Wednesday, November 12, 2014

A Starving Artist on Hanging Up Her Apron

I was raised in an uber-compassionate albeit pseudo-strict household.

PS, Regarding the second half of that statement: my brother, I'm sure, feels entirely otherwise.  Being the youngest and a GIRL, I had to call home to check in with my folks whenever I was out for more than a few hours at a time, had a curfew until I was 20--that's a real thing, and I never drank more than two drops of likker until I was safely in college and away from the parent phone-chain that my mother was a proud member of, tracking any and all of the shenanigans that my wonderful and relatively do-gooder friends and I might be (see "definitely were not") getting into.

My brother, meanwhile, would stay out until whenever, no questions asked, and have sex with girls in swimming pools.  It's fine.

...I digress. (Ugh.)

My parents' rules weren't necessarily plentiful, but, boy, were they steadfast.

The rules of thumb, however, and ways of achieving world domination/"this is how you get by"s of my childhood home, these were plentiful and abounding and were as repeated and resounding in our household as "Put your dishes away!"  Three highlights being:

1)  Work.  You have to work.  You have to earn your living, and you have to understand what that means, and you have to work hard and continually in order to not just survive, but make the best of your situation.  Some people have things handed to them, the rest of us don't.  (This, of course, was never stated in these precise terms.  I think my parents' actual phraseology was always something more along the lines of "Gotta work, Ange!",  said with a smile and a "Go get 'em, Tiger!"-enthusiasm.)

2) Stick to your guns.  (Which is another way of saying "Stand up for yourself and for your beliefs, and don't ever ever back down.")

3) Know when enough is enough.  (Self-explanatory.)

The first of these rules was first instilled in me pretty much when I started growing boobs, and I became fairly obsessed with keeping it in practice until OHHHwaitIstillam.

The latter two:  these were also first instilled in me around the the same time.  I have been struggling with them ever since.

Marrying these three rules of thumb tends to be fairly tricky and difficult.  I mean, for me, anyway, a relentlessly energetic overachieving Yes-girl.  But I am coming to realize exactly how clutch it is to do precisely that.

Allow me to explain:

I started babysitting in sixth grade, like you do. Sporadically, sure, but enough for me to understand what a job kinda sorta felt like.

(Sidebar:  I would like to apologize to both the Riciotti and Dombrowski families for what I'm sure was a white knuckling-experience having me, an awkward awkward preteen, watch over your children, your boys, nonetheless.  ...AND eat all of your pizza.  Every single time.)  (Ugh.)

Within months, I had my first paper route.  It was a weekend gazette and my particular route was in a fairly ritzy part of town, which meant that I spent a lot more time unsubtly peering into the homes of rich people as opposed to, you know, doing my job.  What my parents actually did sitting in the car each weekend for the nearly four hours that it took me to drop a newspaper in front of 80 homes, I will never ever know.

And then, just shy of my 13th birthday, my mother approached me with a proposition:

"Hey, Ange!  Patty's diner needs a busser on Sunday mornings for breakfast.  Wanna try that?!"

What's a busser? I asked.

It was over.

I've been in restaurants ever since. And what I've found in the wayyyyyyyyyyy too many years that I've been in and out of the restaurant biz is...god.  A lot.  For one, it's easyWELL.  OK.  It's not "easy", so to speak, not at all.  You get yelled at and ordered around by an awful lot of people who like to play bully in their professional lives and JUST WANT A GODDAMN MEDIUM RARE BURGER WITH SOME FUCKING SWISS CHEESE ON IT, NOT THIS GRUYERE SHIT!! in their down time. GOD!

Your back and your feet turn to shit out of what feels like absolutely nowhere.  And then, you have to buy Crocs.  And then, you throw them away to maintain some semblance of dignity about yourself.

And then, you get a Costco card just to grab bath salts, heating pads, & some black market-like Excedrin in bulk.

Your work hours are the exact opposite from everyone else's, and, the kicker:  your job is To Serve which means that, essentially, you are getting paid to be someone's bitch.  (To a degree.)  Occasionally, you're the bitch to 40 different someones at once.

But.

It's "easy" in that I don't need a PhD to do it.  It's "easy" in that, depending on what business is like that day, I can phone my performance in.  It's "easy" because it's flexible, it's cash in hand, it moves quickly, and, frankly, I'm good at it (if I'm not in a corporate restaurant and I can lean on your table and get away with winking at you and turning your table as opposed to wining and dining you).

It's easy because I've been doing it for wayyyyyyyy too many years.

However, there was a point during my last 6 months in New York in which I was deeply evaluating essentially EVerything about myself?  I guess?  Like.  Which life choices I'd been making that I'd actually want to stick with post this move out west? And I started to look at my life as a Server.

And I started to hate that I had a "life as a Server".

And I started to realize that I was nearing the end.  That I'd almost had it.  That, soon enough, I was going to have to throw my hands in the air and say Fuck it, I'm done.

But, I knew that that time hadn't quite approached.  So, I made a pact with myself:

I'm giving myself a year, quoth I.  I'm giving myself a year in Los Angeles to do this and buckle down and make some money.  Then?  Then I'm done.

I don't know what will be next, but I know that I'll be done.

I made that promise with myself, and I believed in it.

And so, then, I moved to Los Angeles.

And so, then, I COULD NOT FIND A JOB.  NOT EVEN SORT OF.  And I hunted like a fucking crazy person applying to every single restaurant that I could while every single person in Los Angeles was doing the precisely same thing blah blah blee blah blahhhhhhh until THEN.  LIKE A HAPPY LITTLE BEACON IN THE SMOGGY SMOGGY NIGHTTIME SKY.  I saw this happy little light shining just for me and only me and I.  Got.  A job.  And I fucking jumped on it.

(And then, I landed two other ones, too, one getting film permits signed, and the other, catering.  And then I promptly dropped the catering gig because it would require me to drive 70 miles roundtrip on the regular and only paid $10/hour.)

(Hey, Friends:  don't ever get a job that requires you to drive more than 6 miles roundtrip if it's only going to pay you $10/hour.)  (Ever.)  (Ugh.)

Now.

Here's what I would suggest about accepting job offers:  Even if you're desperate for a job, even if you think that this particular job looks shiny and exciting and particularly so because it's a 4-minute drive away from your house, ask up front what you're likely to make each week, and ask things straight away like, Hey.  So.  This is the dead season, yeah?  When does it start to pick up around here?

