Living the Dream :: Cleaning Part I

Airbnb had only been in existence six months when I first discovered it.

I had just graduated from USC and needed to find a “job.” Up until this point I had a roommate, whom I split everything with, and had been commuting back and forth from Utah to be with my kids. (They moved to Utah mid-grad school when it became too much for me to have them by myself, and when I realized the public schools were phenomenally better there.)

Now that the heavy lifting of school was over, I wanted to refocus my efforts on two things: my kids and writing. (Because writing leads to directing)

Just as I was about to post half my furniture on Craig’s list to downsize my LA life, a friend told me about the home sharing site, www.Airbnb.com

One click and I was sold.

I’ll never forget the first time I hosted.

Two stewardesses. They said they wanted to try something different, something cozy and warm. They wanted to be in a home. I definitely had that in my Shabby Chic Oasis. I remember being outside, sitting in my car, looking up at the apartment window when they arrived, having never met them in person and imagining them in my kitchen cooking, in my bed sleeping. How strange the feeling was! I couldn’t believe two complete strangers were in my home, treating it as their own. What had my life come to? How did I end up here, pimping out my sanctuary, especially after all that money I dumped into grad school!?

Believe it, I did.

I slept on a friend’s couch that first night. After expenses, I made a profit of $70/day. That’s more than $15/hour working part time as a waitress or as a customer service rep at the Apple Store … all while writing at a cafe.

Say what?! Yep, I made money while writing the projects I cared about, and not the ones the bank wanted me to write, AKA the studios, who were never going to hire a female director, especially for her first feature anyway. My guests stayed for three nights, so I made a goal to write 10 pages in that time, giving myself a self-imposed deadline.

I returned home, surprised to find everything in great order, as if I had two girlfriends over, except these girlfriends left me money with pages in my pocket. Cha-ching. I could get used to this!

I continued this on and off until my apt. became so popular, I literally was couch surfing 100% of the time. My friends and parents were incredibly patient, knowing I wanted to see my kids in between writing spurts, and continued supporting me with this crazy lifestyle. (I owe them for that)

Now I know this all might sound insane, and it is, but you have to understand I wanted to be able to see my three pumpkins in Utah at any time, for any reason. If I locked myself into an entry job at a production company, I would be a slave to that company just to make ends meet, and would never be able to get away. If I wrote on a television show, I would be a slave to that show and never be able to write and direct the projects I knew I needed to create. And if I moved to Utah and got a job, I would literally be throwing away a massive investment on myself and the potential of a career that could change my life and my children’s lives for the better.

Okay, so now you’re thinking, “What’s so wrong with that? Work your way up, get established and maybe in 5-10 years you’ll get there.” Okay, true.

Sort of.

Here are the facts:

Invested – Over $250K in student loans to attend the best film school in the world, to be mentored by the best in the industry, and make connections to last a lifetime, in short, to become a writer/director in the toughest sport on the planet

Top of the Class – After graduating USC you can edit, produce, shoot, do sound, work in post production or development, or write. Or you can go be an agent. I excelled at directing, something only 1% of students get to do at USC. Not only that, but I sold a script to a major production company/studio. Two points in favor of going the writing/directing route. (Believe me, I would never had signed up for this if I didn’t think I belonged, one of the reasons why I went to grad school, to figure out for myself – I belonged.)

So where should that massive investment go? Into someone else’s company? Into someone else’s vision? Nada. No way. I didn’t give up nearly everything to sort of make it.

I made an ultimatum with myself, a promise if you will.

I would do whatever it took, no matter what, or die trying. That’s all there was to it. 

And Airbnb was part of my ticket in getting there. (As well as thousands of others who would jump on this train for similar reasons in the coming months and years. Thank goodness for good ol’ capitalism! I know a lot of controversy exists with these ride-sharing and home-sharing platforms, which I’ll discuss more on the blog, including how to do it the right way.)

I flipped houses in my twenties while raising three babies, and became an expert at staging. Nothing could come more natural and easier for me. I could win at this. And I knew it after that first booking.

More in Part II, click on the link below!

x and Tales,

AEJ

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