Have you ever moved somewhere relatively far away? When I was twenty-six, I spur of the moment moved to New York City. I had always loved visiting it and when the chance came to move there, I jumped on the opportunity. Within ten days, I found myself getting off the plane from L.A., rolling my suitcases down a street in Manhattan. I couldn’t wait to start fresh on a new coast.
I dove into New York life, immediately finding nanny jobs and a position as a server in a Japanese restaurant. I was lucky to have a friend who booked extras for TV shows, so he was able to get me working right away, as well. In addition, I scoured Instagram for photographers to shoot with, I signed with a modeling agency, and I also got into an awesome choir. I hit up all my friends who were already living in New York, and I also searched out free events to get to know the city better. Every day my smile was huge, so happy to be living there.
In the end, I only stayed for one year and three months, not because I didn’t love it. The hustle is real in New York. Though I knew that city is expensive, I learned that it really is a playground for those who are already established. That didn’t bother me, and if anything, it drove me, but most of the time that I lived there was spent working non-music related jobs. (On a side note, some of those jobs were so fun: shout out to being Lena’s nanny! That was one of my favorite experiences.) So anyway, I decided that if I was going to live in a pricey city, it would be smarter to live in L.A., where my music connections were.
Once I made the decision to move back, I went all in on soaking up New York while I was still there. My final month was amazing. I went to the Met museum with friends; I took five hour walks alone, just listening to music and admiring the architecture; I got a tattoo of the New York skyline on my ribs; I ate all my favorite bodega food. It was awesome.
One of those last days in particular stands out in my memory. I had gotten this job through the choir I was in to act as a choir member for a commercial. We shot on Roosevelt Island, which I had never been to before. It’s an interesting place, with a history of having hosted insane asylums in the past. Putting that info aside, it’s beautiful. You have views of both Manhattan and Queens, and when you leave the island to go back to Manhattan, you take this aerial tram ride that overlooks the East River.
Anyway, back to the commercial. Most of the shots took place at the stunning Four Freedoms Park. Those of us in the choir stood on the granite stairs, wearing choir robes and singing behind the little girl who was the star. There were also hundreds of other musicians, including all these guitarists that lined up along the water, playing their instruments against the city backdrop. Such an incredible sight.
The choir was used again a few hours later, when it was dark. We moved to a street nearby, where we stood under lights and sang while being drenched with water. To be fair, I don’t remember if we got hit by a fire hose or not. Whatever we were being sprayed with, it got us good. It was so funny to try to sing with water coming at your face and mascara running down your cheeks. Definitely a memorable paycheck.
After we wrapped up the shoot and changed into dry clothes, I ended up going out with the director and some others from the set that day. We drank and hung out all night, staying up until the early hours of the morning. I sat on the train back to my apartment, just smiling to myself and reliving the events of the past few hours. That shoot is one of my favorite New York memories.
I’d love to live in New York again someday; definitely when I have a more solid plan in place for the next time. In the meantime, I’m grateful for my time there. It taught me a lot about working hard, being spontaneous and just going for opportunities. If you’ve made a big move, what did you learn from the experience? I’d love to hear from you.
If I were to describe myself in one phrase, it would be an “emotional optimist.” I’m sensitive - I’d love to say that things bounced off me easily, but that’s not usually the case. Despite that, I try to look for the best in situations, and get myself out of bad moods when I’m in them. Here’s the list of things I do to protect my energy when I’m down:
So that’s my short list of energy protecting techniques. It’s always a goal for me to be less affected by outside circumstances, and to keep that calm within. I came across a quote recently that said, “What if this moment is all you have?” And what if it is? It’d be a waste to spend it being hurt, angry, jealous, etc. It’s important we do what we can to approach our lives from a place of love.
