One Year After the Leap of Faith
365 days ago I dropped everything and moved to LA to pursue my dreams, now what?
The rain pelted us and our wafer-thin plastic ponchos as Justin Trudeau stressed the importance of bipartisanship and environmental concerns from the center of Yankee stadium. I leapt up from my seat with the other members of New York University’s class of 2018 and passed a milestone I have been looking forward to for as long as I can remember — I graduated from college.
But as I tucked my tassel to the left of my cap, the wave of excitement, pride, and joy I expected to feel never washed over me. Instead all I felt was an emptiness deep in the pit of my stomach. The year after graduation is the foundation for your career and with how things were looking, I knew that I was setting myself up for the failure and I thought there was no way to fix it.
I should back up a bit. Going into undergrad, I could not have been more lost. I had every intention on going to drama school and becoming a lead on a television series by my third year and dropping out of college because between my TV show, my podcast, and my hosting gigs I just could not be bothered with education.
But that didn’t happen, instead I got cold feet about my creative endeavors and accidentally applied to college as a Psychology major. Seriously. The application asked which program I was applying to and without thinking, I selected “Applied Psychology” as it was one of the first options and didn’t realize what I’d done until I received an acceptance letter welcoming me into the department.
I didn’t mind the program, it actually wasn’t until my third semester when they told us we would have to do field work and research that I even remembered I didn’t want to be a psychologist and had to internally transfer. After too-little thought I quietly changed my major to Hotel and Tourism Management because I was too afraid to try anything creative, and I thought I had a nice smile so I would probably do well in hotels.
A phenomenal and exhaustive set of criteria when considering a life-altering decision at one of the most expensive institutions of higher education on the planet. My new program was nothing short of an utter nightmare, complete with incompetent professors, mind-numbing curricula, and terrible internships.
Before I knew it, my senior year was almost over and I needed a solid plan for after graduation. I didn’t have the experience or confidence I thought I needed for my foray into the creative world so I did the only thing I knew to do when you are scared, lost, and need to buy some time — I applied to grad school.
Which program? Surely I learned my lesson the first time around and pursued a Master’s in Acting or Entertainment Law.
Surely I wasn’t going to be content with less than what I want for myself… Well that emptiness I felt as everyone was cheering around me during graduation was because I knew that after graduation I was headed into a Higher Education and Student Affairs Master’s program at the same institution I graduated from. Good move!
This time around however, the honeymoon period didn’t last long at all and less than a month in I found myself at the lowest point in my adult life. The program was worse than abysmal.
The classes were bland, I had some terribly uninspiring professors and in addition to classwork I had an assistantship in undergraduate admissions, a space I once loved that was poisoned by a terrible boss, little to no work to do, as well as a toxic workplace environment.
Academically and socially I felt I was back in middle school and it took everything in me each morning to wake up, go to work, go to class and to pretend that I was enjoying myself. One morning (after a particularly Kafkaesque week at the office) I couldn’t pretend any longer. I sat up, took a deep breath, and as tears welled in my eyes I told myself, “I can’t believe you gave up on yourself at 22.”
Even though it was a bit dramatic… I knew that the voice in my head was right. It was entirely too early for me to just trudge along to an education degree and into the life of a moderately well-off residence hall director, but I made a promise to myself and my mother that I would get a Master’s degree.
So I knew what had to be done, I researched hundreds of programs in the hope of finding one that was the perfect blend of being academically challenging while being creatively fulfilling, and after about two months I finally found it.
A cutting-edge, one-of-a-kind, one year Master’s program in Digital Social Media at the University of Southern California. So I packed my bags, said a prayer and exactly one year ago I left behind the comfortable life I had built in New York and finally stepped into my destiny, basking in the warm sun of Southern California, and I can finally say that I made it.
Wouldn’t it be nice if it was that simple? Maybe in the next life. But in this life, I walked straight from one unorganized, haphazard program to the next. Same struggle, different coast.
I could babble on and on about how the program announced it was a two-year program at orientation, effectively doubling the debt I was already worried about taking on. I could talk your ear off about the academic advisors not knowing how class registration works, or how they approved my conference funding just to take it away and twiddle their thumbs trying to find $600 somewhere in the budget.
