I get plenty of different reactions about living in Hollywood.
People either think it's too fabulous for words and Los Angelenos consider it the more quirky, maybe more dangerous, place to live.
Really, it's expensive; it's busy; it's walkable, and it's a different story every day. However, one thing I did not expect to get from living near those pink and gold stars plastered on concrete is staying ambitious.
I'm not from here, and more than half the people I meet aren't, either. Many of us who relocated are here for the same reason: opportunity and weather.
The transit system does us barely any good; the competition is high, and the egos are higher, but we put up with it because the bright lights of the Hollywood district give us more than any other place ever has.
Here are a few things living in Hollywood reveals about having ambition and, more importantly, keeping it:
1. The Good Looking
Warmer weather means fewer clothes. Running errands as an aspiring actor or actresses around town in sh*tty clothes means you may risk running into a producer or director without "looking good."
In turn, this cultivates a competitive and superficial Hollywood culture, but it's also a great fitness motivator.
While some resort to quick fixes like Botox, surgery or implants, others work and sweat it out until they are in the best possible shape of their lives.
Not only does being in good physical shape turn heads and boost your self-confidence, but you also reap other benefits, like a learned discipline that comes from maintaining diet and exercise. This can be translated into other pursuits of your life, as well.
The shirtless guys hiking Runyon Canyon will make you want to work a little harder at the gym, resist overeating and pursue healthier habits.
2. The Poor
There are people here, like myself, building their dreams from scratch, who know the life of high expenses. Not only does this humble you, but sacrifices for goals of the future will also make you a better person.
If surviving off peanut butter sandwiches or just hot water and oatmeal for sustainable meals means saving the money for ear training lessons or $900 head shots, bring on the Jif and Quaker Oats.
Being poor for the sake of your dreams seems like a pounding constraint and daily battle.
But, a day filled with practicing rudiments, handing out albums on the street corner, writing screenplays in coffee shops or studying the books instead of spending money is a day closer to the dreams this city is capable of producing.
3. The Foreigners
People of different nationalities are here in abundance. The people who sit next to me in music school are from China, Russia, Switzerland and Guatemala, and they aren't second generation. Some arrived just last week on their own.
A melting pot in a place like Hollywood reinforces that people aren't just bound to their environments. Nothing is too out of reach, even if there is an ocean or a few large continents standing in the way.
4. The Jaded
Cutthroat competition and common rejections are enough to drive big dream chasers to a jaded reality; missions left underachieved are the last thing someone here wants to have to go home to.
I think of how much game plans have to be replenished and constantly revitalized in order for dreams to be kept alive out here. After all, doing the same thing over and over and expecting results is insanity, isn't it?
Here, you must pick yourself up after being rejected, and if a plan doesn't work, make a new one fast.
5. The Name Droppers
The guy you met leaving the Hollywood and Vine St. Station keeps talking about how his band opens for Chaka Khan. Well, everyone in Hollywood claims to be connected to a famous person, whether as a long-distance cousin or Kendrick Lamar's barber.
You learn which connections to value and which to just smile and nod at.
North Hollywood — the arts district — is a little more suburban and less booming than Hollywood is.
It's more affordable to live here, with quick access to the Red Line Metro Transit Station, dance complexes, the Art Institute and a plethora of hidden recording and rehearsal studios for the ambitious artists.
It's definitely a place for a good break from the fast life and good vibes among other creative people.
People can't be all up in the mix all the time. NoHo provides a bit of an escape and collaboration when some inspiration is needed to keep going.
2. Hollywood Boulevard
This is the home of the Dolby Theater. During awards season, Hollywood Blvd. gets closed off and glamorized when celebrities and cameras arrive.
The real things that truly make up Hollywood Blvd. — homelessness, street vendors and traffic congestion — are covered up. But, what's real always surfaces, no matter how great the presented facade is.
As fast as a red carpet is rolled away, people here learn everything is not always what it is presented to be. You learn to have a quick eye in judging these things for yourself.
3. Hollywood Hills
Free yoga at Runyon Canyon, leaving your thoughts in a community journal beneath the Wisdom Tree or a hike to the Hollywood sign are the most natural ways to reconnect with yourself. Even the most ambitious people need balance, and these activities are like free therapy.
1. Bright lights
Things are bigger, brighter, prettier, sexier and fancier here, but the ambitious ones know not to let that fool them. We can forget our purposes with all the excitement around us here.
Hollywood is about give and take. Distractions are in full effect, but self-control is key.
A person in Hollywood who has overcome temptations is more cut out to be here than the thousands of his or her competition who haven't.
There are so many people here. Getting somewhere may take an extra hour due to traffic. Someone is always one step ahead of you.
Things like consistently sleeping in late or not putting in that extra hour of practice could be the equation for disappointment.
You have to fend for yourself when so many others are after the same thing.
Alertness among a sea of people is everything.
3. "The Industry"
Like me, many people are in the service industry as a side hustle to their primary ambitions.
Waiters, waitresses, bartenders, bar backs and bussers work in the food, drink or hospitality business for the extra cash and flexible hours.
We can relate to one another and learn about other people's struggles, reasons for coming here, secrets they've learned and make good friends in the process.
There is ease in realizing it's not just you who is miles away from Mom's cooking; you're not the only new girl.
It's proof that another factor of ambition is a support system. After you realize that, no man is a single island, but part of the entire continent itself.
Hollywood is a ridiculous place that will ignite your fears and inspire your actions in a variety of ways.
It's a big place with plenty of opportunity and competition that requires a thick skin, positive soul and an ambitious mind.
If you've come here without it, you'll leave having gained at least a little of it.