Today is the 16th of March, 2016 which means I have officially been living in Los Angeles for exactly 3 months; also known as one quarter of a year. It’s turning out to be one of my favorite years of my life so far and as such I’ve decided I’m going to post a recap every quarter because I’m interested to find out if this euphoria ever subsides. The decision to move here was somewhat spontaneous and Melbourne to Los Angeles is quite a distance so I’ll rewind to recap how I made the leap.
As long as I can remember, I’ve always wanted to experience what it would be like to live in America. I’ve also wanted to have the expat experience. When I was 16, I went to New York City on a vacation and I loved it. Walking around the streets of Brooklyn, I dreamt of returning when I was an adult. When I was 19, I went on a semester exchange and lived in Europe for 6 months and it opened my mind even further. I went back home at the beginning of 2014, but before I left, I got a small tattoo of a star as a reminder to myself to keep exploring the world. Having said that though, I adore Melbourne. Melbourne is my home and it will always have a piece of my heart. I finished my degree in 2014 and throughout the year I was working part time in a call-centre saving money. I didn’t know exactly what I was saving up for at that point but I kept saving anyway. After I graduated, I kept working at the call-centre and picked up more shifts. My downtime was dedicated to The Improv Conspiracy and it made me so happy. The longer I was in Melbourne, the more I fell in love with Melbourne. However, I didn’t dig my job so I quit mid-year and went on a 10-week vacation around America all alone. I wanted to take improv classes and see improv shows in America. I also wanted to experience traveling alone. I went to Austin, Houston and New Orleans with no plans, then I went to Maryland to visit family and then I went to New York, Chicago and LA where I’d be doing all the improv things. I learnt SO MUCH about myself and about improv. I spent 5 of the 10 weeks in Los Angeles where I was taking workshops at iO West. I’d never been to LA before and thought I’d hate it but as soon as I arrived, all my pre-conceived ideas of what a hell hole it would be disappeared. There was something about looking out at the sunset that was different to anywhere I’d ever been before. As my time in LA progressed, it started to feel like home. Towards the end of the trip, I knew I’d only scratched the surface of the city and there was so much more there to do and see. 5 weeks weren’t enough and I knew I had to come back. Before I left, I got a tattoo of a palm tree to remind myself that one day, I would be living in LA.
I found out about a category of J-1 Visa which I was eligible for. It’s one of the most flexible visas for Australians who want to live in the USA, the only requirement is that you have to be a student (or recent graduate). In order to qualify as a recent graduate, I would have to be back in country to activate the visa within one year of my graduation. I graduated on December 17, 2014 so I’d have to move to America on December 16, 2015 at the latest. On my first day back in Melbourne (August 18), I paid for my visa and committed to the choice. I’d be leaving Melbourne on December 16. Knowing that the opportunity was fleeting was really helpful and made the leap a no-brainer. My last few months in Melbourne were amazing. I got lots of chances to perform and coach improv, putting all the things that I’d picked up on my adventure into practice. I also was around just in time to see the launch of The Improv Conspiracy Training Centre and Theatre in the Melbourne CBD. I sold my car to help finance the move and spent months researching the job market and applying for jobs. On December 11, less than a week before my flight, I found out I’d been successful for a position I applied for at the beginning of November. It was a full-time video internship in online media - the exact industry I want a career in. I would be starting work at the beginning of January. I couldn’t believe my luck.
I lived in temporary accommodation in Hollywood when I first arrived. My office was in Culver City so I started looking for rooms to rent near work so I’d be able to get by without a car. I spent Christmas in San Diego and in between Christmas and New Years, I moved into a room which was less than a mile from my office. Everything was perfect! The place isn’t the nicest but it’s affordable and I was more concerned with locking something down so I moved in. I reconnected with LA friends and the city felt like home almost immediately. I’ve already had a handful of friends from home come visit which has been wonderful. My friend Vicky came for a few days in January and was kind enough to buy me a bicycle. Shoutout to Vicky! The bike greatly improved my quality of life. People say LA is impossible without a car but I’m going to debunk that myth because despite a few road blocks, I’ve been fine. I signed up for two improv classes which both started at the beginning of January. So I’ve now officially completed 5b at iO West and 201 at The UCB. An improv friend who I’d met over summer put together an indie team and I joined it and we’ve been training and performing in venues around LA. It’s been awesome getting deeper into the comedy community here.
