I recently looked up my old Livejournal entries (no, you cannot have my user name) after a conversation with some of my favourite people got into discussing our lives during the whole Livejournal era. I was only about 19 when I first starting posting. I’m now 35. I might have a few things to tell myself that I wish I would have known. Hey, why not? It would be equal parts cringe & hilarious, yet insightful to look at our past selves through new lenses. Let me tell you, I did NOT disappoint myself.
Some of the major event posts spanning from 19 to my mid 20’s included a huge breakup, the day of 9/11, struggling to figure out what I was doing with life, my first broken bone, a spontaneous collapsed lung, and getting through college. It was really awesome to see some of the major highs, like when I got accepted and passed all the paperwork and tests to get into school. Despite a lot of the circumstances I found myself in, I still hold onto hope. I have kept my humour. I still have friends who really care about me. I didn’t see my potential or capabilities back then, as I was too caught up in the ‘now’ feelings. Throughout most of the writing, I realized that nice people get hurt.. a lot more than they should.
June 16, 2004. 7:40pm. Mood: Cheerful.
I just got my acceptance letter in the mail today. I am finally making it to college this fall. No more “next year”, no more “I’ll wait until I’m completely debt free”, no more wishful thinking, no more crying thinking I’ll be stuck in my dead end data entry job forever… now, I can hold that piece of paper that holds my future. And damn… it looks bright!
Applying to college was one of the scariest steps I had taken for myself. It was at the cusp of giving up. I didn’t go in right away from high school, over 4 years passed. For my graduation present, my father cut off all child support to my mom and insurance for us kids the summer I was graduating high school. Congrats, I started off my “adulting” with no proper way to care for my health or teeth or have any assistance getting into school. I never had much help to begin with, but that was certainly depressing. I still remember the upsetting phone call, after all this time. By this point, I didn’t believe I had the capacity to handle college.
I didn’t know what the hell I wanted to do, unlike most of my other friends already deciding their futures past college. I felt sub par, ruined before I barely began. It wasn’t like I had any special assistance or some bank account set aside for me to go to school, so it felt too expensive and out of reach. Pretty much all the worries of wasting said precious time and money without clear direction. In the meantime, I worked random odd jobs like waitressing *ugh* and warehouse work. I threw myself in any direction to feel productive, pay bills, and more importantly, give me more time to figure it out. I felt like if I didn’t push towards something, I would gradually be lost to complacency and despair, just mentally lost. On top of things, there was some family drama happening. I was with the wrong boy.. twice. I wasn’t confident in myself or my abilities. I struggled up and down with self esteem, nervous stomach & anxiety, love, body dysmorphia & eating disorder.
I distinctly remember reading one of the posts back when I worked at this warehouse job – it was about this elderly woman coworker at a hot, dusty warehouse I’d been busting tail at, especially with overtime. I’m bad remembering names, but I can still see her with her back brace, curly white hair, and happy-to-see-you smile. We used to help her out with the heavy items that came down the line. She told me, “Don’t be like me.” After that, I’d see her and feel pity wondering what events led her here. I don’t know why it struck me, but after that conversation, that was the first night I decided to even think about getting serious with college. Clearly I wasn’t going to be one of those who brand themselves and self-make a business or fall into a profession without it. Deep down, I knew I needed some kind of focus to challenge myself AND pay the bills.
As I poured over many of the darker unhappy or sad posts where the frustration was seething through the screen, I realized I wished things could have been different for that old me. I mostly feel a great sadness at how much I had to struggle. Quite often, you are told if you work hard, you’ll be rewarded well, but that really is not always the case. You can bust yourself silly and end up nowhere. I hate to say that, but it’s true. We can’t know for ourselves what way the pendulum will swing. I struggled with being positive when I knew how bad off things were. How much better they could be.
