It’s not a very magical number, but there still seems to be something important about turning 28. Maybe because of what this past year has been: chasing after a dream and moving across the country. In the back of my mind, I knew my this year would be different.
So, here are the 28 things I’ve learned about chasing dreams and living in LA over my past 27th year spinning around on this planet.
1. It’s easy to lose sight of the end goal.
I came out here with an idea I’ve had since I was 15. The big picture is easy to see from far off, but once I’m in the middle the details swallow up my line of sight. I will tell you right now I feel like I’m wading through a bog. Vines and branches block my view and every step is labored as I fight against the suction of the mud. That may be a tad over dramatic, but it’s closer to reality than I care to admit. I’ve had to fight to remember the big goal, fight to remember this isn’t about me and fight to figure out what’s the next step. I’m not willing to just step anywhere; I’m old enough to be protective of my time and mental resources. I’m also scared and lazy without a real sense of direction. I hate being lazy and I hate being stuck. Maybe I just need a swift kick in the pants to get started again.
2. It’s a lot of hard work.
A dream isn’t a dream unless it’s bigger than you. It is bigger than me and it scares me.
3. It’s a lot of waiting.
Hurry up and wait seems to be the mantra for many different things. I hurried up and got here and now I’m waiting. I wonder what I thought I expected. Bigger steps when I got here? Clearer vision? Better communication? Probably easier – every connection that I’ve had up to this point has been timed beautifully arriving when I needed it. I think I need a connection for the next step instead of hanging out in this waiting room, but this is where I’m at now. Let’s see what this waiting room has to offer.
4. It’s easy to fall into old habits.
You take you with you. I can be transplanted anywhere on the globe but I still bring my faults, insecurities and weaknesses with me. A different location won’t change that. In fact in some ways a change like this magnifies the weaknesses and makes me confront them. The real reward of this adventure I’m on will be if I change for the better along the way.
5. Living in a new city is uncomfortable and exciting.
Having to discover my places is hard. Where am I going to buy my groceries? Who’s going to change my oil? What happens if my car needs to be repaired? Where’s the DMV? The library? What do I do with taxes? Health insurance? What about washing my car? My dad always did that for me. Am I getting a good deal? Where’s the nearest Chipotle? Where does everyone else hang out? I still haven’t found anyone to cut my hair, so I end up waiting 3 months and flying home to get it cut. (It’s an unfashionable mess at the moment.) Finding a new church. Finding a place to belong within the church. Not having to use a GPS to get to church will be a big deal. (I love my church btw). Finding my mentors and the people I can look up to. Finding people I can relate to. Finding my movie theater. Finding a place to hike/walk/run. How do I get to the airport? What do I do with my car when I leave town? Seeing a familiar face feels so good. There are 6 people from back home who now live here, and it’s a deep breath when I walk up to give a hug to a familiar face.
6. I don’t care for LA (I knew that already).
I didn’t move here because I had some rosy idea of becoming famous in LA. I never wanted to live in LA; it’s huge and overwhelming and it’s always sunny (give me clouds and mountains) and it’s not really as glamorous as one would think. This is the entertainment capital of the world, where culture is made and shaped. This is the place to learn and understand about stories and culture. I’m here for a reason.
As an aside, I am starting to see the beauty in this city and starting to enjoy it.
7. Fear will take over.
Fear pervades LA. People fear for their jobs. Fear they aren’t good enough. Fear that they won’t keep the position they’ve worked for. Fear that the next gig won’t come. Fear the money won’t be there to pay their rent. Fear that their friends are just using them. When I moved here fear was a constant companion for several months. Fear for my safety. Fear of my car breaking down along the side of the road. Fear that I would be pulled over for having a Nebraska license plate. Fear of not knowing enough, fear of not being smart enough, fear of not looking the part, fear of never having a part, fear of not making friends, fear of not having enough money, fear of parking, fear of driving, fear of getting kidnapped, fear of never belonging anywhere. Strangely enough, I never feared I made the wrong decision.
