I remember the first day I landed in LA very clearly, it was mid July and LA summer was in full swing. I had nervously survived the ordeal of going through customs for the first time and having my green card be officially approved. After zero hours of sleep on the plane, having left behind my family, my lovely life in Sydney and my then boyfriend, I was jet-lagged and emotional to say the least.
I waited outside LAX, nervously attempting to balance my mounds of luggage. I was immediately swindled by a cab driver who after hearing my ever strong Australian accent (you can take the girl outta Canberra) rightly suspected I had absolutely no idea how to get from LAX to Hollywood and was promptly charged far, far more than I should have actually paid. (Don’t worry, now you can just uber).
I arrived at my new apartment, in an area and a building that I had never been before, which to live up to every cliché of ‘young woman moves to LA to become successful actress’ was located in an very sketchy part of Hollywood, of course at this time, unbeknownst to me. The lift up to my apartment was broken, homeless people lined the sidewalk and after an entire hour of me awkwardly attempting to ask people in the building where the steps were located to no avail, I finally found the stairs inside the buildings car park and dragged my two suitcases up flights of stairs to get to my new apartment. Once inside, I showered and decided to go and buy some groceries. As I walked down the streets, trying to find the grocery store, three different cars with three different creepy men stopped and asked me if ‘I needed a ride.’ Terrified and really questioning my choice of floral short shorts, I decided to go home hungry. I stayed in my apartment essentially clinging to the wifi connection and cried while I skyped my mum.
Day 1 of Miranda Lives in Los Angeles in Review:
LA 1, Miranda 0
(This tally would continue to rise, largely in LA’s favor).
The next day my one friend picked me up in his beat up car and we drove around LA with no idea where we were. He took me to buy groceries and everything felt new and shiny and utterly terrifying. I have only been in LA for 3.5 years but I miss that brand new feeling all the time. The utter unknown of moving to a new city with no idea of what lies ahead. I was prepared for the worst and that was probably smart because things did not go as planned about 99.9% of the time. But I wouldn’t take any of it back and when I reflect on my time in LA, it makes me realise how far I have come and the efforts I have made to make LA feel like home. Aside from knowing the places to buy a decent coffee and the stores that stock tim tams and vegemite, this is my little guide to making LA feel like your home. I hope it reminds you that home is what you make it, the importance of just being yourself and that being able to boldly pursue your dreams is the greatest of privileges.
‘Los Angeles seems endlessly held between the extremes of light and dark, of surface and depth. Of the promise, in brief, of a meaning always hovering on the edge of significance.’
– Graham Clarke
COMMIT AND EMBRACE THE CULTURE
Most actors that move to LA do so filled with excitement, after years of trips back and forth, finally getting your visa approved, you arrive and you have made it. My experience was slightly different, I had visited LA a few times before making the big move but I had never liked it much and at that time, I would have much preferred to have just stayed in Sydney rather than make the move. However, I had long feared that if I did not do it, I would always live with regret, having not fully pursued my dream to its fullest and that scared me enough to pack up and leave Sydney. However, it also meant I didn’t arrive in LA filled with excitement and desire to be there. Perhaps it was because of this that the first six months that I spent living in LA were a confusing and difficult time for me. I saw many people around me, flourishing and loving LA yet I felt displaced and uncomfortable. I missed Sydney and found myself constantly comparing the two cities. So, after months of unhappiness and bemoaning the city of LA and all its nuances, I decided to make a change. I looked at the language I was using to describe LA and the way I viewed the culture and realised the issue was actually me. I reflected on this and decided to change the way I spoke about LA. Whenever anyone would ask me how I was enjoying my time in LA as a newcomer, I would say that I loved it and that things were going really well, I would describe LA in positive ways and I embraced the culture. For me, this was life changing. In making these changes, the words became true to me and I saw LA for the wonderful, rich, artistic city that it truly is. I began to feel incredibly grateful to live in LA, an experience many people would love to have and felt especially grateful to be able to follow my dreams. I can now say that moving to and living in LA was one of the best decisions I have ever made. It has been and continues to be a challenging experience.