Yes, in some ways, all these things help shape who I am today. I’ll buy that. Many a time, people will defend their pasts for both good and bad blah blah etc… but, some of the times I was in over my head with some very heavy life events. I had so many questions about this industry that I didn’t understand. I didn’t have enough support or mentors, especially as a young, very passionate woman entering into the post production industry. No one owes you help in life, and this is probably why I am really bad at asking for help. I don’t want to be a person that takes advantage. I think being loyal should mean something. I would get so upset about people being fickle. O_o
So in an effort to help, mentor, and share advice with those younger, here’s advice I wrote to my 19 year old self:
You need to ask for help WAY more often. You’re not taking advantage of someone if they want to help, and you don’t owe them ten folds over if they accept. There should be no guilt in that. Despite your mood today, you’re more than likely going to see tomorrow. Today might really suck, but it won’t stay that way. It’s only temporary. Tomorrow may not be as pretty as you hoped for, but there it is. Kind of like you and in life. It’s unfortunate that being observant also puts the heavy weight on your shoulders that things aren’t working out for the best. That they could be better. That better desire will always tend to overshadow the actual good you are doing on a daily. All those small steps forward DO COUNT.
How you treated others first to help and often advised or helped them see past their situations – why do you refuse to do this for yourself? I should have been my own champion more in those times. I want to hug the old me and tell her not to be so hard on herself. That she deserves so much more than she’s willing to let herself have because being miserable sucks, and it can change if you see past it.
Things are going to change a lot over the next ten or so years. Little by little, and sometimes by large leaps you weren’t even ready for. When your legs are locked defiantly into the ground, you will be dragged forward by time and events that happen, so you might as well enjoy some of it. It’s not all bad. Often times, we all just need a little hope.
Some of the people you’ll run into will make you question yourself. Even at 19, you knew you were not going to follow the same timeline of life others often do. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, it’s just a feeling or instinct. You started embracing everything that made you happy, just pure happy. As you did, you found the reaction of others who didn’t approve pretty unpleasant. It felt unfair to not be allowed to enjoy these harmless things, whether it was punk bondage pants or velvet shirts with fishnet. You know, looking back it’s funny how there are those who say you do things for attention or knowing it’ll cause scenes because it’s “shocking” or “different”, when really it’s what I love and that love happens to include bright coloured hair. I’ve seen a large change in how those things are viewed over the years now, it’s still not quite ‘there’ but back then, I felt like what I liked was WRONG. That’s terrible. Neither normal or different is wrong or bad, but some will make you feel like it is. Don’t be afraid to debate with people, you should speak your mind more. Avoid being a jerk about it, where you can help it. There’s a difference between arguments and debates, unfortunately you’ll find a lot of people don’t understand that difference or felt attacked. Test the waters and enjoy the people who grasp the difference.
Thankfully, you weren’t too close minded at all because you were raised in an open discussion environment by an amazing mom who never told you “these people are bad” or something they are is bad. You will run into people who think otherwise, so try not to let it stress you out as much. You really can’t change everyone’s mind, even if it feels like one other thought could help, it really won’t most of the time. Skip wasting energy on these kind of vicious circles. It wasn’t easy growing up from a divorced family with two ‘moms’, and even in ten years it might not still be something everyone can accept. Every time you feel the sting of hurt by someone who fooled you or made you feel bad, there will be a person who is kind, funny, awesome, something that sparks that little hope in you again. It’s okay to feel things deeply, but don’t get drowned in the feelings. Chaos all the time is not normal, and neither is people who make you anxious and on edge. You don’t have to be so calm or controlled because you feel used to the chaos. Let it go. Let a lot more go.
Branch out and put yourself out there. Even if you aren’t sure you like yourself or feel confident, there is bound to be people out there who enjoy your company and your contributions in terms of projects. Plus, all this will build your self esteem and confidence further. The quicker you put yourself out there, the better. This goes for friends, fellow career minded cohorts, etc. That’s really the only way people can get to know you and see you as a part of your industry when you are not as lucky to live somewhere more central with our line of work. I fought through some tough situations of not knowing how I’d next get any kind of work remotely related to editing or working on videos, but each time I managed to make it work. Your location is not everything. You will make it what it is to some degree. Keep up the fight if you really do want to keep doing this. Don’t give up because of this.
Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Why did you feel so much pressure to be perfect at everything, first go? I wish I’d discovered how reasonable and healthy it was to make LOTS of mistakes all over the place in an effort to learn things. I felt so much responsibility to try to know more than I knew back then, like I had to prove some extra worth. I wish I’d realized earlier that mistakes didn’t mean you’re not smart or an asset to your group or teams (and if anyone makes you feel that way, immediately remove them lol) Anyone who makes you feel bad about yourself for “messing up the story” or “not correcting this properly on the fly” – ignore that kind of treatment and KEEP MAKING MISTAKES, so you can learn freely.
