A Five Year Road Map
I was voted “Most Likely To Succeed” by my high school peers, and I wanted to prove them right. Feeling the pressure to excel was nothing new for me, especially when the pressure came from myself. I have always had the tendency to be my own worst critic. Most times it’s a curse. Other times it can be a blessing in disguise.
Graduating high school and leaving my tiny Bay Area hometown for Los Angeles in 2010 was my first real shot at independence. No matter how nerve racking change could be, I reveled in the freedom of personal growth to become whoever I wanted to be, and had a clear vision of my future. I would flourish at the University of Southern California, land a job as a music journalist, eventually marry my (now ex) boyfriend and spend copious amounts of time at the beach. No brainer.
Being a print and digital journalism and music industry student helped me develop new vocational and social skills, and introduced me to a talented network of aspiring achievers, some of who are now very good friends of mine. I fell in love with writing for digital publications and even started a clothing brand called Hours Lost on a whim (this is how I connected with Dream on Youth!) On top of all this, I somehow maintained a social life with diverse circles of people, and a long distance relationship with my high school boyfriend who joined the Air Force shortly after I left for college.
One part of my life I cut loose was the USC marching band (FTFO, fam) before my junior year. After quitting, it allowed me to fill my time with things I was more interested in. I was a blogger for our music school and contributed to Tumblr culture. I worked at GRAMMY Foundation events, wrote about music as an editorial intern for Buzznet.com, and took on my first part time paid gig as a front desk assistant for USC Student Affairs.
Then there was Hours Lost. With little knowledge of e-commerce and graphic design, I continued to build my brand the best I could with the amount of resources and time I had available. One of my favorite parts about having a bunch of different projects has been the people I’ve met along the way, whether in real life or on the Internet.
WINTER 2012 + SPRING/SUMMER 2013
Cue the start of my journalism school burn out. Hard news (typically reports on politics, crime, business, etc.) was not for me. My professors taught us to follow the AP Stylebook like it was a bible (I promise I understand its importance), and when we learned how to write wildfire reports or super condensed broadcast scripts, I cringed. I longed to write more lifestyle and human-interest pieces. It was a breath of fresh air when I had opportunities to add more heart into my writing, whether it was a piece on LA homelessness or the importance of a South Central music rehearsal space.
Even though I was still writing for blogs and the Daily Trojan’s lifestyle section, my love for long form writing discreetly waned. I stopped looking for editorial internships and turned to other industries for guidance. I interned at the Keep A Breast Foundation (remember the “I Love Boobies bracelets?) where I wore many hats but most memorably crafted lifestyle and gift guides based on non-toxic living. I ended up interning for their crew for about eight months because I loved it so much. They weren’t just a team. They were a family, and being welcomed into it was special.
My final year in college tossed me through a loop. I slowly realized I maybe didn’t actually want to be a journalist, but instead was holding onto the idea of being one. That made me anxious. I was SO ready to graduate and continue powering down my path to become a “real” self-sufficient adult, but was unsure of what I’d do after throwing my grad cap in the air. What was I even interested in anymore? Should I have majored in something different? Would I actually make the time to turn Hours Lost into a profitable business? (Spoiler alert: Hours Lost is quietly shutting down by end of 2017)
All the while, I wrote pieces for my own blog and occasionally for the Grammy Foundation through their GRAMMY U program. I also left my part time admin job with Student Affairs when I was promoted to New Media Manager for the music school’s Division of Contemporary Music, and continued to attend all my journalism and music industry classes, hoping to regain clarity for my next steps.
WINTER 2013 + SPRING 2014
It was a harsh winter. My four and a half year relationship ended abruptly and I felt broken and defeated. I was still feeling lost about my career path, so when he and I grew apart, I was even more confused. But this jump-started the period of my life that has been shouting “on to better things!” since January 2014.
Shortly after the break up, I bought my first car. A 1997 Acura Integra that’s young at heart. I named her Carrie Bradshaw after spending much of my final winter break binging Sex and the City. I connected with Carrie’s character, an ambitious woman trying to survive a beast of a city and the complexities of romance. I drove my Carrie down highway 5 back to Los Angeles still feeling down, but certainly not out.
Tossing out my LA Metro card and filling up my gas tank granted me a new piece of freedom. Aside from the simple, yet glorious, task of driving to get groceries instead of carrying heavy bags for five or 6 blocks, I could drive myself to shows and, more importantly, stop mapping out bus routes to get to internships. A dream of mine came true when I was offered the role of social media intern for the Vans Warped Tour, a music festival I went to every summer in San Francisco or Mountain View as a teenager. Prior to owning a car, I put off any serious attempts to intern for Warped Tour because of how far away (by bus and rail) the office was from USC. My car had me cruising right to them and some unforgettable experiences.
