Nothing feels better than getting off of a fourteen-hour shooting day, stretching my aching muscles as I wander past the collapsed sets to my car, droopy eyes ready to sleep, and curling up in the backseat to pass out in the wave of blankets forming a bed.
I worked on Season 6 of True Blood this past year and within the first month of my 60-hour per week gig as an office PA, I was living out of my car again on the lot where I slogged each day.
Honestly, it was the perfect scenario.
The Lot on Santa Monica and La Brea was my very own commune where I would eat, shower, curl my hair, do my laundry, relax, listen to music, and sleep. I was the bandit who sequestered herself in this imaginary, gritty western town, reading poetry whilst hiding on the fire escape in the parking structure to avoid the security guards. It was the backdrop to my very own movie.
Being 20 years old at the time, no landlord would rent me an apartment even though I was well off with cash and had a steady job. So in result, I returned to the safe haven that was my Ford Focus.
I parked on the 6th floor of the parking structure, where they kept all of the prop and stunt cars, and tucked my car between the dusty transpo vans. My backseat was the bedroom as well as storage, the trunk was overflowing with possessions that I collected since my move to LA, and the front seat was where I stashed food and water and books (books are a must, cars don’t come with wifi)
Fortunately, being a PA I was fed at least two meals each day, so it was only on weekends when I would scavenge for food. I lived off of apples, cheese, and trail mix for about two weeks straight. The term “will work for food” was thematically accurate.
Working overnights was common (vampires and whatnot) and that left me alone in the office to do my laundry in the costumes department, scrounge up the left over food from the day to munch on, and even take a shower next to the janitor’s closet while I waited for the call sheet to distro. My co-workers never caught on, but when I came into work early one day (I was there anyways, might as well) wearing the same shirt, my boss mentioned it. “Too busy to change your clothes. That’s the set life.” She joked. I chuckled with my reply “Yup. I’m sleeping in my car too.”
On Valentine’s Day, I called my mom and confessed my new living situation. After a teary conversation, time-tunneling back into the homeless years we endured, we realized an eerie link from past to present.
It was on Valentine’s Day in 2001 that we first embarked our homeless adventures in our van. Twelve years later, with a college degree and a career path, fate twirled me back into the arms of homelessness. “This only happens to people like us because we can handle it,” my mother comforted me, “take pride in the survival of these times, don’t let it crush your spirit.”
She was right. That lesson should be applied to any situation. Life struggles happen to everyone, ever day, and instead of masking the scars they leave we should wear them with dignity.
Eventually, after almost two months of being a “car person” again, I managed to sublet a room on the other side of town. I became so used to the lifestyle and the freedom again that, for a few days after, I would still curl up in the backseat and cover myself with blankets, disguised as fluffy bedding.
Those two months reinstalled my cravings for freedom and the challenges of living in my car. It gave me time to reflect on my homeless years as a child, proving to myself that I was still capable of overcoming such an obstacle without asking for help. I see how fortunate I was, as most people who are homeless or live out of their cars don’t have the resources in which I had access.
When I told a friend about it, all she could say was “I could’ve never survived that.” I didn’t think I could either, but when there is no other option, you have to adapt. It’s just an anomaly that I adapted to something I spent my teen years completely avoiding, and in the end, coming out the other side wiser and more excited about life than any millennial milestone could have provided.