AWESOME PERSON #4 – Meet Erin!
Meet my beautiful friend, Erin Ragland! Her and I met while working in Alaska and she instantly became one of those people that you absolutely cannot forget. She has a passion for life and following her dreams that I’ve truly never seen in anyone else. And boy does she have a set of vocal chords to help her along the way. A true artist. Her story is a bit different from others…she ran for the CITY instead of away from it, like most of us do. She’s currently in LA pursuing all kinds of dreams and finding her place in life. Enjoy her story and I hope it inspires you to never give up on your goals even when the road gets rough.
Tell us your story!
I’ve always been a bit of a restless person. I was that kid in 20 different clubs through school, just because doing one thing seemed boring to me. I liked change, I loved variety.
I started working seasonally in 2005, spending my summers during college traveling around the country with an improv/comedy team. There were all these incredible moments – driving into the sunset through Utah, crazy winding roads in Colorado, white water rafting in Montana, unexpected off-trail adventures in the redwoods. I think spontaneity just began to seep into every facet of my blood. I loved not knowing what the next day would be like. I craved it.
My sister was working seasonally in Alaska and connected me with an opportunity at Denali National Park just as my last season with the team was ending and I often consider that my first crash course in “grown-up” seasonal living. During college, I always had my dorm room waiting for me in the Fall. Without that, I was out in the open air, deciding which wind I wanted to fly off with every time the leaves changed. I moved to Los Angeles in 2010 to pursue seasonal work in the film and music industries, sometimes going back to Alaska, and sometimes staying close, and that’s where I am now!
What happened After Your First Seasonal Job?
I actually got really terrified and moved back home with mom and dad! The thing is, there was so much I loved about my time in Alaska, but it was different than traveling with my comedy crew, and it was scary to feel like there wasn’t any ground beneath me. Something about it wasn’t perfect, just wasn’t quite that mark in the soul that makes you know you’re in the right place. I didn’t know what I wanted to do next. I didn’t know if that life was for me or not, no matter how much I enjoyed the traveling and exploring.
Most of the seasonal workers I know go off on these incredible outdoorsy adventures – they research in Antarctica, they work as whitewater rafting guides, they’re park rangers at all the most scenic places in the world…and it matches them. It satisfies that hunger, that wanderlust, that explorer, that dreamer in all of them. And while I definitely love the idea of all these things, I knew that deep down I absolutely LOVE the city and have wanted to follow my dreams in Los Angeles for as long as I can remember myself.
So, after some soul searching, I made a compromise – I dug within myself for the courage I found in all the people I met along my travels, and made the move to Hollywood to find a seasonal life in the film and music industries.
What made you pick joining an Improv/Comedy Team as your first seasonal job & then to go to Alaska?
To be honest, I just took whatever was available that sounded not terrible. I wasn’t dreaming about finding something I would love for life, I just wanted to do something interesting, and something that I maybe hadn’t done before. The place and the job really didn’t matter a whole lot. I chose the improv team during college because it sounded fun, and I chose Alaska because my sister was there. It wasn’t very profound – it was just the door that opened and I went in.
What do your non-seasonal family & friends think of your lifestyle?
You know, I am actually extremely lucky because everyone is really supportive. People that know me see how happy it makes me to follow these adventures, and they are always there with encouraging words when those inevitable moments creep in and I start to feel the burden this lifestyle can sometimes carry. It also helps that almost every single person I love is either in a different city or state and a large majority of them are in different countries, so they live by the same rules: Viber, Whatsapp, Skype, Voxer, FB Messenger & FaceTime. 🙂
What are the common criticisms you hear?
Working in Hollywood is an intense kind of seasonal life, and everyone here is trying to build a resume that gets them a cooler, bigger job the next time, while at the same time, having these insane artist passions about it all. So, ironically, the biggest criticisms I get are when people suggest I should just go back to Alaska or another seasonal job that’s, for me, a bit easier and simpler. Not because it’s not incredible there, but because I’m willing to fight for these jobs here, and I am proud of the courage it takes to do that.
What are things you do to plan for the off seasons?
My favorite quote is, “plans are for people with maps”. I’m no Magellan. This is probably the least responsible answer, but I really never know if I’m going to have an off season, or jump to another job, and I usually make my decision only about 3 weeks beforehand. I make plans in the moment and I will humbly admit that while sometimes it explodes into awesome and sometimes it horribly bites me in the ass. You just have to be ready for anything.
How do you feel a seasonal lifestyle has benefited you?
I don’t mean to overuse the word “brave”, but that is the greatest benefit I’ve gotten out of it. For me, pursuing my dreams in Hollywood is the single most terrifying thing I’ve ever done. I’ve never found jumping from job to job or place to place that difficult because they were just temporary situations – I wasn’t passionate about them. But to follow your dreams…to give everything you possibly have just to dangle over that hopeful cliff…that takes something I never thought I had before I started working seasonally.
