Live in paradise or rent free in Beverly Hills?
August 22, 2006 10:39 AM   Subscribe

Which direction in my life do I take? (plenty of info inside)

What should I do with my life? I am at a cross road…

Short back story – I moved to NY 2 years ago to pursue my acting (I moved from DC) while there I worked several survival jobs until I started in real estate. After 5 months in that I closed a very big deal and had to decide what to do. Stay in NY Real Estate or move to LA to continue my acting dreams… I choose LA. I moved here and from the few small acting jobs I had had in NY I was able to join the union (SAG). Now its been a year and 2 months since I’ve been in LA and my acting career is completely stalled.. I’ve gotten several commercial call backs from auditions this year but I do not really have any theatrical representation… In the last 5 months the truth is I’ve had to focus on my day job (which again has turned to real estate) to pay the bills and have not put as much energy into my acting career. Because of which I have just recently received my CA State real estate license so I can attempt to move out of assistant and into the role of an agent…

Now with all of this in mind I bring my real question…

While I am not guaranteed the slot, I have a very good chance of acquiring it if I put fourth the effort. So should I pursue a free apartment in Beverly Hills (it’s an apartment in a very large house) where I would be there to look after the estate but generally a work free position… this would be long term and would give me a very nice great free place to live. And free up a large chunk of my monthly bills. (if I choose this option, then my second decision would be – do I stay in real estate… or find something a bit more consistent, while continueing to follow my acting goals..)


Should I take my good friends offer to move to the Virgin Island (st. Thomas) and help him open up a new restaurant… I have some restaurant experience but at this point he is more looking for people he trusts and knows – that on top of my experience I think it could work out really well.. The only draw back is that I would need to unload my car and I am probably about a grand upside down on it (if I were to sell it privately) and would not have a large amount to move with.. and of course would still have whatI call "baggage bills" credit cards, student loans, etc... things that would follow me there.

Both of these opportunities are fast upon me and I need to come to a decision…

I know there are lots more details… but I just am at one of those moments and not really sure which direction to go, any and all opinions welcome…
posted by crewshell to Work & Money (26 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
What do you *want* to do?
posted by occhiblu at 10:47 AM on August 22, 2006

Move back to New York! (ok, I'm just saying that because I'm your friend and I miss you).

I think, as long as you can get a guarantee on the Virgin Islands thing, you should try it (especially if it'll help you save money and pay off your "baggage bills"). What the heck? It sucks, you come back to the mainland.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 10:52 AM on August 22, 2006 [1 favorite]

If you want to act and you have an opportunity to spend more time pursuing that if you take the Bev Hills place, I would say do that.

Do you stand to gain financially from the Virgin Islands gig? Do you realistically think the restaruant will succeed? If yes and you are willing to give up the chance at having time and money for acting, then go there.
posted by sulaine at 10:56 AM on August 22, 2006

If you're really not sure what you would prefer, and the choices really are equal (they both sound like really interesting and reasonably sensible things to me) it's just a question of making your mind up. In this sort of situation, you could try tossing a coin. If you do or don't like the output, then you'd actually made up your mind already, so go with your mind's decision. If you're indifferent to heads or tails, well, either go with the coin or go with random internet people's advice.

(In this situation I think I'd choose the Virgin Islands).
posted by handee at 10:59 AM on August 22, 2006

I'd go the VI route -- sounds like a once in a lifetime potential adventure. I mean, what genre do you find more books: my life on an island or my life living rent-free while scratching by in the metropolis?
posted by Ogre Lawless at 11:00 AM on August 22, 2006 [1 favorite]

I fifth the VI choice (if you reasonably think you stand a chance of success). Which sounds better, loitering about in LA with no acting career (worst-case scenario) or running a successful restaurant business in beautiful VI? If you fail in VI, it's not the end of the world. There will be stories to tell at least. You could even make it into a reality show! Even if you fail there's guaranteed income. I'm serious, I saw one like that about some Brits trying to set up a bar in Portugal.
posted by keijo at 11:21 AM on August 22, 2006

Well, since you're asking for opinions from strangers, I'll share mine:

The Virgin Islands are beautiful, and at first it sounds like a magical place to live. But then you have to consider the hurricanes, the tourists, the high price of living on an island... not to mention the fact that starting a successful restaurant is a very difficult and often very costly venture. A lot of risks involved.

The Beverly Hills option sounds a bit more stable, plus it gives you the ability to persue your acting goals (which I assume you want more than to be a restaurant owner).

I'm going to go against the grain and say I would take the Beverly Hills option. It would be nice to jet off to St. Thomas for an adventure, but in reality, with student loans and credit card bills, it sounds like it's not the best option.
posted by geeky at 11:30 AM on August 22, 2006

I live in LA. My parents live on St. Thomas. Personally, I'd never switch - St. Thomas lacks the variety of LA, and is too urban to really feel like paradise (to me.) You're also sort of trapped - if you don't have a boat or have friends that do, it's pretty expensive to island-hop.

