Be water, my friend

Wow, I haven’t written in a really long stretch, despite having every intention. It’s been on my ‘to do’ list countless times, but it’s always a case of where do I start when there’s so much to say?!

I am now 3 and a bit years into living in LA and it has been one of the most epic and interesting chapters of my story yet.

I s’pose I need to start somewhere, and the obvious option is this blog post that I wrote a year ago (but never shared). Time for it to see the light of day I reckon…

Here are some reflections after 2 years living in Los Angeles.

April 11th, 2014

It’s 2014.

I remember applying for my 3 year ‘O1 Alien of Exceptional Ability’ visa and looking at August 10, 2014, the date my visa expires, as a lifetime away. And look where we are!

I’ve been in LA just over 2 years. It’s flown by, yet been so dense, so chocked full of life. One incredibly rich, rewarding, maddening, crazy, humbling journey. A pathway that has often felt lonely and stupendously alien. A pathway that has been electrifying, engaging and often breath-taking in all senses of the word.

The first year was hard. Perhaps one of the hardest years ever. I felt tested. I didn’t love it and the more people asked ‘Do you just love it? Hollywood?’, I somehow knew I wouldn’t have the response they were looking for. My experience was far from the razzle dazzle one might imagine, and more a case of survival and learning to trust my intuition. Through trial and error my inner compass has become finely tuned. I reckon if you can navigate this city, you’re set for life. LA is a city of extremes. A jungle. Cue Guns N’ Roses…

Two years deep I’ve really come to know this city. The many corners of it’s vast sprawl. There’s a lot to love, and a lot that’s foreign. LA has so many faces. The gloss and glitz, the fancy, the gorgeousness of the hills, canyons, coastline, historical areas, mish mash of architecture, incredible food, the dank dark pockets, seedy underbelly, the Mexican heritage, weed culture and so much more. What greater Los Angeles and California has to offer seems boundless. It’s a love hate relationship at times, but one I’ll never regret stepping into.

Being here has made me grateful to have Australia as my home. It’s made me value family and old friends on the deepest level. It’s allowed me to ascertain my priorities and seriously up my acting game. There is so much talent and competition here in LA, you must constantly stride, push, pull, go with the flow, trust, know, be ready, game, bold, fearless and generally try not to give too many shits, when sometimes that’s all you can do. Being here is like a right of passage…and somehow I feel like I’ve crossed a major bridge…I no longer feel like a rookie.

I’ve recently decided to go through the process again to renew my visa. A decision I’ve been tussling with for months. All I know is I’m not quite ready to roll out of LA yet. I am only now starting to feel at ‘home’…and see my networks developing and acting world gain wings.

This city is seductive. No doubt. The opportunities are infinite. I love being a ‘Californian girl’ and I think it suits me.

We all know LA is a city of dreams – where people come to try and make it. Get the ‘big break’. But I’ve come to see first hand how fleeting and desperate that can be, and what does it mean anyway?? What is a break? I don’t think you can say anything is certain in this town, or generally within the industry. Breaks can come and go. Opportunities present when you least expect it. Being surrounded by the constant hustle, it’s easy to get caught up in trying to get to the top…whatever that is. Don’t get me wrong…working your butt off, shooting for the stars, recognising achievement, committing to being your best, and encouraging one another to keep on keeping on, is vital.

Living in LA has forced me to think long and hard about the acting game. For the most part you’re surrounded by it, it some shape or form, and for this I am truly grateful. It’s the very reason I decided to make the move. To be a part of the buzzing hive. To be surrounded by people with creative dreams.

I’m learning to take myself and the actors journey less seriously, growing less attached and remembering it’s essentially about playing and finding the fun. I’ve realised the industry is a circus, an unpredictable beast, a constant rollercoaster, a marathon.

It can be so easy to stumble into holes and focus on the wrong things. But through my trips, falls and resurrections I’ve discovered an essence of what’s important when on this creative path, that can most definitely seep into general life.

It’s about doing what you love and being excited about it, on whatever scale. It’s about finding and creating the opportunities to do whatever this thing is, to the best of your ability. Creating relationships with people who speak the same language. Releasing expectations. Doing, sharing, discovering, practicing, experimenting, and knowing you’re but a tiny seed in this infinite cosmos, and why not express yourself to the fullest? That to move forward, you’ve got to work hard, every day. You’ve got to stay inspired and motivated. When you know and love who you are, find your truth and follow your intuition, then you can razzle dazzle with the best of them, and simply ‘be water, my friend’.

Riding the rollercoaster

5th of March, 2012

What an absolutely mental week. Almost 5 weeks into living in LA and I’m hanging on by the skin of my teeth. I know the adventure has only just begun, but it’s feeling like the hardest move EVER. Bonkers, with a capital B.

It’s a balmy eve, the first after a week of wearing jumpers, taking a wheat bag to bed and cranking the heater to full. But not today. Today was summery, and gees it felt good.

From the end of my street I can see both snow-capped mountains and the Hollywood sign. Palms trees and beautiful craftsman houses line the street. I’ve settled into my new abode. It’s a big old house in Korea town, or K town as us locals call it. Built in 1917, it’s wonderfully airy and spacious.

