I am currently in struggletown, as it were. By that I mean I’m playing the waiting game for a potential job situation, and as you might guess, it’s driving me absolutely crazy. With everything being so up in the air right now, I don’t feel like talking about myself and my stuff, so I’m not going to. But what I will talk about is the fact that a good friend of mine, Alex, has landed a job working on the new Muppets movie, and his experience is definitely shaping up to be a game-changer for him.
I had the opportunity to visit the gorgeous Disney lot in Burbank the other day to do a drop-off for my boss. Disney being the main headquarters of the Muppets post-production, I got to visit him when I was there.Once I made it there, rather, as getting onto the actual lot was a bit of a feat. The very first thing I did was enter the “employees only” entrance, and as cars are zipping past me swiping their key cards I realize I’m most certainly in the wrong place. Fortunately the people at Disney seem to always be in a good mood (this carries over to the corporate card-holders at Starbucks who hand me their black Disney AmEx’s and always need a receipt) and they directed me to the right place, which it only took me two more tries to find. After navigating the maze of these towering soundstages that all look identical, I met Alex in one of the beautifully decorated (and “very Disney”) welcome buildings, accompanying him from there to the huge cafeteria to pick up something for the editors to eat. He remarked to me that they told him he would not be doing any food-running when they hired him, as he carefully instructs the chef that there is NO CHEESE on the second omlette. But instead of being annoyed at his tasks, as Alex starts telling me Disney stories I realize his attitude seems better than I’ve seen it in a long time.
He tells me about a short film he’s planning to make with some of the Disney crew, the lunch ladies greet him as warmly as they would their own Puerto Rican children (Alex is half, so he has no excuse for how terrible his Spanish is). A notorious complainer, he has nothing but nice things to say about his officemates at editorial. When Alex first moved to L.A. about two and a half years ago, he wouldn’t leave his apartment for days on end. Not because he didn’t have any friends, but because he couldn’t afford to. Facebook was literally his main social interaction. And now here he is: a true part of the family at Disney. His office was littered with traces of little coworker inside jokes, he introduces me to the assistant editors and I’m warmly greeted by them with a sense that any friend of Alex’s is a friend of theirs. He truly belongs. And he’s only been at this job for a few months!
The experience is so encouraging. It really seems as though Los Angeles comes with a trial period you must endure if the town is going to accept you as one of its own, or what some might even call a boot camp phase. But if you can serve your time without becoming discouraged or jaded, as most do, you finally hit the sweet spot. That job that truly clicks, the first gig you have where you realize that everything is finally falling into place. Seeing my good friend reach this point was such an amazing feeling. It reminded me that while I may be frustrated with the endless game of phone-tag with employers, the question of whether or not I’m just being strung along, the concern that everyone’s just smiling and nodding at me, all of it faded into the background of the bigger picture for a moment. If I can wade through it all, if I can tough it out through boot camp, as unpleasant as it may be, I will be rewarded. The city itself will genuinely smile upon me. Until then, I’ll have to just do enough smiling for the both of us.