But some people love living in the Caribbean and on St. Thomas in particular, so who knows.
posted by lbergstr at 11:34 AM on August 22, 2006

Nail down that apartment and stay in LA. That will give you wiggle room to decide if acting or real estate or some other field would be good for you. How often does a great housing deal like the one you described pop up?

As someone else pointed out, unless you own part of that restaurant that job is going nowhere. And restaurants fail right and left. If you're very young and want to fool around in the Virgin Islands for a while, that's fine. Just realize that fooling around is what it is.
posted by bim at 11:36 AM on August 22, 2006

Let thePinkSuperhero take care of your car and go to the Virgin Islands.
posted by matty at 12:01 PM on August 22, 2006

Put up a poll on
posted by gmarceau at 12:01 PM on August 22, 2006

I'd stay in LA. It sounds like acting is your passion, right? Then why do something that will take you farther away from your passion? The opportunity to live rent-free while still pursuing your career goal is one that comes around once in... well, never, in most people's lives. You haven't said much about why you'd want to consider a career in the restaurant business. As far as I can tell from what you've told us here it would just be a distraction from your real goal.
posted by MsMolly at 12:04 PM on August 22, 2006

(Oh hellllllllllllllllllllll no).
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 12:14 PM on August 22, 2006 [1 favorite]

The restaurant sounds like a high-risk/low-reward option. Is your friend giving you equity in the restaurant? If he's just hiring you as a manager then it's a total no-go. Even if he's willing to share, it still sounds like a waste of time. Giving up your acting dream to live in a tourist trap and work in a restaurant dealing with dumb tourists all day? That doesn't make any sense to me. If your friend's restaurant does take off you can always join up with him later.

If you're serious about your acting career then you should jump on the free rent. Get out of real estate but stay in touch with your real estate friends. Keep that door open. Cut your expenses down to the minimum, find another job to pay the bills, and focus only on acting. But, and this is the important part, you should set a deadline by which, if your acting prospects haven't significantly improved, you'll take a step back and start over. This could be two years or ten, but it shouldn't be too long. I've seen people in NYC bet everything on acting and lose and go into a strange sort of denial where they insist on proclaiming themselves actors though they haven't done in anything in three years. It's not pretty.
posted by nixerman at 12:26 PM on August 22, 2006

I guess the problem is that I am just not happy with where I am in my acting career goals... Yes I love to act and thats what I want to do.. but I also have very lofty financial goals and I don't want to spend 5, 6 ,7 ,8 years of my life chasing that dream only to realize I am in the same position I was when I started (no real savings and no major assets)

I've spent 2 and a half years at this acting career and while I have made some progress (joining the union) I haven't even gotten close to achieving my goals...

Free rent in an awesome place in LA is rare
Living life in paradise is rare

Dropping everything and just becoming homeless might be rare too, HA! I'm lost and don't know which road to take.

posted by crewshell at 12:58 PM on August 22, 2006

I should ad that I am 22 and that I have 36 credit hours at George Mason U. but no degree.
posted by crewshell at 1:04 PM on August 22, 2006

Well, if you're 22, it doesn't really matter what you do. You're young enough that you should be taking risks because any major failure will have little long term consequences. (Unless you die or become another extremely shallow, arrogant LA-type who washes his car 3 times a month.)

Still, if acting isn't making you happy then stop acting. It's a sucker's bet really, and at least you seem to have given it a shot. There's no shame in in realizing you're not happpy and trying something new.

If you're tired of being poor then the safest bet might be to stay in real estate, save up a little bit of money, and then find something really fun to do in three years. Lots of people slave away in their twenties to ensure they'll be comfortable in their thirties. It's a plan and it works well if you don't mind contributing to the raping of the planet by the established capitalist overlords.

Getting a degree is always a good choice. Education is the best investment you can make, though it may not make sense if you've already got a solid opening into real estate.

Anyways, you're young. Stop worrying about making mistakes. Stop worrying about making the wrong choice. There is no "right" and "wrong" choice. Just be honest with yourself. It's not the choice, it's the reasons you make the choice that ultimately matter. Understand the reasons and the rest tends to fall into place.
posted by nixerman at 1:50 PM on August 22, 2006

You're 22, making some headway in your career, and you have the option to get a bitchin' rent-free place in L.A.? Call me a fuddy-duddy, but that sounds like a combination that should not be abandoned lightly. It might not be the big break, but it would set you up nicely to catch one if/when it comes along. Read Tony Bourdain's commentary on why opening a restaurant is a fast track to going broke before jaunting off to the Virgin Islands.

