Aside from the fact that I’ve basically been homeless for the past few months, I don’t think you and I are all that different. For example, I’m guessing that you, like me, never dreamed that the first home you purchased would have wheels. Sure, I imagined a guest house, a nice yard, and maybe a pool or something… but never a house that would require new tires from time to time. It’s not that I’m too bourgie to see myself in a mobile home. In fact, home prices in Southern California have made me consider that option more than once, especially when I learned there are trailer parks right on the beach in some of the priciest neighborhoods in LA! But still… “first time homeowners” and “pumping our own sewage out” were phrases I’d never thought of putting together. Until yesterday that is, when we did indeed buy our first home… on wheels! We bought ourselves an RV! A 5th wheel to be exact. A 2016 Keystone Sprinter to be even more exact.
We didn’t intend on buying one so new. In fact, our plan was to buy an old one to fix up in a way that matched our style. Though I’m pretty glad that didn’t happen because I know us well enough to realize that in reality we’d never actually finish, and we’d spend our whole six month road trip lamenting the backsplash we never got around to. So luckily, we avoided the five stages of backsplash grief when we happened to drive by just the right RV dealership- with just the right reason to sell this one fast- on just the right day, and saw just the right RV for us! So we bought a 2016 model for 1/3 less than the list price! I’m not even joking. And it’s selling for even higher than the listed price everywhere we’ve seen it posted around the country!
Of course we were skeptical that we could be so lucky as to find just the right everything for just the right price, so we hired an inspector to look it over. And it came out perfectly! His only negative feedback was that the “outside was dirty”. I think it was that dirty outside that helped us get this great deal, because it limited how many people driving past would stop to notice how sparkling this trailer was on the inside! In fact, it’s practically brand new and barely used inside!
The TV, stove, and fireplace (yes, FIREPLACE!) all seem like they have literally never been used. And there are still new stickers on the bathtubs and showers. Yes, I did say bathtubs and showers PLURAL because this is a 2 bed/2 bath model!!!
If you’re doing the math, you know that means our daughter Celia actually has more of her own space than she did in our LA apartment (see our nursery closet pics here)!
And it’s actually tall enough that Scottie can fit in it! Which was a real problem when searching for this. He still can’t stand up in the bedroom, but that was the case in all but one of the 5th wheels we saw (and is the reason we didn’t buy a tiny travel trailer!).
So when all is said and done, this is the perfect RV for us! Better than we ever imagined we’d have. I am a little sad we won’t be Pinterest famous for all the remodel magic we do (we actually can’t do much because it’s so close to factory condition and changes would likely lower the resale value). But I have a feeling we’ll be less stressed out on the road knowing that: 1.) Our backsplash is done, and 2.) We have a better chance of making it from Point A to Point B with our “car house” (as Celia calls it) in tact. And man, does it feel good to have such a new and perfect place to call home… for awhile!
Look out, America! Here comes the Chansons with our (almost) new “Car House”!
Growing up, my happy place was Southern California.
Like most people from Arizona, we grew up going to San Diego for vacation, and occasionally Orange County for theme park visits, but only once ventured up the way of LA, just so we could say we did it. And like most Arizona people when they finally make their way up to Los Angeles, we had no idea how to navigate the city and found it to be mostly stressful and not nearly as beautiful or relaxing as San Diego. However, all of that changed when we spent a week in Hawaii with some wedding clients and their Los Angeles-based wedding guests, because once we made friends in LA, going to visit was an entirely different experience!
We discovered that LA is a lot more fun to live in than to visit. We learned how to navigate traffic to lessen it’s effects, and we discovered that some of the beaches are less busy than the Orange County beaches we grew up going to! We found out that the best parts of LA are the things you have to be invited to, or places you have to know about… all of which are not found on travel sites. The fun lies in the day to day life and revolves around the extraordinary people you get to know.
Daily Life in Southern California….
There’s a TV commercial I see air in Arizona advertising trips to Southern California. They joke about how people in Southern CA are just “regular people with regular lives” but all the while you see them in amazing places, doing amazing things. That’s really what it feels like to live there! I often wanted to pinch myself when I looked around and thought, “is this my real life”? I mean, when I walked out my front door, I was on the beach!
We took daily walks down to the pier to watch surfers, or to the marina to watch the boats.
My daughter learned to walk on the boardwalk!
We had annual passes to Disneyland, Pantages Theater, and (accidentally) Universal Studios.
From our house we’d walk through the stunning Venice Canals to Abbot Kinney which was once named “The Coolest Street in America”.
Then we’d spend the afternoon on Abbot Kinney, enjoying world-renowned coffee, art, fashion, or cuisine. Well, we’d at least look at all those things… the only one we could afford was the coffee!On the rare occasion that we couldn’t walk or bike to our destination, we’d drive ten minutes to meet friends on Main St. in Santa Monica to enjoy the quirky shops, food truck nights, or to just sit in the grass and listen to music while watching the pony rides at the farmers market.
In the summers we’d ride bikes along the beach to sit in the sand with some wine and cheese while we enjoyed free concerts at the Santa Monica pier. We’d spend our weekends watching the waves while either having deep conversations with our closest friends, or partying it up in matching themed attire.