Ask these things directly up front, like normal people do, and you can avoid the surprise of "I don't think I understand what you're asking me right now," coming at you 2 months in.

I mean, I just presumed that this was our dead season?  So.  I didn't know when we were going to start picking up business-wise.  Ish.

You ask these things up front, then "Oh, Honey.  It always looks like this," won't smart quite as much.  And you won't feel like quite as much of an asshole.  And you won't panic and desperately scramble to find yet another job to cover your ass and help you afford the world.  

There are few instances in which I've ever felt more foolish or generally floored in my life.

Fucking hell, I have to start this whole search all over again and I cannot afford to start this search all over again fucking. hell. puking. jesus. criminy biscuits oh my-lan-ta god. DAMmit.

And I jumped back on Craigslist, rehighlighted the "food / bev / hosp"-section, and proceeded to tear out approximately 17 clumps of my hair.

Fortunately, it (somehow) took me only 72 hours to be saved from myself.

After eventually sending out a slew of hyper-panicked "I'm gonna try to play it reeeeeeal cool, though"-texts to a large handful of folks who had various Ins to various serving opportunities here in LA, SUDDENLY.  LIKE A HAPPY LITTLE BEACON IN THE SMOGGY SMOGGY NIGHTTIME SKY.   My dear sweet friend informed about an opening at his badass, crazy busy, crazy LUcrative all-steak-all-the-time-restaurant.  They had an obscene wine selection, they had LOBters, LOTS of them, and they were located directly across the street from the Staples Center, which meant all the Lakers and Clippers and Kings games I could handle and it was Corporate?  But.  Whatever.   In other words, this new restaurant looked something like this:

$$$!  $$$! $$$$$$$$$$$$$$ $ $ $ $ $!!!!!!

And I was psyched.  I GET TO LIVVVVVVVVVVVVE, and presumably, live WELL!!!! SWEET JESUS CHRISTO!!!!

And I screamed like an ecstatic little banshee in thanks and praise for this dear sweet friend of mine, and then, I got an INTERVIEW, and THEN!   I got HIRED!!

Sort of.  Rather, I got "hired" to train.  For a month.

(... ... ...That's a reeeal lonnng time.)

"We suggest that you hang onto your current restaurant job while you're training."

(Oof.)

"I only say that just because, I don't know, you might not like it."  (Pfft, well, THAT won't happen.)  "Or, you know, we might not feel like you're a great fit.  ...THAT won't happen."

I mean, that won't.  But, sure.  THANK you!

"Thank YOU!" 

(HOORAYYYYYYYYY!!!)


And I thought, Sure.  I can vacillate between two restaurants for a month.  And, do this third job.  And, hopefully, audition, and, maybe, have a life.  ...It's only a month, yeah?  It's totally fine, it'll all be worth it.

And why?  Because $$$$$$$$$$$$$$ $ $ $ $ $!!!!!!

$!

And I began making plans as to how many credit cards I was going to pay off at once and whether to get a pair of Frye's or make a substantial run to IKEA first.  Aw god, I HAVE been wanting to go to Brazil...Are Frye's cheaper there? Huh.

First day:  GREAT!  Great fun!  Cute little lunch shift, 5 hours long, busy enough, we sold a nice bottle of wine, and then a second one (Yessssssss $! $! $!).  And then, I got yelled at.

"You need new pants.  You need a new shirt.  You need new shoes, you need to tie a better double windsor, and you need to do something about your hair."

About...?  About this bun?  (I regularly pile my hair on top of my head with an arsenal of bobby pins, just to...I mean, just to do SOMEthing about it.  Bitch has a crazy head of hair.)

"Yeah, it's too much.  Too crazy."

Oh.  (Oh.  Well, this feels shitty.)

"It's off-putting.  You have to learn to be presentable."  (Oh.  Wow.)  "And study this."  And I was handed a packet of steak info/lobster facts/liquor list/wine/beer, and sent out the door, fairly shamed.  I began my hour-long drive home, stopped to drop $100 on my new work wardrobe, and then, drove straight to my other restaurant.

This is fine, thought I.  Par for the course, I'm sure.  And it's allllll gonna be worth it.

Three weeks, two work shirt/three hairstyles/fifteen double windsor-failures later, I found myself sitting down to take four tests in the manager's office, the first two of which were redos that I had failed miserably the first time around.  When has there been any kind of time to study?, I thought.  And I was anxious.

"You have to know the steaks," the GM had said.  "You have to know what's in casino butter.  You have to know what garnishes all of the different fish and what's in each salad and, you're a really sweet girl, but you have to care.  And if you can't pass, and if you can't care, then I don't think we can continue together."

So, I sat there.  Filling out factoid after factoid about steak cuts and molting and French-service, and answering each and every question completely and thoroughly and perfectly and, simultaneously, asking myself Fuck.  Do I care?  Do I care this much?

And I walked out into the dining room in a haze, and was passed off to my trainer, a lovely Argentinian lady who smiled at me all tired-like.  "You ready, Mami?  Let's go."  

And as we paraded around the room, water pitchers and pepper mills in hand, I looked around the room at all of the other servers on the floor.   They were all of varying ages, but all in these identical, pristinely pressed jackets with their names embroidered on the front, and a different number embroidered on each person's right sleeve:  8, 9, 12, 15.  These numbers stood for the number of years that they'd been with the company.

My trainer had been with the company for 9 years.  9.  Years.

And I realized, Oh god.  This is a career.  And, suddenly, an entirely new kind of panic flared up inside of me.

I understood that I needed to live, and I understood that I needed to make substantially more money than I had been, but, I also understood that I had not moved to Los Angeles to start a career as a Server, and I didn't want to fake my way around that.  And, then, I thought back to the promise that I had made myself months ago while still in New York.

And I thought about the grander reason why we had moved out west.  It wasn't just to find a place to make a good and decent living as an actor, although, certainly, that was an enormous part of it.  Really, at the heart of it all, we packed up our lives and moved out west to live in a place where the living could be incrementally better.

I didn't want a life as a Server, not anymore, so what was the sense in starting in somewhere new?  Why not start a new thing altogether?  A thing that I could be proud of.

Oh god, I thought.   It's not just that I don't care.  I don't think that I can do this.

"Mami.  Careful with that table.  They're very nice, but they get fresh with the ladies when they've been drinking.  And.  They're in the you-know-what.  Their bookie is over in the bar."

