It’s Saturday, Oct. 31st, 2020. I am on a long walk with no specified destination, contemplating life, fate and basically my whole existence, when I have the sudden urge for coffee. I look up the nearest Starbucks location and order a tall, iced blonde Americano (this honestly sounds like a description of an attractive person, which is fitting because I’m in that WeHo/Beverly Hills adjacent area of L.A. where everyone is pretty.)
I arrive at the Beverly/Robertson location – and I’m suddenly overwhelmed with emotions.
INNER VOICE: “This is the coffee shop where you went as an 18-year-old intern, SK! Remember? You were working for publicist Liza Anderson @ Warren Cowan and Associates.”
Yes. I took a semester-long internship at an entertainment PR firm in the mid-2000s just because. I honestly don’t know why I did, as I was pursuing a straight broadcast journalism path, but I retroactively assume it’s because USC sent an email and this gig allowed freshman to also apply – a rarity in the (unpaid) internship world. I always liked keeping busy and doing things, and had a car, so I guess I probably thought, why not?
So…I added a weekly Wednesday afternoon internship to my freshman year life – it was just another puzzle piece, alongside my 16-unit course load, TrojanVision (campus TV station), Annenberg TV News (campus news station) and SCIA (campus “cultural” club but really a social organization comprised of people of a similar ethnic background) duties.
Most of the internship involved doing basic office tasks: answering phones (one time Hulk Hogan called and he sounded scary), stuffing celebrity press kits (i.e. a folder with clips of the company’s clients in different media outlets, to send to other outlets, to then create more press opportunities for said-clients – I distinctly remember working on Eva Longoria right before she got super famous) and running errands (picking up my boss’ lunch or coffee. A major responsibility in the pre-iPhone, pre-UberEats/Postmates/DoorDash era.)
Yep – that definitely meant frequent trips to THIS Starbucks.
It was a walk I did weekly. From 8899 Beverly Boulevard (the building I worked) to 164 N. Robertson (the building that housed Starbucks.)
And honestly – this walk was the thing I looked forward to most.
Not because I wanted coffee (though fraps were nice) or because I wanted the steps (it was 0.2 miles – not exactly workout-level to burn frap calories), but because…it was my time to dream.
Yeah. It was a walk that felt quintessential Hollywood. Unlike my day-to-day life on USC’s campus (in LA, but not a “cool” area), this walk was in a seemingly “special” part of town. A walk that a young, wide-eyed SK believed would lead her to her secret destiny. A path…that she hoped would lead to an encounter with someone who could change her life. Fate.
Yep. That girl, who was studying broadcast journalism, secretly wanted to encounter someone else who would tell her “I want to cast you in a show I’m doing.”
Someone else who would give her permission to do what she really wanted to do: perform.
And as a girl from Fresno, whose acting credits were limited to side roles in Cinderella and A Midsummer Night’s Dream at Edison Computech High School (and winning the senior year yearbook award for Drama Queen – something I’m sure Taylor Swift would have also won had she not pursued her artistic dreams and instead stayed in high school because she had a traditional ethnic upbringing), yet who innately knew from the age of 5 that she was supposed to live in LA and that going to college specifically there was her path to her destiny, this seemed like the logical (translation: not brain logic-based, but SK-logic as in fate-based) way for it to happen.
You know – that Hollywood magical cliché of just meeting one person, being discovered, being seen…and your whole life changing.
Needless to say. It didn’t pan out that way.
But – in returning to this specific location, I was suddenly transported back to my 18-year-old self, reliving the memories, the hopes, the dreams, the excitement – and unfortunately, the current day reality check of how life doesn’t work that way.
So when I went to pick up my drink order from the same counter I picked up drinks many years ago – my nostalgia went from smiling and fondly reminiscing…to tears streaming down my face, a reaction that seemed too truthful to control (when the barista asked if I wanted a straw and I said yes, perhaps she assumed the tears were just sadness over plastic use and environmental concerns?)
I wasn’t sure if it was a feeling of “WTF are you doing SK? Almost half your life later – shouldn’t have this happened by now?” or… a feeling of ambivalent despair (an emotion most creatives encounter at least monthly.
