Beside The Point: Should I Follow My Calling And Change Everything?
I hope this email finds you well and in joy, and that you’ve been settling into NYC nicely.
I’m reaching out to you because I’m curious as to what your decision making process was when you decided to move across the country. I’ve had a calling to relocate to the Bay Area (where I’m from) and yet, have had qualms, setbacks, and doubts, especially because life in LA has been wonderful.
I know every journey is different, and your decision to move is yours and yours alone, but any insight you might share to illuminate my path?
Sending love and kindness,
my last walk through my “backyard” the night before moving
The short answer to why I moved is usually the easiest to give people: my partner had a job opportunity here. The long answer, which applies more to this question, Anais, is that it was a long time coming. A lot of lessons and stories and dreams evolving to the point of expansion.
Some backstory: NYC had always been in the plans for me – and by “always,” I mean it was the path I thought my life would lead me down post-college. I had it all figured out: I’d go to school for theatre, move back to LA for five to six months to get a solid base of work (why I thought six months was a reasonable time to get a “solid base of work” as an actor, I have no idea), then leave for New York in the late fall to pursue a career on the stage.
That’s obviously not what happened. My prediction of six months to get work was miraculously spot on – not only did I get work, but I got into SAG-AFTRA and was on track to be able to join AEA (Actor’s Equity Association), too. An AEA membership was essential to my NYC game plan. It was all working out just as I’d planned. By the end of the year, I was all lined up to be able to make a career move to NYC.
But I didn’t. It wasn’t a conscious choice not to move, but to be honest, it never really felt right. I kept getting work in LA. I was making friends who encouraged me to be who I was, not who I thought I should be. I was learning how to live in the “real world” as myself, tied to no institutions or predetermined social groups, for the very first time ever. I became an L.A. gypsy, living in a grand total of nine places in the span of eight years. Each place I landed was a perfect representation of where I was at that time in my life (although I rarely realized it in the moment). L.A. became not just where I grew up, but my own treasure-filled city to explore and discover. I became an L.A. evangelist and its biggest fangirl. “People who say they don’t like LA don’t REALLY not like LA,” I used to tell people. “They either came here with an expectation of what it should be like and moved to a place that wasn’t that…or they just haven’t found the part of LA that speaks to them yet.” I truly believed there was something in LA for everyone. I still do.
When Jeremy asked me if I’d be willing to try out some time in NYC, my decision to say yes didn’t come without qualms, setbacks, or doubts, probably much like your own. Like you, I didn’t have any beef with the city. Like you, life in LA. had been wonderful.
But here’s the thing: life in LA had gotten familiar. It had gotten comfortable. And after living out an entire decade as an LA gypsy and am entire lifetime before as an LA resident, it had gotten to be a place I felt I’d explored from top to bottom. In order to learn anything new about this city, I knew I was at the point where I’d need to learn a lot more about myself first.
You say you’re feeling a calling to relocate. You also say you’ve had qualms, setbacks, and doubts, and that life in LA has been wonderful for the most part.
I have two questions for you, which can apply to any time you feel called to change something up in a major way:
First off, is your calling telling to run toward something, or run away from something – is it telling you to escape, or to expand? I mean, obviously if you’re in a dangerous or harmful situation, get the hell out of there. But if you’re running away and escaping from things like big, scary opportunities or awkward situations that you just don’t want to deal with, that’s a different kind of running away. On the other hand, running TOWARD something means you’re more curious and passionate about what’s on the horizon than you are comfortable sticking with what already IS.Are you running toward something, or away from something? Do you want to escape, or expand? Click To Tweet
Second: Are you still learning? Are you still growing? And maybe the most importantly, are you able to be the YOU you know you’re meant to be? For me, LA had become a place I was able to be most of who I knew I was meant to be. But I had never known life outside of my small familiar bubble. I also felt like I was at a growth standstill, especially when it came to self-perception in my career. Yes, I had crossed the line from novice to expert and become a professional writer, editor, speaker, what-have-you. But I still felt like something was missing. I felt incomplete without being able to pinpoint exactly why. It wasn’t ’til I came here and was forced to really, truly OWN being my own boss that I was able to BELIEVE that I was. I realized I’d been taking cues from others for so long that it had become so much easier – and almost accepted – to emulate others’ paths instead of do the challenging but eye-opening work of finding my own way. In five months here I’ve done almost as much as I did in a YEAR in LA. Sure, the fast pace of NYC helps, but it’s also because displacing myself from my safety net of familiarity has made me confront all those little parts of myself that, in the past, have held me back. The biggest lesson I’ve learned so far is just a fraction of the biggest lesson I am still learning: I don’t need to know everything in order to make shit happen.
Now, I’m not one to do things “just because,” and I certainly don’t make big choices based solely on adventure. I probably wouldn’t have made the move if I had not had a concrete reason like J’s job. I’m way too pragmatic for pure risk. But – and this is a big BUT – I do not view a “calling” as risk. And you say you have that calling. That’s your intuition speaking, girl. That’s your gut and heart and soul knowing something your brain and body don’t yet, which is probably why it feels so weird and confusing. I can only speak from my own experience, but I have a hunch that yours is a lot like mine in that what’s holding you back is that confusing disconnect. I didn’t know what was here waiting for me, and in many ways I still don’t. I only knew it was right. And for me, the risk of going for it, hating it, then moving back was way more scary than the risk of staying safe, staying the same, then regretting it later when life had gotten in the way so much that I no longer had the strength to push it aside.
Your gut is telling you something right now. Whether it has to do with a move or something else, I can’t say. But it’s telling you it’s craving something MORE. Find out what that is first, then move forward fearlessly toward that and see where it takes you.
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