Mac’N’Cheese…With Friends!

I’m sitting in my good friend Joel’s apartment, which used to be my cousin Willie’s and my good friend Joel’s apartment, as I try to come up with an idea for this week’s blog post. The living room seems wider now, since the big squishy couch my cousin owned isn’t here anymore. I’m sitting at a standing desk that’s operating as a dining room table, finding the rhythm of the swaying table top as both Joel and I type away at our laptops. It is truly a low-key night, and I love that.

I know, it sounds boring and uneventful. But nights such as this really floor me. Let me explain; A little over a year ago I moved out to LA, not knowing anyone–not even my cousin! And in that whirlwind of a year I have met so many people and experienced so many things, and it really pleases me to no end that I have made friends that I know well enough to literally drive over to their place, ask for their WiFi password, and then not talk to them for hours at a time.

True friendship, everybody.

I think everyone needs nights like this sometimes. I know I really needed it, having just flew back into LA yesterday from an extended vacation home, and having no current job to go to for social interaction. In what can be a really lonely city, it’s wonderful to be reminded that you aren’t alone.

It’s strange, because–even though leaving Kansas was just as hard as it always is–I no longer feel like a fish out of water here. I am finding a sense of place and belonging in this city that I haven’t experienced up to this point. Kansas has begun to feel a little foreign, with the sleepy drivers and long miles of endless prairie grass. The city sirens and the tiny Mexican man who pushes a grocery cart full of plastic bottles down my street everyday feel normal. They fit into this idea of what my neighborhood is, and it has a quiet feel of home, which is comforting.

For once, I don’t hate LA. I hope that this feeling lasts, and only continues to grow.

-tlc

A Visit Home

There is nothing better than taking a break from a LA-centered life and visiting home. It’s always amazing to me to experience the juxtaposition between busy, overfilled LA and quiet, casual KC. It’s kind of terrifying at the same time, though, because all of the beauty and peace that comes with quaint KC also comes with this jarring sense of isolation. I mean, don’t get me wrong, internet works just as well here in KC (better, actually, thanks to Google Fiber) but for some reason, even the opportunities to be accessed via internet feel very far away when I am in KC, which is a strange change compared to LA’s smog-covered dumpiness and endless opportunity.

I don’t know what it is about Kansas and KC. Perhaps the physical distance between places here translates into a more psychological sense of boundaries or barriers imposed by distance? Maybe it’s simply the take-it-easy attitude with which the people in this city tend to take their lives. The heartache, the struggle, and subsequently the achievement are quieter here, somehow subdued. I don’t know if that’s a good thing or a bad thing.

It makes me wonder every time I am in this city whether or not I would prefer it over LA. The people here certainly seem to be less self-absorbed, but then again, everyone tends to have their fickle moments. The traffic is way better, but the distance you have to drive to get from place to place means you’re on the road just as long. The people in LA are, on average, better looking (as many of them are aspiring actors/actresses) but the people in KC have a better idea of who they are and where they’re headed at a much younger age. Not to mention people out here are nicer (Midwest Manners are a real thing).

But really, the only thing I truly miss (besides my nephews) is fall. I miss the change in weather, the change of leaves, and your basic pumpkin-flavored everything as the Christmas season slowly edges closer and closer to those of us patiently waiting for Christmas music. And suddenly, when the whole choice whittles down to weather, I know that, for some unknown reason, I made the right decision in moving out to LA. I’m not sure how long that choice will be right, but it’s right for right now and I’m glad.

I sure do miss fall, though. And free parking that’s easy to find everywhere you go is nuts. This is great.

-tlc

An Open Letter to Sam Brownback

Dear Governor Brownback,

Here’s the deal. I realize that the blame for the $400 Million deficit that Kansas is in can’t  be laid entirely upon your shoulders. I realize that the think-tank that you’ve surrounded yourself with, and that the senate and house have been a part of, somehow got the crazy, naive idea that the trickle-down system works, and y’all just rolled with it. And I truly think that with the way this furlough thing is landing, you’re FINALLY starting to question your original opinions on feeding the full and starving the hungry.

What I can’t understand is, how the HELL did it take you this long to see this (that is, if you really can see it)? Oh, and please stop pointing fingers at everyone else. The blame might not fully be on your shoulders, but when you chose to run for Governor–and then chose to run for Governor AGAIN–you entered an unspoken contract in which you, being the voice and head of Kansas state government and legislature, would also take responsibility for your actions, and the actions of those working beneath you. So, it might not be your fault, but it IS your fault. You signed it into legislature. So, yeah.

But more infuriating than what seems to be your honest, naive, stupidity and selfishness in wanting to use Kansas in what seems to be an economic and social experiment, is what seems to be your opinion on what is important and what isn’t. Both my parents are teachers in Kansas, and for as long as I have been alive, I have watched them work harder than anyone else I have ever known, and still strain to make sure that the bills were paid, food was on the table, a roof was over our heads, and that my brother and I were provided for. They are the most amazing people I have ever met, and they are damn good at their jobs. I know that both my parents have touched the lives of many students, helping them succeed, preparing them for their futures, and instilling a desire for learning. This is a very rare thing these days, with as much non-productive stimulation as kids can receive from video games and TV. My parents have been praised by their colleagues, and have received nothing but the highest recommendations from their administrators in every school that they have taught in. My parents are involved in their schools–My mother single-handedly instituted and manages an annual science fair for every grade in her school, and students prepare their projects all year long. My father holds an administrative degree and often stands in as assistant principal when other school administrators cannot be at school. My father also helped implement the school’s after-school PBD program, which helps students who fall behind in classes and grades catch up to their peers, and you can bet that he is there, helping those students after school hours are over, too. And probably most endearing, my father volunteers as a prom valet every year. Last spring, my father broke his leg, and even though he was in a wheelchair and couldn’t drive, he still showed up at Prom to wish his students a fun night.