Whether we were watching a musical and theming our clothing and meal to it, celebrating Japanese culture that we actually knew nothing about, remembering the beauty of the Gatsby 20’s for a Birthday party, or ringing in the summer solstice with Argentinian 80’s culture… whatever our LA friends did, they did it with costumes and flair. And usually with a celebrity or two in the mix. This is the kind of stuff that made up our “normal” life in LA.
It’s all about the “Once-in-a-lifetime” experiences….
The daily life is awesome, but it’s the utter abundance of “once-in-a-lifetime” type of experiences in LA that REALLY make it special! We were lucky enough to have some incredibly generous friends (especially Rich Payne who was the benefactor to many of our very special and free LA experiences! Thanks Rich! And thanks to ALL of you who gave us these types of opportunities!). Rich gave us box seats at the Hollywood Bowl, Dodgers Tickets, and stays at five star hotels we could never afford!
Other friends gifted us with free massages, private tours of movie studio lots, VIP tickets to TV show filmings, Coachella tickets with vendor privileges (aka not using those general admission bathrooms!), and had lunch dates with us at Google and Youtube (which I thought was super special!).
Living in LA is about working hard and playing hard (and often doing both together!). Being photographers always provides us with special perks, but being based in LA for our job (and the friends we made through it!) stepped this up big time! We had the opportunity to do things like see free private performances by John Legend, Neil Young, Sting, Faith Hill and Tim McGraw, Patti Smith, Tom Morello and more! We got to work on set for McDonalds and Disneyland commercials (including going behind the scenes at Disneyland!). We scored free VIP tickets to the Chelsea Lately Show.
At different points, my husband and I separately got to be the private photographer for Sheryl Crow, Holly Robinson Peete, Jay Leno, and others we aren’t allowed to name. We were regularly able to stay at the Ritz for free (thanks to Harriet for getting us that job connection!) and that sometimes included bonuses like free food and drinks for our entire stay, a personalized chef’s tasting dinner, and free massages in their spa! We traded photography for private Pilates instruction and physical therapy (when either of us were unfortunate enough to need it).
We were invited to the kind of wedding industry networking events where the moving dessert table was actually a woman dressed as Marie Antoinette with desserts placed on her giant moving skirt.
We booked jobs through LA friends that involved free trips all over the country for us. Scottie filmed a music video that ended up on MTV, as well as several other pieces of work that were played for celebrities, network executives, and many others in an industry we were not qualified to produce content for… but got to do so anyways!
The great thing about LA that most people don’t know is that it’s really a big city that’s made up of small towns. You pick the little village that suits you and live your life in that self-sustaining community. Driving to work is often the only time locals venture into LA traffic, since it’s only worth it if someone is literally paying you to do it. We chose Venice as our hub because we were looking for community, and the beach lifestyle of being outside and walking or riding bikes everywhere, seemed to lend itself well to that. Our guess was right and our neighbors became like family and we ran into friends everywhere we went. Though it had all the big city benefits I’ve mentioned already, I think it may have felt more small town than many small towns do!
If you’ve never been to Venice, it’s hard to explain. It’s the kind of place where a homeless woman yells for help, and a famous actress comes barreling out of her house ready to beat someone down. It’s the kind of place where a high twenty-year old girl asks for an extra pair of your panties since she doesn’t know where hers went. The kind of place where you go out to walk the dog and stumble upon Tony Hawk skating a half pipe, the Red Hot Chili Peppers filming a music video on a rooftop, Blake Griffin dunking for a commercial, or Chris O’Donnell filming a TV show with LL Cool J. Then of course you’re followed home by a clown on stilts whistling “if I only had a brain”. This is all truth and it’s just a snapshot of the crazy things I saw daily in my six years there.
In Venice, there’s the exciting, the scary, the unforgettable, and always the entertaining. We’d be sitting in our kitchen and suddenly we’re being serenaded by an incredibly talented violin player who has set up a block away. Walking down the boardwalk, we’d head past the skate park, the basketball courts, and muscle beach while running into everything from a man riding a 10 foot tall unicycle, to the “wolf boy” from the Freak Show getting a slice of pizza, to a group of gymnasts performing a comedy dance show, to a man jumping on glass for a living, to a turban wearing rollerblader who’s played the electric guitar while rolling along the boardwalk every day for the past 20 years. Sure there were times when crazy homeless people camped out by our garage, or pooped in the cinder block outside our doorway… and proceed to spread it all over our mailboxes; but the bad side of crazy is more than balanced out with the fun and interesting sides of it.
Every time we opened the door in Venice it was an adventure. Including the time I’d just finished watching the very old “Heroes” TV series and a week later I responded to a knock at the door and found a villain from the show- who I later found out lived two houses down- standing on my doorstep asking to borrow something from my front yard (I was so scared of this “evil man” that I froze and could barely nod yes). A few times a month we’d walk out the front door to find a section of the street blocked off for some sort of filming, including the time our neighbor was on a reality show with the “skate car” he built. Twice, Netflix asked to use our apartment for filming one of their original content shows. Once, Jessica Simpson asked to use our building’s parking spot for a few minutes. Another time a private investigator asked to rent our parking spot while he watched coked up models and hookers leaving a nearby house night after night. Then there was that wonderful time period all of our neighbors sold their parking spots to make $300 a weekend that we could pool to spend on parties, fixing up our front yard (a project we began by tearing up the ground at midnight on a whim one night), or any community expense we found. Lack of parking, just like the lack of personal space that forced a bond with our neighbors, is another thing that seemed like a curse but turned into a blessing!