(I can't do this.)

And I went home, stewed, and secretly started looking at other jobs (because I couldn't tell my boyfriend yet, HE'LL BE DESTROYED).  And then, continued to debate with myself whether or not I was doing a stupid thing.

Two days later, I ran home from restaurant job #1 with 20 minutes to change and depart for the train and head 40 minutes downtown to start my last week of training at restaurant #2 and I just stood there.  And something snapped.

And then, underneath the wide-eyed and confused (and horrified) gaze of my boyfriend, I quit.

"I mean, Angie, this is entirely up to you, this is your call, this is your job, but.  I mean.  You're almost done training, and this is, uh, this is a lot of money."

I know.

But, I was done. 

Money, suddenly, wasn't as important as...as, well, everything else.   I'll figure it out, we'll figure it out, I told him, We always always doLet's just get happy first, and find something fulfilling to do instead of this.

"Yeah."

And we went to the movies.

And the next day, I picked up more film permit-gigs.  AND had a particularly busy day at the restaurant (that really isn't terrible and it's only up the street and is fine as supplemental income.  And definitely isn't forever.)

And, the next day, out of nowhere, I giddily became a tutor.  And, suddenly, I felt like an adult.

I understand that to most people, this won't sound like much of anything.  "Yeah, great, way to almost not be a waitress anymore, Lady."  First of all, eff yourself, the correct term is 'Server'.   Secondly, listen:

It's about breaking away from a certain way of life.  Breaking away from a thing that you have come to know, and have since decided that you are better off without.  It's about finding a day-job that will help you grow as opposed to remaining grossly stagnant (and perpetually smelling like steak).

(As long as you need a day-job, that is.)

It's about finding something else that will bring you joy.

And it's about understanding when enough is enough, understanding that you and your own convictions are far more important than acquiring a jacket with some numbers embroidered on the sleeve.  I mean, unless that's your particular end goal, in which case, that's awesome.
  
It's about recognizing that the key to achieving world domination, or, at the very least, just getting by & with a flourish, is by working hard, and not compromising ourselves.




Thursday, September 18, 2014

A Starving Artist Revisits 'Anonymity'


I have a newfound goal of, someday, being on The Tonight Show With Jimmy Fallon.  It’s legit.  And earnestly, at the nuts of it, I think it’s really just about my crazy pseudo obsessive desire of being asked to have an epic lip-sync battle or play Box of Lies.  Which, I suppose, I could really play either of those things at anytime just, essentially, in my kitchen, of my own volition, with my friends or with my dog, but, let’s be real:  I want it televised.

The problem here is that these people, these people who play this game?  They’re all, like, SUper famous.  …. …OK, I guess there’s two problems with this:

A)   I don’t ever want to be SUper famous.  I just want to be a working actor who makes her money and her living exclusively as a working actor.  So, there’s that.

B)   The unofficial Merriam-Webster definition of ‘SUper famous’ is: 

SUper Fa·mous
/SOO-purr ˈfāməs/

adjective

EVeryone knows who you are.  EVeryone. 
“Did you hear that the paparazzi caught Miscia giving John Mayer an HJ in the middle of a Starbucks? She’s gonna be SUper famous!” 



synonyms:  real popular, kinda big time, Wikipedia-worthy, trending

(Deviating, Angela.)

What’s the problem?  Presently, I’m the most anonymous that I’ve been in a really really long time.

It’s marginally terrifying.

On Being Anonymous:

Now, OK.  I know that this is a topic that I’ve discussed before, and I think that ‘anonymity’ is a fascinating topic to visit and revisit and, frankly, attempt to wrap your brain around.  And I’m sure that I’m going to be dealing with it in various aspects throughout various portions of my life and it has, most certainly, taken on a brand new face as of late. 

Thing is that when you pack up yer shit and you move across the entire country to a town where absolutely no one knows your name (professionally speaking), it’s a foreign and ugly feeling.  It is.

Now.

This is not to imply that EVERYONE knew me in New York, obviously, OBviously this was not the case.  Au contraire.  But, a few people did, and they knew me well, well enough to call me into their office with pseudo-frequency and know “Oh.  Yeah, Angela can get the job done for us.”

They knew my name, for god’s sake.  And they knew what I could do.

I have made some introductions in LA and that much, admittedly, feels good.  But, no one actually knows me here. Yet. 

So.  What’s a girl to do?  What do you do when you’re anonymous?

Par exemple, how do you get out there and audition more often (see “all the time”) and straight away? 

(Which, naturally, as I’m saying this, I’m recognizing that that’s an entirely unrealistic expectation.  But.  Also, I like to defy expectation?  So.  There’s that?) 

(… … … Deviating.)

But, you can meet a person, a casting director, an agent, a writer, a peer, and you can say to them “Yes!  I’m your quirky best friend next door.  A younger Judy Greer-type.  Not quite your Manic Pixie Dream Girl, more like your Manic Pixie ‘That Could Potentially Be Fun’ Girl.”  You can say these things.  But.  You still have to prove it.  And, now, you have to prove it to absolutely everyone.  You actually actually do.

Because you're new.  You're anonymous.  No one knows you yet.

And THEN.  Someone (your agent) says that you need new headshots.

First of all, this is a terrifying realization to me.  Terrifying.  Headshots are TERRifying to me, again, as I’ve mentioned before.  And here I am, having spent a stupid amount of money on some pretty swell ones 2 years ago, (see “In actual fact, it’s been awhile”) now I’ve got to turn around to do it all over again and NOT JUST THAT.  But, I’ve got to turn around and do it all over again in a city where ABSOLUTELY NO ONE KNOWS WHO I AM TO BEGIN WITH AND I’VE GOT TO START TELLING THIS STORY ALL OVER AGAIN FROM SCRATCH.

So then, you resume the following debate with yourself:  How am I going to sell myself?  Whose photography is going to capture that the most for me?  Whose photography is good, and whose is trying too hard?  And how much money is too much money, and PS how am I paying for this?!, and should I risk having a really awesome friend shoot these as opposed to a known photog, how much does name and renown matter in THIS regard?  Have I been eating ok, is my face going to be tremendously bloated, do I have to go shopping, CAN I even go shopping right now? Are this guy and I going to jive?

Is this going to be a waste of my time and money?

(Also…wait.  Remind me how I’m paying for this?)

And you begin to hope that it, this picture, is going to be the answer to your everything, and fear that your lack thereof has been the road block.

