Friday, September 20, 2013

Shit Happens: Why I Left LA.

In December 2012, I made an abrupt decision to say goodbye to Los Angeles, a city that had been my home for six years. I didn’t have a plan, but I knew that I’d figure it out once I moved back to my hometown in Honolulu. There were all sorts of reasons that led up to this decision, but the greatest of all was the realization that my dreams of pursuing a career in entertainment had died.

To be honest, my dreams had been dead for several years. I was so stubborn and couldn’t accept that the thing I thought was my purpose in life, well, wasn’t. I became jaded by Hollywood. Nothing was exciting anymore. I’ve met heaps of celebrities, gone to red carpet events and acquired several accolades I never thought was possible. However, at a certain point, all of that shit lost its luster. I found myself staring at a blank corner of my apartment every morning asking myself, “Why do I even bother?”

One of my girlfriends sat me down one day and said she thought I had clinical depression. In response, I told her, “well, my dreams are dead and I don’t know what do with my life, I’d surely have some sort of mental illness if I wasn’t depressed.” We never spoke of it again.

I was one of those very generic cases. I moved to Hollywood right after college to pursue my dream of being… something. Like many fame-hungry hopefuls, I had no plan and no talent. I started my quest at UCLA where I studied screenwriting because I was convinced I would write my own screenplay. As a na├»ve narcissist, I was completely delusional and thought I was special. It would be only a matter of time until someone figured out I was amazing! Hahahaha!

While every person is indeed unique and wonderful in his or her own right, not everyone has a Lifetime special-worthy story. I soon discovered that I was just a small fish in a HUGE pond of other idiots who also thought they were meant to be anything but ordinary.

For me personally, I know that I’ve struggled a lot with the way people have perceived me. It was frustrating that society couldn’t see beyond my physicality and was sometimes cruel to me. As a person who struggled with adversity, I wanted to live the words of Gandhi and “be the change” I “want to see in the world”. Instead of volunteering at youth facilities or furthering my education in social change, I just wanted to be rich! I also wanted the ignorant people from my past to eat shit for being mean to me.

The truth was that my heart motives were very ugly and far from genuine. I wanted to gain notoriety because I felt so powerless growing up in a society that constantly viewed me as insignificant. I needed therapy, but instead chose to hustle through years of horrible open mic nights and subjecting myself to the worst form of rejection: auditioning.

As with most things that aren’t a good fit, the hustle eventually became laborious and I found myself utterly depleted by my efforts. I didn’t want to accept that everyone was right and I was truly a failure. My dreams had died and I had no one to blame except for myself. After six years of playing the game and tarnishing my name (such an idiot for not establishing a stage name) I decided to call it quits and move back home.

My 22-year-old self would be horrified by my current status in life. I’m 29, unemployed and living with my parents. After months of submitting resumes and being rejected after several interviews, I’m still jobless. Although I’ve been fortunate to maintain a few freelance gigs and manage a fledging online business, it’s still uncomfortable when I get the inevitable look of disappointment when I tell friends/family that “I’m still looking” (i.e. not making enough to move out!).

My first three months back in Honolulu were pretty depressing. I ate a lot of potato chips (had to buy new pants) and caught up on a lot of TV series I had neglected over the years. While it wasn’t the most productive season, I gave myself permission to be sad while I locked myself in my room and submitted to countless jobs and trying to find my place in a city I didn’t really know anymore.

I eventually pulled myself together a bit and started to take care of myself again. I started to shift my focus away from junk food and onto aqua aerobics and meditation. I started learning about mindfulness and worked on applying its principles into my current situation. Instead of seeing this turning point as one of the most disastrous moments of my life, I saw it as an opportunity to move forward.

Over time, I started to see things differently. When shit happens, it doesn’t have to be complete devastation. It just is. Sparing some time to feel the sadness allowed me to confront the situation in a realistic view. The more I reflected, the more I realized what had led up to this point and how I had control to decide how I wanted to interpret it. I had a choice: continue to drown myself in self-pity and potato chips or accept that life had changed and move forward.