One of my favorite nights in the Venice area started out with a free stay at the Ritz Carlton. After getting back home, we rode our bikes to the Marina Del Rey boat parade with hot chocolate and Christmas cookies. At the end of the parade, a friend called and said his girlfriend was singing and playing trombone at a fancy hotel nearby. So we rode our bikes down the beach to join their group of three which turned into ten, before we all headed to the Christmas party of a friend (who happens to be a famous musician) to finish out the night. It was one of the many LA nights that felt nothing short of magical to me.
Even with all the incredible moments Venice Beach provided us, the community amongst our neighbors in “The Roxann” building, was the heart and soul of our Venice beach experience.
In fact, when I was writing for this blog, my neighbor who had babysat the night before so my husband and I could go vintage bowling at the Roosevelt hotel on Hollywood Blvd, texted to ask if she could bring me down some fancy hot chocolate fixings! Just another random Thursday afternoon surprise at the Roxann!
Our neighbors at The Roxann (and the few stragglers that chose to be adopted into our community), were like family. We all had keys to one another’s apartments and those keys were used often to let dogs out, double check the oven was off, put Amazon packages inside, and to leave meals and other surprises for one another. To get permission to enter for surprises, we’d ask to borrow something out of their fridge…. and sometimes we really just needed to borrow something out of the fridge! We helped one another through hard times with lots of tears at all hours and we celebrated everything from birthdays, to babies, to weddings!
Actually, we celebrated anything we could come up with! Some of us had a tradition to go out to the divey-est restaurants we could think of on all the most neglected holidays, like going to a haggard old chicken and waffle joint on Columbus day. We celebrated multiple Jewish holidays with feasts that Jewish community groups bought for us. We even built a Sukkah structure in our driveway and encouraged those passing by to participate in the building and decorating. We also built a Jewish-Christmas tree in our front yard one year to celebrate our mixed faith building.
We threw many memorable building-wide parties. Including a St. Patty’s Day party that went from surfing, to BBQing, to a field trip to the “American Ninja Warrior” TV show obstacle course they set up every year down the road, to hang out with our camera man neighbor and watch contestants run through it. Then there was one of Scottie’s birthday parties where a neighbor locked herself out and twenty (not entirely sober) men tried to prove they were the manliest by attempting to get her in via a twenty foot wobbly ladder and power tools (power tools won). Our 4th of July parties were pretty well known in the community. Every year the horse cops would stop and play a game of corn hole in the street with us from atop their horses. And some years we’d have super successful garage sales with our customers being all the red, white, and blue dressed passerbyers who were too drunk to realize they were spending money. During one memorable garage sale, a homeless woman who kept her money safely in her butt, handed us a $20 with feces on it. NOT my favorite Venice moment. Every 4th of July party included a BBQ feast with bacon wrapped hot dogs and of course, Americana costuming, and we’d end the night with a walk down to the ocean to join other parties in watching the four different fireworks shows we could see from our little spot of beach.
Though our big planned parties were epic, the real benefit of living a few feet away from some of your best friends were the impromptu moments. The “hey, I know you’re sick, do you need anything when I go to the store today?”, the “I need to vent about my day at work, want to go for a walk along the beach to get a drink?”, and the “I swear the baby is crying just to be mean to me, can you come babysit while I go walk with this other neighbor along the beach to get a drink?”.
There were impromptu BBQ’s where everyone contributed whatever they had in the building (we were also lucky enough to have a few really quality chef’s living there!), and sometimes unexpected dance parties or karaoke would break out. We’d roast marshmallows in the front yard fire pit that our parking spot sales bought for us, and our late night hang outs would sometimes end in midnight group trips down to play in the ocean. Other times those late night talks in the front yard would involve calling the police on the many drunken hooligans who crossed our path. Though sometimes we chose to help them instead, including one lost girl we claimed so the cops didn’t arrest her.
Once Scottie found a kite and all the neighbors headed out the beach for a really fun kite flying day. Another time, one of our neighbors was inches away from getting into a fist fight with an Elijah Wood look alike. We befriended a homeless man who had built an entire living room out of trash, a fashionable ensemble out of leather pieces, and who had taken a vow of silence and would only communicate via writing. He said his words had gotten him into trouble and he was waiting for his son. One day his son showed to pick him up and months later he came back into the neighborhood as a normal salesman who wore a suit and tie, spoke well, and lived in Culver City. The many adventures of our days at The Roxann will never be forgotten!
Why we left…
LA is a city of extremes. The good is extremely good, and the bad is extremely bad (i.e. feces tainted payments). I’m glad we braved the bad for awhile to embrace the good. Some people seem to adjust to the bad and get used to it, I never really did. And as soon as we had a baby, that became very apparent to me as the things that were a little hard before (parking, over-crowdedness, general pace of life, piles of trash my daughter liked to put in her mouth, etc.) were added onto the basic hard things that go into having a kid, and it was just a little too much for me… for us.
LA gave us the bigger life we were looking for, until it didn’t. So now this Goldilocks is heading out in search of a bigger life that is actually the right size for us.
