Home Is Where The Art Is

Living alone comes with obvious benefits. Impromptu dance parties. Obnoxious phone conversations on speakerphone. More privacy and more space to display zany knickknacks. Unfortunately, though, the silence gained from not having roommates can quickly become a breeding ground for stress and self-doubting thoughts, especially when you first move in.

In my particular case, that means wondering if it was a terrible idea to quit my job and move across the country.

Cue the dramatic music.

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After a few days in my new apartment, which comprised of many tacos and Whitney Houston-singalong sessions, I began wondering if I had made yet another mistake about the direction of my life. What followed was a not-pretty meltdown that left me sobbing on an air mattress. During my self-loathing I realized something:

In a lot of ways, leaving New York City was like a really bad, messy breakup.

Our much-needed separation was full of anger, tears, and frustration, but it’s hard to let go of because it sort of feels familiar. It feels like home. A dysfunctional one no doubt, but a home nonetheless. Sitting there I thought, would Los Angeles ever make me feel the same way? The good not the bad, I mean. The logical person in me knows that only time will reveal this answer, but the anxious one in me wasn’t initially satisfied by that answer.

When you’re pretty much homeless like I was when I moved here, any place that you can call your own will make you happy at first. So, you immediately sign your name on a lease never thinking about the uncomfortable evil lurking just on the other side of the door only you and the maintenance guys have the keys to. One turn of that key and I was nose to nose with discomfort. And if there’s anything I hate more than anything in this world, it’s being uncomfortable. I was so happy to have a place to call my own, but staring at empty walls left me feeling incredibly lost, lonely, and insignificant.

I craved comfort and not just the kind that came from having a real bed. I wanted a space that felt like me again. Some place where I felt calm, relaxed, and creative. Once again: comfortable.

Now, don’t give me that bit about good things never coming from comfort zones. I’ve heard it before. And true, creators never create their best work within boundaries they allow others or themselves to set, but if I was going to create anything at all, then something had to shake.

I've been a pop-culture fanatic since I was a child. My images of the world were shaped by who and what I saw on the screen, which was mostly Black women – a practice that still continues today. So in this time of confusion and despair what better ladies to turn to for support?Joan, Mya, Lynn, and Toni from Girlfriends taught me how to have fun, be outspoken, and to never settle for anything less than what I want from life, men, or otherwise. Issa Rae helped me embrace my awkwardness and not be ashamed of the fact that I too like to talk to myself in the mirror. While Ava DuVernay showed me that it’s never too late to pursue a new dream. And the list of what I learned could go on and on and on.

Thinking about these lessons, while also paying attention to the effect doing so had on my mood, set off a lightbulb. My apartment would feel like home as soon as these women were in it. This ain’t happening (at least not now) in a real sense, so I had to settle for the next best thing. Insert my proudest, under-stress purchase yet: entertainment-inspired art prints.

As each picture arrived in the mail, the feeling of joy filled my new space. Now, I’ll admit some of the joy also comes from the fact that I’m not writing this post from the cold, hard floor, and instead a nice comfy couch, but that’s another story for another post. Earlier, I hinted at the fact that I hate cliche phrases, though there’s one that I sort of agree with: a picture is really worth a thousand words.

This collection of art has a special way of saying this new place will feel like home in no time. For that, I couldn’t be more grateful.

Guess you realize this also means that an apartment tour is right around the corner. Just as soon as I find someone to mount my frames on the wall because hey, we can’t be good at everything right?

The Art Of Starting Over

How fearless are you?” Cosmopolitan’s monthly quiz stared me in the face. I checked off my answers not the slightest bit surprised at the final results. Well, maybe a little.

Mostly C’s: Frozen with Fear – Girl, you have to live a little outside your comfort zone. No need to go full Daenerys, but part of being a grown up is taking a few calculated chances so that life doesn’t always pass you by. I didn’t even bother to read the rest. I felt attacked. Contrary to popular belief I did take risks, just not the ones I really wanted to. At least not anymore.

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When I moved to New York almost three years ago, I had two suitcases filled with my belongings and the biggest of dreams. Since I was 13 all I wanted was to work at a major magazine and to see my name in print. And when I finally made it all happen, my family, friends, and hell even my hometown were proud. I, on the other hand, felt differently.

Magazine life wasn’t at all what I expected it to be.

The clickbait. The incredibly catty co-workers. It just wasn’t at all what I signed up for. In less than a year of “living the dream” I found myself slacking off at work, hiding out in the bathrooms, and leaving work frustrated and running straight to the movie theater (multiple times a week I may add) for comfort. And it was doing that last thing so often that planted a seed in my head that maybe I was never meant to be a magazine editor, but instead something else. 

But, instead of taking another risk and leaving New York right then and there, I stuck it out for two more years. Because of the good moments, I tethered between thinking this discomfort was all in my head and if it was a real thing.

I started to wonder if I was in New York because I really wanted to be there or because someone once told me I wouldn’t be.

After taking a screenwriting class at NYU though, I knew it was most definitely the latter.

The prospect of writing films or for TV shows excited me (and still does!), but I kept hearing this nagging voice in the background of my happy thoughts. Did I really want to start over? What would people think about me if I threw my “dream job” away to chase something else?

I guess in reality I shouldn’t have cared what others thought, but I’m human, so I did. I’d become the person I’d wanted to be for so long. Admitting I wasn’t happy would mean I’d made a mistake with my life and that wasn’t something I was ready to do.  

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From the moment I arrived in New York, the place had become part of my identity. The first question out of anyone’s mouth whenever I visited home was, “So how’s the city treating you?” “Still liking it up there?” or “You’re living the dream.”

Every time I heard either one of those things, I got a little more frustrated. It’s like the inside of me would scream, "CAN’T SOMEONE ASK ME HOW I AM. NOT THE CITY. I desperately wanted someone to ask me how I was so I could give them the real answer: I was not fine. I craved something different. Something more.

Then one day I just got tired of pretending I was okay. So I made a crazy decision: I applied to a year-long screenwriting program at UCLA, got in (praise dance), quit my job (ahem, without another one lined up), and moved to Los Angeles with nine suitcases this go-round. Over a month later, here I am. So far it’s been an adventure. An interesting and at times totally overwhelming one, but an adventure nonetheless.

For the longest time, I wondered if I’d come to regret giving up my New York dream. If I’d made a mistake thinking I, of all people could write a film, but week after week as I sit in my screenwriting classes I know I didn’t. Being able to work at so many magazines in New York City was a gift, but in the words of Eva Chen, “it was also a gift to be able to know when something is no longer right for me.”

In short: Starting over is never easy, but if my journey is any consolation, it’s definitely worth it in the end.

*Also if you couldn’t already tell, I decided to start over with blogging too.