On preview, though, nixerman is right about the age thing. Just do whatever you really want to do. You'll be fine. But read "Kitchen Confidential" first.
posted by Vervain at 2:09 PM on August 22, 2006

I lived in St. Thomas for a year.

It is a different lifestyle.

I loved it.

I hope to move back someday.

I think you need to do whatever you think will make you the most happy. I find that I am most happy when I have great people around me that I care about. Where are your best people?
posted by Slenny at 2:11 PM on August 22, 2006

Best people?

No one really in LA.

One in NY

Couple in DC

One in south caroline

One in the VI....
posted by crewshell at 3:30 PM on August 22, 2006

I'll cut it short and say that I had a similar circumstance a few years ago, and I'm still here, so...

One thing to think of, the USVI's have hurricanes every year, imagine being in one! Also, the bills will always be there, so I'd take those out of the decision-making process.

Finally, which ever choice you make, it will be the right one in the long run, so have fun whichever way you go. G/L.
posted by BillyG at 5:14 PM on August 22, 2006

I think if you look at the bios of most actors and actresses that have made it in tv, movies, commercials, whatever, you will find that they stuck with it - some for a very, very long time. And of course, obviously, tons of people have stuck with it and not made a decent living at it. But it's like the lottery - you might not win even if you play and play and play year after year, but you definitely won't win if you don't play. So I guess only you can decide how badly you want to act and whether or not you would do it, even if you knew you might never make a decent living at it.
If you decide that acting is what you love and what you want to do, then yes, the restaurant is just a distraction. If you choose the apartment, you won't have to pursue making a living as hard and might be able to do more acting.
posted by gt2 at 8:40 PM on August 22, 2006

If you up and go to the Virgin Islands how much are you losing? Does your real estate license disappear or need renewing or wahtever? Is your acting career going to be impossible to restart? Will your bills snowball somehow? If it all falls apart what kind of safety net will you have to come back to? You'd be giving up a lot by going, but possibly not everything. Play it right and you could have all of one option followed by the best of the other. Or not, it's hard to say. But think how great it would be if you pull it off.

I think handee has it right, toss a coin. Either go with what it tells you, or listen to your gut reaction telling you why the coin is wrong. Then once you've made a decision, decide not to look back and to give your all to whatever you choose. Regrets are the one thing both options are going to create so ignore them.

It will work out. Things always do somehow.
posted by shelleycat at 11:14 PM on August 22, 2006

I think part of what makes this decision tough is that you are really asking yourself two different questions at once. It might be easier if you break them down.

First question: is being a professional actor the one single thing in life that can truly make you happy and fulfilled?

It sounds, from the following, as though the answer is "No":
I also have very lofty financial goals and I don't want to spend 5, 6 ,7 ,8 years of my life chasing that dream only to realize I am in the same position I was when I started (no real savings and no major assets)
That's a smart, sensible attitude, and I commend you for it. But LA is packed with people who ARE willing to spend year after year chasing their dream, even if they have to wait tables all their lives. It sounds like you are somewhat motivated by your love of acting, but you are MORE motivated by your desire for a stable and financially sound life.

Like I said, that's a healthy and sane attitude--but it's going to make it extremely hard for you to compete with the people who have absolutely no interest in anything other than success as actors.

If I'm wrong--if acting is the most important thing in your life--then the discussion is over. You absolutely have to stay in LA.

Otherwise... I think you need to assume you will never make it as an actor. At the very least, you need to assume that while you are making this particular decision. Take the acting entirely out of the equation.

Once you've done that, you can answer the second question:

Do you want the fiscally stable route (free housing, and probably a steady job) or the more exciting but riskier route (an exotic location that could turn out great or could be a total bust)?

It's still a tricky question, but at least there's one fewer complication in it.
posted by yankeefog at 5:59 AM on August 23, 2006 [4 favorites]

It needs to be said that opening a restaurant and "having lofty financial goals" are pretty much opposites. Living somewhere rent free is at least saving you money. Why don't you try working in a tourist restaurant in LA to see if you can stand it. The restaurant life isn't for everyone.

OTOH, you can always move back if the VI doesn't work out, but you'll almost certainly be a poor person moving back to an expensive city.
posted by Mr. Gunn at 6:01 PM on August 23, 2006

I have worked in a restaurant before,its not that I would be moving to the VI FOR the restaurant.. that is just a financial means of making the move even possible. I could develop into a managing partner there if things went well or I could just serve there for awhile and decide its not for me and come back... Also i think in an area like that for a business minded person other opportunities could arise...

at this point I am currently waiting to get more info on the place in beverly hills before I make any decision.

thanks for all the input guys.
posted by crewshell at 9:21 PM on August 23, 2006

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