Sunday, August 2, 2009

Personal Thoughts on a Rainy Day

My Perspective.

I've always been on a fast track. For example, I finished my BA in 3 years and my MA in 1. I viewed college as a time to learn fast so I could go out into the world with a solid education and do cool stuff. My uncle introduced me once as his niece "who thinks the world is going to end tomorrow". I guess I've always felt that I have to make the most of each day because I don't know how much time I have in the world--and there's so much I want to accomplish in my lifetime that I don't want to waste a minute of it doing something meaningless.

This way of thinking is the result of losing my one and only sibling, Gina, to cancer when I was 10 years old. She was only 12. Watching someone suffer & fight for their life for 3.5 years and then lose the battle, especially when they're so young (and when you're so young, too) changes you forever. It changes the way you look at life, people, and yourself. For some, those 3 things become sources of bitterness, resentment, and negativity. For others, those 3 things become sources of joy, motivation, and happiness. Life is challenging enough without tragic events thrown in the mix and it's difficult to pull yourself towards the positive. Tragic events like these morph over time as to how you understand them. Who I am, what I do, and how I do it have all been significantly influenced by this event.

Two quotations I strive to live by are from Albert Pike who said, "What you do for yourself alone dies with you; what you do for others and the world remains and is immortal," and from Ralph Waldo Emerson who wrote, "Make the most of yourself for that is all there is of you." Together, I think these two thoughts are good guidelines to reach your full potential as a human being, while making a positive impact on others and, in turn, the world. "World" doesn't need to be literal...that's a bit grandiose..."world" is the circle of influence around you--no matter how big or small--it's important.

How I Ended Up in LA.

In the winter of 2007, I decided to pack up my bags and move from Toledo, OH to Los Angeles, CA in order to advance my career in the entertainment business as a host/actor/model/producer/musician/whatever someone would hire me as. I had been working in local broadcast for nearly 2 years and wanted to put myself in a larger market with more opportunities.

Without too much of a plan, I flew out to LA with two suitcases, my guitar, and enough money to get through about 1.5 months of rent/food. A friend from acting school let me crash on her floor for 3 weeks as I searched Craigslist for a good rooming situation. I slept on an air-mattress that would slowly deflate during the night, so I would wake up with my hip bone against the floor. Luckily, it had a remote control air pump attached. I rented a blue Chevy Malibu (hey, I didn't get to pick what kind--just asked for the cheapest) for the first couple weeks while waiting for my Honda to get shipped out.

From my first week in LA.

Once all of these "life" things got sorted out, I started taking acting classes and worked as a hostess at an Italian restaurant on Melrose Ave. My original "career" plan fell through due to a series of poor advice that I followed from people who I thought knew more than I did about "the business" and about "doing business" in general. The only thing I really got out of it was work as a fit model, where I would try on clothes for designers and they'd make adjustments on me. It was the most money I ever made for putting on clothes. At least I wasn't getting paid to take them off! I worked lots of hours in the restaurant and eventually moved on to another Italian restaurant as a bartender. Taking whatever "opportunities" seemed to come my way, I even worked for 2 weeks as a secretary for a venture capitalist company after being approached in a parking garage by one of the company's employees. It was the most money I had ever made in 14 days for answering phones and ordering lunch, but my schedule was getting out of control, so I quit that job and stuck with making drinks.

The Turning Point.

Four months into my stay, I met an acting coach/actor woman in a gelato bar who recommended that I take classes at the Meisner Center in North Hollywood. I ended up babysitting her son for a couple months in exchange for coaching/business advice until new classes started up in September. Then, from September 2007 - December 2007, I found out why I moved to Los Angeles: it was my time to get broken down.

Broken down only to be built back up--empowered, full of understanding, and with a "toolbox" I did not have before. Those 3 months changed me as a person and as a performer. It is still the most valuable "thing" I did during my two years out West. I got to know myself more in 3 months than in all 23 years of my life. If you haven't put yourself through something like this--a retreat, meditation, class, therapy, etc--I highly recommend it. It will hurt while you're in it, but you will come out healed and ready to take on anything that comes your way. "How you do anything is how you do everything" is one of Meisner's many sayings that force you to look at your core truths. It is so worth your time and money. I cannot stress this enough. Take this class, or at the very least, read his books. You will be thankful.

Your core truths are the foundation for everything you do, think, and feel. If you don't know what they are, you're missing out on knowing the most important person in your life: you.

Validation.

A few weeks after finishing my class at the Meisner Center, I quit my bartending job and started submitting myself for acting/hosting projects online. I started taking a couple more classes around town so I could network into a group of actors, coaches, and casting directors. I landed a few gigs here and there--some short, independent and student films, local commercials, and hosting spots. Finally, in April of 2008, I got called in for "Vlog Idol" with Mahalo Daily.

Two months later, in June of 2008, I was hired as the host of MD and had my first real full-time gig in LA. Soon I was promoted to Executive Producer and was in charge of researching, producing, writing, hosting, and overseeing edits for the show. I absolutely loved this job. I felt it was the perfect combination of things I enjoy doing. All the various shows, from how-tos, to red carpet events, to interesting people/places around Southern California, I loved meeting new people and learning about all the different subject matter. Unfortunately, in February of 2009, MD decided to go a different direction that eliminated the full time hosting/producing position. It was time, again, for me to find work.

The Search.