Was it a feeling of sadness?
A feeling of doubt?
A feeling of wasted time?
A feeling that magic and fate and destiny was all fake?
A feeling of…should I just quit?
The night before, at a socially-distant outdoor dinner with my friends René and President, I was very content on this creative path and in fact, had finally taken ownership of my real self. At dinner, I openly acknowledged the reality that being positioned as just a “writer” first and not as a performer or actor as far as being a storyteller was just another way of hiding; an awareness of dimming one’s light because a writer seems more culturally appropriate, more practical. And because of that false sense of identity, my reality wasn’t manifesting the way it could have been.
I was naming myself the wrong thing. (Like when you claim friendship but subconsciously want a relationship, but are too scared to admit it. Cue this A Walk to Remember scene. Fun fact: Mandy Moore was high school era-SK’s Taylor Swift. In fact…just this past week, Ehsaan – my friend of 19 years – brought her up and asked if I was still obsessed with that movie since I at one point had nearly every line of dialogue memorized from it. The things people remember about you…Sigh. Okay, back to my regularly-scheduled blog post.)
Needless to say, to be on a random walk 12 hours later and end up back at the Starbucks where I always hoped I’d be discovered on a walk and given an opportunity to act, was an interesting experience (wait, this…this is my literal WALK to remember! I swear, my life and writing process unfolds so cleverly at times.)
Anyway. The revisit to my younger self was interesting – because even though so much had changed… so much had also stayed the same.
Because that 18-year-old girl was hiding behind a mask: the mask of broadcast journalist. The academic, pratical and culturally appropriate way to tell stories on TV. Entertainment adjacent, so-to-speak.
And here I was in my 30s…still hiding behind a mask. This time it was just that of “writer” – another permitted (translation: more “appropriate”) way to be adjacent to the thing I actually wanted.
(And of course I have this “mask” epiphany on Halloween, a day known for masks, during the year of COVID, an era also known for masks. God/the Universe knows I love clever things like this, clearly.)
So I cried. And left. And outside that Starbucks, in the seemingly fancy neighborhood, was a seemingly homeless person who appeared to have a mental illness, talking in the air. I walked by. But – had an inner nudge to turn around. So I did. I asked her if she was hungry, if she wanted food. She smiled, said she was okay, and asked for money for cigarettes. I told her I could buy her food at Starbucks, and her smile widened; she declined, and instead asked my name, spoke happily to me for a quick minute and blessed me.
Maybe in a word filled with selfies and preoccupation, she was just happy someone acknowledged her existence?
I continued my walk south on Robertson Blvd. And started thinking fate, destiny, dreams, soul-driven purpose…it was all just a lie. A scam. Fake. (Unheard of thoughts for typical SK.)
Why do I believe in something that feels imprinted in my DNA, my soul, if there’s no proof? Am I believing in the wrong thing? Is what I’m perceiving as me being patient just BS? Am I too optimistic and trusting in signs and the universe? Am I just wrong? Was everything “magical” in my life just a coincidence?
Despite my inner worries (which were based in nothing but sadness over a memory), I still tried once again to get guidance of sorts. I began inner dialogue with God/Life/Universe/Something Greater Than Me.
I was at a point, that day specifically, where I just needed some confirmation, some sign.
Yes, I wanted a sign to confirm I should keep believing in signs (and gut feelings and intuition and all of that.)
And so. I asked for something that was blatant, something undeniable, something that was just as fate-like as my 2014 airline magazine ad encounter.
Something so in my face – I couldn’t deny its existence.
And…I kid you not. Within a second – I see this:
A literal sign that says “Believing is Everything.”
I glance to the left to then look toward the name of the store and see this:
“All Things Are Possible.”
I cry again.
And continue my long walk. Yeah. I was conflicted. Sure. I was given a sign – but honestly, I didn’t believe it would actually come. So when it showed up? I still wanted to resist it. I was just…tired.
So. I keep walking. I think about whether this journey is worth it. How it can be lonely. And how sometimes it feels like there’s no one in your corner, no one that really gets it.
And then what happens when I look to my left after that thought?
