The art of rediscovering hope
It’s been slightly more than a year since I moved to Los Angeles full of hopes and dreams.
I hoped to get a job at Trader Joe’s and dreamed of getting work as a voice-over artist.
My first ten months were spent filling out and submitting online and paper resumes, followed by weeks of silence and then an email rejection. Occasionally, I’d get a phone interview with the promise of a follow-up call, which never came.
I was quickly learning that my life’s experience and well-packed resume were working against me. Companies could pay someone with less experience less money. (I get it. I don’t like it. But I get it.)
To say I had a few bouts of depression is an understatement. On the flipside, instead of giving into the darkness, I ran – OK, I usually stumbled or crawled – to the anchor of my faith and was held until the storm passed over.
I survived on the generosity of my friends, the kindness of strangers and a dwindling savings. I picked up freelance writing jobs, substitute teaching stints and even helped a friend paint his new house. It wasn’t much, but it covered most of my bills and rekindled my hope.
After mornings of internet searching, I treated myself to day trips to local landmarks and was blessed to be able to help lost tourists find their way. I constantly wondered why this couldn’t be a paying gig. My friends often remarked I’d be a good tour guide – not sure if it’s for my knowledge or my inability to be quiet, but either way I think they meant it in love. So I added tour guide to my job search list.
In May, I saw a notice for a Visitors Service Associate at The Broad in downtown L.A. The museum wasn’t slated to open until Sept. 20, but they were looking to hire and train a team before the grand opening. With no experience, other than having explored numerous museums, I applied and waited.
When the first email came back asking me to take the next step in the process, I was hopeful but kept my enthusiasm in check. I’d been down this road before. I made it passed that point, and the next, and the next. It was easily the most grueling interview process I’d ever been through, but also one of the most gratifying. With each hurdle I crossed, I gained confidence. I was in the deep end, swimming with art majors, but I was treading water and staying up with them.
Part of the training process was standard procedures, the ins and outs of working in a museum. The bulk of which felt pretty intuitive, and I was excited by the chance to interact with people.
The largest – and hardest – part of training for me was learning the artists and their work. I felt pretty confident about Warhol and Lichtenstein, but there were nearly 200 others on the list. Although I felt overwhelmed at first, I approached the situation the same way I did as a sports writer covering an event for the first time: read and ask questions. Soon, I was adding Basquiat, Sherman, Kruger, Anatsui, and Walker to the list, and more daily.
As I studied, the curators laid out the museum, the prep crews got the pieces in position and all of us were counting down until opening day. When September rolled around, I didn’t take time to celebrate my one-year anniversary in L.A. I didn’t have time. There were still artists and pieces to learn.
It wasn’t until the week of the opening that I really started to pause and think. This was about to get real. I was going to be working in one of the most anticipated museums in one of the most engaging cities in the world. I was one of a select few who comprised one of the best teams I’ve ever worked with – and I’ve worked with some amazing people. Months before I had been unsure of life but was clinging to faith’s promise; now, I was about to take that first step on a new path that took nearly a year to find.
As I meander through the galleries, I can see reflections of my life’s path on the walls. There are artworks that make me laugh, pause, wonder or shake my head. I have found that I’ve learned as much, if not more, about myself as I have the art during the process.
There are some works done on a grand scale and to try and take them all in with one look is very hard. I had been doing that with life, trying to see my beginning, middle and end all at the same time. It brought confusion and doubt. But by slowly scanning a piece, I have learned to find the hidden gems, the overlooked brush strokes, the deeper layer.
Reflecting on these past 13 months, I am humbled by the numerous moments of grace tucked in each day. I am overwhelmed by the times love lifted and carried me to the next day. I am thankful for all those who have journeyed with me.
I moved to Los Angeles full of hopes and dreams. Slightly more than a year later, my hope is renewed and my dream is refreshed.