I was 22 years old when I thought my life was over.
I had just graduated with a degree in Film and was ready to achieve my dreams of becoming a movie director…but then I found out I was pregnant.
My dreams suddenly felt out of reach.
Making movies is by no means easy, and it felt like there was no way I could reconcile that with my newfound obligations as a mother. In fact, it felt like it would be outright irresponsible for me to even TRY to pursue my dreams.
But today, fifteen years later, I am glad to say that I was wrong. Well… I proved myself wrong and, in retrospect, the obstacles I encountered were simply stepping stones that led me to where I am now.
To give you a bit of inspiration, I will share to you some lessons I learned and things I did that turned my life around:
1) I crushed my defeatist thoughts
The very first thing I did once I found that I was pregnant was to catastrophize.
“Now you’ll be stuck and live a mediocre life.”
“You’ll never be able to achieve anything.”
“You’ll have nothing to give your child.”
Thoughts like these rang in my head night and day, tearing at me. I was always on the precipice of being dragged down into a dark pit I could never escape.
But I know I’ve always been plagued by anxiety since I was a young girl, and that it’s just my nature to immediately assume the worst.
So I refused to entertain those thoughts. In fact, I fought back, doing things to hype myself up.
For example, I wrote “ANYTHING IS STILL POSSIBLE” on a sticky note and put it on my wall. That piece of paper has saved me many times in my life.
So if you’re feeling hopeless, fight it off. Shush those voices! Things often aren’t as bad as they seem, and entertaining those thoughts will only tear you down.
2) I rewrote my story
It’s very tempting to just hang up your arms and surrender when things get really bad.
Circumstances like losing someone or failing an important test can make us just want to give up.
But you should not let that stand!
The fight isn’t over so long as you draw breath. Instead of telling yourself that you’re done for, you should instead adapt and rewrite your story.
You still have control over your journey, and it all starts in the head (this is why #1 is very important).
And this is exactly what I did.
I changed “Tina is a multi-awarded film director” to “Tina is a multi-awarded film director and loving mother.”
This isn’t the full picture, of course—I don’t want you here all day, reading my whole bio—but I hope you get my point.
As you can see, the second one is a touch more powerful than the first one. I made my child part of my personal goals, rather than someone who would hold me back from it.
Now, did I really turn out to be an “award-winning” filmmaker?
To be perfectly honest with you, I believe most of my films suck. But I managed to earn myself one award, and I’m confident that it won’t be my last…and I achieved this level of confidence because I rewrote the story of my life.
3) I pushed myself to do something “crazy”
Look, nothing is going to change if you don’t do something to shake things up.
So even though it might be terrifying, go on and make that leap.
When my daughter turned two, I thought that I would have to be crazy and irresponsible to even get back to filming. And yet I took that leap anyway and signed up for filmmaking workshops.
And I did truly feel like I was neglecting my child by “indulging” in my dream back then.
But looking back, I can see that what I did wasn’t really that big of a deal and getting back into filming didn’t really make me a bad mother. For that reason, I’m glad I pushed through even if it felt “crazy” to do at that time.
And I can say that I have no regrets for having made that leap, because if I didn’t take that leap, I wouldn’t have been able to make my first short film.
I’m not really super proud of that film—the quality and storytelling was awful—but I was and proud that I made it because f*ck it, I did something scary!
Whatever scares you right now, whatever “traps” you might have, I want you to know that it’s not really as big or scary as it might seem. But it does try to make itself seem “bigger” than it actually is so that you can stay in place.
So go forth and rebel.
Whether you’re in a toxic relationship or you’re stuck in a dead end job, you have to know that in order for you to get out of it, you have to have the courage to take the first step out no matter how crazy it seems.
You have no choice but to try.
4) I didn’t do it alone
Whatever your struggles are, always remember that there are people willing to help you. You’re not a burden, and people are actually quite willing to offer their help if you were to simply ask.
Some people will shoo you away just when you need them the most—in my case, my family didn’t offer me even a single dollar to raise my kid—but there are also plenty of people who will.
You can check your government if they have services that can help you.
You can go to forums for support.
You can even ask your neighbor for a cup of flour if you’re too depressed to walk to the nearest store.
You’re strong, but even the strongest people need others to help them carry on. So go ahead and take what help you can get, because you need your strength when you’re fighting your most important battles.
5) I figured out my “why”
At the end of the day, the one thing that truly gives us the will to keep moving forward is to know the reason to keep doing so.
And this isn’t just some transcendental or spiritual piece of advice—it’s practical. Your “why” will serve as your greatest motivator.
If you’re in an abusive relationship and you want to get out, for example, then perhaps you want to get out for the sake of your own safety and because you want someone who truly deserves you.
If you’re handicapped, you’d want to be able to achieve at work not only because you want to be independent, but because you want to be an inspiration to your little niece who, like you, is also handicapped.
Whenever you’re trying to get something done, list down all of your reasons WHY you should keep pushing on with it.
You’ll need this when the going gets tough. You’ll need this when you start to lose sight of your goals. You’ll need this when everyone tells you to just “accept” your circumstances.
I’m currently in Paris trying to pursue my filmmaking dreams. It’s scary and you would not be wrong for thinking that it’s a reckless move. Time will tell. But I go back to my why.
I want to do this because I want my daughter to see that even if I encounter many challenges and obstacles, ANYTHING IS STILL POSSIBLE.
It’s not easy for women like us to live our authentic lives and follow our dreams.
Feminism might have come a long way but let’s not kid ourselves—even to this day, people continue to expect us to patiently bow our heads and just accept whatever life has thrown at us.
“Be content”, they say. “Learn to accept your circumstance.”
But If you want to get out of whatever hell you’re in or you have big goals you want to achieve, you need to have the COURAGE to be “unladylike”, to be less “nicer”, and to fight for what you want.
Stop letting fear shackle you, and instead walk with your head held high in hope.
Good things are waiting for you, trust me.