Goodbye, LA, I’ll miss you…
We’re not sure where we’ll live after our six month road trip ends. There are places near LA that might be options, but it definitely won’t be the same LA that I’ve grown to love (and hate). So regardless of where we end up, I’m saying goodbye to the LA I know.
LA is a very special place and in some ways it will be unlike any other place I’ll ever live. As much as I do feel the relief from the bad now that I’m out of it, I already miss it terribly.
Not just anywhere has perfect weather year round, access to the best of anything any time I want it, or so much to do that something would present itself before I even finished asking “what should we do today?”.
Not just anywhere allows you to meet the beautiful and extreme variety of people you’ll meet in Los Angeles. It’s a place where the neighbors you befriend consist of an ailing homeless man with one arm, a South African dog walker who speaks mostly in “dog” language and F-words, as well as a variety of A-list celebrities. Not just anywhere allows you to walk out your front door and hear six different languages being spoken around you at once.
LA gives you the opportunity to strike up daily conversations with strangers in a coffee shop and know you’re sure to hear stories of immigrating from a war torn country, running a reality TV show for seven years, being a missionary in Los Angeles, nannying for an Iranian prince, living in a socialist commune, being a personal seamstress for Sandra Bullock and J-Lo, not getting an offer when you took your business on Shark Tank… and any and every other kind of interesting life experience that can be had under the sun. It’s the kind of place where you really do feel like “anything could happen”. Like the time AFTER we’d already moved away and I thought “I wish I could’ve met Josh Gad while we were there” and then I ran into him a week later when we went back for a quick visit.
Not just anywhere would’ve allowed me to have had the honor of meeting so many different kinds of people, or to learn and be inspired from such a variety of stories and experiences on such a regular basis.
Of course, mostly I’ll miss the people we loved and who loved us (including those not pictured here) . I know that I will forever miss them and the very special life we shared together.
Resist the urge to go all hipster/ironic, or emo/anti everything, when it comes to goals. Yes, I know that only capitalistic robots who have been brainwashed by corporate America would even dream of doing something so cliche as setting goals that begin on January 1st (heaven forbid). But stop trying to be unique for just one second so you can realize that, guess what? You need to do it SOMETIME, and since most of us don’t remember the rest of the year, now is a perfect time!
To help you with your 2013 goal setting, I’ve come up with a list of resources to give you some direction!
I once knew a girl who had a plan.
She had a plan because she had “Manifest Monday’s” with her best friend every week. This day would consist of them getting together and writing their own personal lists of things they wanted to see happen in their lives. Big or small, they’d write the dream down and then write down the steps they needed to take in order to get there. And guess what? Their dreams came true one by one.
There’s power in knowing and defining your dreams.
There’s something magical about writing down the things that require bravery just to think about them. I’ve heard that goals that are written down are around 80% more likely to come true than goals that are vague and not clearly written down (I’m not completely sure if that percentage is accurate, that’s just what I’ve heard). Even still, you can write things down until your fingers are raw, but they are still much less likely to come true than they are if you also write out the steps you need to accomplish them. Once you have the dreams and the steps, don’t forget that there’s power in numbers. It’s a big deal when you voice something out loud to someone that seems crazy. Mostly because it means you might actually do it!
Manifesting my Manifest Friend.
I actually wrote this post before I even knew my Manifest Friend who I’d eventually find myself voicing my crazies out loud to. I’m glad I waited to post it until I found her, not only to hide my hypocriteness, but also because now that I do have a wonderful Manifest Friend, I actually understand the significance of the words I wrote about how important it is to find one!
You know those moments when you’re like “I think my chest is collapsing, or wait, maybe the sky is falling…. or whatever it is, everything in me seems to be caving in”? And you know those other moments when you’re like, “I feel like skipping, I think I’m going to skip… maybe I’ll whistle a tune while I’m at it!”. OK, well having a Manifest Friend means that even if I start the day in the first moment, I end up in the second moment by the time we finish our meeting together. I can’t quite explain this phenomenon. Maybe it’s having someone who relates to my struggles…Alanna is an actress/model/musician so she knows the pain of never knowing when your next paycheck is coming, of having to self motivate since there’s no boss to do it for you, and of having your finances be dependent on whether or not people like you, etc. Maybe it’s having someone to be honest with, even when it’s about the things on your “I’m not so good at and I need to fix_____” list. Maybe it’s having someone to encourage you when they hear about something particularly brave or ambitious that you’re trying to accomplish. Whatever it is, all I know is that every time I leave our little once or twice a month meetings where we discuss our progress on the goals we emailed one another with at the beginning of the month, I’m amazed at how much brighter the world seems and how much smaller my problems feel.
Today is your day.
I know they don’t grow manifest friends on trees, but if you start looking, you might be surprised that you actually do find a ripe one! And I’ll give you super, extra, one-up, flower power, bonus points if you start searching for that person today. I don’t care how you do your manifesting; you can work together on identifying your dreams and the steps towards them (as my Manifest Mondays friend did), or you can just work on holding each other accountable for your specific monthly goals that you’ve identified on your own time (as Alanna and I do). However you do it, just do it.
The steps to take.
1. Define your dreams by writing them down.
2. Write out the steps required to accomplish those dreams.
3. Discuss these with a friend.
4. Rinse and repeat.
You could also say that another way, lists run my life. Regardless of how you look at it, I enjoy lists and lists enjoy me… and that works for both of us. So when I think about possible options for things to do in and with my life, I list them out.