You fight the fear by doing the opposite of what you fear. Drive. Park. Get California license plates. Talk to people. Make people feel like they belong. Give them a place to belong. Read more. Ask more questions. Find things I do like about myself. Try new things. Invite people along.
It’s all in my head anyway.
8. Driving in LA isn’t as scary as I thought it was going to be.
I have adjusted rather well. Driving 80 mph north on the 405 at 9pm is now strangely calming.
9. I can like coffee (if it’s iced).
I’ve had more coffee here than I have in my entire life. My boss gave me a Starbucks gift card, so I can get out of my bedroom to be around real people and have consistent air conditioning. Drink of choice: grande vanilla iced coffee with whole milk. I now have gold status, so free refills. Two puts me over the edge and my hands shake.
Portola’s iced mocha in Costa Mesa is amazing, and I’m hoping to get to Stumptown for their cold brew after church this Sunday.
10. I never thought Starbucks and Target would remind me of home.
Two of the first places I went when I moved was Starbucks and Target. No matter where you go in the country those two are pretty much the same.
11. I belong in the mountains.
The mountains here are more like glorified hills. Give me something so massive that when standing next to it, I feel small and insignificant yet somehow safe and that I matter. Give me green trees that tower over me and the air you can almost taste. Give me something that makes me want to run and conqueror it and see beyond the next peak. Give me a place to be nestled within. Something with rain and clouds and wind.
12. I love the sound of rain.
I sleep with a rain app. Out of everything I miss about home, it’s rain that I miss the most. I have no idea why. It’s not like it ever rained that frequently in Omaha, but there was legit weather there. See next point.
13. I miss clouds.
The cloud formations and sunsets back home are killer. Here the majority of the time, it’s flat blue skies; I know most people would love that, but I think the flat blue skies creates uninteresting texture for photos of the city. That’s why LA is prettier at night. Driving down the 405 and 110 at night are great, because you can see the whole city lit up. That is a magical view of the city. I will say that the light in the fall and winter here changes things dramatically. There is a noticeable difference between the light in the summer and the light in the fall months.
14. Creating with my hands is something I should be doing.
Technology is great, but there’s just something about creating old school. I miss painting. I started smelling the acrylic paint that I used college a couple months ago – yes, that is weird. I miss the thought process of shooting manual photography. It involves your hand and head. My best thoughts come when I have a pencil to paper.
15. You can make friends online.
My first LA friend was someone I met through a Facebook group who told me about the Act One program. I never met her before, but I stayed with her when I first came for a visit. It’s worked out well. She’s one of my favorite people to explore with. When my dad, brother and I drove out here, I stayed with another woman and her family I met also through the Facebook group. They have also been amazing and made me feel at home. I only met my roommates through a Skype chat once. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend staying with people you’ve never met before, but sometimes you just have to do some crazy stuff to chase dreams.
16. Just ask.
You want to meet someone. You want to know about a specific technical area. You want to get in a program. You want a discount. Ask.
I need to ask more questions. Goes back to the fear thing. I’m afraid of what happens after the question is answered or people thinking I’m not worth the time to answer the question. I need to take my own advice and combat that.
17. There are people like me.
This has been one of my favorite things about LA. I don’t know if I was just in the wrong place or not asking the right questions, but I didn’t always connect with the people I was surrounded with. I hadn’t encountered too many females with similar interests or understood where I was coming from. First week here and I met several from all over the country. I still get strange looks on a few things, but that’s ok.
18. The entertainment industry is a business.
I knew this coming in but the full realization doesn’t sink in until you start hearing first hand experience and watching what gets produced. It’s a little frustrating actually. People are out for the money and lose sight of the story or craft or they may have no first hand knowledge of the creative side of things, but they do know how to generate revenue. You have to be able to understand both. I think this is why I’ve wanted to start my own thing and not have ideas dictated to me, but I know that also comes with its own set of challenges.
19. My brain will go a mile a minute and will dream bigger than I thought possible.
I can also shut it off. I’ve come up with a lot of big ideas over the past few months and put an outline to what I’d love to do with my life. My brain runs amok when I let it, and I wish I let it more often. I tend to hold the flood back in favor of letting my brain wear itself out with my daily job. It’s almost like I can sense a gate closed off.