For a big part of my life, I thought I was going to be an opera singer. I can pinpoint the moment that trajectory changed to a day when I was walking along the street in San Francisco. I was living there at the time, having graduated from a music college in the city about a year prior. I’d gotten rejected from all the grad schools I applied to for opera singing, and I stayed in SF to work and take more voice lessons. Hearing the “no’s” from the masters programs stung at the time, but I’m a believer in trusting in the journey. And the journey led me from opera to something totally different.
While I was walking through the city that day, a woman stopped me and asked if I’d like to go to a casting for her runway fashion show. I’d never done anything like that before, and even though I was nervous, I said yes.
After the casting (where I hilariously tried to walk in high heels like models I had seen in videos), the woman I auditioned for said, “Practice your walk, but yes, I’d like you in my show.”
That show led to doing more modeling in San Francisco, and when circumstances brought me back to SoCal, where I’m from, I thought, “Why not continue this in such an entertainment hub like L.A.?”
Once I moved back, I signed up for several modeling and acting audition websites, and also for Central Casting, a company that hires extras for tv and film. I quickly realized how not glamorous being an extra is, but had fun meeting new people. And sometimes, we were featured on camera. It was funny when friends would text me with screenshots, asking if the person in that one-second clip was me. The screenshot I’ve received the most over the years is definitely the one from the tv show It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.
The episode was called “The Gang Group Dates.” Our calltime was early, something like 5:45am, and I had gotten out from a previous background job at about midnight. I rushed home, showered, and drove to the studio, finding myself on the Paddy’s Pub bar set that the show features. Someone from the production crew chose me and two other girls to sit at the bar and do a little scene with the characters Charlie, Mac and Frank. They approach us like they’re going to hit on us, and Danny DeVito, who plays Frank, goes, “Hi, ladies. I’m Frack. Sh*t.”
The past few years have been full of silly moments like that. At one audition, the casting director told me, “I want you to say ‘obsession’ in the most sultry way you can.” So here I am going “obsession, obsession,” and throwing my head against the wall in a “sexy” way. The whole thing cracked me up, and I told my friend Jason about it. It began an inside joke with us where we’d say “obsession,” and then do something ridiculous, like dig into a Pizookie from BJ’s.
Obviously, I’m not a famous actor or model, so those career paths, as well as opera, have not been the one for me. But all of these experiences - getting rejected from grad school, doing the runway show, playing an extra on It’s Always Sunny, going to the “Obsession” audition - have taught me necessary skills. I’ve learned to be resilient in the face of failure, to be brave even when I have no idea what I’m doing, and to simply have fun.
Though I’ve narrowed in on music again, as a pop songwriter, I still have not yet reached my “ultimate” career goals, and maybe you haven’t either. My thoughts on it are: don’t be afraid to try things, to look dumb, to pick yourself up again and again. In time, when it’s the right time, we will get to where we need to be. And in the meantime, let’s enjoy every step.
So. This really is the last night of my twenties. Do I feel a sense of dread about turning 30? Not really. Am I where I thought I would be at this age? Not at all. And I guess that’s something that’s making me take pause and evaluate. I’ve never been married, don’t have kids, and have always pursued jobs in creative fields. Therefore, I don’t really feel like what 30 has traditionally meant, but I’m probably speaking for a lot of my peers on that. I think as a culture, at least in Los Angeles where I live, we are getting married and having children later, possibly due to things like paying off student loans and the high cost of buying a house here.
For me personally, I wasn’t the type of little girl to dream about my wedding. When I was a kid, I dreamt about CDs - I would draw album covers and create song titles, imagining a life as a singer like Gwen Stefani. Ever since, I’ve been following a musical path, and it’s taken me on a lot of unexpected twists and turns. Some of the things I’ll be discussing with you are my random day jobs (like being an extra on the show It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia), the period of my life when I dated someone with an addiction, the time I got drenched with a fire hose in New York City, and much more.
30 is almost here. I don’t see myself all of a sudden settling down, and I hope to have many more decades on this Earth, but I’m realizing the weight of every moment. I want to own my goals, my values, my flaws. Because when we are totally comfortable with ourselves, we have more love to offer others, too.