However, through embracing the culture and respecting the wonderful city that it is, I have found a true home and love for LA that I did not have before and one that has helped to get me through more difficult periods of my time here.
CREATE A ROUTINE
There is a great quote by Casey Neistat, ‘free time is the enemy of progess.’ I have mentioned in previous articles that something that really changed my creativity and productivity has been understanding when I am most productive and utilizing this. For me, this is when I first wake up and because of this, I have now created a daily routine around ensuring I spend my mornings being productive. I believe understanding this is especially relevant and important for actors and creatives because after countless conversations, I have come to recognize that there is often a disconnect between talent and hard work. Many actors struggle to harness their personal genius and creativity to create work and to simply ‘get things done.’ Talent alone does not always ensure an artist understands productivity and in fact the two are largely made separate, this can be detrimental to any creative career. The reality is successful people are not always the most talented but often simply those willing to work the hardest and take the most risks.
Being an artist of any kind can mean days spent with little to do. Sometimes you will wake up and have auditions and meetings and some days you will wake up with really nothing that needs to be done. The gaps between jobs can drag on for months and the experience of this ‘nothingness’ can lead only to chaos when not handled correctly. The way to succeed and indeed simply survive the nothingness is to create a daily routine in your life. It can be very simple, wake up, meditate and go to the gym, read ten pages of a play everyday or learn a new monologue. Aside from this daily routine, attending an acting class or joining a writing group is not only useful to making new friends in your new city and becoming a part of the community you wish to have a career in but also to keep yourself busy. I have personally found that although seemingly small creating a routine in my life has given me a sense of self- satisfaction and purpose.
While writing this article I posed the question ‘what have you done to make LA feel like home?’ to some friends and an answer that struck me most was from my dear friend (and CNI Editor and Writer) Alixandra Kupcik who simply answered, ‘I was just myself.’ This struck me because I have witnessed in myself and in others, the ways in which LA can change you, sometimes in ways that are good and sometimes in ways that are detrimental to becoming and being the person you are meant to be. LA is a town filled with success, fame and beautiful people. Surrounding yourself with this if you are not filled with a steely sense of your own self worth and purpose can lead to wanting to change yourself or desiring to make yourself ‘better’ in order in fit an ideal or an aesthetic that you believe would facilitate a version of you that would be ‘enough.’ This path is a dangerous road, as an actor it is always the unique artistry and make up of you that will make you stand out. The ability to be yourself will always be the most interesting thing about you and this will not only draw the right people to you but will ensure you live a truly authentic life. Living in LA in many ways has allowed me to see the true value of being myself and indeed the value in treating myself and those around me with love and respect as a much more valuable resource and way of filling my days than attempting to be anything I am authentically not.
Whilst it is easy advice to say to anyone ‘just be yourself,’ finding out what this means to you and attempting to spend your life living this will be a truly important and life affirming experience. This will ensure not only that LA feels like home but also that you are able to find a true home and sense of being within yourself.
LA ALL DAY
As I write this article I am sitting in my sisters house in the Northern Beaches of Sydney, visiting Australia for a few weeks and although I just landed yesterday, my home in LA does seem a million miles away. Being Australian and growing up here, although having travelled a lot and having moved from Canberra to Sydney when I was just 18, it never occurred to me to consider a way to make Australia feel like home because it just always was. However, making LA home, was indeed work at first, it took an emotional and mental commitment that I had not expected nor considered before the move. Yet the work I have since put into creating a life and community for myself in LA has been invaluable for countless reasons including the ability to feel incredibly grateful to be an Australian that is granted a life in LA. I understand fully that the opportunity to pursue my dreams is something that is not afforded to many people, especially women in the world over.
Whilst the bright lights of the seemingly perfect aesthetic of LA may have dimmed it has been replaced by an authentic and genuine love for a city that whilst continuing to challenge me in unexpected ways has also allowed me to explore a life, love and world that I could not have imagined for myself before my move. In the end, finding a home anywhere is finding your heart and embracing the culture and art of the city you now live. I hope you find your heart in your new home.
‘And into the forest I go, to lose my mind and find my soul’ – John Muir