Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Updates. Lots of them.

Hi everyone!  It's been a couple of days more than one year, but here I am again.  I had intimated that things were about to get crazy, without going into details, but now that some time has passed and things have settled down (at least a little), I thought I would post an update.

Last year, as spring was turning into summer, I was presented with an opportunity.  My company was doing layoffs (like every other company), and they had mentioned the possibility of voluntary severance in January 2011, but only for certain segments of the business.  In May, I found out that they were actually pretty much offering the voluntary severance to everyone.  John and I had a long talk and decided that this was our chance to do something we had wanted to do for years.  So I took it.  It was not an easy decision.  I had to leave a job I maybe didn't love, but was comfortable with, and that allowed us to live comfortably, and I had to leave quite a few co-workers who I actually loved a lot, to take a really big chance on a really unsure thing.  John was focused primarily on acting, but he wasn't getting the kind of work that would ever allow him to fulfill his career goals, and certainly not the kind of work that would ever make enough money to change our situation. Also, we didn't particularly care for Massachusetts anymore.  It's no mystery if you read through my winter 2011 posts that I didn't think I could deal with another hard winter again, and although Massachusetts is a lovely state with any number of reasons to recommend it, I had lived there for 12 years, and John had been there the better part of his life.  We needed to get out.  So we decided to stop being safe and began to plan a move to California.

I left my main job at the end of July, while I continued to serve as stage manager for Worcester Shakespeare Company's Summer 2011 season.  When that wrapped, we booked a flight to Los Angeles.  We stayed with our very good friends Sheri and Carlos while we looked for an apartment.  The final day before we had to fly back to Massachusetts, we found a great little place in North Hollywood that was in our price range and would take us, even though we didn't have jobs.  The whole apartment could fit into two rooms at our place in Worcester, but we knew sacrifices had to be made.  We signed our lease and flew back to Worcester to pack up and return to LA for good.  

There was about a month between the time we got back and the time we planned to leave. It was an insanely stressful flurry of packing, trying to sell at least half of our things (including my car), and trying to fit in as much time with our friends as we could.  I have never in my life felt so torn in so many directions.  We were excited to be starting a new chapter in our life, but so sad to be leaving dear friends behind (as well as John's mom), and so stressed out, hoping that we could get everything sold, packed, or otherwise taken care of in a very short period of time.  Even writing about it now makes me feel the ghost of the old nervousness in my stomach.  We planned to drive a moving truck ourselves, but at the last minute went with a Pods-type moving service.  It would allow us to pack up storage cubes ourselves, which would then be transported and we would drive John's car with a smaller amount of luggage and things we didn't feel comfortable letting out of our sight.  We saw the storage cubes put on the truck on the morning of October 14 after three days of emptying our third floor apartment with the help of our friend Wayne.  We spent our last night at John's mother's house and drove out of Worcester bright and early on the morning of October 15.  That day, some of the anxiety lifted finally.  We knew that if we had forgotten anything, there was really nothing we could do about it anymore.  The first day we made it all the way into Ohio (and that is with a 3 hour stopover to visit some of John's relatives in Pennsylvania) before stopping for the night.  

The next morning we woke to a flat tire, which we were able to get fixed near our hotel, thankfully.  John also started to feel a little bit under the weather, but it was on and off. The second day we only made it to Terre Haute, but after the distance of the first day, that wasn't too bad.  The third day, we decided to start making a vacation out of the cross-country drive.  We headed south and drove through St. Louis, stopping to visit the arch, and then we stayed overnight in Kansas City.  We went to hear a jazz band play that night, and it was wonderful.  The next day, we drove into Kansas proper, and then took a few campy side trips to visit a very large ball of twine, which may be the largest, although Minnesota has its claim as well, and take a few pictures at the geographical center of the contiguous US. 

Halloweeny Ball o' Twine

Middle of Nowhere, USA

We stayed the night in Nebraska, and I was very excited to pick up my 48th state, as Nebraska was on the short list of states I had not yet visited.  

 Yee-haw for number 48!

Unfortunately, John was feeling extremely ill with sinus issues that night, and I was afraid we were going to have to bring him to a doctor.  The next morning, he was a little better, and after a very spicy breakfast at a local diner, he seemed to be back to normal.  Our luck seemed to be improving--FINALLY!  We continued on through Colorado, staying in Grand Junction the following night, and then as we moved into Utah the next day, we decided we had time for a side trip.  We had both really wanted to see Yellowstone, and we thought, why not now?  So we turned north and stayed in Idaho for the night to pick up my 49th state and be ready for a day in Yellowstone the next day.  (Now Alaska is my white whale, the only state I have yet to visit.  Someday!)  


Yellowstone did not disappoint.  It was amazing, and the weather was great--cold, but not actively snowing.  After spending the full day in Yellowstone, we left the park through the Grand Tetons, seeing the sun setting in the snow-covered mountains, and traveled south through Wyoming, staying overnight in a little cabin in a tiny town past Jackson.  