Since I’ve been here I have felt an overwhelming sense of gratitude to the universe. I’ve been describing myself as lucky but it’s also worth acknowledging the fact that I’m dedicating a lot of energy and effort every day to afford this happiness and there certainly have been struggles. Before I moved here, I was living with my family so life was pretty easy. In January, I started a new job in a new city where I knew not many people. In between working full time and all the improv I was throwing myself into, I forced myself to go out, socialize and meet new people, which is something I used to not be entirely comfortable with. I met lots of awesome people and made new friends pretty quickly cheers to my accent and Australian charm. It’s been tough living on an intern salary and admittedly, getting around LA without a car isn’t the easiest thing to do. I live and work in Culver City and it’s a five minute cycle to get to work but comedy and friends are in Hollywood. For the first few weeks I was commuting by bus but then I started biking. One day I biked 23 miles to do improv. Because I’m that passionate about comedy. I’m not even that fit of a person (or at least I didn’t used to be) so I will continue to shamelessly brag about that as if it’s a legitimate achievement. All the shows I’ve seen have been super inspiring. My 201 class at the UCB was super fun, I loved every minute of it. I’ve always wanted to train at the UCB, even before I found The Improv Conspiracy in Melbourne so it was a dream come true to finally take class there. However a sad reality is that I can’t afford to continue taking classes there right now as much as I want to. I’m determined to finish their curriculum before the end of the year, though. I don’t know how yet but I will find a way. Another struggle was getting the flu at the end of January. I think I pushed myself too hard balancing my new social life, improv and work. I did temp work one weekend, selling merch at a comedy festival in DTLA for extra money and after my last shift, I went home, collapsed and was bedridden for the next week so that extra $100 I had made, quickly vanished. I took this as a sign to take better care of myself. It’s pretty miserable being sick and alone. Towards the end of the week I forced myself out of my shoebox bedroom to go and get soup down the road. I looked out at the sky and the sun was setting and any homesickness I was feeling quickly went away. I was texting my soulmate, Meghan, who lives in San Francisco, and I mentioned that I was sick and before I knew it she had ordered gatorade, medicine and a teddy bear to be delivered to my door. What an angel!
I have now reached the halfway point of my internship which is somewhat anxiety-inducing. I love the company I work for and for the first time in my life, I’m not counting down the days till the weekend or the minutes until 6pm. In related news, when I woke up for work this morning, my bike had been stolen from my back door. I spent most of the morning feeling pretty livid. As I mentioned, I rely on the bike pretty heavily and I’m living pretty hand-to-mouth so I can’t buy a new one right now. However the anger has now transformed into ambition to better myself so my current goal is to move to a nicer place, closer to Hollywood now that I know my way around LA and feel comfortable with the commute. Even though my employment isn’t secure right now, I feel hopeful that it’s not a huge obstacle. The job market here is pretty great for what I want to be doing. Plus, I managed to land my current position without even being here and I realized that back in November, my resume wasn’t nearly as advanced as it is now.
So right now, on paper: I don’t have job security, I live in a dank, windowless bedroom, my bike has been stolen and I can’t afford to pursue my passion which is essentially what contributed towards my desire to move here. HOWEVER, I still feel like I’ve accomplished an exponential amount of personal growth in the past 3 months and there hasn’t been a minute when I’ve second-guessed my decision to move here. I’m happy and I’m surrounded by amazing, inspirational people and I’m learning lots every day. I have no idea what is in store for the next three months but I’m excited to find out. Will I have a job? Will I have a room? Stay tuned to find out.