People still give me a lot of shit about “giving up” on my dreams. While I may have quit a life in entertainment, I didn’t quit on life. I decided to cut out a part of my life that was no longer working. There is a significant difference between giving up on something that has life and something that no longer has the capacity to grow (DEAD). The act of giving up isn’t just a black and white concept. There are several grey areas. For the most part, people can sense in their gut where they stand within the greyness.

My Mom occasionally asks me if I feel I should’ve come home sooner. I always tell her, “no, I wasn’t ready.” There is always perfect timing to every decision we make. While our personal timelines may not be in alliance to a conventional scale, there is never time wasted.

I know for sure that if I had sent my 22-year-old self a slideshow of all the devastation (and awesomeness) she was about to endure in Los Angeles, she would still go. I’m grateful for my time in LA. I made lifelong friendships, experienced an unconventional lifestyle and gained an education that could never be taught through any textbook. While I’m currently in a less-than-favorable (it can get pretty shitty!) season at the moment (by a conventional gauge), I am so grateful for the beautiful lessons I’ve learned and excited for the ones ahead.


  1. Love love love. This is amazing and very eye opening. You are right, shit happens.

  2. So well written - good times. Bad times. We find our way

  3. Diane: There are good times and there are PHO times. You and me - next trip back home. Deal? Kamaka

  4. First of all, I want to thank you for writing this. It's like I could have written it myself, but of course I found more clarity in your words than I ever would have found in my own. When I was 21 - after majoring in Screenwriting - I moved to LA to pursue...whatever. I ended up spending 7 years in a job that while it had its perks, was never what I wanted to do with my life.It had been a dream of mine to work in Hollywood for literally as far back as my memory goes until one day I woke up - somewhere around the beginning of the new year - and realized that I was turning 30 this year and needed to make a change. In some ways I had everything little me wanted. I worked with actors. I had an amazing support system. I was in Hollywood. And making that decision, admitting to myself that those weren't my dreams anymore (and disappointing the girl whose bat mitzvah theme was Hollywood, the one who wrote soap operas in 6th grade and lived and breathed TV every moment of every day) was maybe the hardest thing I have ever done.

    Like you, I moved back to where I was from (my home being New York) and moved back into my childhood room when I was 29. I still won't put on Facebook that I am back in NY because while I know I didn't fail and it was my choice to come home, I don't need other people gossiping about such a thing, especially when most of those people are now married with children.

    I've applied to over a hundred jobs since I've been back (three months now) and have had one interview and today found out that despite the fact that I interview incredibly well and am told so in the room, I didn't get it. I've spent the last four hours sobbing because I doubted every decision I made in moving back. I too made incredible friends in LA and I had a reliable job and really, was I so stupid to think that in an economy like this leaving a job was the right thing to do?

    A friend of mine sent me this link without realizing I would need it today and you helped change my entire attitude. I stopped crying. I found comfort in the fact that there's someone else who found it acceptable to leave what was once a dream behind and move back home for something else, whatever that might be.

    I wish you ALL the luck in the world finding whatever it is you are looking for and again, thank you. You don't know me, but it inspired the hell out of me.

  5. Awesome writing. Bless you and you go! And p.s., LA vs. Honolulu no contest!

    Mahalo from LA..


  6. Diane !!! So good to see your face pop up on Facebook. It is a wise person who knows her timing, and your story shows wisdom. That and the humor and courage you have will take you far. I am go glad you came to LA, and that i got to know you. Mahalo. Louise

  7. I found this post linked on a friend's Tumblr post about her own decision to leave at L.A. at a time when I am deeply contemplating it myself. I cannot tell you how helpful it is to read something so relatable an eloquently put like this. I've come to think of it not as giving up on a dream or failing at attempts to be rich or famous or successful but rather that the part of you that needed all of those external elements of validation has healed. The thing you clung to when you were younger is not something you need anymore. You're not turning your back on who you were then, but you're accepting that you've grown and matured and moved on. And you'll focus on a different, better part of yourself. You are already pretty blessed to be able to stay with your family while searching for something that is the right fit, and I wish you all the luck in the world in finding it.

