If you had told the fresh-faced Elon grad who arrived here in July of 2015 with a dream and a cardigan that she’d be turning around and heading back east only two years later, she would have laughed in your face. The solemn sympathy of your expression would have made her mad, spurred her to prove you wrong. But, alas, that is the truth: After two years and change in the City of Angels, I am packing up my Jetta, George, and heading back to the land of dropped R’s and the reigning champion New England Patriots.
Some people may be surprised to hear I’m leaving. I admit, I’ve kept the news of my move close to the chest. Though I have my reasons for leaving and I believe they are valid reasons, it’s hard to admit to people that I’m moving on and have no idea what I’m doing next. Especially when I’ve been talking about living in LA and making it in TV ever since I can remember. It sometimes feels like I’m running home with my tail between my legs.
It’s a tiny comfort to say I’m not leaving, because I failed. On the contrary, since moving out here, I’ve been almost consistently employed (a blessing both for LA and as someone who constantly worries about money). I got my chance to work in TV at a network I respected for a long time. I was doing the thing that most people are praying to have the opportunity to do.
The truth is no one tells you what it’s like to have your dreams let you down. TV was all I ever wanted to do, but once I got there, I didn’t like the life I saw. 60-plus hour weeks. No free time. Scrambling to gym at 5AM just to add something to my schedule besides work and sleep. Everyone around me miserable and overworked. Feeling undervalued and unappreciated. For the first time, I asked myself if this is really what I wanted. Was this lifestyle worth forfeiting friends and family and other passions? The answer was a resounding no.
That scared me. I was Casey Brown, the woman with a plan. Wanted to be writer since age seven, a TV writer since 15. Everyone I knew was banking on me becoming the next Tina Fey or Mindy Kaling. To me, giving up didn’t seem like an option. Who was I without this plan? What would I do now? And what would everyone say? The fear of diving into the unknown paralyzed me, and I realized that I was stubborn (and scared) enough to stay here forever, miserable, working tirelessly, just wishing for the right opportunity to come along. It’s like the song from La La Land: “Someone in the crowd could take you where you want to go.” But what kind of life is that? Waiting and hoping until something maybe happens? That’s the moment I knew my time in LA was done. It was time to go… and the only place to go for now is home.
I’ve struggled to explain why I’m leaving to people, especially people in LA. This is the city of dreams, after all. I mean, wasn’t that the whole point of La La Land? To show that big city dreams come true? The best metaphor that I’ve come up with is that LA is my bad boyfriend. I came out here fully intending this would be a long-term commitment. I had high hopes that LA would be my forever. But my career disappointed me, the city pushed me around. I struggled to make friends, and I didn’t have the free time to add value to my life. I was lonely and often spent my infrequent off hours alone and crying.
Like any bad boyfriend where the relationship was once positive, it’s hard to say goodbye. It’s hard to reconcile that the thing that once filled you with happiness and hope has let you down. Even while there were good parts to your relationship, they’re not enough to make you stay. And you can’t keep holding onto what was. You need to chance to move forward, because you don’t what could be waiting for you elsewhere if you stand still.
I don’t regret my time in LA. While I’m slightly frustrated and embittered by the way this journey has ended, I am also big enough to admit coming here for the last two years was vital to the girl I am today. I grew a thicker skin and learned how to cope with less-than-ideal situations, while also gaining a stronger sense of self and healthier habits. If I had never come here, I could have spent my whole life wondering, “What if?” Now, I can wonder, “What now?”
The possibilities are wide open to me now. Like any millennial, I am overwhelmed by the choices, afraid that the next one will lead me to the same unhappy place, but I find comfort knowing life doesn’t end when I drive out of LA county. I know what I don’t want, which might be even more important than knowing what you do want, and I can start searching for my next big adventure…
… the first of which starts tomorrow. Georgie and I will be getting our kicks on Historic Route 66, driving from Santa Monica, CA through the heart of the U.S. to Chicago. Grand Canyon. Cadillac Ranch. The World’s Largest Ketchup Bottle. The Gateway Arch. We’re ready to see it all.
It feels symbolic, a little bit. I came out here all by myself. All I had was a suitcase, an air mattress and one very sad lamp from Target. Now, I will now take the solo journey back with all the mementos and knowledge I’ve accumulated over the last two years. My parents offered to send someone out to join me, but it feels important to do this alone… at least until I meet them in Indiana.
And I’m hoping you’ll join me. I’ll be recording my cross-country adventure right here, resurrecting a passion that has been lost in the hustle and bustle of the last couple years. So, stay tuned, because big things are ahead!
Until Next Time,
Casey Brown | Gal about Town