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Sometimes You Have to Jump Off A Cliff

October 3, 2013
Michele & Jenna at Def Leppard in Miami

Michele & Jenna at Def Leppard in Miami

Allow me to introduce Jenna Sasso. Jenna is one of those people you meet in life who leaves an impression. Young and ambitious, she has that authenticity and IT factor. It is funny because I almost didn’t find that out!

Jenna applied to work for me but couldn’t make it to the interview. I have a thing about phone interviews, I don’t like them. I like eye contact and being in the presence of anyone who will work for or with me to get a vibe. But her email caught my eye and when her flight was delayed and she couldn’t make it in person, I interviewed her on the phone.

Then, breaking yet another “rule” of my former  self, I hired her too. Never spent a minute with her. Just got a good GUT feeling! After her first day of what was originally supposed to be a 3 day gig, I offered her an 8 week gig and never looked back. One of the best hiring decisions I ever made.

Not just as an employee, but as a person, Jenna is special. Her heart is in everything she does and she leaves that mark on the people she encounters. I am honored to have become part of her story.

And her story is one of inspiration and dream chasing. I thought you might enjoy it and be encouraged by it. Sometimes we just need to take the leap, jump off that cliff and chase our dreams. I did. Than I did again, a second time when I re-launched my life.  Jenna did too.  This is her story:

……………

Allow me to introduce myself: I am Jenna!

As I lounge back in the Buena Vista Café in downtown LA, a 360-degree-revolving restaurant on one of the top floors of a swanky hotel, I watch the city of Los Angeles spin around me as I reflect on how I even made it to this mystical dreamland known as LA, as a wide-eyed twenty-one-year-old girl.

My friend, who was a born-and-raised-LA man, came back to the table with a round of martinis. I will never forget what he told me in my first week of living in this city, that night over drinks, about making it out here: “Moving to LA is like that cartoon character, the Road Runner. You know the one that runs off the cliff, then the second he looks down, he falls… That’s you; just keep running forward and never look down.”

I want to illustrate how radical my move across the country was. Not only how radical my move was but my decision to follow my dreams that started 2 years before my move. I was halfway through my freshman year of college when I met the man of dreams and quickly fell in love. I was going to school for psychology, an easy cop out for not really knowing what I wanted to do with my life. All I knew then was I was interested in helping people and understanding why we as humans are the way we are.

In a random trip to Gamestop at midnight to pick up a new video game that was just released, I flipped through a magazine about game design and there was an ad for a film school designed to equip you with all the experience and knowledge you would need to work in the industry, regardless if you have any film experience at all. I ripped it out in a splurge of fantasying about what I thought my life could be. I saw myself in a rain forest, shooting a nature documentary for National Geographic. Then, walking the red carpet for its premiere.

I never thought I could make this dream a reality, assuming everyone dreamt about moving to LA with the same hopes. The logical part of my brain rationalized it as “impossible”.

A day later, my love found the magazine ad and pushed me into applying online. “Why not?” was a really good arguing point, as simple as it was. It wasn’t until I was accepted to the school shortly after that I realized the crossroad my life had come to: chase my dreams I was passionate about or die with a boring life, doing something I chose out of only necessity.

Two years later, in the spring of my twentieth year, I walked across the graduation stage in the newly finished auditorium building of my school. Tear filled my mother’s eyes as I received my bachelor’s degree in film. My family was overjoyed. The crowd in attendance all cheered us on as they presented the April class of 2011. My fellow classmates launched their caps in the air. But I… I was scared shitless.

I spent about three months applying to every film and TV job in the world, trying not to fall into the funk that so many fellow classmates did after graduation. “Success is determined by a combination of preparedness and luck.” I was determined to make this work. Make something, anything, work.

After playing the waiting game, I lucked out here and there with random gigs, even landing a gig for an awesome Olympic commercial with Ryan Lochte from Craig’s list. While finding nothing in the Florida area where I was living at the time post-graduation, I went home to New Jersey to work for American Idol during their audition process as a production assistant until I could save enough to move to the motherland of film and television, Los Angeles.

After the American Idol gig, while I was spending my last night home with my family before returning to Florida, I told my mother I wasn’t going to take any other short term gigs; I was just going to focus on planning my move across the country.

That night I got an email to work a few days in Miami, about four hours away from where my apartment was in Florida. I shot a quick email saying, “I would love too!” With my workaholic personality, I didn’t even think twice. It wasn’t until afterwards when my mother reminded me of the contradicting statement I made only minutes before.