I finally have a desk after weeks being parked up on the floor trying to get ‘business’ rolling. I’ve grown accustomed to my slippery polyester bed sheets, picked and eaten an avocado from a huge tree in our splendid backyard, witnessed a hummingbird collect nectar as I sip my morning coffee, night watched the curiously blind resident opossums navigate the yard, and run excited to the window as the daily ice-cream truck playing La Cucaracha wheels by. Taken morning walks and met Papa Christo at the local Greek taverna and discovered the local church is called Saint Sophia. I’ve been taken aback and infuriated by my housemates – one who talks to himself, another who paces the hallway to think, and a household practise of each housemate having their own toilet paper every time they need to go to the loo. I’ve wanted to bash my head against the wall with the daily challenges and frustrations that peak and fall. The stories I tell from one perspective are so out there, they become hilarious, on another hand I’ve returned home on some days and felt the heaviness and struggle of creating a new life.

I’ve slowly been setting up shop – a house, bedroom, looking into buying a car and putting the acting wheels in motion. I’m living with 4 others – a Brit actor, a Chinese girl working in events, an older American who came to town to be a comedian and now works as a security guard and a Russian real estate agent who owns the house. They are the most eclectic bunch of people I’ve ever known or lived with. Coming from an amazing share house in Brixton, London, this home is somewhat more segregated, everyone kind of does their own thing. The Russian seems to play chess online a lot, but is a Buddhist with a full shrine complete with fruit offerings and incense burning daily, the American seems engaged in a perpetual monologue whilst holed up in his room so chock full of belongings one might assume he’s a hoarder, the Chinese girl has just returned from spending the New year period in her home city of Beijing and the Brit has been incredibly supportive and full of advice after 3 years in the big smoke of LA.

I think I’ve pretty much been in culture shock – little things – words, acting expressions, manners, plastic cups and plates at restaurants, the smell of weed and marijuana clinics everywhere, people’s stories, even shopping for bed linen with bed sizes being different and a mind-boggling variety of options – quilts, comforters, coverlets. Can I just get a regular duvae please?

I’ve been here before – 4 times. Yet living here and really feeling the reality of life/survival, doing the basics; has been testing. In moments I’ve felt the rich poor divide like no other city I’ve lived in. As if I’m in a third world witnessing a little man at the traffic lights selling bags of chopped pineapple, or seeing Ramona (who lives on my street and must be 70 plus) pushing her trolley round the neighbourhood selling flowers. I’ve seen more young people begging with signs reading; starving and in need of a dollar, or simply, wanna get high, than ever before. It’s in your face, there’s no escaping the brutal nature of a town – where dreams run rife and you’re either the hunter or the hunted. Scams and crooks run deep. The vulnerable sit waiting on every corner for their moment to shine and be elevated. Daily, people are spun into the web of disaster or promise. A town where anything could happen, seduction licks like a sticky trap and you can be whoever you want to be. If you want to dress like a woman but you’re a man and dance the cha-cha at the traffic lights whilst waving an American flag, no problem. Or get kitted out like Lady Liberty and kung fu kick street lamps, no problem. Climb fences and pretend you’re Superman, no problem. Pierce and tattoo your face to oblivion, no problem! It’s a land of La-de-da. Of fakers and makers, takers and money shakers, believers and preachers, leeches and teachers, dreamers and hopers, ethnic mash-up and brokers, creative heads and the walking dead. It’s raw, it’s alive, bubbling and full of dives. It’s one of a kind and I’m blown away by LA like no other land ever trodden.

In two weeks I’ve had 1600 bucks accidentally withdrawn from my bank account. I’ve auditioned for a variety of projects and been cast in a play with the most sketchy theater company (that’s a whole nother blog) and bailed out once I’d fully detected the madness. Been assigned a talent scout job that sounded oh so glam, only to find out three days later from the guy that hired me, that the place is a big scam. Apparently Denise – the creative directors name is actually Vanessa and they’ve been posing under numerous company names over a period of time and are pretty much breaking the law. I’ve been for hospitality job interviews that you’d think would be a breeze and felt no love. I’ve been offered a restaurant position for $8.50 an hour with no tips and wondered how anyone could survive or pay rent on such a dismal wage. I’ve learnt to be humble, that I’m starting again, but starting in a city so competitive, so full of illegal immigrants and people willing to work for minimum wage that my experience seems to count for nothing.

Today alone I’ve heard stories of a guy working for Sam Worthington’s agent – a wee aggressive Asian lady that was fond of throwing her stapler at him, of a girl working for the Armenian mob in a medical weed clinic and her fear of being raided and not asking questions when dodgy men come through with great stuffed duffel bags, of the dating scene and psycho girls sending explicit pictures, of holistic dentistry, a new friend stealing a girls belongings when she invited them over, of a guy working for one of the biggest management companies in town and earning less than 400 a week, of people in his company fake signing celeb client fan mail and photos and sending them back to fans with condoms enclosed ‘for a laugh’. Real and shocking, I know.

It’s a strange and hopeless feeling when you compare everything you know to your current situation, and when you do, it somehow doesn’t quite match up. When it is all so foreign, the way people talk, the food, the taxes, tipping, the products in the supermarket, the bus routes, the surroundings. Don’t get me wrong – it is all exciting in its newness, but also very challenging. When you want to run, but only seem able to manage a crawl. Sitting on Facebook looking for something familiar – some connection with home – both homes of Melbourne and London. Feeling like that alien they described me as on my visa (:

I think what’s happening is called transitioning. A rebirth, a changing of cloaks. A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step (Lao Tzu) and this is the road I am on.