Tuesday, October 15, 2013

On Postponing Deadlines and Potentially Leaving L.A....

Today is a big day for DanielleTBD. 

Six months ago I got laid off from my major source of income. If it had been a rare, one-time thing, I would have brushed it off and got right back out there to hustle up another contract to replace that one and continue working, writing, without one misstep. But sadly, six months ago I should have seen it coming-- because it had been the pattern I had experienced at almost every freelance gig I've had. It's not that my work isn't valued, I'm told; it's just that there is less money than there used to be with so many more competitors constantly cropping up. So six months ago, this wasn't the first freelance gig I lost, but I was determined for it to be the last. 

Six months ago I set a deadline for myself: if I couldn't find a full-time job doing what I've been doing for the last three years, I would make a big move-- out of the industry and out of Los Angeles. That would have been unheard of if you had met me in high school or even in college, but much to my own surprise, I found I wasn't the same person anymore. Whatever I had come looking for out here in the first place, I no longer wanted, let alone needed. In fact, it became quite the opposite: I was pushing so hard to make a mark, to make a life, just off this one, niche thing. And it wasn't easy, and it wasn't working, and it wasn't fun anymore. Those are signs I couldn't ignore. So as the six months ticked off, and soon enough it was four months and then three and then one, I began to tweak my goal. I adapted my search; I realized what I really wanted and then accepted that what I really wanted might be really far off. I got fed up with not getting calls or even mass responses acknowledging my resume as being received. I got depressed at what little was out there-- or what little I was personally able to find in the massive wasteland that is the internet-- or what little didn't require a personal referral from someone in the company or some friend of the hiring manager in order to push my resume to the top of the pile. I was humbled by the qualifications companies were looking for; I was angered by the salaries companies were willing to pay for such great qualifications; I was offended by those who turned their backs when I asked for a recommendation. I feared that I spent the last ten years "playing" and wasting my potential. I realized that I spent a lot of time sitting around and waiting, as the entertainment industry teaches us to do, instead of actively trying to change or better the situation.

Six months ago I woke up to realize I had been far too complacent for far too long, but I still didn't move to do much about it. When I went to Austin in June, it was supposed to be to look around at neighborhoods and companies and see if I could actually, realistically see myself living there. I didn't do any of that. I told myself (and other people) that I got too busy with the TV festival, and that's true, but I could have made more time if I wanted to. I think a part of me wasn't ready to fully give up on L.A. yet. Industry aside, it has so many things I love-- from the beaches to my friends to the simple comfort of being my home. Starting over is hard, and mostly emotionally so. But starting over gets harder the longer you wait, the older you get, the more deeply stuck in an industry or place you become. I'm dangerously close to being that cautionary tale.

The six months is up now, and I'm still here. I'm still in L.A. and I'm still blogging, and I'm still looking for something full time. On paper it looks like nothing has changed. On paper it looks like I failed at not only meeting my goal but also at being decisive enough to follow through with the "or." But the "or" was never supposed to be a consequence or a punishment or even an ultimatum. So I am giving myself a new deadline: one more year. I have a year on my current apartment lease, and that is the perfect time to continue to try to get a full time job here, to try to start over here, but to also go back to Austin and actually properly check it out-- and to check out other places in case I conclude that Austin won't work (for whatever reason) either. I moved out to L.A. at eighteen to work in the entertainment industry, but for the last ten years, I've drifted further and further to the outskirts of that industry, and at thirty, if I walk away from it completely and permanently, then there are few other jobs that could keep me comfortable in the expensive city that is L.A. So it's a year to explore options. It's a year to get someplace to take me seriously, to start taking myself seriously. And it's also a year to do all of the fun things I fell in love with about L.A. (and some fun things I somehow still have managed to never do) in the first place. 

I feel like all I've said for the past six months is "I need a job," and while it's more true now than at the start, obsessing about any one thing is not healthy, nor is it a way to actually alter that one thing. I remember writing down a quote from an old television show that said to use time in between jobs to fill your life with complications so that when you do go back to work, your work is richer, fuller, and you have better perspective. We are not what we do for a living, and such narrowly focused stress will kill you. So job applications and resume tweaking will be what I'm about four days out of the week, but the other three will be balanced with the beach and parks, Disneyland, plays, pumpkin patches/tree farms/holiday lights, farmers markets, county fairs, food trucks, and all of the rest of the colorful life that Los Angeles has to offer.

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