Your brain races as you begin to wonder whether or not this is why you haven’t been sent out on an audition yet, whether or not you and your picture have been standing in your own way.

You begin to wonder whether or not it’s too late.  And you panic.

For 30 seconds.

And then you realize “too late” simply isn’t an option for you and you get over it, kinda, and it’s fine.  But, such is the stress of being an anonymous bitch in a beeg new city:  Every everything begins to sound ever-so-slightly insurmountable because you don’t own anything.  As of yet. 

And you continually try to remember that “as of yet”-part whilst mowing on your peanut butter & jelly, researching alternate day jobs, and Actors Accessing your face off.

On Shaking Hands Anonymously:

I ponied up to a workshop place the other day for my first time since moving to LA, which felt both glorious and utterly utterly shameful.  (WHY ARE YOU ONLY DOING THIS AND SETTING OUT TO MEET THESE PEOPLE NOW WHEN YOU’VE ALREADY BEEN HERE FOR A MONTHoh riiiiiight you’re broke.) 

(Also, too?  I have begun to accept that this is going to be the story of my life for the foreseeable future.  I’m coming to embrace it, really.  I meeeean, even P. Diddy in all his prolific wisdom warned us “Mo’ Money Mo’ Problems”, so, you know,  am I right or AM I RIGHT?!?! …Guys…?)

(... ... ... ...Deviating.)

But, I met a casting associate the other day, the SWEETEST lady ever, and she works on a particularly booming sitcom.  I would give my left arm just to breathe on that set.

I signed up for this particular paid meet-and-greet with her knowing that she calls people in, just to do it, to read, and to be a reader.  She’s hooked multiple friends of mine up. (Barf.)

I could not resist.

And, thing was?  I killed it in that room.  I killed it.  So hard.  And knew it, and was told as much.

(Barf!)

“I have seriously seen that scene hundreds of times, and I’ve never seen That.  You actually made it funny.  You actually found the beats that no one else ever seems to get, and yet, you did your own thing with it. “

(BARF!)  And my BRAIIIIIN explodeddddd.

“Have you been into our office before?”

No.  No, actually, I just moved here a month ago.

“Ooh!  From where?”

From Brooklyn. (Said with alllllll the braggadocio and shoulder-dusting)

(Sidebar:  To the BK’s credit, that announcement will potentially always be, for whatever reason, made with some semblance of braggadocio.)

“OH!  Oh, well, wel-commmme.”

And so, we shoot the shit, and it’s fun and lovely blah blah blah blah blahhhhh.  

And then, she notices my agent at the bottom of my resume.

“Ooh!  And these guys are GREAT!  Be sure to have them submit you to me.”

(Fuck.)

Oh.  Actually, uh, I’m just with them commercially.  I don’t, uh…I don’t have theatrical representation quite yet.  (I am new.  I am anonymous.  No one knows me.  …Yet?)

Silence.  Utter utter silence.

“Oh.”

BUT!  Um, I will absolutely see what I can do about…them…submitting me to you, I will certainly try my best to, uh, make that happen.  Soon.  (Honestly, I’m almost impressed with how completely awkward I’ve become in the last year and a half.  It’s staggering, really.)

“Yeah, uh.  Do that.  And, you have my email, so, try to submit whenever you think you’re right for something.  You get the Breakdowns and whatever, yeah?”

YEAH yeah yeah yeah yeah for sure, ABsolutely!!  (Stop.)

“Great.  Nice meeting you. “

YOU, TOO!!!

“Yeah, and REALLY, though, great great work.”

So.  There’s that.

When you’re anonymous.  When you’re new, and anonymous, and attempting to build relationships…I mean, how do you do that when you don’t completely have your shit together yet?  Because you’re new.  And anonymous.

I guess it’s about shaking hands.  I guess it’s about doing that a lot.

I guess it’s about being patient with yourself.

I guess it’s about taking time to allow everything to get aligned and really really really being actually honestly ok with starting over.  Completely.  With clean slating it.  With knowing what story you’re trying to tell, believing that it’s going to be a damn good one, and recognizing that no good story has an early climax.

They build gradually.

I guess it’s about being receptive to surprising turns, and remaining open to where the turns take you.

I guess it’s about staying resilient.

I guess it’s about understanding that every anonymous person only remains as such as long as they refuse to do something about their station.  I guess it’s realizing that ‘anonymity’ is as often a circumstance as it is a choice.

I’m choosing to not be ok with remaining sedentary.

And I’m choosing to buy cheap wine and have you over to watch me perfect my lip-synced rendition of St. Elmo’s Fire, in the interim.

I guess, we’ll see.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

A Starving Artist Goes Onward

My original plan was to write a post about exiting the Apple, immediately before exiting the Apple.

My secondary plan was to write a post about exiting the Apple immediately following exiting the Apple.

There was a tertiary plan in which I would discuss exiting the Apple on our way across the country, the Apple growing smaller and smaller until it just disappeared behind vast midwestern nothingness and mountain ranges and desert-like swells but let's be real:  There just wasn't enough time.  Why?

Because the process of exiting the Apple is overwhelming.

It is an overwhelming process that eats up every single ounce of your time and then some, like, all of the time that you had on reserve, and it depletes you of all of your energy, hurling all of these stresses on top of you out of nowhere and in such a high volume that it feels fictional.

The only thing more overwhelming?

Settling into an entirely new city all the way across the country.

I'm nearly four weeks out and three weeks in.  Let's discuss it.  Let's discuss the whole damn thing.  Yeah?

First of all, there are things that you should just kinda know when you're attempting to move out of New York.  Things that no one would ever think to tell you but are, nonetheless, universal truths that would behoove you to have some pre-warning about.


And you have to be patient.  Fact.  Because whatever that thing is that you need?  It'll pop up when you need it most.  (It's the dumbest.  ALL of these points are the dumbest, I know they're the dumbest, and the dumbest part is that they're all remarkably true.)  We signed our lease the night before we left New York.  I've been offered seven jobs in the past three days, and the calls aren't stopping.

And we'll get bookcases eventually.  And I'll get cuter sandals.

And I am (somehow) getting bills paid.

And I made us ridiculous breakfast sandwiches on store-bought garlic bread the other day, so living tight can't be all bad.

And regardless, regardless of the hurdles, there are things that are just working:

There's the beach.

There's hiking, in what's essentially our backyard.