20. I miss working with high school students.
I worked with high school students at my church for a couple years ago before I moved. I wasn’t sure why I was helping there, but I have always been impressed with them. I was never that impressed with my own age group while I was in school. The Starbucks by my house is across from a performing arts high school, and so I have a good vantage point for observing. When you’re a teenager, everything in life is still a possibility and you’re learning the knowledge to try and achieve whatever you think that possibility could be. You’re trying to fit it in and find your place. You’re as on top of the world as you can possibly understand. There’s more freedom in what they say even if it’s not fully understood. Love feels as real as it ever will be. Habits are formed and can take over. Friendships are made and broken. Your future is made for good or bad. A lot can happen in that age, so much potential for awesomeness or horror. I’ve seen both. I cry for innocence lost, and I hope for the beauty that can be.
In a business perspective, preteens and teenagers are shaping how marketers are reacting and thinking. They have a lot of power. Some of them even understand that. Watch instafamous and YouTube celebrities take over the entertainment landscape in the next few years.
21. It’s ok not to have a clear roadmap.
It has been an unbelievably frustrating past six months. I hit those unexpected brick walls and I’m ashamed to say those walls have kept me down longer than I intended them to. But I seem to meet the right people at the right time and am able to ask the right questions to give me just enough to keep trudging forward. (Proverbs 3:5-6 was given to be when I was in junior high, then again in college and again when I left home and when I got here. I should probably get that in tattoo form.)
22. I feel old.
Not physically old but age old and experience old compared with others who are setting out to do similar things. PAs on sets are typically right out of college and have an idea of what’s going on. I’m not out of college, and I’m still lost on a set. Give me a concert or live services and I’m comfortable. I’m out of my element on a set. Everything is regimented and controlled. And people are stressed out. I want this process to be fun. I don’t want it to be just a way to make money. I will make money, and I will take it seriously. I take everything seriously, but when you’re working with a group of people you know and trust it should be fun.
23. There is so much talent in this world.
So much of it ends up congregating in places like LA and New York City. It’s great to be surrounded by so much talent for the push and pull of new ideas and becoming better, but it can also be discouraging if you let it. I also find it a little ridiculous. Every one of us thinks we can be something in these cities. There are other cities and places in this world that need our creativity too.
24. I can find anything to distract me.
The biggest detriment to dreams is Netflix, Amazon Prime, Facebook and Buzzfeed. Darn you awesome content. I’m not fully ready to admit my bad habits. I’ll procrastinate and deal with this issue next week…
25. I can identify and claim what I like and care about a little more.
Specifically in terms of the stories I want to tell. Fantasy, sci-fi, superhero stories, family stories, action, adventure, certain animations are my favorites. I was afraid to admit what I actually liked because I thought everyone liked them. I guess I try to avoid the direction everyone else is going. Not everyone likes those types of stories especially not within my age range as I’ve come to understand.
26. Public transportation is still awesome.
Not busses though. I will not ride the bus in the city that I live in. I will ride over to North Hollywood and take the train ride downtown from there. I love riding the Metro. Maybe it makes me feel like I live in a big city.
27. I don’t like being on sets as much as I thought I would
I’ve only been on two sets so far. Loved the one where they were working on an animation project. I struggled enjoying the live action set, but that could be because I haven’t had enough experience to know what I’m supposed to do. I don’t trust myself as much in foreign environments especially when I could be the one hindering the progress. (Again, Carolyn, do the opposite of what you fear.)
28. I have an amazing support system.
I have a boss who supports me in allowing me to chase my dreams even if he doesn’t know if I’ll be coming back or not. (Me neither) I’m so grateful for him. I’m grateful for my coworkers who are working with me. They are some of the greatest people. There have been speed bumps and miscommunication issues, but if we approach it the right way, it makes us stronger.
My parents and siblings are my favorite people in the entire world. They have faith in me and trust me; that’s all I could ever ask for. That’s all I can say about that right now.
I have friends back home and here who have been nothing but encouraging and that’s just enough to keep me focused.
Here’s to seeing what year 28 has for me.