When I held my grad cap in the air at my graduation (I was too nervous of losing it in a toss), I didn’t know what was in store for the rest of my life, but I had some dope plans for the summer and that was a good start. Another huge dream came true, and I went on the road with the Keep A Breast crew as their touring digital media manager during Warped Tour. Living out of a suitcase on a tour bus and working 12+ hour days for two months was gnarly, but I LOVED it. A great bunch of people entered my life, and the experience was a great test for my abilities, strengthening them. Warped Tour taught me many lessons I wouldn’t have learned if I had stayed in one place for the summer.
While I was out on the road, I was presented with a tough decision. Before leaving Los Angeles for the national tour, I was offered an artist manager assistant job with KMGMT, which shared an office with Warped Tour. I was familiar with their team because of the close working quarters and my friend from Keep A Breast recommended me for the job. The side of me that always wanted to work in the music industry was stoked. The other side of me was hesitant because I never saw myself working in management and was fearful of failure. Miss “Most Likely To Succeed” was torn. In my favor, KMGMT was patient enough to give me some time to think about my decision while I was on tour.
Fives shades darker and halfway through the summer, I had a heart to heart over the phone with Michael Kaminsky, the head of KMGMT, while in a random venue parking lot. Sink or swim, I took the jump and accepted the job shortly after.
Once tour ended, I flew back to my hometown for a brief visit, and in a blink of an eye, I was back in Los Angeles with two days to find an apartment with my friend Nik. We signed a lease on the second day, and since then, my life has been filled with both amazing and unfortunate risks.
FALL 2014 - SPRING 2016
At KMGMT, I worked with artists, such as 3OH!3, Dia Frampton, The Summer Set, Neck Deep, Tonight Alive, and several more, and loved being a part of their journeys. Over the course of two years, I learned a ton about the nuts and bolts of the music industry, but deep down I knew becoming a manager wasn’t endgame for me. This frustrated me immensely, in addition to my life’s other stressors. Modern dating was hard on me emotionally and I was inconsistent with Hours Lost. I felt stuck in limbo, and let this feeling overshadow the good in my life. I developed a ton of new friendships and connected strongly with the local music and art scene. I was closer to being 100% financially self-sufficient. I had a good job, even if it might not have been the right fit for the long run. I had my health, a roof over my head, and no absence of support.
As lost as I felt, I still had a really good feeling about 2016. But now 2016 is noted as the worst year of my life thus far. First on a positive note, KMGMT was super helpful and supportive when it was time for me to find a new job. Funny enough, my former boss from Keep A Breast helped me land my next gig at Create & Cultivate, a blog and conference for women looking to create and cultivate their careers. Remember how I said Keep A Breast was a family? Well, they’ve definitely looked after me as such.
Unfortunately, the rest of my life was in a rough transition. Around the same time I started working at Create & Cultivate, my roommate Nik left for law school and I was supposed to be moving into a new flat with some friends, but we had an unfortunate learning experience. To simplify a very long and complicated story, we rushed into signing a lease for a place that ended up being a health hazard. We almost took a slumlord to small claims court when he refused to give us our money back after agreeing to refund us when we moved out less than 24 hours after moving in.
I ended up having no place of my own for the entire month of June. Luckily, the kindness of my friends saved me. I stayed in four homes throughout my time of homelessness; an Air BnB for a week, a hotel for two nights, a friend’s new apartment for a partial week, a friend’s house where I cat sat for a week, and back to my friend’s new apartment. I never thought I could be so used to sleeping on couches and blow up mattresses. Or having my belongings moved from place to place and stuck in storage. Or publicly crying as many times as I did during my search for an apartment.
Working at Create & Cultivate and having the support of my friends and family was a saving grace. It provided my life with some normality. At the beginning of July, I finally moved into an apartment with a friend from college and never felt so happy to unpack a suitcase.
The end of summer and the fall of 2016 was a complete 180 from June. I was on the up and up and convinced nothing bad was in store for the rest of my year. Naive optimism.
Working with the Create & Cultivate team and all of our amazing speakers (we had Nicole Richie in Atlanta and Kristen Bell at SXSW) has been next level. I’ve had some struggles with anxiety and work/life balance, but seeing how beneficial our events are for attendees is a kickass feeling.
Then my grandfather unexpectedly found himself in a coma at the hospital after having three cardiac arrests. I was across the country in Atlanta for my first big conference with C&C when I got the call from my cousin. After sobbing in a FedEx parking lot the day prior to our event, I made the decision to fly home on the first flight I could get.
With no brain activity, Papa never woke up from a coma and passed away peacefully a couple days later.
WINTER 2016 - PRESENT
I haven’t been quite the same since, and most people probably haven’t noticed because I try to keep an upbeat and positive appearance. Which isn’t an inaccurate description of myself, but I also recognize I may have a form of depression (something I’ve tried to shrug off since high school).
I’m identifying triggers for my anxiety and extended periods of depressed feelings, while also learning to leave the past in the past. Keeping busy and concentrating on self-care helps a lot, and I’m in a good place right now.
What I’ve realized over the last five years is that even though I may not know what’s coming next, I will survive and flourish. As long as I continue to work hard and remain eager to grow, my life will become exactly what it needs to be for me.