Four years ago, I came to Los Angeles for the first time. I was going into my senior year of high school and applying to colleges. I’m from the suburbs of New Orleans, Louisiana, and I had never been to the sunny state of California. If I hated LA, I would go to college closer to home. If I loved it, I would do everything in my power to go to film school at the University of Texas at Austin, my dream school. I knew that film school inevitably meant moving to Los Angeles one day.
As you can see, the trip went well. I’ll never forget walking up the steps of the Dolby Theater and seeing all of the best picture winners from over the years, especially all of the blank plaques for future years. We went on a couple of studio tours, and I was amazed by all of the action happening on the lots. Never did I think that I would be working on one someday.
One year later, I moved out to Austin and started my freshman year. I was in the process of coming out to my close friends and family, and all of this was complicated by a religious group on campus that assured me that I could be saved from my sexuality. It was really confusing that people believed my identity wasn’t valid or that there was something wrong with me because I was gay. I also broke my leg my first semester, which added to all of the complications. I somehow had a quick enough recovery that I did not have to drop out of classes for the semester. I actually took a geography seminar class about Los Angeles and how the city is portrayed in the media. Things seemed to be falling apart, but everything was actually coming together.
The following semester, I really started to get the hang of things in Texas. I loved my classes. I was chosen to be an Orientation Advisor for the upcoming summer and to help students acclimate to the college environment just like people had helped me. The program came with lots of diversity and social justice training. This was my first formal introduction to these types of issues, but of course I had been surrounded by them my whole life. Through this program, I met my current boyfriend of two years. He helped me come out and taught me how to be more confident in myself and my own personal spirituality.
When I broke my leg, the doctor said I may never be able to run again, play tennis, or do some of the things that really brought me joy. After a full recovery, I was determined to do more than just those things. I became part of a non-profit called Texas 4000 for Cancer, an organization that puts on an annual bike ride from Texas to Alaska to raise money for cancer research. I served as the Travel Chair for one of the three routes, and I led a committee in planning the entire trip from top to bottom. This included where we slept, what we ate, how we physically got from place to place, among many other things.
I took the cross-country bike ride last summer and gained a whole new perspective. This world is big, but it’s important to make it small. Dreams are huge, but it’s important to make them tangible. There are so many different types of people in this world, and they all have individual stories. Everyone has dreams. It’s important that the media industry tells all of these stories, and it must provide opportunities for content creators to make these stories for themselves.
I knew I was moving to Los Angeles this summer for a program through my school. I would take night classes and work an internship during the day, but I was responsible for finding my own internship. I applied to twenty and thirty jobs each weekend, and I just accepted the fact that I probably wouldn’t hear back from many of them. Thankfully, I heard back from a few. I applied to the CBS Entertainment Diversity department, because I had never heard of anything like it. I didn’t know that there were advocates working from the inside to push for more representation on screen. Being a member of the LGBT community and meeting such a diverse group of people last summer, this really struck a chord with me. I believe that this is important work, and I am honored that I got to be a part of it as the CBS Entertainment Diversity Summer Intern.
“All it takes is 20 seconds of insane courage,” has always been a motto of mine since I heard it in We Bought a Zoo. I would tell myself this before each round of interviews, so I knew I could do it even if I thought I couldn’t. Of course, interviews last a little longer than 20 seconds, but they’re much easier once you realize you’re talking to another person just like you. We’re all people, we’re all chasing dreams, and we’re all dealing with lots of other things that are going on in our lives. Find the pure joy in all of this. Pure joy for me was seeing those blank plaques at the Dolby Theatre. Recently, it was hiking to behind the Hollywood sign and seeing the city I’ve grown to love in a whole new way. In the past, it was crossing the finish line of a 4,500 mile bike ride carrying the names of my grandpas in my heart. Find your joy. Make your dreams tangible, and keep on chasing them. Always remind yourself that everything happens for a reason. Your story is just as important as everyone else’s.