There's friends that we've been able to run out and see at a moment's notice because it only takes ten minutes to get to them as opposed to an hour.  Or more.

There's avocados.

There's suntans(burns).

There's the fact that I haven't seen my boyfriend this happy in years.

There's the fact that I'm signing with an agent tomorrow.

There's Adventure.

There's the fact that we drove 3150 miles to get here.  From the Apple to my hometown, across the midwest to Kansas City, past a million and seven windfarms and over the Rockies, across prehistoric looking landscapes and the wide wide desert and into Vegas.  We moved our life across the country.  And we're here.  And we earned it.

And somehow, despite the rocky journey behind us and the potentially rocky Unknown before us, we know that we're precisely where we need to be.  That's the one thing that is Known.  And for now, that's plenty.

And, for the record, New York?  I can't thank you enough.





Onward.  

Thursday, May 29, 2014

A Starving Artist Takes New York

While the rest of my friends barbecued and beached and boozehounded their way through the long weekend, I found myself working back-to-back doubles at my place of employment.  Like you do.  (Rather, "Like I do", who are we kidding, that horseshit wasn't on your agenda.)  And it was at some point on Friday night betwixt crumbing that one guy's table and pouring that other guy's Don Julio Margarita Up With A Twist No Lime No Triple Sec Add Agave (...wow...) that I realized Jesus christ.  Jesus fucking christ, I'm leaving New York exactly two months from today.

And it gave me Pause.

And some momentary panic.

And I took a deep breath, licked the remaining margarita off of my fingers (What?)(I wasn't in plain-sight), crossed those same fingers in the hopes that I'd make $1700 before the night was out, shrugged and moved onward.

Later, while on the train ride home, I resumed my place with Pause.

Two months,  thought I.  That's an overwhelmingly short amount of time.  The two month-mark preceding any occasion makes everything feel inevitable and, therefore, ever-so-slightly terrifying, and absolutely just around the corner.

I think about all of my friends who have been seven months pregnant:  they're unspeakably beautiful and glowing, to me, to the rest of the world, but to them, they feel absolutely enormous and over it in a very "Are you serious?  There's more?  How am I supposed to wait out another two months of this?"-fashion. 

I think about my brain two months before graduation, and it was all like "How do you expect me to sit through another lecture on this thing that I don't care about and will never use for the rest of my life when I have finals to think about and tequila to think about and then I'm leaving this nest and I have no idea what I'm doing I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT I'M DOING YET."

I think about where my friends have been at two months before their wedding day.  And the conversations have always gone something like this:
Hi, Honey!  How are you?
"... ... ...Good."
...Yeahhh?
"Um.  Yes."
What's going on?
"Um.  You know.  Work.  Wedding things."
Yeahhhh?!  How's it...
"...It's A LOT.  You know.  It's a lot.  I just want it to be here and happening and done, but meanwhile, I have seating charts to think about, and a florist to pay, and I'm dieting, and I don't really want to be dieting anymore?, and my in-laws have been so great but my mom is acting nuts and everyone is yelling at me about everything all the time but this is our wedding...Ugh, I just want it to be here already, but there's all this...stuff, first."

Which is precisely my sentiment about moving across the country.

And so I'm sitting on this train at 12:30 on Friday night and my brain starts running with all of the professional things that I "neeeed" to accomplish within the next two months:
--PULL THAT REEL TOGETHER!
--BOTH OF THEM!
--...Do I have enough crap for a legit reel?
--My wardrobe looks like crap.
--Holy crap.  Should I print off a different headshot?
--Speaking of crap, I should probably try another cleanse before I go out there.  What if I'm not skinny enough?  But then, what if I need to poop in the middle of one of these networking-things?
--Aw.  Crap.  I need to tell my manager that I'm moving. ... ... ... ...

And then, I stopped myself.

Because the thing is, my brain could have easily kept running with all of the professional caca that I need to/should/might want to think about accomplishing before this move.  Easily.  And, frankly, (obviously,) this has been so much of the bulk of my year.

But.  Fuck it.

I live in New York.  I live in New York for another two months.  And there is so much that I simply have not done.

I remember when I first moved here and how astonished I was to discover that so many of my New York-native friends had not done so many "quintessential New York"-things.  Like, how dare they!

How have you lived here your whole life and never walked across the Brooklyn Bridge?

How have you lived here your whole life and never been to Brooklyn?

How have you never gone in the Empire State Building?

How have you never gone skating at Rock Center?

How have you never....The list went on and on and on. 

I have now lived here for over five years.  I can now succinctly answer that question:
Because it's here.  Because it has always been here, and it will always be here, so I can see it whenever I want.

And so, you take it for granted, all this great awesome stuff. And I have.

But now, I have two months of This left.  Two months with all of this awesome in my backyard.  So, yeah, I have to buckle down and make a fuckton of money and, yeah, I have this career that I'm moving across the country for to think about and further hone and, yeah, I should probably be a bit of a cheapskate over the next 8 weeks to save up for this big crazy journey to the other coast.   But, by gum, there is just so much to see!  And I want to see it as a local instead of as a tourist.  I want it all while it still belongs to me.

I need:
--MOMA
--The Whitney
--The Guggenheim
--Ellis Island
--a Yankees game (and I dont even like 'em!...Sorry, New York.  But I still wanna go!)
--Spumoni Gardens
--Grimaldi's
--PDT
--the Cloisters
--the Bronx Zoo
--the Brooklyn Botnical Gardens (two blocks from my house.  ...Two blocks.)
--Jones Beach
--the Rockaways
--the opera
--the ballet
--BAM
--movie nights in Bryant Park
--movie nights on the pier

And that's all just as a first timer.

