It’s my ten-year anniversary of moving to Los Angeles. As I write this, it’s been exactly ten years to the day that I first rolled into town with my piss-and-vinegar cat, Mars. That day was March 15, 2007.
Today is March 15, 2017. I’ll be finishing packing up boxes to load in the trailer that’s being delivered on Friday. Shortly it will be on its way to Indiana, along with me.
I didn’t plan for such a tidy ending. It wasn’t part of some grand scheme to have my departure coincide so neatly with the anniversary of my arrival. Ah, but that’s how life is, isn’t it? Sometimes it’s middle-of-the-night, operating-on-four-hours-sleep messy (like me right now, writing this in my dark kitchen at 3 a.m. surrounded by moving boxes). Sometimes it’s clean and delivers life-changing moments with a plodding regularity.
Life is like a box of chocolates, I guess.
When I got here ten years ago, I was 31 years old. I was tired. I was depressed and lonely. I was eager to fill a void inside me that I knew could never be filled in New York.
I had spent most of those five years in New York struggling – struggling to pay my bills, struggling to find success as an actor, and, most of all, struggling to find the companionship I longed for. I had recently ended the only meaningful relationship I had during my time there, after making the realization that although my boyfriend at that time really liked me, he didn’t love me. And I couldn’t continue investing in a relationship that wasn’t ever going to be enough for me. I decided I deserved more than that, even if it meant giving up the companionship that I so desperately wanted.
It was the most grown-up, and most painful, decision I had made up to that point.
My best friend/roommate had also recently moved away, leaving me feeling adrift in an indifferent city. Though I was terrifically, monumentally unhappy in New York, I didn’t want to leave. Being a New Yorker felt like a badge of honor, some kind of special designation that announced to the world that I Was Doing Something Important With My Life. My entire identity was wrapped up in being a hardened, ready-to-take-a-punch resident of the greatest city on earth.
But I had this nagging feeling that it was time to go. I’d had the idea planted in me to move to Los Angeles by my roommate/bestie who had relocated here to work as a Production Coordinator on a TV movie.
It was ludicrous, really, the idea of moving to Los Angeles. My one experience of L.A. was when I finished grad school. Our class came to the city for 10 days to present our showcase to casting directors and agents. As expected, I was a non-entity, dead on arrival. Nobody ever thought I was Los Angeles material. Not my acting teachers, not my classmates, not the industry muckety-mucks who looked right through me as they chatted with the younger, thinner, more attractive actor standing next to me. I was told, time and again, that an actor should never move to Los Angeles unless she had a reason to go, that reason being something like already having a gig as a series regular on a TV show. Or, at the very least, a decent agent.
I didn’t have any of those things.
Still, I couldn’t shake the feeling that maybe I should go anyway. I came out to visit. My roommate/bestie engineered a pull-out-all-the-stops weekend to convince me I would like it here. I saw Ray Romano on the escalator at the Sherman Oaks Galleria. I attended the screening of my bestie’s TV movie where I chatted for 20 minutes with one of the stars of my all-time favorite movie (FYI, it’s Tommy Boy, and that star was Julie Warner who played Chris Farley’s love interest. Don’t judge.). I ate French toast at Dupar’s. I went swimming outside in November. It was fucking glorious.
Still, I resisted. But my intuition kept saying to me, “Go to Los Angeles.”
Since companionship was my number one priority, even above my career, I decided to take a peek at what dating might be like in Los Angeles. I didn’t have high hopes. I believed the stereotype that the only women who get attention here are hot and blond. Nonetheless, I joined Match.com to scout prospects.
I was surprised by the number of quality guys there appeared to be. And how many of them wanted to talk to me. I started regularly chatting online with a guy named Adam. He didn’t exactly fit the description of what I thought I wanted (he was older than me and had kids), but I genuinely liked him.
I decided to give Los Angeles a try. So I packed up my shit and drove with Mars from New York to Los Angeles over the first two weeks of March, ten years ago. I was scared. But I realized I could be scared and still do the thing that scares me anyway. I guess that’s called courage, right? To take such an enormous leap of faith?
And now, here I am, ten years later. Sitting in my darkened kitchen, a purring kitty named Venus in my lap, another named Murray happily burrowing into a bag of bubble wrap somewhere nearby (I lost Mars six years ago). My husband, Adam, is snoring in the bedroom. Yes, the same Adam. We’re leaving, and I’m sad and glad and excited and nervous and irritable and nostalgic and can’t sleep.
And I’m a little bit scared. But I’ve learned how to have courage.
When I was deciding whether or not to move to Los Angeles, somebody told me what they thought the difference is between New York and L.A. New York is flashy, and will dazzle you. It’s close and tight and you have very little personal space, but it opens your eyes to what is amazing about the world. By contrast, Los Angeles is slow and sprawling and filtered through the haze of sunlight and palm trees. But it gives you the space and time you need to find out what is amazing about you. That is the city’s gift.
I am so full up with love for this beautiful, frustrating, life-changing place. Yes, the traffic is soul-crushing. Yes, there’s crime and vandalism and violence. There’s a great divide between the haves and the have-nots. There’s not enough water and it’s too hot in the summertime in the Valley and it’s way too fucking expensive to live here.
But this is where I grew up. As silly as it sounds, Los Angeles is where I found myself. I didn’t have anything that looked like traditional success here. I did a little bit of this and a little bit of that. I didn’t make much money. But I got to know myself in a way that I don’t think could have happened anywhere else.
I’m now 41 years old. I’m still tired. But I’m not depressed and I’m definitely not lonely. I found the companionship I was looking for. Not just with my husband and those silly cats. I also found the pleasure in solitude. I made friends with myself here. I learned how to love Amy Clites. She’s pretty fucking cool. I like hanging out with her. She’s curious about the world and she has a big heart. She likes to learn and try new things. She loves to garden and make things grow. She enjoys her creativity. She wants to put good in the world. She’s ready to map her own course.
Just like when I moved to Los Angeles, my intuition has been telling me that it’s now time to leave. I could stay and continue happily on, but I don’t think that’s what I’m meant to do. I feel like I’m being called to do something else, to take this experience with me to another place. And while I’m sad to say goodbye to the dear friends I have here and to the city I have grown to love, I feel light and free and ready to set off on a new adventure.
Happy anniversary, Los Angeles. And goodbye.