Not everyone is going to like you. F*ck them. It’s okay, you don’t need to try to please everybody. In fact, you’ll meet some people who won’t ever be pleased to see you, though they’ll lie straight to your face. Stick to your instincts. It’s bad to be so passive with people, especially when they aren’t treating you fairly. Yes, it’ll ripple some waves speaking up. You might really screw it up sometimes and step on toes. Oh. Well. Make some waves, babe, and enjoy the ride! Some bring changes that are pretty nice, and those are the ones worth it. Being popular everywhere might seem like it feels great, but it comes at a hollow price. Decide which you want.
Get fair pay. It’s one thing to be completely brand new needing a few projects under your belt post-schooling, but another to allow people to take advantage or ask you for editing favour and freebies, one after another without being paid or paid fairly. The biggest challenge was having the guts to speak up and even if it’s uncomfortable, ask. Be firm, stay firm. Once you establish yourself as not working on anything for free/low pay, keep it that way apart from passion projects or things you truly enjoy and want to be a part of.
Stop allowing labels to weigh you down. Woman. This is never anything to ever mean A THING. Yes, you’re a female. That should mean exactly nothing specific to your skills, your worth, or your abilities while in this industry you’re getting into. Do not ever let anyone condescend or treat you as “the assistant” ™ as if you couldn’t possibly be knowledgeable. You got there the same as everyone else. All these labels feel heavy, but without acknowledgement, they can’t change. Ignoring seems best, but face them. Tyrion’s character from Game of Thrones famously said, “Never forget what you are. The rest of the world will not. Wear it like armor, and it can never be used to hurt you.” Sort of that tongue in cheek approach to anything about yourself you can’t change that others judge you for. Too thin, too fat. You’ve been at both spectrums. So what? Not smart enough. Not quick enough. Too poor. Too naive. You are still you. Also, whatever down falls you thought were holding you back, I wish you’d been even prouder of the moments you pushed through and STILL DID THINGS despite it. One thing rang true, you were too modest. It’s actually a good thing to take credit where it’s due, especially in this industry. Don’t let people continue to try to overshadow your skills, or they will happily continue to do so. Don’t give in – yes it feels easier, but in the long run, you’ll thank yourself.
You don’t need someone with you to be happy. This can apply to partners/friends/clients lingering around longer than they should. I spent way too long with the wrong kind of people. I guess somewhere I got it in my head if I was decent to others, they would be to me as well. But, sadly, that isn’t how the world works. Part of my delay into school was because of a partner holding me back. Yes. Holding me back specifically in that they were insecure and couldn’t deal with me being gone off to school. I was too nice. I can say it now, but back then, I wouldn’t have dared admit it. You really can’t help certain people out, so protect yourself better. I was strong enough all along. Imagine the levels I might have achieved without the extra stress.
I want to be the person I wish I’d had. A bright light in the noise and jaded grumps of the world and this industry. Someone that understands not everyone is cut out for this kind of life, and that changing directions isn’t anything to be ashamed of. Many of the people we started out with in college didn’t make it to the end of the video classes. It’s only something you’ll know, and you shouldn’t be in denial if this is the right industry for you or not. People will help you, but then again, there are limits. I would have loved a mentor. I have already willingly and happily mentored people before, from staying up late answering questions from someone in high school to showing someone new all the ropes at a job. I loved it a lot, in fact. I like being that person who transitions people. Sometimes it feels like a thankless role, but trust me, at some point they will remember your kindness. I had no professor or post professional show any real interest in helping me do more than just what classes taught back then. I want to change the way women are treated in the industry, so that it is no longer any type of issue, so when young passionate women are graduating, they don’t need to fight extra hard just to get experience and where they want, too. We need to build each other up a hell of a lot more, especially when someone is struggling. Your skills are not some treasure to be guarded like an ancient dragon. They are meant to be shared!
When all else fails, kittens and friends make anything better. <3