My current posture seems to be on my knees, thanking God and asking for direction…if not this then hunched over at my computer. From time to time I remember to sit up tall, suck in my belly and tuck my tailbone or as our trainer would have us visualize, “Pretend you are peeing on the ceiling.” Interesting analogy, but it works when you spend so much time writing and working and editing and thinking at your desk. My life’s work, although the projects or experiences have been different, has carried these two themes throughout…work hard, pray hard. Through this process of realizing my dream of being a writer and filmmaker, I’ve realized what a metaphor our work life can be for our inner life.
I’m not sure if I chose film or film chose me. I grew up with a brother who was always moving and creative. He had more energy than anyone I know or have known ever. He would wiggle and talk while eating, talk all the time, sing at the top of his lungs to Michael Jackson with his boombox blaring, prank the fire department while my mom was teaching piano…you name it…he tried it and with gusto. So, shortly after the Tanya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan Olympics saga (disclaimer: we grew up in Portland, Oregon, and were thoroughly embarrassed by this display of ugliness), my brother decided to have us reenact and film a scene whence Nancy was being beaten with the pipe on her knee. I was Nancy. I can’t say my acting was quality whatsoever nor can I say I was inspired. The whole thing was more a source of comedy (not the subject, only our depiction of it) than anything and it has remained as such all the way through my life. Every time I think about it, I giggle. However, what I can say is I liked the process of creating that scene with a group of silly boys. It was fun. It was creative and it required some thought and planning. The laughter part was an unexpected bonus…not sure what else I thought was going to happen! There wasn’t much praying on this one. Should I make a dad joke here…more of a “knee jerk” reaction to my brother’s call for silly amusement!
Fast forward to high school, it’s a little fuzzy when our momentous scene was filmed, I joined leadership class. I was paired up with Christy and we decided to do the Senior Video for our senior class together. Honestly, the moment this video played for the first time at our senior breakfast is at the top of my personal life highlights. It was really stressful because back then either it wasn’t possible or I didn’t have the knowledge to put music to the video clips. We edited entirely on a linear editing system VHS tape to VHS tape at one of the school districts early alternative learning centers. I recorded a music track to run simultaneous with the VHS tape and had to press play on a cassette player and a VHS player at the same time or the music played at the wrong times on the video. Despite these hitches the video was a hit! They loved seeing themselves. We had asked the students to send in clips of interesting or fun things they did over the course of high school and then Christy and I went around filming sports and school activities and we cut it all together. Editing was an entirely new experience for me then and it required more of me than any other project I had done while in school. There probably was some praying on this one, but probably along the lines of, “Please God, let us finish, and let our friends like it so we can go out and party!”
Back then, things weren’t as specific with the college search, or maybe I was really distracted with my social life? I didn’t have anyone recommending film school to me or urging me to hone my talents in any area. I don’t know if I was even savvy enough to know I was really interested in film even though it was so fun making the project. I just thought you went to college and majored in something practical like business. So that’s what I did! I took off for Rollins College in Winter Park, FL, where my mom graduated from, planned to ski on the waterski team and major in business. I thought I was the cat’s meow, I was super over-confident, and totally happy…for about a month.
Very shortly after I settled in at Rollins and launched into the college party scene, I realized I had a large empty feeling developing in my gut. Lucky for me, after much more social distraction, parties, some bad party experiences (that’s a story for much later), moving home to Oregon and back again to Florida (another story for later), failed economics class, and complete boredom in most of my other classes, except African Cultures, I realized that I don’t like what I am doing and I really like filming things. I learned in my African Cultures class that I love learning about other cultures, their customs, art, and social structures. I wanted to create and be part of a creative process again. Once this was realized I had to use some of that creativity to figure out how to study film, as I was at a small Liberal Arts school with no film program. I became resourceful and managed to work out an internship with the theater professor at Rollins and a post-production house at Universal Studios. From this job, I was hired onto my first film I-95. God was in this a little more, as I was making much larger decisions than I was used to and had to pray through a tremendous sense of failure as I moved back home and back again to Florida.
The story that leads to now is actually much longer than this (that’s for my memoir) and actually filled with some very difficult lessons, but the moral of this story is…if you are not clear and want to be clear on what your calling is or you didn’t get the proper guidance to find your passion, you can still find it. You can either seek it out and I know some great experts that can help you with this, or it will find you. The only thing you required is a little bit of paying attention and either looking at what isn’t working honestly and being willing to change or thinking about what you really, really enjoy to do. I also think it helps if you are not just doing it for your own enjoyment, but for the joy of others. I didn’t know this at the time I produced the two early films, but one of the main reason I loved it, was because it brought the people around me joy or uplifted them in some way. This is how I know for sure that God was in this part of my life. I have always prayed, even if I wasn’t willing to listen to the answers, but as the metaphor for your inner life unfolds through the work, you can see God at work. God wants us joyful and adding value to others. You can do this, whatever your calling is, seek the joy and what gives others joy and inspiration and you’ll find your place.
If you are still looking for your calling, don’t fret. It will find you if you don’t find it first! Carmine Gallo writes in his book, “The Storyteller’s Secret” about giving up his career in law to follow his dream of being a broadcast journalist. He ultimately came to this realization, “…I was prepared to face whatever obstacle would come next because, ultimately, you don’t choose your passion; it chooses you.” In 2015 Spike Lee accepted an Honorary Award at the Governer’s Awards. As he made his acceptance speech, he talked about taking footage in Brooklyn and bringing it to NYU with the intention to be a mass communications major. A professor encouraged him to major in film and make a documentary out of his footage. From then on, he was an A+ student. He noted that he wasn’t any smarter, just interested. His conclusion, “I don’t say I found film, film found me.” Follow what you care about and what lights you up or it will follow you until you acknowledge it, therein lies your purpose.
Please share your thoughts about this topic. I’d love to hear what makes your heart sing and if you’ve had similar experiences. Sharing our stories can inspire others to awaken their innate talents!
Check out Spike Lee’s Acceptance speech here: http://www.slate.com/blogs/browbeat/2015/11/15/spike_lee_honorary_oscar_speech_watch_the_director_call_for_diversity_in.html