For a while I was really afraid to post stories about working in TV because I was concerned that I’d “blacklist” myself if I pissed off the wrong person. While that might be true, I’ve come to the conclusion that I don’t care anymore and some stories are meant to be told. This one isn’t even that bad, considering this woman made my life a living hell for about a year.
My first year working in Los Angeles as an “Executive Coordinator” entailed a lot more personal work than I expected. And very little Executive Coordinating. I was a glorified Personal Assistant at best- I didn’t make enough money to live on because my rate was laughably low (I believe it’s the current minimum wage, which is under scrutiny) and I was restricted to “40 hours per week” even though this still required me to promptly answer text messages, calls, and emails 24/7. And if you’re asking why I didn’t claim those hours, it’s because my boss extensively reviewed my work hours every week and occasionally argued me down if she thought the number was too high. Did the same thing for my gas mileage tracker, which I never lied on but was still accused of tracking my commute miles.
I genuinely believed this job would fast-track me on to becoming a television writer’s assistant. I was one of the many aspirational 21 year olds who believed the false promises made to them by unhappy people at the top who resent them for “being the future of the industry.” I trusted this person who claimed to see potential in me, I invested myself fully in this job even though it made me miserable and wasn’t remotely close to what I wanted to be doing with my life.
This silly story sticks out in my mind, just to give you an idea of how out of touch I was with reality. And maybe it will make you realize how out of touch with reality you are too. Because if you don’t see anything wrong with it, something is off.
My boss asked me to watch her two dogs on a Sunday in Beverly Hills while she went out and had fun with her friends. My ex-boyfriend and I decided we’d make a morning of it and go out for breakfast at Hugo’s in West Hollywood. Granted- I probably spent all of the money I earned in that day on my meal at Hugo’s… Not because Hugo’s is expensive but because that’s truly how little money I made. (Can I also note that I had no health insurance, PTO, government holidays, literally zero benefits other than the occasional free lunch that I had to pick up for myself and all others in the office in the heart of Beverly Hills where parking is basically a hazing ritual for the new folk?)
Anyway, at Hugo’s I ordered this intriguing frittata called the “Go Green Frittata” it was a massive GREEN egg bake with quinoa, kale, and other various green ruffagey shit. This was back when I was desperately trying to be skinny by eating nothing and prancing on ellipticals a few times per week. The thing was gargantuan and tasted mostly revolting but I ate it all. Would highly recommend that no one ever allow themselves to eat anything bright green for breakfast. You’re asking for a weird day.
(this is an actual image of the frittata at Hugo’s)
I was nursing a bit of a hangover because what else do you do when you’re 21, new to Los Angeles and your boyfriend is pretty much the only friend you have? You get hammered and lament your life choices. You also starve yourself slightly so that it takes less alcohol to get drunk and you can save money. On this particular morning I had the kind of hangover that came in waves of brief, sweaty, panicked, nausea. The kind I now can cure with my bff edible marijuana and an alarmingly long nap.
We went back to take care of the dogs and watch a little NFL. Boyfriend had to be at work later that afternoon so I would drive him and then come back to the house. I felt my stomach get that cute little nauseousness so I spent the majority of the morning napping while he gave me emphatic highlights from the games we cared about.
When it came time to drive him to work, I was fully ill. At this time I was dealing with severe digestive problems and had no way of predicting how my body would react to unfamiliar foods. Almost every meal gave me trouble- but not this kind of trouble. Not Go Green Frittata trouble. I was sweating and could barely speak as we drove the 5 minutes to his office. He was concerned, because anyone who knows me knows that it’s an issue if I go 5 minutes without speaking. I pretended to be fine even though I could feel that unmistakable lump forming in the back of my throat, the one that firms up the esophagus in preparation for a boot and rally.
Once I dropped him off, I genuinely worried I wouldn’t make it back to her house without barfing all over the interior of his new Ford Fusion.
As I was rounding the corner onto my boss’s street, desperately gasping for air and blasting cold air conditioning breeze on my sweaty face, my cell phone rang and it was the boss.
I answered the line knowing I’d be in trouble (and she’d just keep calling) if I didn’t, and she immediately started barking demands at me. My stomach gave a violent churn as I hung up on her and made a drastic swerve to the side of the road in this bougie Beverly Hills neighborhood. I ran to the sidewalk, fell to my knees, and proceeded to vomit a massive green mound of quinoa, veggies, eggs and shreds of pancake. I’ve never thrown up so much in one sitting in my entire life. I can almost guarantee you a curious dog or a lucky raccoon made lunch out of it later that day.
(Another gentle reminder of what the frittata looked like to begin with)
I stared into the vomit for a minute and realized that this was probably going to be very representative of my time in Los Angeles. Laugh at me if you want- but this was a profound moment. Here I was… Amidst million dollar homes in one of the world’s most famous neighborhoods, finally “pursuing my lifelong dream”, but actually just staring into a pile of my own bright green vomit. Hollywood, where (if you REALLY want it bad enough) your dreams come true… Right???
I got back in the car fully knowing my stomach was not emptied and the storm hadn’t cleared. But that didn’t matter- I had hung up on her.
“I’m so sorry- I had to pull over the car and throw up. What did you need?” I asked
“You actually threw up? Wow, good thing you weren’t driving my car.” She said, then quickly moved on as if I’d told her that I just sneezed on the steering wheel while driving. As if it wasn’t Sunday and I wasn’t spending my “free time” trapped in the apartment that had come to feel more like a prison than an “office.”
It was this moment where I realized that as much as MY life revolved around HER, I ceased to exist in her mind when I wasn’t doing something for her. I wasn’t a human to her. I was means to an end, something she could take advantage of with no remorse. There was no part of her that considered coming home early to relieve me of dog sitting so that I could go home and rest. There was no part of her that felt guilty that I spent the remainder of the day vomiting violently (and surprisingly painfully) into her various toilets while my boyfriend helplessly texted me from his office.
Tell me that this is what it takes to be successful in Los Angeles. Tell me that you have to “work in the trenches” before you can ever EARN the opportunity to do what you love. Tell me that I deserved to be emotionally abused and manipulated for a year, which amounted to approximately nothing other than teaching me never to trust what someone promises you. Tell me that I deserved to feel like I was never good enough and that I’d made the biggest mistake of my life by moving out here.
You can tell me any of that, I don’t agree with you. I don’t think I ever should have been treated that way and I don’t think ANYONE deserves to be treated that way. Yet this is just one tiny story in a catalogue of experiences I’ve had over the last four-plus years out here. And I’m just one person. There are hundreds of you out there still accepting this treatment because you believe some day you’ll get the chance to do what you love.
Consider if it’s really worth it. Consider the long term implications of this mentality. I wish I had stood up for myself sooner. I wish I had realized that no matter how shitty someone treated me that didn’t affect my personal worth. I’m still a writer, I’ll always be a writer, and no one can tell me otherwise. Please, if you’re going through anything similar, remind yourself that you’re worth more.
(And for the love of all that is good in this world, please do yourself a favor and NEVER order this food item)
Not a relevant image but it makes me giggle.