I want refreshers of:
--The Met
--The Museum of Natural History
--Coney Island (down the street)
--the Brooklyn Flea (up the street)
--Katz's
--Celebrate Brooklyn
--a little Broadway
--a little Off-Off-Broadway
--stupid luxurious strolls in Central Park
--stupid luxurious strolls on the HighLine
--stupid luxurious strolls down the Brooklyn Bridge, which is arguably my favorite thing to do in the entire universe.
--Carroll Gardens
--Park Slope
--South Slope
--Windsor Terrace
--Red Hook
--LIC
--Astoria
--Hoboken
--Ditmas Park
--DUMBO
--Battery Park
--Woodside
--every single neighborhood that I've ever even sort of loved
--I want to do a food and pub crawl around my old stomping grounds.
--I want to go to the West Village to get a pedicure and a cosmo.  At the same time.
--I want to take a snobby walk around the snobby Upper East Side to spy in on the snobbiest brownstones and the unattainable snobdom sliming around inside of them.  And scoff.
--I want to canoli my way through Little Italy.  Both of them.
--I want to run through the fountain in the middle of Washington Square Park and scream at the top of my lungs.
--I want to stand at the top of the Empire State Building on the 4th of July and watch the city stand in awe while the sky erupts around me.
--I want to perch myself in front of the Flatiron Building, in the center of the Meatpacking District, on a bench in Chinatown, at a bistro in Cobble Hill, a beer garden in Queens, a coffeeshop in Williamsburg, on the edge of Brooklyn Bridge Park and just people-watch.

I want it all.  "I want it fast and right through me," like Dave Eggers says, but I want a fragment of it, of each moment to lodge itself in my chest, to just sit there and stay warm forever and always.  I don't want to just remember that I was here.  I want to take it all with me.

Because I've earned it.

Because I've both hated New York to a degree that I can't articulate, and loved her beyond all possible measure.   Because I've run myself ragged inside of her walls, and found a way to slow down to a stop.  Because I've grown up inside of her, and now, out of her. 

And it's a lot.

It's a lot to take in.  And, as much as I'm growing more anxious by the minute for this next step, and as much as I find myself going Jesus christ, can we JUST get this over with?! all too often, I need to remember to remember This. 

I've had over five years to make myself a part of New York.

I may be moving to Los Angeles, and absolutely know that that's right.   But. I'll be damned if I don't walk down those streets without having made a point to make New York a part of who I am. 

Sunday, April 20, 2014

A Starving Artist on Your 56th Birthday

I think that it's an important thing to go forth in your everyday life knowing not just why you do what you do, but who you're doing it for.  And.  I'm speaking both personally and professionally,  of course, but, I do.  I think that it's a hugely important thing to take note of.

Like, every Sunday, right?  You walk out your door at 10am, or 1pm, and before the end of the afternoon, you will have found a pick-up game of basketball somewhere and played yourself into the ground.  Why is this a thing?  Or, you've known since you were a Sophomore in high school that you wanted to be a lawyer, and here you are, and you're killin it, and of course you are.  But why was this so important to you to begin with?  You had to kick off your 30th Birthday with a Maker's Manhattan, neat.  You had to read "If You Give a Mouse a Cookie" to your first graders, first and foremost.  You had to roast a chicken as your first home-cooked meal in your new place.  You had to do these things, and without question.  Awesome.

What's your rationale for all of this?

I just feel like we go about our everyday lives inspired by a variety of different people all at once, and man, I don't know, just take a second to swallow that concept, if you will.  The idea that you get to carry around this network of inspiration with you all day every single day?  I don't care if you think that sounds cheesy, that's an awesome awesome thing, honestly, that's a friggin gift-and-a-half.  But, then, if you reeeeally think about it?  I believe that there is very nearly always one central person outside of yourself that you do these various things that you do for.  A person whose influence stands so tall that it dwarfs your self-importance. A person to whom the voice in the back of your brain goes "Aw.  Man, You would just love this." 

For that person?  I have my Mom.  In all things.

Some words about her:

My Mom never made any sort of money, but she was always the busiest person for miles, the most generous person for miles and, hands down, the happiest.

She took pictures of everything.  No kidding, she single-handedly kept Kodak FunSavers relevant.  I didn't understand it when I was younger, but I understand now that she just didn't want to miss anything.  She didn't want to forget.

She could not cook or bake to save herself, but she loved doing it.  So hard.

She was thrifty.  To a fault.

She loved white zinfandel.  Boxed.  And she pretended like she "wasn't a big drinker.  Do you know I've only ever been drunk twice?"  ... ... ...

She was a terrible liar.

She had an intense shoe obsession (and the fattest feet in the universe...Sorry, Mom).

She came to every single game/team meeting/rehearsal/show/field trip of mine.  She'd bring snacks, and she'd offer rides home, and she'd make us feel like we'd just done god's work.  Every time.

She never questioned anything that I wanted to do.  Ever.  Rather, she supported me without question, relentlessly, and bent over backwards to do so.

She talked about dreams.  She talked about practicality.  She talked about the importance of maintaining both of those things, evenly.

She talked about the importance of resilience.

She talked about the importance of "sticking to your guns".

She talked about how I needed to tell her when I was considering having sex for the first time so we could, "...You know.  Just talk about it.  I won't try to talk you out of it.  We'll just.  Talk."

She consistently aspired for "Better".  I don't know if she ever felt like she got there, but I do know that she never backed down from the fight.

She loved like it was her job.  I believe that to her, it was.

Today, my Mom would have turned 56 years old.

I can't remember what her voice sounds like anymore, but every day, I attempt to walk about my Everdayness in an effort to make her proud.  In the hopes that I could potentially hear a "Good girl!"  or "What a fun thing!" from somewhere out in the ether as opposed to "Well.  I don't...I mean, I'm not sure if that was the best idea?"

I carry her around with me because she was the kind of person that you just always wanted to keep around.

I aspire to do that, to keep her around, as long as I am able.

I aspire to reach her level of Badassery.  Be half the Warrior that she was.  Half the Woman.

I aspire.

And strangely?  That's very nearly fulfilling.




Happy Birthday, Mom.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

A Starving Artist on Strokes of Luck

There is an unspoken rule-slash-motto when it comes to auditions:
"Aim to get the Callback."

You get the Callback, you've essentially won.  You've already done your part, you've given the casting director what they wanted, and everything past that is beyond your control. 

It's a real good rule-slash-motto to live by. Wanna know why? :
ALL THE REASONS WHY.  ALL THE THINGS.

For one of the things, it just keeps you sane.  You end up focusing on your one small task to worry about (just doing whatever's at hand in the initial audition room) versus 72 different things all at once (the initial whatever at hand, What if I change shit up if I get my Callback?, HolyFuck-what-if-I-don't-get-a-Callback?!, Is it bad that I didn't go to Carnegie Mellon?,  Is it bad that I haven't worked-out yet today?, Am I wearing the right thing today and should I wear something different tomorrow and could I look better?, How will I spend my money if I book this thing?,  Should I be reckless and blow it on that sexy pair of Fryes that I've been wanting for forever or should I be responsible WHY AM I SO IRRESPONSIBLE?!).  Stuff like that.