I could write a novel concerning the slightly fascist speakers that came to our classes or an exposé detailing the heated email exchange between the most arrogant adjunct professor I have ever met after I brought his misogynistic comments to his attention. I could do all of that but it really doesn’t matter because “academia” is a dream that for me, needed to die long ago.
I have always loved school and a central piece of my identity has always been “student”, but this academic routine I’d perfected is the very thing that’s been holding me back. Being comfortable is a detriment to progress. It took me being uncomfortable as a student to grasp that being a student is not my dream.
My dream is out in the real world, being creative, being entertaining, being the best version of myself. I used to be so afraid of looking like someone who is desperately trying make it but… I am trying to make it so what’s the point in hiding? If I come off as a try-hard it’s probably because I’m trying hard.
And for me, I would be so much prouder of myself for continuously putting myself out there, going after what I want and getting nowhere than if I were to settle, do well, go to work everyday, and die.
So that’s what I’ve been doing for the past year. Putting myself out there, learning new skills, honing the ones I have been neglecting for most of my life, and just soaking in this new life as a creative.
And if we’re being frank, I’m loving it. For the first time in my life I’ve found people who want to occupy the world I want to operate in. I’m taking the initiative to make the most out of this shoddy program to focus in on what I want to learn about. I’ve started improv classes and I’m pretty good.
The first week I got to LA I was offered an internship on the spot and spent a semester designing and editing content for one of the largest record labels in the world. I got a freelance job working for a Gen Z focused marketing/lifestyle brand where I am helping craft the voice of the brand and every single day I use my skills in editing and copywriting in tandem with my knowledge of digital landscapes and my obsession with pop culture.
I’ve gone viral on Twitter and TikTok and I’m slowly starting to grow an audience and define my brand. I’ve started writing articles to share my point of view and to paint the world through my eyes and have had the pleasure of being published and commissioned for the first time ever. I’ve been able to have the work I’m a part of highlighted in Business Insider, Forbes, and the BBC.
If you google me, a good amount stuff pops up and it’s all from things I’ve done in Los Angeles. And most importantly, from the moment I left New York, every single penny I‘ve earned this past year was earned because of my creativity and my unique voice. That is what I’m most proud of.
Soaking it up.
This past year I came back to my hometown for another life milestone, my five year high school reunion. When I graduated high school, I envisioned me coming to my reunion well into my super stardom and that wasn’t happening. I was coming as a simple 23 year old who had a degree he didn’t care about and a year into another sham program.
But to my surprise and delight, everyone was so supportive of my move to Los Angeles and my dreams of working in the entertainment world because I was finally doing what everyone assumed I would be doing anyway. This narrative of everyone leering at me as I unsuccessfully go after my dreams was never real. The last person to believe in me was myself, and now that that has happened, everything else is falling into place.
We’re a year out from me taking the leap of faith and five thousand followers and one million likes later… effectively my life is still the same. I’m still a student, I’m still making $15 an hour, I’m still unsure where I’ll be in the next year but mentally I’m in a whole new reality.
Every morning I wake up grateful and excited, ready to see what TikTok I’m going to make or what article I’m going to pen. I am in awe of myself. I am proud of myself. I’m just getting started with the rest of my life and there are many more leaps to come. It will always be frightening to jump, but what I had to come to terms with was that standing frozen on the platform is as much of a decision as jumping off, and that the only reason not to jump is if I didn’t believe I would make it out ok on the other side.
I don’t know where I will be living in a year, I don’t know exactly what I will be doing in a year, I don’t know how I will be financing my luxurious life style I have grown accustomed to. All I know is that I will be forging my own path and wherever I am, I know I will get there because of who I am and what I bring to the table.
If you have a leap in your life you have been thinking about taking, this is the sign to take it. I had no business wasting my time and my boundless potential at a desk job or in a program that didn’t serve me and neither do you. It won’t be immediate, it might not be glamorous all the time and it certainly won’t be easy but anything less is only a disservice to your prowess.
And if things don’t go right, that’s ok. I have learned more in one year of experiencing the life I don’t want than in twenty-three years of dreaming about what life I do. So I’m going to continue figuring out what I want and what I don’t. I’m going to continue to take chances on my talent and to explore every option. I’m going to keep changing my mind and introducing myself with pride. But most importantly I’m going to make sure I never give up on myself again and I am going to keep on leaping.