The next day, my flight was delayed and I shot an email to the production manager, apologizing that I couldn’t make it for the gig. I believe in the universe as being a higher power for me and I believe there are always signs showing you the paths you need to take to get you where you want to go. I thought fate was saying, “Just make the move and forget this gig!”. I was wrong.

Instead, after a quick phone interview, she emailed me back and said, “That’s fine. You can start the next day.” So, I took the sign from the universe and once I flew back to Orlando, I drove straight to the “Magic City”, Miami!

Preparedness and luck paid off, I ended up staying on the job, working almost every day for about 2 months, living out of motels and the spare bedroom of the hotel-converted-production office we had.

It’s funny though, I have a friend who thinks that every single person you meet, long term or even for a few minutes, directly impacts your life and your future in some way, shape or form. Michele Costa was my boss then and even though I didn’t have much experience, she taught me everything she knew about production and more.

Michele & Jenna on location in Key West

Michele & Jenna on location in Key West

We had a lot of late night, life conversations and from meeting her, I was given an opportunity to apply for another job out in LA, finishing the rest of the show, plus a promotion! My life motto has always been, “The key to happiness is low expectations”, so I never got my hopes up too high. I had no idea she was working her magic behind the scenes.

One night at, one o’clock in the morning, after wrapping up after a very long day, Michele invited me back to her apartment. There, she told me I got the job! What? I was actually a bit stunned and extremely excited.

Only downside being, they needed me in LA about four or five days after the show wrapped! My mind went into overdrive and within a week, I found a sublet in Koreatown and got my parents on board with the idea of moving from one time zone to another.

I wrapped the show on October 28th around nine o’clock at night, and in two-and-a-half days I arrived in LA and moved into my studio apartment in Koreatown.

Living in a new city is hard no matter where you move, but for me, LA was life changing. I left my boyfriend, my best friend, my apartment and moved on a whim with a three-month job and my dreams. The only thing I had was the love and support from my family and friends, a few credits on my resume and a mountain of dreams and goals. And of course, my adorable little kitten that I rescued months before.

Jenna at Home in LA

Jenna at Home in LA

In just a few short months I went from a production assistant in Miami to a  Clearance Coordinator position in Los Angeles to a Production Coordinator and it felt like it in the blink of an eye. It was all sugar canes and fairies until a show I was working on in June got canceled, leaving me completely unemployed.

Finding work in LA, where everyone wants to do what you want to do, is hard. Actually, hard is an understatement; in fact, I don’t think there is a proper adjective to describe just how gut wrenching and demotivating it is to keep hearing “We went in another direction.”

My last class at my school prepared me for these kind of times: “You’ll get ninety-nine ‘No’s’ before you get one ‘Yes’.”

With that in mind, I kept my head up and knew I already paved the road I was meant to drive down. I knew I had taken the plunge to follow my dreams and I gave it all I could. That was the first step; otherwise, what was the point in the first place?

I took a nine-to-five, fulltime job just out of necessity. Even with my dedication and workaholic personality, after a few weeks, I left my job. I knew it wasn’t the path I wanted to go down. What you do in life should make you happy and it certainly wasn’t. Like taking psychology classes in college, I did it just to do it and my heart wasn’t in it like it was with the previous freelance gigs I was working, or my dreams of shooting documentaries in the rain forest.

It’s a hard decision, to make your self-unemployed. But I knew some times you need to make the wrong decisions to learn how to make the right ones. I came out to the West Coast to live the dream! So, if following my heart got me this far, then damn it, it will continue to help get me where I want to go.

Back to square one again, I applied to any and every job I could. Low and behold, in less than a week, I got a phone call from one of my old bosses, while in a Target fitting room, asking me if I wanted to coordinate a new pilot show for National Geographic, the company that has always been apart of my dreams.

That was IT!  That was the biggest, cathartic sign I needed from the universe. The Law of Attraction states that if you think it and visualize it, it can happen if you put in the right work. What you give is what you receive. I gave everything I had for my career and this, this was the way the universe rewarded me.

“Never stop running.” As of right now, I have been living in Los Angeles for a year and I have yet to look down to see what’s below. On the other side of this gigantic canyon I’m leaping over, I only see the other cliff I’m about to land on, the cliff of “prosperity”.

Are you chasing after your passion and following you heart? Are you ready to jump off the cliff?

From → Guest Posts

2 Comments
  1. Love this post. I’m a little choked up, even!

  2. Love this! I’m even a little choked up! ❤

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