Things I MIGHT want to do with my life (example list): Be a waitress Sea World Orca Whale trainer (my husband doesn’t know it, but this is the REAL reason I wanted to move to CA) √ Be a mom Amy Grant Ariel Mermaid(see previous post about this) Dog groomer √ Finish my master’s degree √ Learn Spanish √ Write a book
However there is one thing that tends to be lacking in my most of my lists, besides lists about “my potential pet unicorn names” and “things that me and my pet unicorn would do together”. Those missing elements are creativity and emotion. I know “Amy Grant Ariel Mermaid” may seem creative, but really that was just common sense to me as a child, in reality my imagination can feel limited by lists sometimes. After all, if I expand on one too much, that one line might turn into two lines and mess up my list formatting or even force me to create a new page and then what would I do?! (if you don’t relate to these thoughts then don’t worry, it just means you’re not a nerd).
So how did I solve this creative-less list issue? And how did I open up my imagination to all the possibilities that are up for the taking in my future? I wrote a story about it.
Yes, I actually wrote a story called “My Ideal Life”.
Of course the crazy organizer in me made sure I categorized the different chapters in the story by 5 year marks, but it still was a great exercise in allowing my right brain to take over the dreaming responsibility so that I really could reach for the stars without my left brain rolling it’s eyes in annoyance as it tried to squeeze all of the thought tangents into one line.
I put as much and as little detail into it as I wanted in different parts. I changed some of the beginning parts to be in 2 or 3 year segments instead of 5 (gasp from my left brain!), and I included some of my husband’s dreams to be able to see how our two dream lives intersect and compliment.
Writing my ideal life in story form helped me in ways I didn’t expect at all.
For one, I was surprised at how young it made me feel! I ended up taking my story one 5 year period at a time, all the way into my 70′s, and up until the ? mark I left to indicate my death (I wasn’t planning on going that far, I just got into it!)! I was amazed at how many 5 year periods I could still have left and at how much I might realistically be able to do during the time I still have left! I felt extremely hopeful about how much living I still have to do!
It also helped me see the big picture which is hard to do, especially because my life often feels so fly by the seat of my pants. I don’t know if I’ll be able to afford rent 3 months from now, let alone what I’ll be doing with my days in 10 years! It’s hard to see big picture and remember that the things that seem like such a huge deal now will not actually be going on for that long or be affecting me that strongly in the next stages of my life. So even if I have 5 or 10 years of struggle, I have so many 5 or 10 year periods left that if those bad years are taking me to the good ones, it will be more than worth it!
Basically I’m saying that not only should you do this, but you should do it without any rules.
Let your right brain truly take over and see what outlandishly unrealistic dreams you can come up with! Because if you only ever dream realistic dreams, or only ever list them out logically, then perhaps you aren’t really dreaming your dreams at all. Perhaps you’re only writing out possibilities, rather than heart felt longings. Give the right brain control and then if you want, lefty over there can take it later and break it into manageable lists and goals. When both sides are free to do what they’re best at without the hindrance of the other, you may be amazed at how big, and yet how possible, some of your dreams can seem!
Do it, write it out.
If you need some help, use this cheat sheet to get going. It’s not as intimidating as it sounds because when you first start out it’s basically just like playing that pre-teen girl game MASH. If an 11 year old can do it, you can!
In 2 years…..
I will live:
I will be doing:
Who will be involved:
What will my days look like:
What will my free time look like:
Those are just some questions to get rolling, but take it wherever you want and make it your own!
In two years I will be writing my successful blog and working on the first draft of my book, in the same apartment I’m in now with my husband and we’ll be….
Those hours upon hours of watching Disney cartoons as a child taught me a lot.Â
I know the importance of contentment. I know what happens when someone wants more and more power, more and more money, and more and more landâ€¦ they become the bad guy with their own scary theme song and they end up getting featured at Disneyland’s Halloween show. Oh yeah, they also end up either trapped inside a magic lamp or turning all shrivelly and seaweed-ish. If they’re REALLY greedy, they get thrown off a cliff or the roof of a castle.Â So yes, IÂ know that you’re supposed to be content and happy wearing the same princess dress every day and wandering around singing in nature with happy little creatures all around you without any conflict, goals, or cares in the world.Â Life doesn’t get any better than that right?
Well have you ever seen the “modern fairy tales that people write nowadays?Â
Sometimes Cinderella is slaving away for her 401K instead of for an evil stepmother, sometimes the 7 dwarfs never meet Snow White because there was a cave in at the mine, and sometimes Aladdin gets shot up in the ghetto before making it to the palace where Jasmine is.Â I think the moral of those stories is that being content with your position in life as the pretty girl who wanders around singing is not always the best way to go. Some of the more modern Disney movies even, have Princesses who seek adventure, do the courageous thing, and strive for more out of life.Â The moral of modern fairy tales and modern Disney: Sometimes it’s OK to push harder and fight to improve the quality of life for yourself and those around you.
(Just for fun, here are some photos from the “Fallen Princess” photo series by Dina Goldstein)
So there’s the balance.Â
Don’t become a greedy bad guy (or else the animators will make you ugly and you will face ultimate doom… except for your once a year appearance at Disneyland) and don’t become satisfied with a sucky, boring life (because there’s very little chance that your fairy godmother or magic genie is coming to save you).