From March - June I casually searched for jobs, while pursuing a few personal goals and questioning what I wanted to do with my life. In March, I went to SXSW for networking, fun, and celebrated my 25th birthday at a Divo concert (ask me about gin & tonics), trained for a half-marathon (which I ran in 2:58 in April) and started working as a publicist for writer, Christopher Canole. I got new headshots with photographer/actor Jack Brewer, lost 15 pounds with personal trainer & fitness coach Adam Brewer, and worked 1-on-1 with acting coach Elena K. Smith. My best friend was getting married in June, so I spent a few weeks back in Ohio to help her out as her maid of honor--a role I took very seriously! The people who came into my life during this time period are people who I value tremendously and for whom I am extremely grateful. They helped me in ways that I don't think they even know they did. Hopefully this post gives them a little indication as to how much of an impact that had on me during a very transitional period of my life.

While in Ohio for my best friend's wedding, I find out about Rocketboom's openings and applied immediately. Over 1.5 months, I eventually was hired as a producer for RB and relocated from LA to NYC. And now, here I am. Producing for the award-winning web show from one of the best cities in the world!

Thinking Back.

I came across another great quotation today from Chuang Tzu, “Happiness is the absence of the striving for happiness.” Maybe this is what put me in such a reflective mood today...that and the rain.

Though I don't fear the world is going to end tomorrow, I do live each day with the philosophy of making the most of myself and having a positive influence on the people around me. One of these posts, I will go into detail about my sister and how her life shaped mine into what it is today. For now, this is just a brief introduction to the most influential person from my life and a summary of what I've been doing over the last 2 years. Of course, there are so many more details I could go into, but those are more for a novel "that wins a grammy" than for a blog.

A couple photos of positive people in my life!

Screen writer and "West Coast Godfather" Chris Canole.

Brothers Jack & Adam Brewer.

See more pictures on my new Facebook Fan Page!

*special note: Through all of my endeavors, my family and friends have been extremely supportive and also helped me tremendously during the ups and downs of my journey. I am sincerely thankful for their generosity and understanding. I couldn't be where I am today without them. No question.

Mom & Dad (and Jen drinking a beer in the background)

Uncle Joe, my "Life Coach"

The Grandparents - seriously my No. 1 fans!

Uncle Jon "You gotta eat."

Thank you all. Who are your biggest influences in life? Share them here on The Dealio.

-Leah

22 comments:

  1. Leah,
    This is such a positive and touching post! Thank you for sharing and being able to reflect and turn what could be setbacks in your life into opportunities.

    - Christine (once was at Mahalo)

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  2. Hi Christine,

    Thank you so much! I appreciate you taking the time to leave a comment. What are you up to post-Mahalo?

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  3. You left out the part where you didn't drink until you were 50. :)

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  4. Hahahaha ah yes, how did I fail to mention that tidbit?

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  5. Leah,
    Great post. I liked Mahalo Daily when Veronica was hosting it. Liked it more when you got there. And was sad to see it end. (Tweeted you when it did.)

    Another quote for you: From 1 Corinthians 10:13. "No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation, will provide the way of escape also so that you will be able to endure it."

    You can apply that to life situations like the passing of your sister. (Instead of temptation, sub the word situation.)

    I'm sad for your loss but glad you chose the better way to react. Thank you for being so open with your life.

    Aloha from Hawaii,
    Michael
    mtshawaii (Twitter, FB)

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  6. Leah mentions all the people who influenced her life...as one of those fortunate people I say, you have given us much more than we gave. It is a passion and privilege to continue walking alongside you on your amazing journey...for many, many years to come...which will pass like days at your pace.

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  7. Leah,
    You are really something!
    Your posting is so touching and encourage everybody. Your have full of energy surrounded by your wonderful friends and family.

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  8. Leah,

    It's amazing and inspirational to hear your story!



    Gina.

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  9. Wow. All these honest and beautiful thoughts were happening unbeknowst to Greg and I yesterday in the office. Thanks for the heartfelt and inspiring post. I think it may have made my morning. -Eric

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  10. Michael - I really like that quotation you provided, especially the part about providing a way of escape so you can endure it...

    Chris - your comments are always so poetic :)

    Sagan - Thank you!

    Gina - Thanks for reading and taking time to leave a comment.

    Eric - Thanks for the toilet paper ;)

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  11. Isaaaaah! I love ya, too, chica! We are going to see each other soon--if not this year, then for SURE in 2010.

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  12. May the source of all creation continue to guide you as you become his work of art.

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  13. I'm claiming some inspiration for this post, and glad I got to hear and talk about most of it with you firsthand on Saturday. See you again soon brat.

    You missed an awesome sunrise.

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  14. Leah -- I now develop websites for JPL through Raytheon, and play in a ska band in my spare time. It was great to find out you were heading to NYC for Rocketboom (awesome!), I got job offer in Manhattan last year but felt it wasn't the time for me to move yet, hopefully in a few years I'll be ready though! :)

    - Christine

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  15. Lost 15lbs? From where?

    How'd you do it? Advise me, woman!

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  16. Exercising at least 3xs/week and changing my diet: 40% carbs 30% protein 30% fat, eating 5-6 times a day (50-500 calories per snack/meal) and limiting daily calorie intake to 1350! Go to Adam Brewer's website to find out more!!!

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  17. How about a diet of 40% Love, 30% Inspiration and 30% Fat of the Land, consuming passion for life 5-6 times a day (50-500 stimulations from the 5 senses and 6th sense) and never limiting your intake to any new delicious sensations. Go to Lao Tzu's website to find out less.

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  18. I like that diet a lot better, Canole!

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  19. I met you on the RVIP Lounge at SWSX. You were one of the people I remember vividly. That brain of yours is going to take you far.

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  20. Anonymous -

    Thank you for the comment! I met some lovely folks on the RVIP Lounge...

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  21. Great template! Thanx for sharing it with us
    I like it! Simple and pretty More templates easy to download

    ReplyDelete