ANOTHER literal sign that says: “You Are Not Alone.”
It is Halloween.
Looking back, Saturday’s accidental and windy-pathed 2-hour walk to Starbucks (what should have taken 35 minutes had I intended to walk directly to that destination from my starting point) may be fully reflective of my literal journey from college to now. I started off with one destination in mind, popped in but it didn’t feel right, wandered down 3rd for a bit, turned around, walked in and out of another spot, and ended up leaning into the urge for Starbucks after resisting – even after having passed Starbucks locations and other more trendy coffee shops along the way.
Maybe it had to be this Starbucks specifically, you know? The only Starbucks that would get me to reflect.
Especially given that I wasn’t planning on going there, I can’t help but be reminded by Saturday’s walk that life is about the journey, not the destination.
And so when looking back at 18-year-old SK – I can honestly say I’m content I didn’t get my then-dream of nonchalantly being a college kid discovered on Beverly Boulevard. Because…as much as I like to believe in magic and fate and possibility, maybe today’s lesson isn’t just about whether or not it’s real, and whether or not to believe, but rather, that it only truly feels like magic and fate when you’ve put in actual work and experienced the struggle, too. The journey.
Maybe receiving that dream destination, just a few months into being in LA, before the investment and the ups and downs and the trying and failing and trying again and feeling like quitting but staying anyway and inner conflict, isn’t fate at all – it’s a lucky moment in life. A cool experience, but with less meaning, because there isn’t that journey – that fully-developed story. How can you know it’s special, divine intervention, if you just walk into it?
And…knowing that here I was at that Starbucks, almost half a life later, STILL knowing this part of me deep inside, and taking ownership of what I really wanted just the night before when I said it out loud to my friends – not relying solely on fate and hoping for someone else to discover me and tell me I can have what I want, or going after something adjacent to what I really want because I’m scared to be so bold – is the real magic. The growth. The real reason the tears started shedding.
They were tears of happiness – not sadness.
Tears acknowledging a full circle moment.
Tears that knew (before I consciously did) the truly magical and fate-driven aspect of this Hollywood story.
Recommended Listening: Mandy Moore Cry (A Walk to Remember Soundtrack)
In places no one will find, all your feelings so deep inside
Was there that I realized…
The moment I saw you cry
(Because crying means something. And if I cried in Starbucks, it means…that whatever I cried about matters deep inside, as Mandy says. Even if I did need some blatant signs to appear. Enjoy. I’ll see you next week. –💜SK)
P.S. Today is Dia de Los Muertos – Day of the Dead. I remember going to the Hollywood Forever Cemetery with actor friends Riz Ahmed and Arjun Gupta in 2013 (yep, being adjacent) for an event celebrating this holiday (a holiday that honors ones ancestors who have passed away, departed souls.) Maybe writing this today specifically is symbolic? Capturing both the death of the old me, as well as the ownership of my performer desires (something both Riz and Arjun fearlessly represent.) And even though this Mexican holiday is called Day of the Dead, it isn’t about mourning; it’s about celebrating life – which essentially means, celebrating the journey.
Even the composition of this photo is symbolic of a young, hidden SK
P.P.S. And speaking of ancestors…For those spiritually-inclined, this weekend experience is especially interesting because mid-way last week, I randomly discovered details of my Indian dad side’s ancestry and spiritual lineage, which led me on a this whole other journey in self-discovery and after many hours and many open tabs, I encountered this one phrase specifically that stood out: “O you who believe, Believe!” (I liked the line so much I made it my phone wallpaper Thursday.) Clearly, I had forgotten it by Saturday, though, and needed a literal, blatant reminder on Robertson Boulevard. Fate? I mean. Believing is everything, right? 😏
Photo of my great, great, great, great, great (he was really great, I’m sure) grandfather Hakim Sharif Khan – who apparently has been on Wikipedia since…I was an entertainment PR intern walking Beverly Boulevard.
ICYMI…PREVIOUS BLOG POST: Don’t Force Things (Except Your Right to Vote)
START THE JOURNEY FROM BLOG #1: Am I Too Scared To Start Things?
Questions? Comments? Suggestions? Email Samia Khan directly!