That’s the lesson we learn from animated Disney characters: if you balance contentment with hard work and persistence then you will live happily ever after. The End.
Age 4: A Mermaid. “Amy Grant-Ariel- Mermaid” to be exact. Yes, you heard that right. My cousin and I had an Amy Grant fan club too – so embarrassing.Â I think we only had one fan club meeting and we ate brownies. The rest of the time I mostly just swam with my feet locked togetherÂ like a fin and spent my time trying to convince my cousin that I was the REAL Amy Grant- Ariel- Mermaid and she was just my twin. She bought it- sorry Bethany.
Age 6: A better version of April O’Neil. I wanted to hang out with the Ninja Turtles like April, only I’d be better because I could fly. I day dreamed of flying around in the sky in my black skorts and hi-top sneakers, while singing, high above my school playground at recess where all the kids could see and wish they were as cool as me. At that exact moment, my good buddy Michelangelo would kick spin onto the playground and hand out free pizza to everyone before fighting off the bad guys that arrived to get free pizza. I was the coolest kid in the world… in my 6 year old mind.
Age 8: A pet groomer. As you can see, I was growing up and my dreams were a little more realistic. More so than my little brother Paul’s, who’s ultimate career dreams were to be either an elevator operator or a car valet, only he wouldn’t make people pay because he’d just do them to be nice. I was way more practical than that. Until that is, my mom told me that I’d spend my days picking poop off poodles butts and I yelled at her “you ALWAYS crush my dreams!!!” before running to my room crying, where I decided I didn’t really want to do that anyways.
Age 10: Sea World trainer. Free Willy made a pretty big impact on me. Even after I saw the movie “Orca” where killer whales are actually killing, I was still on board. I thought I could change them. This dream never faded, I still want to do it. So all of you “The Cove” lovers out there, just accept it- I’m a bad person.
Age 11-15: A famous singer. I WILL be discovered while singing in my car one day. You’ll see.
Age 16: A social worker for foster kids. Until that is I was sobbing so incredibly hard (and loud) through the entire first half of the movie, The Sixth Sense, that my boyfriend at the time had to drag my out of the theater wailing. Yep, The Sixth Sense, a completely not at all sad movie, during which I couldn’t stop being sad because that poor little boy was scared all the time! I remember collecting my composure outside the theater when my boyfriend said, “um, maybe you shouldn’t be a social worker, you MIGHT not be able to handle it”.
Age 19: Film Soundtrack Producer: This was my answer to the question, “if you could have any job in the worldâ€¦” This dream still lived on in my heart until I moved to LA and saw how sucky some of the jobs in the film industry really are. Especially if I end up having to spend my days picking out music for the Wiggles or something like that. Call me disillusioned.
Age 20: No idea. I loved when we’d go around my Family and Human Development classes at ASU and ask what everyone wanted to do when they graduated and all you’d get was, “I don’t know”, ” I don’t know”, “I don’t know”. I thought that was probably a bad sign.
Age 23: Still no idea. I was getting my Masters of Arts in Professional Counseling, but I knew I didn’t want to be a typical counselor sitting in an office. Go figure.
Age 25: A photographer. I’d tried my hand at real world jobs and then went, wait this sucks. I want a pretend job like my husband (who was a photographer)!
Age 27: A writer. Thus Rare Existence was born.
Age 29 (now): It’s complicated. What I want to do with my life has less to do with what it is that I do specifically and more to do with how it supports the rest of my life.
Not necessarily money wise (but duh, that’s important), but more values wise. I’ve been investing my time into figuring out what is important to me in the rest of my life so that when I find a job that supports that well, I’ll know it!Â I’ve also been investing energy into some personal growth issues that I feel will better open me up to being the person I need to be in order to do the things I need and want to do in life.
After investing my time into working through those sorts of issues, I now know I want a job that I enjoy well enough that will allow me to have the flexibility I need to make whatever decision I deem is best for my family.
Freedom (time, financial, geographical, etc, etc) is key. If my husband and I decide to take a year to sail around the world with our family to teach our kids that way, right on- we want to be able to do it. If the public school system turns into a brainwashing, 1984-esque military camp and homeschooling is the only way around that, right on- we want to have the ability to do that! I know I can’t control everything, but the goal I want to work towards is to do my best to never be in a position where I don’t have the freedom to choose what I know is right for my family. P.S. having “freedom for my family” means my husband has to have freedom as well so becoming a Real Housewife of Orange County is sadly out of the question for me.
So now I’m getting to the point where I’m ready to start investing into the actual logistics of this mystical career that will provide me and my family with the values I’m craving for us.
Right now it looks like photography will always be a part of that, but I feel like there will probably be more to it in the end because I know I have the desire in me to do more than just give people with lasting memories through photos (not that it’s not important, I just want to use my talents in other ways as well). I want to help people learn. I prefer to help them learn through artistic and beautiful means, like how a fantastic movie, book, or song can make you think in ways that causes you to change your life. How that will play out exactly is still unknown. Will I do all those things for money? Not necessarily, maybe I’ll find a job that provides enough through working a little so that I can do the rest of these things just because I enjoy it (taking notes off my brother who now is an elevator operator and car valet for free). I don’t believe a career necessarily has to be what dictates how I spend my time. In fact I prefer that it doesn’t because as soon as something becomes a “have to” for me, I tend to resent it immediately!