  8. Diane your writing is so articulate and honest. Pursue this gift! Make the world see you and value you for what you have learned and what you can contribute to our culture because of who you are, what you have experienced and observed. Yes LA is a really tough town but your story can be not so much about leaving a place because it's toxic as about finding yourself and where you are going to go. Imua!

  9. On what planet do you have no talent? I'm glad you were able to be honest with yourself about how things were going in H'wood and a retreat was an excellent decision. You have lots ahead of you and I'm glad you've decided to be gentler on yourself in your situation. I hope that will continue as regards your thoughts of yourself and your abilities.

  10. I left LA in March of 2012 after 13 years. I lived out most of my dreams and had a successful career, but it was also time for me to make a change. Moved back to my hometown of Schenectady, NY. Glad I did.

    The one thing I would suggest is to find your purpose for it will fuel you. While you may view yourself as "ordinary", that's simply a perspective. You can be extraordinary in whatever you choose. Likewise, being ordinary is good too. It's all how you look at it. Happy to have read your post. Thank you.

  11. Diane, you are the most strongest person I know. I know I always tell you that, but it is soooo true! Don't feel like pursuing your dreams in LA was a failure. To come home from a crazy place like LA and still be true to who you are, is nothing short but awesome! Anyone who truly knows you, knows that you are the sweetest, funniest, strongest, and awesomest woman and friend ever! The other people out there are ignorant and close-minded to even have a negative perception of you.

    When you wrote, "there is always perfect timing to every decision we make", it is so true. No matter what your loved ones tell you, ultimately, you are the only one who will know when you're ready to move on with your life. We all go through struggles in life, but the experiences and memories (good & bad) you have made, is what made you the strong person that you are today. No regrets Diane! We live and learn and grow! There is so much for you out there! I know Hawai`i is a better place with you home! =0)

    Love, Your Biggest Fan!

  12. I'm sorry, but I find this article very self-obessessed.
    6 years, in the grand scheme of things, that's nothing. And while everyone has their limit, or sees the light sooner than others. This is nothing to write home about. ...And at least, you had a home to go home to.

    No such safety net for me.

    I prefer the original "Keep Calm and Carry On"

    Not every thought needs to be made public.

  13. I'm not getting your point Annoymous; slaving away for 6 years at a career that you are very passionate about, knowing well in your heart that you don't know when you're next paycheck is coming in, having to compete against 4830848930 other people with the same dream in mind is "self obsessed"? WOW I can see why you possibly don't have a home to go to.

    Maybe I'm self obsessed but my definition of the word fell under "plastic blondes who don't work but are ok with spending their husband's money while bitching about their best friends and giving their 12 year old daughters $90,000 designer bags" (aka Housewives of Beverly Hills) Not someone who worked their ass off only to realise with class and humility that it wasnt working.

    What about the many people who don't even try? Who live off Government handouts and are ok to do so? I give Diane kudos for not turning into a pot smoking delirious dreamer who at 45 decides maybe it's now time to change career get a different job.

    Diane, thank you for sharing your story. As other readers have commented you have inspired them, moved them and encouraged them to do what is right.

    People don't need to be ashamed to say when something isn't working out. Being smart enough to realise it's now time to move on is very commendable. When it is time to move on with your career that may be your "Hollywood moment" you were always hoping for and open the door to something even better.

    1. Maybe "possibly not having a home to go to" means that the safety net of parents or relatives are passed away. That wasn't very nice. whomever that person has every right to think what he/she thinks. While I agree that making the change at 29 is nothing in life compared to waking up at 39 or 49 and realizing that "this is it", I think that admitting defeat, no matter what age is self-affirming and shows a huge knowledge of themselves. I am guessing, because of your reply about why this person has no home to go to, do hope that your "safety nets" are still alive. And when, one day, they are not, think back to this post and remember how words - no matter how anonymous they are, are hurtful. They hurt me when I read them and they weren't directed at me. I've experienced the death of a family member. You will too. We all do.

  14. Diane, this is why you are inspirational to me. It has nothing to do with your stature. It has to do with your honesty and candor and most-terrific B.S. detector. You are a magnificent human. Keep pushing in there, asking for interviews. You're one of the smartest--and wisest--people I know.