Jessica Runck, Published February 13 2014
Homegrown Hollywood: Two sides of success hard to accept
It was in celebration of “The Exes” third season and I was pretty surprised when I received an invitation. I assumed only the big-time guest stars were invited and I was honored I had been included. The night of the party, I put on my “trendy but not trying too hard” outfit and headed out.
It was lovely. Everyone was warm and welcoming. People made me feel like I belonged, sipping drinks next to working, successful writers and producers. I felt like this was my only job – to be an actor, go to parties, and sip a gin martini.
As the producers thanked everyone for a fantastic season, I felt a thrill knowing I had been a part of that.
I slipped out early and walked back to my car. I tried to hang on to that powerful feeling of belonging but by the time I climbed into my Toyota, it had started to disappear.
What I didn’t mention at the party was the reason I was leaving: I had to work the next day – at my day job.
That actually, I’m not as successful as they are – at least not yet. That I work a few jobs, have credit card debt, and dream of having what they have every single day.
As I got closer to home, I started to think about the duality of this city. Just a few days ago, I had watched a woman in a Chanel tracksuit push two Chihuahuas in a baby stroller past a homeless man begging for food.
It is a place of extremes. There are million dollar homes next to tenement apartments, beat-up old cars next to Bentleys and Jaguars, and a career that has you filming a movie one week and waiting tables the next.
This constant roller coaster can be exciting. The energy of living in a big city, knowing that your wildest dreams could come true at any moment, is one of the most exhilarating feelings I’ve ever experienced.
On the other side, however, it’s a lot darker. The high highs come with very low lows, and learning to wade through those times is half the battle of finding success here.
I felt myself slipping into one of the lows after the party, knowing that tomorrow I would show up at work and be my ‘other’ self. I had no idea when the next invitation would come, the next audition, the next moment when I would be living the life I wanted.
Growing up, I was lucky enough to be raised in a steady, peaceful community. I went to bed at night knowing that the next day would be similar. It was safe – a place where the only thing that really changed dramatically was the weather.
I loved the certainty of my life on the farm – I was fortunate to have it.
I knew, as soon as I stepped into Los Angeles, that I was trading that peaceful life for something wilder.
And lately I’ve found myself wondering, if I’m only living the life I want to live a quarter of the time, how do I hang on to that passion? How do I believe that someday the duality will disappear?
This great heaving city can pump out dreams and devastation with one churn, promising you your fantasies and then handing them to someone else. It can tear you down as it lifts others up. But if you can ride it – if you can find something steady to hold onto – you just might come out on top.
There are times when I think I might want to come home – when I start to question my ability to hang on.
Until, like it always does, the city turns again.
Jessica Runck, who grew up in Wimbledon, N.D., and graduated from Concordia College, is a writer and actor living in Los Angeles. Visit www.jessicarunck.com for more information.