Basically there are two options for me, and both include providing a life of freedom for my family.
One, I just find an incredibly flexible job(s) that provides freedom for my family, that I also really love and feel like I’m “meant to do”. Two, I could just find a job(s) that I enjoy somewhat that provides the most amount of money for the least amount of work so that I’m free to spend the rest of my time doing what I need to with my family and whatever else it is that I’m “meant to do”.Â Asking for too much? We’ll see. The benefits to this would be so great that I’m willing to try it before giving up on it! By the way, I know that drug dealing sounds like the best solution to this, but that is definitely off the table for me. Stripping? Off the table. Any sort of illegal activity that could result in either stabbings, sex for money, or a warrant for my arrestâ€¦ off the table. If I have to carry a concealed weapon on me at all times in order to perform my jobâ€¦ so far off the table, I can’t even see the table anymore. Writing is definitely still on the table. Teaching, speaking, life coaching, etc., etc. are all on the table for discussion. It’s just one step at a time and exploring different aspects until I find my fit!Â But as long as whatever it is includes a life of freedom for me and my family, then I’m in!
Your turn! What did you want to be when you grew up and what are you looking forward to doing with your life in the future?
This post is dedicated to two of my friends (you know who you are).
“You can do it my dear.” That is what I told myself when my husband and I both went full time into our new photography business which has continued to support us for the past 3 years.
“You can do it my dear.” That is what my friend, Kelli, told herself as she gave up her successful career to start up her non-profit organization that now helps hundreds of foster children every year.
“You can do it my dear.” That is what my friend Molly told herself (and her husband!) as he went in to reverse his vasectomy after they decided that extraordinary living for them means having and raising as many children as possible (they now have 4 boys and are pregnant with their 5th baby!).
“You can do it my dear.” That is what my friend, Nicole, told herself when she started up her blog that now has a large fan base and is leading to major speaking opportunities which enable her to help all kinds of people in more ways than she dreamed possible.
“You can do it my dear.” That is what my friend Christina told herself when her and her husband decided to start saving their money to fulfill their dream of living on Maui- which they succeeded in doing 5 years later.
“You can do it my dear.” That is what my friend Julia told herself as she gave up her life, time, and energy to nursing school because what she is meant to do with her life is help people.
“You can do it my dear.” That is what my friend Lynn told herself as her and her husband set off to leave their home in Phoenix and live in Chicago for a yearâ€¦ just to have an adventure.
“You can do it my dear.” That is what my friend Abby told herself when she moved to Africa to start housing and taking care of orphaned children there.
“You can do it my dear.” That is what my friend Katie told herself when she started sewing wedding dresses out of old tablecloths and soon became busier than she could handle sewing all kinds of unique women’s clothing.
“You can do it my dear.” That is what I want you to tell yourself next time you have a dream, inkling or idea, that seems made of equal parts amazing and impossible.
“You can do it my dear.” That is what I want you to tell your friends when they share their big dreams and ideas with youâ€¦ right before you pull out a pen and paper and help them write out the steps to accomplish their plan.
Now we’re going to talk about something that is going to be frowned upon no matter which side of the fence I stand on. So I’m going to attempt to stay in the middle. No, seriously, I promise that is really where I stand on it!
The question of debate here is: are some dreams too big for some people?
If you’ve ever watched the first few episodes of an American Idol season then I expect to hear a resounding “YES” coming from your direction. The other side of this argument is usually something about how Michael Jordan didn’t make his freshman basketball team but he still decided not to quit… or how everyone told grant hill he was too short for the NBA (sorry but for some reason my relationship with sports began and ended with basketball in the 90’s). You could even mention what’s his name who grew in YouTube fame because of his awful American Idol performance. You could point out how no one would know his name if he hadn’t pursued his dream despite his obvious lack of talent (if only I could remember his name now).
I could go on and on with analogies from both sides of the argument, but I think you get it. My point is that while I will encourage you to climb every mountain and swim every stream to reach your dreams, I will also encourage you to choose those dreams wisely. There is such thing as pursuing a dream you are not meant to have, and I think it is much better to decide if you are doing that before you are already waist deep into it.
These are two of the hardest questions you will ever face in your pursuit of an extraordinary life.
1. Is this the extraordinary life I should begin pursuing?
2. Is it time to give up this particular path of extraordinary living and find a new one?
Of course, the tricky part is that only you can make those decisions and only you will find the real answers. But whatever stage you are at on you journey, I think it is very important to stop and ask yourself these two key questions… no matter how difficult it may be to hear the answer.
I have wanted to live in southern California my entire life.
And my husband Scottie, has wanted to escape the summertime heat ever since he got his first “welcome to Phoenix” seat belt branding back in 2001. Over the past couple of years, our business has brought us to the Golden State multiple times. And every time we leave more inspired than the last by the people we’ve met and the things we’ve done and seen. Whenever the sad day to return home comes, we pile our camera gear back into the car and head away from the salty sea air, towards the looming saguaro cacti, and find ourselves making longer and longer lists of what we can do to live a more beautiful and creative life. Only to arrive back in Phoenix, get hot, and decide to plant ourselves in front of the fan next to the TV all day everyday… with the occasional trip to the kitchen to get a snack.