Slightly drenched by a freak rainstorm/geyser/steam combo

Sun setting behind the mountains

The next day we drove all the way to Las Vegas, trying to make up a lot of time, knowing that we needed to be in North Hollywood to meet the storage cubes by Monday.  We stayed overnight in Vegas, made a cool $50 or so playing $5 each in the casino (that's about our speed, as far as gambling goes), and then set off for our new home the next day.  

"Terrible's" seemed like the silliest possible casino, so of course we chose it.

We arrived in North Hollywood on the afternoon of Sunday, October 23.  The next day our things arrived, and we spent the last bit of energy we had to bring it all up to our wee little second floor apartment.  For the first few days, just finding a place to sit was a problem. But eventually, we figured it out.  

It took about three weeks for us to unpack everything, find a place for everything, and get settled.  At that point, John started going out for acting jobs.  He got the first thing he auditioned for--a short film for TropFest Australia, the largest short film festival in the world, and the film went on to place in the top 16, which is a pretty amazing honor considering the sheer number of shorts competing. John has gone on to book job after job, averaging well above the norm--not that I am surprised.  His talent and work ethic may be the only two things I have not questioned over the course of this wild journey, and I believe this is only the beginning of greatness for him.  The satisfaction of watching him do what he was born to do, and do it so well, cannot be put into words.  I am thankful every day that we had the opportunity to do this for him.

As for me, I have gone through a difficult period of being kind of lost and confused.  Not in a bad way, but almost in a necessary way.  I have been skating for 7+ years, doing mostly unfulfilling work to make a living, and trying to let my hobbies be enough, but now without the distraction of the structured job, I have had to examine some things about myself, and it has not been a comfortable process.  I have had to confront a lot of feelings and regrets, and I am still trying to tap into who I am and what I want out of my life.  I am currently unemployed but extremely busy, working on a lot of video projects as director/shooter/editor, editing and shooting for actor demo reels, editing text, sound editing for audio projects, reading a lot, and doing a lot of driving, as we only have one car, and I don't like being left without it when John has a job.  (It also comes in handy that we can use the car pool lane and that I can drive around to find a spot when John is auditioning, as traffic and parking here are INSANE.)  I am also thinking about doing a lot more writing, getting back into acting myself, and doing stand-up comedy (yes, really).  

A little reminder that is usually up on the fridge to look at every day.

Part of what has kept me away from blogging, even after things were moderately calm again, was embarrassment.  We have not been vegan throughout this process.  At first it was because it was just so difficult to find the time to eat right.  During the trip, it was nearly impossible to find places to eat and we lived off of cheesy pizza.  But then after things were settled and it would have been easy to return to eating vegan, it was, at least for me, about comfort eating and dealing with loneliness and fear by using food.  We stayed vegetarian at least, but I couldn't be dishonest and come on here and write about the vegan lifestyle when I wasn't living it.  I had also started smoking again, and my unemployment, although voluntary, combined with the smoking and the not-veganness, made me feel like a big fat failure.  Don't worry--I'm not in that place anymore.  But it is important for me to share it because one of the other things I have realized is that I don't share my feelings.  I share my opinions and my ideas for sure--frankly, more than I should.  But when it comes to feelings, I keep them safely hidden.  That obviously needs to change, and making these confessions in kind of a public way is not about being a drama queen or seeking attention and encouragement.  It’s about being honest with myself and my friends so that I don’t end up spending a lot more time wasting my life on things that aren’t important.  Friendships and community are the things that I most value from my blogging experience, and the things that have brought me back to it in spite of my hesitations.

I have been vegan again since April, with only a few exceptions (which I'm not going to beat myself up for, because not beating myself up is part of the new programming), and in one week, I'll be celebrating my six-month anniversary of not smoking.  I have struggled with cigarettes on and off for years, quitting and starting back more than ten times, but I've only made six months once before now.  Six months means a lot to me.  I quit on my birthday, and my six-month anniversary is my dad's birthday.  Both of his parents died of lung cancer, so making this quit a tribute is something that keeps me from picking up the cigarettes again when I feel sad or confused or scared.  We have made some good friends here already, and it is wonderful to be in a new place where there is so much to explore.  I am still freaking out a lot, wondering if I will find work, wondering if we are going to be okay here, wondering what I should be doing with my life.  But I am learning to be the person I want to be inside, apart from the labels (and stress) I place on myself.  And that is something.  

I don't know what direction this blog is going to take going forward.  I probably will still talk about vegan food sometimes.  My next post will probably be about our new favorite place to eat here in the San Fernando Valley.  But I probably will talk about other things too, like travel (plenty of photos from the trip apart from what I've posted here already) and maybe books and movies, and any of the other things that might come to mind.  And if you want to come along for the ride, you are very welcome.  I don't know where we are going, but I think we can have a lot of fun getting there.  

Sunset on the Pacific at Cabrillo National Monument