Hello hello! I know the title of this post is GOODBYE in all-caps, but I needed to welcome you, reader, first.
That's how I experienced my first day in Los Angeles, after I moved here at 18. I was welcomed with bright and cheery 'hellos' to the University of Southern California, and I was so excited to start this new chapter of my life. Sunshine, palm trees, and beaches beckoned to this frozen chicken-nugget from Toronto. I moved into my dorm, met some of my best friends (shoutout to the OG's: Bailey, Matt, and Austin!!!) to this day, and proceeded to learn and grow (literally, I grew 4 inches my freshman year) into the spectacular woman I am today.
Starting junior year, I began to have doubts. They'd creep into my head in the middle of the day, wrestling my attention away from whatever I was doing to whisper 'You're not good enough. You'll never make it." I willed myself to ignore this voice, but it was darned persistent. Especially when I learned about a little thing called a visa (and no, I don't mean the credit card).
Being Canadian, I'm permitted to stay in Los Angeles on a student visa. I'm not a resident of the United States, and thus cannot stay here permanently (something about not having paid taxes and also stealing jobs from hard-working Americans). And there are restrictions with being a student, too. You legally can't work in the United States, unless you're hired by your University. The only jobs I could get as a student were the ones offered at my school. Luckily, I was hired at the USC bookstore, and then later as a tour guide for USC (which I ADORED, and #fightonforever).
After you graduate, you have the option to either a): go back to your home country, or b) apply for an OPT visa, which grants you 1 year to work outside of your University for a job that is in line with the major you graduated with. I was lucky enough to be hired to host Celebrathon Movie News for a company called Digital Content Group, and secured some employment!
At the end of your OPT visa, you can apply for a whole host of Visas, some are Canadian friendly, some are company sponsored, and some are incredibly hard to get.
I'm in the third category. Since I am an actress, the Canadian friendly visa doesn't apply to my chosen career; I do not have a company to sponsor me (and would only be able to work solely for that company anyways), and am not extraordinary enough to be considered for an artist's visa.
So, that silly little voice in my head got louder. If you don't get your visa, you're not good enough. Extraordinary? You are nothing but ordinary and mediocre. You will never be anything more. How do you expect to be an actress if you can't make it in LA? If you don't have a series recurring before you leave, you'll never amount to anything. You have failed.
Talk about pressure, huh?
In many ways, I did feel like I failed. I had opportunities in Los Angeles, I was lucky enough to have the financial security to pursue my dreams and passions, and it still wasn't enough. Maybe it wasn't the situation and it was me.
And maybe a little part of that was true. Did I have days where I didn't get out of bed until 10:30am? Absolutely. But I also had days where I was up at 4am to get to set, or had stayed up until 6am shooting through the night.
I realized exhaustion and staying "busy" were a terrible way to measure my success this year.
And then I started to see it! How happy I've been this year, even though it's been such a whirlwind and I've had more existential thoughts than I can count. How much I have worked and created as an artist, from original songs and music to standup comedy, to shorts and webseries'! I have had the incredible opportunity to be an artist, and I could not be more grateful. I've played quirky best friend, innocent high-schooler turned total badass, pop-star singer, dating show contestant, workout girl, and so many other roles. This is what I've wanted ever since I played "Mama Bear" in Three of A Kind in grade school.
It's been one grand adventure-- one that's only beginning. And that nasty voice in the back of my head started to get quieter and quieter, until it disappeared entirely. And now the only voice I hear is Benedict Cumberbatch's silky British accent cheering me on in all of my endeavors (Just kidding. It's more of a Jude Law.)
Even though I will be leaving at the end of June, it is in no way the end of my career. I will still continue to act and sing my heart out, because there is no way you'd get me to stop making art. It is what fuels and and drives me, and is what every star in the sky is to me: hope, even if the darkest of places. I can't imagine anything else that would bring me the joy that this career does.
I'm reminded of two quotes that have gotten me through this year. The first was told to me by my best friend Matthew Ruehlman, and reminds me of why I am an artist. The second comes from the late British neurologist, Oliver Sacks, which always fills me with gratitude. I hope that they help you as they have helped me.
"Life beats down and crushes the soul and art reminds you that you have one."-Stella Adler.
"Above all, I have been a sentient being, a thinking animal, on this beautiful planet, and that in itself has been an enormous privilege and adventure."- Oliver Sacks