“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.
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 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 the real thing. (Spoiler alert: It was the 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, I knew it was most definitely the latter.
The prospect of writing movies excited me, 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 do something else? 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.
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 nearly-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. A few month’s worth of hot-California-days 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 sat 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 and I hope you’ll follow along as Alexis Goes West.