I've spent the past week telling the story of my big move from Oklahoma to Los Angeles. Before I bring this anniversary week to a close, I wanted to hear from the two women I talked to the most during this time.
Her perspective on my decision to head west, and the year that followed:
This is my recollection of the earliest part of Laura’s L.A. Adventure.
To help me think through those early months, I went to my email archives. What a mistake! Two hours later I realized I had to close it down or I’d never get this written. But I did find a few little gems. My favorite was from Laura's sister Dawn:
Would you be available to help Patrick watch the girls next weekend?
I'd be happy to. I'll probably be crying all weekend because Laura has headed to L.A. to seek her fame and fortune, but I don't have any other plans.
And I was reminded of the day she left. I was standing in the driveway with her Dad, watching our kids pull out of the driveway for the long drive to L.A. We looked at one another and both had tears in our eyes and just hugged for a long time, wondering what adventures were in store for our little Okie girl, and whether she’d find a home 2000 miles away and never come back.
Sometime late in 2000, our little Laura announced she would not be taking her letters diploma to graduate school, as I had expected and as all other letters/classics majors do, but would be moving to California to work in the entertainment industry. I wasn’t sure what that meant, but it sounded like a great adventure to me, and I was somewhat jealous! (And that’s my response to those who hint that we weren’t “supportive” at the time.)
After graduation and after a breakup with her most recent boyfriend (and let me add a note here – I had no idea how devastating this was for her until much later – she had ALWAYS had a boyfriend and had never grieved much between them), she finalized her plans. Her friends were surprised at her determination to go forward after her various fellow travelers backed out, but it never occurred to me that she would change her own plans for her life just because someone else got cold feet. And if she ever wavered, I didn’t know it.
So she sold her nice car, bought a junker car, and had enough money left over to finance her grand adventure.
I was afraid for her, not for her safety but for her psyche. I figured she could take care of herself, for the most part. My fear was that she would be disappointed and disillusioned, that she would struggle to find a place for herself and discover it wasn’t what she wanted at all. No one wants to see their daughter’s dreams dashed.
Her first couple of months were especially hard, waiting for a production job to open up. Because she was afraid of running out of money (and she had this huge dread of having to call home for help – which she never did), she was living as cheaply as possible, doing temp work and exploring her new home.
But when we talked to her, which was often, she sounded a little scared and unsettled and depressed. But she never bemoaned her choice, and on more than one occasion announced that when she looked around Los Angeles she felt like she had “come home.” This was all crazy to me. How could she be so “at home” in such a foreign environment? I mean, she was living in a place where you had to valet your car to shop at the grocery store. And the streets were hardly wide enough for 2 cars to pass, but you had to park on the street at night. And you couldn’t get a Dr. Pepper.
But the work came. And a few little things stand out in my mind. Her first real entertainment industry job was being shot in Japan. She handled the currency conversion for certain expense accounts, and downloaded the daily conversion rates into an Excel spreadsheet she built for that purpose. This was not hard. This was not sophisticated computer work. But some co-workers thought that was just the most brilliant thing. And when that job was over, more doors opened up. And she learned how to make the system work for her.
Being a long distance Mom is hard. Your kid calls home, tells you what’s on their mind at the time, burdens you with some of their problems (if you’re lucky), but oftentimes fails to pass along the good news when the problem is resolved. And when quizzed about it a few weeks later, has very little recollection, having solved the problem and gotten on with life. And your two weeks of worry was all for naught.
Laura was good to call home. I heard more about her life in L.A. when she was 2000 miles away than her life at the university, when she was just up the highway about an hour away.
And for Laura, it looks like she did find her home in L.A. And I don’t think she’s ever coming back.