For another of the things, it keeps you from taking all of this audition-stuff too personally.  You can do your thing in the room and you can KILL it, but ultimately, once that Callback happens, if they decide that they don't want a girl with (large)(LARGE) curly blonde hair or (large)(LARGE) blue eyes, ain't nothin you can do about it.

You get the Callback, you don't book it, it's not your fault, and it's not the end of the world.  Period.

Unless.

Unless you're moving to Los Angeles.

Unless you're moving to Los Angeles and have been, for the past 3 months, On Hold/Availability Checked/First Refusaled/Thrice Read/CAST only to have the project axed for (one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight...yeah) at least eight different projects.  No kidding.  NO. KIDDING.

Because once THOSE words are thrown in front of you, see, you start to actually plan on the gig.  For real.  You begin to believe that you've booked it, and you have every reason to believe as much.  You begin to imagine where on your reel you're going to place that footage and what an awesome credit that will be on your resume and how much easier this money will make your life and your move and your acquiring a car--which is a thing that you have not had to think about in (one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight...thirteen) at least thirteen years, and once this opportunity has been snatched from you at least eight times in three months (... ... ...), you're not just bruised anymore, you're starting to feel ever so slightly insane.  You start to lose it.

And I started to lose it about an hour ago.

I had gotten a First Refusal for a gig last night and instantaneously forwarded the email to my boyfriend with a "YESSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS!!!" headliner as THIS EMAIL WAS INSTANTANEOUSLY SOLVING ALL OF MY EVERYTHING BECAUSE THIS BITCH, THIS FUCKING GIG WAS MIIIIINE.  And I had an evening of goodness and relief and breathing deeply and going "What?  Moving is panic-inducing?  But I'm about to have all of this money come in.  Why have I been so on-edge about this whole thing again?  That's weird."

Until it wasn't weird anymore. Until this afternoon, when I got an email:
"They revised the Callback list and you didn't make it...sooorry, next time."

(God.  Fucking.  Dammit.)

And I began to hyperventilate.

And I began to pace like a maniac.

And I called my boyfriend.

"How's the dog today?"
I DIDN'T BOOK THE GIG.
"...What?"
I DIDN'T BOOK IT.
"But. You got First Whatevered."
REFUSALED.
"Isn't it yours?"
IT WAS IT'S NOT.
"Honey."
WHY IS THIS HAPPENING WHY AM I GETTING TEASED SO HARD WHY DO ALL OF THESE THINGS KEEP GETTING DANGLED RIGHT IN FRONT OF ME?!?! I CAN'T.
"Honey.  Honey, are you crying?  Don't cry."
...Almost.  Al-most crying.  (I was crying.)
"You're crying.  Don't cry.  Call your manager."
What?
"Ask him what happened."
...Now?
"Yup."
...'kay.  I hate this.
"I know."
Do you?! (I'm a girl.)
"Angela."
...'kay.

And so I did.  Which, truthfully, still feels weird even four-plus years into our relationship.  I should probably get over that.

Hiiiiii.
"I am so.  Sorry."
Yeah, no, I know.  ...I just want to know if I'm doing something wrong.  Am I doing anything wrong?
"What?"
It's just that this exact thing has happened so many times since January...
"...I know..."
...Right.  And I just, I didn't know if there was something else that I should be doing in the room.  If you were getting any kind of feedback about any of this?  Or something?  I don't know.

And then, he said one of the worst Absolute Truthy-phrases, the answer to 98% of Starving Artists' professional problems.

"It's just Luck.  It's just Luck, Angela."

Ugh.

That?  It's a fucking gut-punch.  And "Luck" is the worst because it sounds like a cop-out, and when you're feeling remotely desperate, remotely scrapped for cash and remotely scrapped for more things to throw on your resume, it will always sound like a cop-out.  But.  It is the undeniable truth.  And the gut-punchiness of it all is the fact that there just ain't nothin that you can do about it.  Not about Luck.  Not nothin.  Not shit.

"Ever think about taking some pictures of you with glasses?  Just for variety?"
... ...Maybe...? (Uhhh...)

I mean.  Maybe.

But maybe the one thing you can do is hope that the next room will be looking for a youngish-looking 31 year-old with (LARGE) curly blonde hair and (LARGE) blue eyes.

Maybe you can just continue picking up a million and seven shifts at your day-job to get that cash, and just not plan on booking anything.

Maybe you can continue doing research on car dealerships in the greater Los Angeles-area running deals for "$0 down, 0% APR"...and hope that it's still standing in three months.  ... ...It's fine.

Or.  Maybe you can find a way to just say Fuck It.  Do what you can in the everyday, and then, do what you can in the audition room.  Because you know that there will be another.  And you're savvy enough to know how to fucking bring it at this point.  (Right?)

Luck will have to take care of the rest.

And she can't always be a tease.


Sunday, March 23, 2014

A Starving Artist Vacates


I’m extraordinarily specific about how I like to fly:

-Take JetBlue, if at all possible.   Which, strangely, has kinda become the domestic flight-equivalent of bougie flying (without taking first class and, you know, actually being bougie).  Take it.

-Get a window seat, if at all possible, but a window seat situated just behind the wing of the plane.   It helps you to focus on the horizon even better.

-My departing flight will always be, if at all possible, at the crack of dawn.  This way, yeah, you’re up like an asshole at an entirely stupid hour of the day, but then, you will still have the entire day ahead of you by the time you reach your destination.  Common sensie stuff, really.

I’ve had years of perfecting my personal method of flight, it is simply how I prefer things. 

And so, Tuesday morning at 6:45, I’m lifting off from the runway.  I am tired, I am freezing, and I am giddy, and my face is pressed up against this window that’s gotten all steamy from the wing exhaust.  Queens is disappearing beneath me under a blanket of early morning winter shadows, all dark grays and blacks and blueish shades of black, all cold.  Sterile. 

When I look up, the sun is rising into the tip of the wing.  This big yolk of a thing, that’s a million different colors at once, casting out a million different colors at its side.  All bright, all invigorating, all spread before me as far I could see. 

I am a permagrinning, goosepimpled, elated-beyond-all-possible-comprehension sonofabitch.

It is easy and simultaneously cheesy and wonderful to look at a horizon like this and think “So, I guess that’s what possibility is. “  And we flew further into it as I fell asleep.