So what’s stopped us from following our California Dreamin’? There are the usual reasons… leaving family (whom we actually LIKE), extra expensive everything in California, and of course having to start all over with our finally successful business sounds terrible to us. So there is all that, but really the biggest reason we haven’t left is because…
…we just thought it was impossible.
People in small towns think they can’t move to a big city and people in Arizona think they can’t move to California. I don’t know what it is, but you just believe the state line is made up out of trampolines that will bounce you back if you try to get in with a moving truck. I know it doesn’t make any sense, but you just have to believe me when I tell you that’s how it feels… it’s a weird phenomenon.
At some recent point though- I don’t know if it was hearing about my friend’s 18 year old sister who moved there just because she wanted to, or driving through East LA and being like, “see, you don’t have to be rich to live in California!”- but for whatever reason, there was a magnificent moment in time where we found a little shred of hope as we realized that some people actually do pack their stuff and move to California! And then they just get to live there!!! Can you believe that?!
Combine that glimpse of a possible palm tree filled future with the fact that we had just spent a week away getting some R&R on vacation with our family and had done lots of thinking about our currently floundering life (too many possibilities, not enough clear direction… you know, the typical stuff Millennials deal with every 6 months). We worked on our discipline of dreaming, 5 year planning, and goal setting and were very surprised to find that everything pulled itself together to aim in one clear direction. West. Ha, of course it would. That does it! We are going to pack up our covered wagons and head down the trail with dreams of surfboard bruises and yacht party cruises filling our little bonnet covered heads.
We’ve decided to take the plunge and move to Los Angeles, California…
…for 3 months.
Yes, just for 3 months. What? That’s still a huge deal, OK!
Surprisingly enough, the summer is the slow season for wedding photographers in Phoenix because apparently most brides have a thing about getting married with pit stains (I don’t know why- twinsie pits brides and grooms can be pretty cute). So we have decided to take advantage of our free time that is usually filled with sweating our eyebrows off, to go on a adventure!
“Sure”, we said. “Going to California sounds great!”. Of course as the words were escaping our lips, we both felt the unspoken doubts in our hearts.
You have to understand, we are wedding photographers. We have absolutely no idea when we will be getting paychecks. Well we have some idea, but in January, the squares on our calendar for the rest of the year are still so bright white that they burn my retinas. Basically, our budget meetings usually come down to something like this:
Scottie: “So do we have enough money?”
Breanna: “Depends on how long you want to live for”.
Scottie: (Rolls his eyes at Breanna’s annoying sarcasm).
Breanna: “We have enough money for the next 4 months”.
Scottie: “Sweet, but what about after that?”
Breanna: “Well, if we don’t book more weddings in the next 4 months then that means our business is failing and we probably need to get new jobs anyways.”
Scottie: (Silent pondering, as is his way).
Breanna: “I’m saying we’re fine for now, and so far we have always been fine, so I hope that in 4 months we’ll find out we’re fine again.”
Breanna: “If not, then we have to find something else to do no matter what so there’s no reason in worrying about it now”.
Scottie & Breanna: (lots of worrying going on in their minds)
Seriously, it’s like that every time. So it is a big deal to say, “OK, we’re good for 4 months on our current budget. But, I know!!! How about we triple our rent, double our grocery and gas bills, AND maintain our apartment in Phoenix, and hope not only that it works, but that we will still have money to live on in the months following that!”. Yep, we’re stupid. Whatever- where there’s a will, there’s a way, right?!
This is the time to play the “what if” game. After playing, we found out that the worst thing that could happen is that we go, run out of money, and come home, and then possibly get short term jobs to make up the money we spent there. The consequences of failure at this aren’t insurmountable. Basically the biggest thing we’re risking is our pride.
But of course what we stand to gain is amazing and MUCH bigger than what we stand to lose…
We have the opportunity to use these 3 months to the fullest to discover new experiences that will help us grow, inspire us, bring us closer together, and bring new and wonderful people into our lives … all while pushing us closer to our short and long term goals in both business and life. Not to mention it will be very VERY fun and way WAY better than spending a summer in Phoenix melting and angry, while not making any money anyways. The scales are tipped and California wins.
So here we are, just waiting for summer to come. Hoping to see the money come in, hoping to schedule photo sessions, and hoping to find a cheap enough car that won’t hinder our ability to head west (oh yes, my beloved car crossed over to the other side right after we made this decision… awesome). By the time you read this, since most of my posts are written far in advance, I could very well be there, or way past there. Who knows where we’ll be?! But the point is, I think it will be somewhere better than we would be if we weren’t taking this adventurous chance and you can be sure I’ll tell you about it when we get there!
Since this was such a long post, I’ve decided to summarize it for you lazy ones.
Scottie and Breanna love California… but they can’t go because of stuff… mostly because the trampolines stop them…then they saw some poor people… they made some plans… which is OK because they just lay around in the summer anyways… but they didn’t have enough money… so they just said, “oh well, we’ll get some”… and they decided to go. The end. Or rather, “to be continued”.
(UPDATE: sooo…. 3 months in CA turned into six years! Read about the decision to move there here, and the decision to leave there here).