will become “the best place to eat brunch,” “the best movie theater deal in town,” “the diviest bar, ever,” “the greatest hangover cure,” among you and your friends, because once you start working longer hours, have a spouse and/or kids to come home too, and a mortgage bill to pay, putting off chores or responsibilities no longer makes you “fun,” it just makes you immature. So do it now while you’re not tied down.

5) Consume all there is to know about whatever interests you.

This doesn’t mean you have to have your nose in a textbook. If you’re really interested in script writing, maybe this means regularly binging on Netflix (at least, that’s the excuse I use!). But it could also mean taking a day to learn new techniques on sewing, knitting, hunting, gardening, photography, whatever! Now is the time to learn and develop a hobby, because when you start involving one, two, three or more people in your life (aka have a family) you’ll find that any free time you have will be spent doing laundry and watching Sesame Street. This, at least, is what I’ve gathered from observing my siblings.

I could probably go on and on about things to do, and things to be grateful you can do while you’re in your twenties, but this post is already long enough. And if it isn’t obvious, this is a start to another thing you should incorporate into your life–no matter what age you are: Be a little more positive. When I start to feel down about where I am in life, I just think about all of these experiences that I’m able to have and then I act on them, because there is no better time than now. Take charge of your life, and enjoy being a twentysomething.

-tlc

 

On Missing Home

When your family makes up about 90% of your best friends, it’s hard to move away from them. Even now, eight months later, it’s still hard not to have the option of seeing my family regularly. The only time I am ever envious of my friends who don’t have close relationships with their parents and siblings is when I’m feeling homesick–so, about once a month.

Missing home can make for a confusing time emotionally. Consider this: while I love the wide-open spaces and quiet calm of the prairie, and the sweet peace that comes from the small, mannerly Kansas population, I hate everything about the way the Kansas government is being run right now, and I hate the often overly-conservative, small-minded opinions that the majority of the voter population holds. While I would love more than anything to be able to plan a day trip home on the occasional weekend to see my parents, or to be a short car ride away from babysitting my nephew, my work life and social life would be stunted. Sure, I could find a copywriting job somewhere. I could find a copywriting job anywhere, truthfully. But would it be driving me towards a fulfilling career in an industry that interests me? No. Would I be making new friends and growing my social circles? Probably not. Kansas City isn’t a very sociable city for singles and people who don’t already have friends and relatives living there. Why? Because you have to drive so far to get anywhere, so you only go out in groups.

I’ve thought a lot about my choice to move to a new, big city where I don’t know anyone, and the truth of the matter comes down to this: there is only one question you ever need to ask yourself; “Am I happy?”

This is so simple, and yet I think you will find–as I do–that it is the hardest question you will ever have to answer in your life. Am I happy? Well, about what? Your life? Your relationships? Your career?

So here is what’s at the heart of the matter when it comes to me missing home: I’m not sure how to answer this question. Am I happy? Well sure, somedays I’m really happy, and I love LA, and it’s exciting, and I’m excited, and there’s so much to explore, and life is good and life is beautiful. Am I happy? Well I’m not exactly where I want to be in life yet, and I don’t have a place I can call my own yet, and I have to live on a pretty tight budget which makes it feel  like I’m always working or number crunching, and my family lives pretty far away in a different time zone and my work commitments mean I don’t have a lot of options for visiting them or them visiting me, but am I happy? I guess in a sense I’m mildly comatose.

I love Amy Poehler’s comparison of a career to a bad boyfriend. It’s so true; my career is never going to make me happy; it’s never going to completely satisfy me. I’m always going to feel like I’m somewhat running in place, reaching for the next thing and never getting there. But do I feel accomplished? Oh heck yes. Am I proud of where I’ve gotten so far? Beyond belief. I’m working on a freaking studio lot as a Writer’s PA. When I think about where I am in terms of what I’ve dreamed my whole life, I am immensely proud to say that so far, when I’ve set my mind to do something, I’ve accomplished it.