I opened my eyes over a series of desert canyons.

I woke up when I saw the first palm tree.  And I practically ran off of the plane and into Los Angeles.

I’d tell you that I came here for the week to take a vacation, and that would only partially be true.  If you want the whole of it, I came here to hug a series of friends, soak in a stupid amount of Vitamin D, and attempt to get comfy with the neighborhoods.

What’s the sense of apartment hunting unless you know where you want to live?

The Dirty Truth is that I have just less than four months left in New York, and less than four months before we’re starting a new life here.  That’s what I’ve been sitting on for the past 7 months.  

I suppose it deserves a little backstory:

This past summer, I went on vacation with my boyfriend’s family to Souuuth Texas right on the Gulf of Mexico.  I was psyched for a countless number of reasons, not the least of which was the fact that it was my first vacation (of length and without any kind of agenda) in 8. Years.  That’s not an exaggeration:  8 years, actually, eversoslightly longer than.  So, I felt like I was potentially overdue.  …In truth, I was pretty sure that I’d just forgotten how to do it, and these sweet Texans were set to get me drunk on Shiner and give me a week-long reminder.  It worked.  All of it.

I had not realized how much I had needed one.  I had not realized just how stressed and wound-up and tense and out-of-my-brain run-down I’d been until I was sitting on the beach with my boyfriend in absolute silence and realized that I just wasn’t anymore. 

How long did this transition out of Crazy take?  24 hours.  Let that sink in for a moment, if you will.

So, there we are, sitting on the beach in absolute silence, sun-baked, blissed-out, actually feeling our muscles snap and release and like slime their way down into the sand, and chugging Coke Zeros at a trashily impressive rate.  We just sat.

I could get used to this, says I.

“Right?” says He.

Riiight?  Seriously, what would happen if we could have this every day?, says I, staring out at the water, probably looking for jellyfish.  I can’t imagine.

“Well.  We actually could have this every day.” 

My boyfriend has been dangling the idea of us moving here pretty much since we started dating 7 years ago.  (… … …7 years.)  His “Man, it’d be cool to move to LA someday,” became, “Yeah, camera-stuff is pretty cool. What if we moved to LA someday?” became, “You’re reeeal good at this camera-stuff, it’s where you belong, when do you think we should move to LA?”  It has essentially always been talked about as if it were a Queen-sized mattress, you get older and it inches its way from a far-fetched wouldntitbenice and onto your potential-priority list.

And, for the past 7 years my response has remained the same:  Yeah, yeahhhh, I’m sure that you’re right.  But, I really don’t feel like I should be going to LA unless I have a gig that pulls me there.  Unless an agent or someone tells me to go.

Point is, I knew what the guy was getting at as we sat on this beach being the happiest of slugs, and I had my response on the ready.   I was on auto-pilot for it.

(Blah blah blah blah blahhhhh) Unless someone tells me to go.

And for the first time, he smirked at me in reply.  He smirked like something was up.  I was alarmed.

“Angela?”

 WHAT?

“How old are you?”

(… … …) 30. …?

“How long before you’re of age for your type do you think?”

I didn’t even have to think about it.  Some stuff is starting now, everything else should start in the next 2-3 years.  I’ll probably look age-appropriate in the next 5.

“Great.”

What?

“You know all of that?”

Yeah…?

(drum rollll)  “So why are you waiting for someone to give you permission to go?” 

(And then all of the cymbals crashed and the gong in my brain went crazy.)

I had no.  Response.  None.  Because I knew that he was right. 

Vacation-brain offers you a unique kind of clarity, right?  And, here we were, sitting all sandy-assed and BS-free and, for once, able to actually very clearly assess what were doing with ourselves.  I suddenly saw that this hadn’t come down to a question of “Should we quit New York?”, rather “Do we deserve something better?”  I knew that I was just sitting on a great opportunity when I should be running with it. 

The possibility of Los Angeles instantaneously became very real and very likely.

But.  I made us sit on it a bit longer, waiting to actually make any real decisions until we got back to the city.  Real life might change things, says I.

Wanna know how real life changed things?  It amplified the need for us to go.

Conversation A:
Man, the quality of life out there is so much nicer.

“Yeah.  Like, I could deal with The Grind so much better if I were dealing with it in my car and could just escape to a beach or a canyon if I felt like it.”

Instead of just staring at a ton of concrete buildings?

“Instead of just staring at a ton of concrete buildings.”

Conversation B:
This agent just freaked-out over me and said that I have “30-minute sitcom written all over my face”.

“Awesome!”

Yeah!  But, none of those shoot here.

“…None of those shoot here.”

Conversation C:
“Wouldn’t a yard be nice?”

Conversation D:
I have spent my whole fucking life with fucking Winter, I am so.  OVER it.

Conversation E:
“How far south are your brother and sister-in-law from LA?”

Two hours.

“Can we hang-out?”

 A LOT?! YUP.

Conversation F:
So-and-so seems sooooo happy.

“I knowww.”

Before I knew it, I was on Craigslist searching for apartments and avocado trees.  A year in advance.  (Overkill, I get it, but I was excited.) I established a firm and amazing To Do-list for myself of things that I needed to accomplish professionally before the move (which all kinda came to a head in February, as you know, and depleted me completely…it’s fine).  But the more time that passed and the more that we attempted to plan things and not quite tell EVeryone about the fact that we were peacing out, the more anxious we became to just PEACE-THE-FUCK-OUT.

But, we couldn’t.  We needed to be methodical, ready, and strategize a bit.

And all of this leads me to here, to this week.

I stepped off of the plane and into my insanely expensive rental car that I didn’t even think twice about price-wise because I was IN it, and needed it, and was gaining points for it (thanks, JetBluuuue!), and was perched in the driver’s seat with my North Face off and windows down and sun in my face in the middle of March.

I spent the next hour driving up and down a million hills.

I spent the next week getting lost in a million different places.

I ran a mountain and had a stare-down with a coyote, ate more pastries than I have in years, drank more wine than I have in…weeks… , did morning yoga in a canyon, hugged a million friends,  went to a book club, saw my family, saw the best Transformers-musical ever, asked a million benign and boring questions and was jazzed about all of them.

I took a week to vacation.  And realized that life here actually looks a lot like New York.  Just sunnier.  With more breathing room.  More palm trees.  More Happy. 

I feel like I’ve earned these things.

And now, I finally have the permission to make it mine.