Another one of my friends left Los Angeles recently. One by one my small group of East coast transplants that were living in Hollywood with me since the early 2000’s have come to the decision that the city of Angels just isn’t for them anymore, myself included. I had my own reasons for leaving, but the similarities as to what life path we took after we moved have been astonishing.
It seems like all of my friends have moved away, found good jobs, a level of happiness, and have gotten married, had kids, or got “wifed up” since they left Southern California, and even though it was never my plan to follow suit, it appears that I’m well on my way.
I am an artistic and creative person at heart, but a part of me knew how difficult it is to swim in the shallow waters of Hollywood. You can have all the talent in the world, but in the last 5 years, being rich and famous for nothing, has become the new being rich and famous for something. After a mediocre amount of success that allowed me to pay my bills without having a “in the meantime” job, I had to go back to bartending and it made me feel like a failure, even though I know I’m not. It got tougher on me as I watched every one of the friends I love leave southern California only to meet someone special and start a new life with them, until I chose to do the same thing.
I had a vision in my head of what I wanted my new life in Seattle to be, and even though I’ve only been here a little over three months, it has all fallen into place like some form of poetic justice. Sometimes I wake up in disbelief of how easy it has been and how smoothly things have worked out, but then I remember to stop thinking like a negative fatalist and just accept the fact that perhaps this time the other shoe is never going to drop, because I won’t let it happen.
When I lived in L.A I was stressed out all the time, and I felt the weight of the world on my shoulders. I was sad and depressed more times than I was happy, and I got used to having panic attacks because I felt like that was just part of the game. I did it for so long because I really believed in what I wanted to do with my life, but it never dawned on me until recently that even if I DID succeed and I sold that TV show, or I DID land that big role on Criminal Minds, would I have really been happy with coming home to an empty apartment and no one to share my life with except for my cat?
Would I have been able to look into the eyes of my bank account and know that it loved me too? Would I have gotten into my car and felt alive and free stuck in traffic going eight miles per hour on the 101 at 11:54 pm on a Wednesday night? Fuck no! There is nothing about any of those scenarios that would have made me happy if that turned out to be my life. I think I just needed to admit that to myself, even though I knew it all along.
I know that this isn’t everyone’s experience in L.A., but the reality is that those examples I mentioned were what I was looking forward to. How fucking dismal would that life have been? What does it say about me that I couldn’t wait for the day when I didn’t have to struggle to make ends meet, or how I couldn’t wait for the night when I finally felt validated for all the time and effort I put into my career? I deserve better than to look forward to a life that is defined by how much money I can make.
I know a select group of people who are more talented writers, actors, and producers than half of the people who are actually making a living from it, but it’s kind of morose that talent doesn’t get you very far in Hollywood. I don’t want to feel like I wasted my talent in life, but what if my talent is to do the right thing and be a good person? What if I could be the best at being a great husband to my wife, or being the father that I never had? What if those things mean more to me now than a fleeting chance at fame ever did?
Even at 40, I’m still growing up. As I have watched and continue to watch my friends leave that town to follow their heart, I can’t help but be proud of all of them, including myself. Believe me, I understand it takes a lot of perseverance to stay in Los Angeles and to follow your dreams even after you are repeatedly rejected and told no. I wish nothing but success for my friends who are still there who I know are going to make it, yet, at the same time, I feel like it takes a shit ton of guts to look around at the palm trees, the pretty people, and the 334 days of sunshine and tell yourself that this just isn’t for me anymore.
For me, it’s pretty simple. I left L.A. because all I’ve ever wanted in life was to be happy. It’s just that for the longest time I thought happiness was one thing, when in reality it has turned out to be something else. And that something else looks a lot like my life right now.