But in the end, what my eight months in LA has shown me so far is that family and your relationships will always be more important than any job, no matter what. In the end, it’s made me realize that if it’s the difference between getting to see and spend time with the people I love, and having a lucrative career in television, my family is more important. Right now I feel as though I am straddling somewhere between these two things–family and career, and I’m not sure which life is going to pull me towards more. But I do know that if it takes me away from my family too much, and prevents me from building new relationships with more people, than it’s not worth it. You should never pick your career over your family. I think my greatest personal challenge right now is finding the balance between the two, hence the homesickness.

-tlc

A Wandering Thought

So I’ve been out on the West Coast long enough now to warrant a visit home. Granted, it was a short weekend trip, but well worth it to spend time with my family, my adorkably chubby baby nephew, and the freeing spaciousness that is Kansas City. Nothing gets you homesick quite like the stark contrast between the peace and quiet of a spacious suburban home and the never-ending cluster(ahem) that is LA.

Before now, I’d never really considered the qualities that make Kansas City such an awesome place to live: Quiet, plenty of parking, low city traffic (rush hour there is like off-hours here), good neighborhoods, beautiful fall weather, and plenty of space. All this Royals pride with the team headed to the World Series (who0ddah thunk?) is great, too–apparently they’ve dyed the water blue in every fountain in the city; a daunting task for America’s city of fountains.

It made returning to LA–despite the sun and the beach and the mountains–that much harder. It’s difficult to leave everyone you love (and who loves you) and everything you’ve known growing up and find comfort in a place where you know so few people. I’ve been lucky enough to meet very kind and generous people and make a handful of friends very quickly, but when–as they say–old friends are good friends, and old friends take time, it’s difficult to feel that I have a place in LA.

In a way, I am a sort of vagabond–My housing situation is short term, and I don’t have a steady, paying job–this contributes to the lack of home feeling. But, this seems to be the way with most people in LA–hardly anyone is actually from here. As I once heard someone say, LA is a city made up of orphans. Perhaps that’s why we’re here, in the city of Angels. We’re all seeking our own to guide us.

Now obviously I’m not actually an orphan, but sometimes it can feel this way when you’ve traveled far from home and are living on your own. What’s nice is that since most of us are orphans, it’s a bit of a point of bonding. People band together when they know they are alone in the same ways. I went to a church service last night and felt surprisingly at home–the service was filled with many young people working in some respect in the entertainment industry, and without speaking to anyone, I could just feel that we were all seeking the same thing.

No, not glamour or money (though a little bit of the latter would be nice). We’re all seeking a community. A safe space to call home and validate our place in this city.

LA is like the Regina George of cities: she’ll invite you in and include you if she thinks you’ll benefit her in some way, or she’ll compliment you on your ugly skirt that no one actually likes.

Or maybe LA only seems like Regina George. Because I seem to think she’s much nicer once you get to know her. I’ll have to give it time, though, because I can’t confirm either way at the moment.

No matter where I end up after December, I know I want to be a writer, and I have found a home in my pursuit of that career. So in a way, no matter where I am, I can always take comfort in that. And I’m trying to measure my success less on the accomplishments, jobs, and responsibilities I’m gaining (or not gaining) right now, and focusing more on the journey. This is some advice that I’m trying to follow right now, and maybe it’ll be good for you, too: Don’t compare yourself to others when measuring your success. Have goals for yourself and the ambition to go for them, and plan far enough into the future to help you achieve those goals, but don’t think too much about the future. Enjoy everyday, enjoy the moment, and glean everything you can from your experiences right now. Hope for opportunities, but know that if you’re open to it, life will steer you in the direction you’re meant to roam, be that what you had in mind or not at all.

I’m learning that success is not how much money you have, or where you live, or who you are–success is being surrounded by the ones you love and who love you. Right now I’m feeling pretty unsuccessful, but I know that the ones I love are excited for me and supporting and so, even though I’m not physically surrounded by them, I feel their love. And I hope, no matter where I end up, that I can grow and share that loves with others.

Maybe someday I’ll be successful. Maybe you will be, too.

Until next Thursday,

Yours truly,

tlc