When I was 8 I hatched a plan with a school friend (with whom I spent hours and hours acting out scenes from Grease) to move to Hollywood when we were 18 and become actresses. We had it all worked out. We’d waitress and before long we’d be spotted by a producer and become movie stars. Easy Peasy.
Well, it’s not been quite that easy, it’s taken a bit longer than I originally hope but I’m finally going to Hollywood! And although I won’t be speaking the words I will be writing them – which is WAY better.
John, Alula and I got our visas and are moving in ten days’ time to California. I’m terrified and elated in equal measure. John is just excited and can’t wait to get there, and Alula is only going along with it because we promised she can get a hamster called Apricot once we arrive.
We left Bali just over a year ago because we both had some exciting work opportunities arise in London. John has been busy for the last 18 months helping create a whole new bank from scratch (look out for Tandem Bank coming this year) and I had five books out in 2015 for which my publishers wanted me on the ground to do PR, and was also working solidly in between as a screenwriter. I’ve now got film agents in both London and LA, which is why we’re moving there – so I can pursue work opportunities in La La land.
We thought we would stay only 6 months in London but it ended up stretching out. What we did discover was that while London and the UK in general has been brilliant for Alula it really doesn’t work for us as a family. 2015 was not a happy year – in fact, it’s been the worst year of our lives in many respects – a year of transition and heartache and missing friends and failing to find our feet.
A slow creeping sadness set in for me, which at times I thought would swallow me whole. Alula hated school with a passion and spent days crying beneath her duvet. John suffered with a crazy commute and no time for himself. One of the biggest changes I noted in myself was a decayed sense of wonder and a loss of the self-belief that had charged me through five years in Bali and allowed me to write, write, write. My inspiration vanished, along with it all sense of joy, and for the last five months I have barely managed to write a word.
It’s only John’s constant unwavering belief, the wise words of my amazing girlfriends and the occasional beautiful email from a stranger that have helped lift my gaze once more over the parapet, that have encouraged me to keep dreaming and, more importantly, to keep daring.
So John and I went back to the drawing board, like we did six years ago when plotting our escape from the UK the first time, and we wrote up all the things we were looking for in our lives. Much like the first vision board this one too had sunshine, nature, community scrawled at the top – all the things we found in Bali.
So why not go back to Bali? people asked. Because in our gut it doesn’t feel right. We’ve moved on and our path is definitely calling us elsewhere. We’ve always loved California and in terms of our careers, which have both gone great guns in the last couple of years thanks to the seeds we were able to plant during our time in Bali, California is the place to be.
Many people stare at us like we’re crazy or mistakenly think we’re fearless when we tell them what we’re doing, but we have learned to tune them out and focus on creating a vision and then pursuing it with all we’ve got. It’s not that we aren’t fearful. I am, at least. John seems to have preternatural courage. As Elizabeth Gilbert has recently written in her book Big Magic, fear and creativity go hand in hand, and if you want to live a whole-hearted life pursuing that which makes you come alive, then you will feel fear. Learning how to make space for that fear and stop it from holding you back is the key.
So once again our house is a flurry of packing activity. It seems like only yesterday we were packing up boxes in Bali and only the day before that that we were packing up boxes in south London. We’re hoping that the answer to Can We Live Here? will finally be answered with a hell yes.
I’m pretty certain that it will because: a) sunshine b) ocean c) half and half.
(The three things I need in my life to ensure complete happiness (besides John and Alula obviously).
I know that some of you will be mumbling under your breaths ‘yeah, and the land of Trump, drought and mass shootings…’ all very good points indeed. I’m heeding them and ignoring them though because a, b & c.