I Lived Out of My Car
Updated: Feb 2, 2019
Happy Friday everyone!
Sorry again for the delay, I have been crazy busy this week between work, class, rehearsals, and auditions.
I am currently on audition 4 of Black Dog which is super exciting! Only seven more rehearsals to go... what. Time to crack down, embody that character, and get that dang script out of my hands and lift the words off the pages. I discovered my character is a Capricorn which is super exciting because I am not. Gotta add my splash of Cancer into that #amiright. I will be using some Uta Hagen techniques to really put the character into my physical being and learn her voice and manerisms. I think this is the most exciting part of any rehearsal process.
This week I listened to last week's #WoahThatsGood podcast by Sadie Robertson where she interviewed Rebekah Lyons and they talked about something that really opened my eyes. The difference between Transparency and Vulnerability. As an actor, vulnerability is perhaps the most important craft you need to hone, so not only did this speak to me in my creative life but in my personal life as well. Lyons described how she translated these two ideas in her head:
Transparency: getting real with the past
Vulnerability: getting real with the now.
Woah, that's good.
I then began thinking of my own blog and how I really want to be vulnerable. I thought of the process I would take to be vulnerable in this blog post and in my real life, and I think the process to being vulnerable is to first be transparent. I have to reveal my past to explain my present.
This week I will talk about the most stressful time of my life, living out of my car. Now please keep in mind that I say living out of my car and not living in my car. I will explain the stress that put on me, how I've stored that for character development, my increased empathy to those without a roof over their head, and I will top this awesome blog off by my experience of someone breaking into that car and stealing my things.
The Stress Put On Me
When I first moved to California on February 5, I moved to Huntington Beach and I was fortunate enough to have a roof over my head with my sister's friend. I kept all my clothes in plastic boxes and suitcases under my bed and in the closet. My car (Mia the Kia) was kept so clean and happy. Living out of my car didn't start just yet... I gave myself a goal of moving from Huntington Beach to Los Angeles on March 15.
Every day I checked online sources to find cheap rent in LA, my wallet was not covering the $1k+ in rent I'd spend on a small bedroom in HB. I could not find anything. I couldn't find anything cheaper than what I was already spending. I would have to live with strangers, or better yet, share a room with them. Being alone in California, that scared the heck out of me but that's all I could afford. I eventually came across this housing, I will not reveal the name of, but they had a house full of 40 people that were aspiring artists as well. A place where I could network while I sleep? Awesome! (Not so awesome.) Within that month I gave myself, this place (I'll call it Artist Housing) was the only I could find that was less than 1k/month, had a trusting landlord, clean, and was right in the heart of Los Angeles in Echo Park, right off of Sunset Blvd. I contacted them about asking to join their lease and move in as soon as possible, but didn't hear much back for quite a bit.
March 15 was starting to creep up and no where was contacting me back, nothing I could afford seemed safe or sanitary and I was completely alone in this process. On the morning of March 15 (4am), I kid you not, something fell through with my HB rent and I had to move out that morning. I packed up all my things and stuffed them in my car and parked at a random parking lot, sleep deprived, scared, and worried. Where am I going to sleep tonight? I sat in my car looking into my trunk and back seats full of suitcases and boxes wondering if I'll have to sleep in my car tonight. By the amazing act of God, an e-mail popped up into my inbox around noon from Artist Housing saying they don't typically do move-ins in the middle of the month but they'll accommodate for me, and I can move in today. Thank you, Guardian Angel.
I endured the rush hour drive into Los Angeles where I came across Sunset Blvd, parallel parked on one of the busiest streets in Los Angeles, and a suitcase in hand I walked two blocks uphill to find this tiny house that I would share with 40 people for the next 1.5 months. (Within this house came crippling isolation and beginning stages of depression, but that's a blog for a different time.)
At Artist Housing I was given a box to sleep in where I could store about 10 pairs of shirts, some food, and my bed full of bedbugs, which was kept on the ground. The only privacy I had was a red curtain at the end of this box. Beyond that curtain existed 7 more boxes full of aspiring artists in their 20's-30's. There were 5 of these bedrooms located in this house, a small kitchen, 3 bathrooms, and 40 vegans. Thank God I have a roof over my head.
I had a small locker where I could keep my valuables with a lock and key so that the others couldn't steal my things. Stealing was a big thing in Artist Housing so I stuffed all I could into this small locker and into the depths under my sheets of my box. Thus, living out of my car started.
I lived in a bad area of Echo Park, next door was this old tire store surrounded by barbed wire and people with needles in hand. My car was usually parked about a block or five (wherever I could find parking) from the barbed wire store and passing these dirty blocks gave me a reason to put a knife in one hand and pepper spray in the other.
My car held almost all my clothes, food, utensils, shoes, books, chargers, anything that wasn't too expensive but that I needed. Anything that wasn't necessary or expensive, was sent back home... in case someone broke into my car, all they could take was thrift shop clothing or dirty shoes (all I could afford at the time). I spent hours in this car doing homework, calling my parents and telling them how happy I was (I think to fool myself rather than to fool them), doing acting exercises, studying, or calling Janine, Abby, or Luke. Mia the Kia was my confidant through all of this.
