‘A year in LA’ doesn’t sound quite as romantic as ‘A year in Provence’ but it has definitely been more exciting! James and I recently celebrated our LA-versary. We’ve survived our first year in LA! (Only people that have lived in this city will understand what I mean by ‘survive’...)
It has been one of the hardest, most uncomfortable and exhausting years of my life (and I’ve produced 3 feature films in a developing country!) but I wouldn’t exchange it for anything. I have learnt more about myself, my country, people, the world and just life in general in this past year, than I have in a lifetime. Moving yourself out of your comfort zone and the familiar tends to do that.
I feel so grateful for this opportunity we have been given to grow and challenge ourselves. I am grateful for the incredible humans we’ve met along the way, the places we’ve seen, the experiences we’ve had and of course, all the lessons learnt.
Here is what I’ve learnt (so far...):
Moving to a new country is a roller coaster ride. It is filled with so many ups and downs that you are not always sure if you are Arthur or Martha, Sipho or Susan. The new and unknown is exciting and thrilling, but also overwhelming and terrifying at the same time.
We take so many things for granted. Just being able to pop in at a friend’s house, knowing which brand of toothpaste to buy, making a joke that features Riaan Cruywagen and everybody 'gets it', knowing what shop to stop at when you need to buy a cheese grater, having domestic help, being able to just drive and not think about it. All these menial tasks become a ‘thing’ in a new country. Nothing is simple. Don’t ever take the fact that you can freely say ‘I’ll see you now now’ or ‘Ag, shame…’ for granted again.
Half and half is awesome. I would move to America all over again just for that. (It is half cream, half milk and has changed my morning coffee ritual forever!)
You take your problems with you. Moving halfway across the world doesn’t magically solve your problems. Sure, it gives you a whole different set to focus on (for a while at least) but it is only a matter of time until undealt with emotions and character flaws find your new address. You still need to choose to change. Changing your environment can instigate that change, but you still need to make the choice.
It is possible to learn how to drive on the other side of the road… not without Waze, multiple expletives and a couple of near death experiences, but possible.
Humans are (for the most part) awesome if you take the time to get to know them. I’ve met so many beautiful human beings and interesting people over the past year. For those of you who know me well, know that I am actually a very shy, private person (shock, horror, not every actress is an extrovert!) I find it incredibly exhausting to be around people I don’t know, which has been unavoidable over the past year since we don’t know anybody and every single person you interact with is, new. But once I get over myself and past the shyness, people are amazing and they all have a story to tell if you are willing to listen.
You have to ask for help. You CAN NOT do it alone. And guess what, you will not spontaneously combust if you do.
The world is big. It is huge. It is a massive place, which can either be a completely overwhelming thought, or filled with possibility. You can get lost amongst the masses or realize that there is still only one of you and that’s pretty rad.
Cultures are different. And different is not better or worse. Just different. Oh, if the world could only grasp this simple yet profound concept. We fear what we do not know and traveling and getting out of your comfort zone exposes you to the unknown and helps dispel those fears. Which is why, if ever you get the opportunity to, I highly recommend going to live in another country. Expose yourself to different viewpoints on life, religion, politics, humour, food, all of it. The world would be a better place for the perspective, grace and tolerance one is compelled to adopt when you are out of your comfort zone.
But the biggest and hardest lesson (for my personality) that I've had to learn this past year is:
Things take time. It takes time to start a new life. Be patient. "When you move a plant from one place to another you need to give it some time before it will grow new leaves" - This line is from a gorgeous animation short film, 'Scent of Geranium', that made me weep the first time I saw it. Obviously it is pretty close to 'home' for me (pun intended) and particularly relevant for those of us who have picked up our lives and moved to a new country, but the simple wisdom in this film is for us all: This too shall pass, time heals and you will bloom again.
May you all sprout new leaves and bloom new blossoms in 2018!