Rules to Live By – Mia Hydro

I lay in bed for hours just thinking about the next day. It’s the start of my new life, and I’ve been waiting for it for years. I’m terrified. I’ve dreamt of this for the longest time, and it’s really here. I’ve saved up all of the money I earned from scooping ice cream over the summer. It was only eight bucks an hour, but I got some cash, enough to buy a one-way plane ticket to California anyway. Alpena, Michigan, is a small town; I’d place money that you’ve never even heard of it before. Nobody can really make it in Alpena. What blockbusters come from Alpena?

Exactly my point.

Film school gave me a passion and a creative space. I love directing. I may not really know what I’m doing, but I’m going to be a big blockbuster movie director someday, and you have my word. After packing my cameras and equipment, I finish rummaging through my closet for clothing.

I leave a letter on my kitchen counter.

Dear Mom & Sky,

I love you both so much, but I need to go. Alpena is a small town and I have big dreams. It’s cheesy, I know, but so is this town. Someday, you’ll see my name in the end credits of a movie; that’s the real goal. I’m running late already, so I have to motor. I will call home as soon as I land. I promise I am not running away, just making a life for myself, like Dad always wanted. I’ll miss you guys terribly. See you both soon.

– Love, Cam

I feel terrible about this, buying a one-way plane ticket, that is, because I’m leaving my mom and little sister, Skyla, behind. My dad passed away a few years ago, which makes me feel worse about the whole thing. However, he told me to always follow my dreams, so, here I am.

As I slip out my front door, suitcases in hand, I start realizing what I’m really doing. I’m leaving my whole life behind to take a shot at something barely anybody makes, and I’m just a nobody. I almost start to tear as I wave down a cab.

“Airport, sir?” I ask. The driver nods and gets out of his car to help me put my things in the trunk.

I get in the taxi and the driver takes off. I watch the end of my street get farther and farther away in the mirror. We fly past my old high school, and the baseball field my father used to coach me on. The rest of the ride is pretty silent, and I’m hoping the plane ride will be different.

After half an hour, my cab pulls up to the curb at the airport. The driver, whose nameplate said Ed, helped me get my things from the trunk. I paid Ed the fare and threw in a little tip, I was feeling generous.

I’ve only flown once before, and it was when I was seven on a family trip to Disney World. Basically, I had no idea what I was doing in an airport. I must’ve asked every single person in that building where to go until I finally found the weigh station for luggage. I stumbled around the airport for the next forty-five minutes, lost as ever, until I made it to where my plane would load.

I watched the other planes fly in and out until mine arrived, wondering what each person was there for, and making up scenarios for them in my head. Maybe that lady was a secret agent, and she’s here on official business, or maybe she’s flying home from a military base and hasn’t seen her family for a year, or maybe she’s coming here for a shot at her dreams, like me. I guess I’ll never really know.

Eventually, I board my plane and find my seat. My seat is next to an older man. He’s got gray hair and a hearing aid in his right ear. Glasses too, thick glass, like coke bottles, really. He has a wedding ring on, but his wife isn’t sitting with him. I was hoping for someone a little younger, or maybe a girl, so I could talk to them. Oh well, I guess I’ll just sleep.

“Hey kid, I’m Arnie. I figured I’d introduce myself since it’ll be a long flight,” he puts his hand out for me to shake it, but it’s sort of awkward because of the arms of our seats barricading us in. I manage to shake his hand anyway.

“I’m Cameron,” I reply.

“So Los Angeles, huh? Big dreams?” Arnie questions. He’s not wrong, and what else could you expect from a kid my age, alone, and on the way to Los Angeles? I chuckle and nod.

We continued talking for the next hour, just about my plans for the future, and what I’m going to California for. Arnie tells me his wife, Sandra, had passed away a few months ago so he’s going to see the Hollywood sign, something she always wanted but never got to do. Sandra was a gorgeous lady, she was passionate, caring, and loving, all things Arnie told me. They were married for sixty-one years. I apologize for his loss and relate it to my father’s death, as I do most things honestly.

Arnie reminds me of my father really. It’s been a few years since my father passed, but I still remember him pretty well. I remember my dad loved being with us, his family. He was always starting fires for us to cook marshmallows and hotdogs on, or setting up hammocks so we could hang-out with him even while he mowed the lawn. Arnie told me he didn’t have kids, but he absolutely loved being with his nieces and nephews, and great-nieces and nephews.

Arnie reminds me of myself a little, too. Arnie’s wife died from a brain tumor and my father died from throat cancer. Arnie always integrates Sandra into whatever conversation. For example, I was talking about a baseball cap, and Arnie noted how Sandra once had this blue baseball cap with a white brim, which brought out her beautiful eyes, it’s sweet really. I do this with my father also.

“Did you get much sleep last night, kid? Doesn’t look it. Why don’t you get some rest?” he says. Again, he’s not wrong.

“No, sir, I didn’t sleep too well,” I reply, yawning.

“Los Angeles is a busy place, you won’t have much time to rest.” He chuckles. Arnie’s a smart man, so I close my eyes and fall asleep immediately.

I pry my eyes open to the sound of our flight attendants announcing we’ve touched down in L.A. and the rest of the passengers begin clapping. Our plane begins unloading and Arnie and I say goodbye.

“Nice meeting you, sir,” I shake his hand.

“You as well, good luck with your plans, kid,” he smiles and shakes my hand.

Arnie grabs his luggage overhead and begins to exit the plane just as I notice he left a folded piece of paper on his seat. I call out his name, but he doesn’t hear me. I remember he had a hearing aid, maybe it was switched off.

I unfold the paper and it reads:


Rules to Live By

For a young man, you seem very mature, much more than I was. I’ve lived eighty-four long years and I wish I would’ve known just half the things you do already. While you were sleeping, I thought of some rules to live by, so I thought some may be useful for you, too.

  1. Life goes fast; live without regrets.
  2. Find one thing you love about every person you know.
  3. Don’t waste your breath talking about someone, and don’t waste your time hating them. It takes too much time and see number one.
  4. Don’t rush love. It’ll find you. Never let it go.
  5. In fights and arguments, it’s not you versus the other; it’s the two of you against the problem.
  6. Don’t compare yourself or anything to another. The grass is always greener on the other side.
  7. Things will almost always figure themselves out.
  8. Always, always, always express how you feel. Use words.
  9. Be confident in everything you do.
  10. Write your own set of rules to live by and pass them on.

Thanks for keeping me company, kid. I hope all of your future endeavors go as planned. Oh, and say hello to your kid sister for me. She sounds like a very nice kid, much like yourself.


Immediately, this brings tears to my eyes. I slip the paper in my back pocket and get off the plane. I walk through the airport and out the front door with my suitcases in-hand. I call my mom’s phone as soon as I get outside. This is it. This is what I’ve been waiting for. Hello Los Angeles.

Now, I’ve been a Los Angeles citizen for almost twenty-five years. Arnie’s rules have really helped me out, and I never take life for granted anymore. I’ve officially directed four blockbuster movies since I’ve moved out here. After having a wife of my own, I understand how Arnie talked about Sandra like he did. My mom and Skyla are coming out for my birthday in a few weeks, and Skyla’s bringing my new nephew.

Following number ten in Arnie’s rules, I’d like to add one.

Take in all the advice you can get. Everyone needs a little help, no matter where you are in life. I took a huge risk moving out here with little-to-no money and not much of an opportunity, and I’m not sure I would’ve made it without meeting Arnie and getting some of the best advice I’ve received in my life, besides my father’s.

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