My parents love their students and take a lot of pride in what they do. So you can imagine their sadness, and my heartbreak, when they are told that their work is essentially worthless. Why are they being told this? Because you, Governor Brownback, tell them that everyday that you allow budget cuts to continue for Kansas schools and education. Since you decided that a small percentage of Kansas’s tax dollars were worth more than funding our schools, you have caused salary freezes, supply cuts, and stricter regulations on paid teacher time, which does not mean that teachers are working less–it means that teachers are simply working more unpaid time.

You see, what you might not realize about working in education is that it isn’t like a normal 9-5 job. You don’t just go in to work, do your time, and then leave it in the classroom. Many teachers–even ones who work in states that actually care about education and paying their instructors–put in hundreds of hours outside of those they get paid, just prepping their classrooms and lesson plans, not to mention being a visible part of their students’ lives, so that their students feel supported. Many teachers also spend their own money suppling their classrooms, as–even on a regulated budget–schools do not typically have enough funding to cover every classroom purchase. Teachers do this out of love; love for their jobs and love for their students, because teaching isn’t a job, it’s a calling.

But when, for nearly five years, you continually “thank” them for their dedication by providing them less and less financial support, spirits begin to break. Educators who were once eager in their work are looking for ways out. My own parents, who have dedicated a combined 50+ years towards education, are at their breaking points. People are tired, and they can only carry the weight of your ignorance for so long.

And what’s really sad is what this means for our children. A whole generation has lost five years’ worth of quality education because their teachers’ hands have been tied, their wills broken, and their funding made nonexistent. And the cherry on top? The fact that schools closed early this year because of your budget cuts. Why has education been so unimportant to you? Do you hope that by dumbing down the masses, you might be able to continue on in an otherwise damned career? Frankly, I would like to know what idiot politician cut school funding while you were learning economics, because the damage is evident.

Though I can only speak directly for the education realm, I have no doubt that every other facet of this state that has felt your budget cuts has similar woes. No, I don’t think there is really anything you can do to make up for the idiocy that you’ve instilled trying to run this state for the last four and a half years. You can start trying, though, by eliminating the tax cuts that you’ve put in place for the last four and a half years. Just remember, you can’t change the damaged past.

For everyone reading this who isn’t Brownback (which is probably all of you) I can’t stress enough how important it is to be an educated voter and VOTE EVERY TIME. Please, for everyone’s sanity, VOTE VOTE VOTE, and educate yourself ahead of time.

Thank you, and please get your shit together, Brownback.

-A concerned ex-Kansas-resident (that’s right, I left because I couldn’t stand you), tlc

Finding A Place In LA And Making It A Home

After nine months of living in temporary housing in LA, my roommates and I have finally moved into our own apartment with a year-long lease. It’s both terrifying and exciting to think about making that long of a commitment to such a come-and-go place that has such temporary feel to it. I came out here to test the waters, see if I could make a go of it, if I really liked it out here and if things felt right. In that time I’ve learned so much about who I am and what my choices mean for me and my future. I’ve shed that strange bubble we build for ourselves in school, and that strange feeling you get coming to the end of college–as if you are nearing the final stretch of your life, and only have one possible path to live out, instead of the beginning of your life and the many paths you have to choose from for the rest of it.

I’m not saying I’m committed to LA for the rest of my life, or even for the year’s time of my lease; I’m simply choosing to take the next step in building my career here in LA. And let me tell you, it feels so good to finally feel somewhat settled. I’m still not LA’s biggest fan, but I also don’t feel so foreign here anymore. I’m starting to appreciate things about this city, its people, and what it has to offer.  It’s both beautiful and ugly at the same time.

I saw all this knowing that this city can chew you up and spit you out. I write this at a time when many of the friends I’ve made since moving here have given up on the shiny fake hopes that Hollywood radiates and are seeking refuge and peace in other places. I am both happy for their bravery and peace with departure, and saddened by the heartache and distress this place has caused them.

In high school, I was always the quirky, loud girl who didn’t quite fit in with any of the crowds I hung around. A lot of this was because I never felt like I truly had a place among the other students and my friends. The other part was that I didn’t know how to make life-long friends yet. I ran from drama like it was the plague, but gossiped because I didn’t know the difference between gossip and conversation. It’s funny now because LA is the physical, geographical embodiment of everything that defined my inability to fit in in high school: It is both dreamy and harsh, friendly and lonesome.

I never had any desire to move to LA, until I realized that I might just be crazy enough to try and pursue the dreams that never seemed like a possibility, even in college. Kansas is a very practical place (well, other than Brownback, who is completely delusional–but that’s another post altogether) but I am an impractical dreamer. And though I’m not a NYC writer, or a Londoner like I once fantasized, I’m somewhere, doing something I never thought possible. And I love it.

So, for all this rambling, maybe the only point I have for this post is this: Go somewhere and do something you want to do; something you think you’ll love.  And find a place and make it home.

-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