I considered Mia my claustrophobic home. Filled with suitcases and boxes of all I had to my name from the trunk to the passenger seat, this claustrophobia ate me up. I had no place to stand. That's a weird thing to say, but I really just couldn't wait to have a living area I could stand in. There was freedom in standing.When I was in the car, the lights were kept off, the doors were kept locked, and I was kept quiet so potential harmful people couldn't hurt a little 5'6" teenager in the alleyway she was parked in, in the bad area of town. When I left the car, I gathered my knife and pepper spray and endured the walk past needle holders to the house I could afford, filled with people who would steal my things or had the opportunity to just open the curtain to my box at night and have access to me. I didn't feel safe, anywhere. The good thing about living out of your car is that it is mobile, some days I would park in a safer area just to do work, but when I came back "home", the odds of me finding a parking spot in Echo Park were very slim.
How I've Used This for Character Development
Stress crept in. Unlike anything I've ever known. The amount of times I had to pull myself together, or the nights I held my breath from releasing a hysterical cry in my box created tension within me. Tension I then used for my characters. It then became easy to become uninhibited and vulnerable. Everything irritated me, everything inspired me. I was at both ends of a great soap opera. I was able to unlock so much emotion inside of me to create these versatile, detailed characters. The experiences I went through are still being used in my characters and probably will for a lifetime. The feeling of true fear, worrisome hunger, the feeling of someone following you ,the feeling of a knife in my hand and the scary power that can give someone, claustrophoia... I could go on and on. Everything I experienced can be translated into something three dimensional. The fear I felt on a daily basis was because of my environment but what if I had to play a character who knew she was about to die? -> The fear can be translated. The feeling of something creeping up on you, the protection you want to have, your desire to go someplace safe... These are all the same feelings physically in your body, no?
Out of all these experiences, however, I think the best output that arrived was empathy. Some people don't even get a roof over their head, or a car. In California, that is a popular case. Not only do they have to worry about where can I sleep tonight but even things like where can I go to bathroom? Shelter is a need, yes? Food, water, shelter. The feeling of not having one of these is monumental. I'm not sure if there is any way to fix homelessness and I've discovered this while partly being so. I think that that's what scares me the most. People have to live the way I did, and worse, years at a time. Like Chris McCandless, it can be a choice, but for others it isn't. Love your neighbor as yourself... help, always. But remember, help only happens when no one is watching. (Just a reminder.) Literally putting yourself into the shoes of others will not only help your acting life but your personal life as well.
When Someone Broke Into My Home
Now empathy in a different route. When I lived in San Francisco, I made sure to live somewhere safe. Somewhere that reminded me of home. In the safest place I had lived yet, one of the hardest things happened. My car, my home, got broken in to and my things got stolen.
It was towards the end of my training at the American Conservatory Theatre, I had the Saturday off so I decided to treat myself and drive to the lake to do all my studying and homework. I got ready and headed to the parking garage my car was parked in. Around the area, I had to pay for parking. This $3/day parking was all I could afford, the parking around me was $25/night. On that Friday night, I decided it may be smart to take out anything important to me and bring it into my room. (Thank you, Guardian Angel.)
On the Saturday morning, I headed to my car with my hands full of books and scripts and started the trek to my car. I took the elevator to my car and discovered shards of glass all around Mia. I immediately knew what had happened. As I got closer to my car, I saw the back window smashed, my suitcases in my trunk that had all been opened and rummaged through. I first thought was to call my mom. Right when I heard her voice, I lost it. My books fell from my arms to the ground and I collapsed. I couldn't handle it. The stress I had been facing over the past five months, burst in that parking garage. I got myself together to call the cops and let them investigate.
Luckily, the only thing the people had stolen was one suitcase. However, thanks to California law, it is legal to steal up to ~$950 in items and not be pressed charges or put in jail. There was no search for these people, no further investigation, because according to California law, what they did was legal. Yep. You heard me. It is legal in California, to smash someone's window, rummage through someone's things, and steal someone's suitcase. I had done nothing to them. I didn't know who did this. They didn't know me. However they thought they were justified in breaking into my car and stealing my things I worked hard to buy. I lived alone, out of my car, thousands of miles away from my family, dealing with things no 19-year old should deal with. When this happened I was homeless, hoping from hotel to hotel to find shelter. Having men corner me in elevators, other men chase me across the street, and eating microwaved dinners, then saving those dinners for lunch the next day. I had almost nothing left in my savings account, and now I had to deal with a broken window in a bad area of town. Now, my car doesn't even need a smashed window to get in to, all someone has to do is climb into my car through the nonexistent window. All I had was a towel and with duct tape I purchased with quarters, I taped on a towel to the outside of my car. I stopped by every auto repair store, even a Kia dealership. Everywhere said the damage was too great they couldn't fix it. Somewhere gave me a quote of over $1,000 to fix the window. How can I afford that.
Did I mention I'm driving across the country to go home next week?
Oh, and auto repair shops are closed on Sundays.
I had to skip class on Monday which could've resolved in my expulsion from the training program I moved to San Francisco for, and find somewhere to finally, fix my car.
Best thing is? Insurance wouldn't cover it.
I bet you probably think this sounds bad, but wait! It gets worse, this is just the start of the explanation to everything I've gone through, but hopefully this sets up a picture for the base of what I've experienced.
Thank you all for reading my blog, feel free to like and subscribe and comment and do whatever!
Have a great Friday!