Does this lifestyle come with hardships? If so, what?
Oh man…yes. Absolutely. The benefits outweigh the hardships, but seasonal living is not for the faint of heart. It can get exhausting changing directions every 3-6 months, and little things like finding housing if your job doesn’t provide it never cease to be frustrating. You have to be okay sleeping on uncomfortable mattresses and not really having roots, and you have to learn how to live out of a backpack. Packing light without collecting a million unnecessary items along the way is a talent I am still perfecting.
But probably the hardest part is the fact that making deep connections can be tricky. It gets lonely missing people all the time! Not to mention romantic relationships often fizzle out when you realize your future basically consists of smartphone apps.
Have opportunities opened because of this lifestyle? If so, what?
In Hollywood, being a seasonal worker able to drop everything and move on the fly is practically the only way to get opportunities. It was actually a friend I met that worked seasonally between Alaska and LA that helped me get my first production assistant gig on a commercial, and then I met a group of girls doing the seasonal gig in LA and worked as a PA and makeup assistant with them on my first feature film. And thanks to this network of seasonal Hollywood people, I am currently working as a wardrobe assistant on an a-lister’s personal passion project, which is super exciting.
I’m also able to pursue music, which is kind of my first love. I was connected with a few European DJs who ended up featuring me on three different tracks that were all released on German radio and international EDM sites. I can now say I had two songs on the German Top 20 charts, which you gotta admit is pretty cool. 😉
Do you have any regrets or things you would have changed while living seasonally?
Funny enough, the first thing that comes to mind is that I would have saved more. I was definitely one of those people for my first few seasons that said to myself at the beginning, “I’m going to work hard, save all my money and do some magical A, B, & C with it at the end.” Instead, the leaves would start changing colors and I’d realize, I’d had a great time, but all those drinks and meals out added up.
What are your fears and reservations about the present or future?
I’m always afraid that this life will have to end, that eventually God will point his finger at a desk job and say, that’s all you’re destined for. I’m afraid of failing at this life in Hollywood and having to go back to something more simple, where everyone will just pat me on the shoulder and say, “at least you tried.” As Belle would sing, “I want adventure in the great, wide somewhere, I want it more than I can teellllllll…”
What would be the greatest lesson you’ve learned so far?
I’ve learned a lot about gratefulness. When you live this life, there’s so much you don’t have by way of the material world, and I will admit that sometimes I just like stuff. I like clothes and makeup just as much as I like being barefoot in a creek in my favorite tie-dye dress, and I would be lying if I said occasionally I didn’t eyeball a big beautiful bed with throw pillows and fantasize about it being mine. I also sometimes get really bitter that I when I find myself crying, I can’t, say, call Sinead to come watch Netflix and drink wine with me because she’s in Thailand and dagnabbit, Skype just isn’t the same. You know? Part of me wants to be surrounded by the people I love in a home I can actually call my own. Even when we love the seasonal life, it can feel like such a pull.
So this part about gratefulness is that when you’re stretched to your limits, your eyes begin to see all those fine threads that get lost in between. Being grateful for my smartphone so that I can text my mates every instant though, even when they’re half way around the world. Grateful for my lack of furniture when it comes time to move again. Grateful for a healthy body to do these things, and grateful for every tiny opportunity that blossoms out of the last.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years? 10 years?
I would love to say that I could be making a living through music and traveling all the time to do it, but I feel like my life is a constant experiment in figuring out what I want to do. Maybe I’ll be a seasonal worker forever…I can’t imagine ever losing this wanderlust or this sense of adventure, but then, maybe the greatest adventure yet to come is the one where I stay in one place for longer than 6 months.
What is your advice for a person wanting to embark on the seasonal path?
There are two things I would say are vital to survival on the seasonal path:
First, remember this: “If you work really hard, and are kind, amazing things will happen.” (Conan O’Brien) Intend to work hard, and be intentional about your mindset. Seasonal jobs can be rough. Sometimes they just get tedious and after answering the dumbest question with the same answer 1,000 times, you may want to stab your eye out with a pencil. But, if you stay positive, focus on the good, and are kind to your coworkers and the people you interact with, your season will be incredible.
Second, is to go with zero expectations. Every seasonal experience is unique and no two people will ever have the same summer. Enjoy other’s stories, but don’t let them dictate the plan for your own. Go with an humble heart, ready to receive whatever the universe gives you. Be prepared to stumble and feel defeated, and then push forward because, you know, seasonal living is like a box of chocolates…
Oh, and a third: When you see the inevitable clique of employees that have clearly all worked together before, don’t be intimidated or discouraged if you don’t instantly become part of it. Trust me, there is one thing about the seasonal life that never fails: you will always meet the most incredible, talented, smart, sincere people in the world, and before you know it, they will be so a part of your soul you’ll wonder how you ever traveled life without them.
*If you know someone with a SWEET story or would like to share your own please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’d love to hear it and maybe you’ll be featured!!! 🙂