The one thing constant about life is how much it changes. The minute you think you have a plan of action something happens that leads to your plan being thrown out the window. Sometimes this constant change, especially for those planners out there like me, can lead to a feeling of defeat and of loss. How to cope with that change is something I am still learning today, but I recently had an experience that caused me to grow a lot in that regard
For as long as I can remember I’ve wanted to be in the film industry. I wanted to edit movies; I wanted to write movies; I wanted to direct movies. My “American Dream” was making it to Hollywood and becoming one of the best. To realize this dream I dedicated a lot of my life to it. I created a YouTube channel to post my work. I entered a film in my hometown Earth Day film competition. My camera was always with me which earned me the name, “camera girl” in high school. I absolutely loved it!
When college came knocking at the door it was no surprise to anyone that I became a film major. That first semester I started networking like crazy. I worked for student film after student film and I eventually met a co-founder of Slamdance at a film and media arts meeting in the theater at the U. Peter Baxter was exactly the person I was hoping to become, an incredible filmmaker who makes documentaries on anything he sets his mind to. He laid out an opportunity to work at his film festival and I knew this would be my into the industry. January came and working for Slamdance was absolutely incredible. Watching all of the micro-budget films was very inspiring and it was there I met my friend, Brittney. Brittney had been in the industry for a while and she did everything she could to get me on new projects.
All of the effort led to my first real job in the film industry, a TV show on Amazon Prime called Yellowstone. At the beginning I was the epitome of a giddy school girl. Everything excited me, even the little things. I got to read scripts, do set runs, and talk with directors, producers and actors. It was the dream, but soon the bright colors of the show began to fade. The twelve to fifteen hour workdays were beginning to drain all the energy I had. I had no time to make my own films and my friends became distant memories. Depression set in and I began dreading coming to work everyday. Everything I had loved before had just become something that I hated more than anything. I decided that I would try one more show to see if anything would change so I worked for a Horror Film called 9 Days. That experience turned out to be worse than Yellowstone which led me to the conclusion that the film industry wasn’t for me. It didn’t lead me to happiness like I had always imagined and I ended up letting go of that hollywood dream. I became very lost because I no longer had a clear direction and I did not know how to cope with that lack of clarity in my life.
Then one of my best friends shared with me a story from the business book he was reading called, Good to Great written by Jim Collins, which was very applicable to the struggle I have been having. The story begins with Admiral Jim Stockdale, who had been captured and imprisoned during the Vietnam War. The prison life for Stockdale was brutal, filled with torture and heartache, but Stockdale became a beacon of hope to his fellow prisoners. He established a community and created hope when there was none, even though he had no idea when he would be released or if he would be able to see his wife ever again. Eventually though, Stockdale was released and lived a very successful life. Collins described how reading this story made him very depressed even when he knew the outcome and he couldn’t imagine how Stockdale got through it all. Collins later was able to ask Stockdale that very question and Stockdale responded with,
“I never doubted not only that I would get out, but also that I would prevail in the end and turn the experience into the defining event of my life, which, in retrospect, I would not trade.”
This unwavering faith in an end helped him stay alive and eventually escape the hell he had been enduring. Collins then asks,“Who didn’t make it out?”
to which Stockdale responded with, Oh, that’s easy,” he said. “The optimists.”
Confused given the fact Stockdale had previously sounded very optimistic about the situation, Collins asked for an explanation.
“They were the ones who said, ‘We’re going to be out by Christmas.’ And Christmas would come, and Christmas would go. Then they’d say, ‘We’re going to be out by Easter.’ And Easter would come, and Easter would go. And then Thanksgiving, and then it would be Christmas again. And they died of a broken heart.”
The optimists were the ones who were unrealistic about the situation, which leads into what Collins called the Stockdale paradox, you need to have faith in an end, but you also need to understand the harsh reality of the situation. Facts with Faith rather than Facts or Faith.
Losing my direction in life has been hard, but I have faith in an end to it. I know that I will eventually find that dream that will lead to happiness in my career and in my life, however I understand that the next couple months will be very trying. I will have to take a semester off to work so I don’t pay thousands on a film degree I don’t need. I will have to continue working in a job I don’t feel comfortable in so I can make ends meet. I will have to work hard and try a lot of different things in order to find what I love, but I understand that having faith along with facing those facts will help me to get through this hard time with a joyful heart.
Life is hard. It’s constantly changing and that will always be the case. Sometimes you will go through long periods of uncertainty of what direction you will be going. However, take this as an opportunity to wander through life with a bright faith of a happier future because it will come.