It started back in December of 2012. I can distinctly remember sitting in a café in Toronto; my good friend Anna was there and we were in front of a window. I was unloading all of my recent stresses and Anna was doing her best to ensure me that my life was not, in fact, falling apart at the seams (looking back, the number of times that this scenario has played itself out is alarming…).
Normally, Anna is able to talk some sense into my terrified, overly critical and self doubting brain, but on that day there was just too much going on. If you have been following my series of posts (“On Transitioning to Real People Life”) you’ll know that I had a somewhat (read: entirely) terrible University experience. I spent much of it freaking out about what I wanted to do, and never felt truly attached to or passionate about anything that I was studying.
BUT THEN! I found a home in social justice and videography. In doing so, a lot of my uncertainty disappeared. I still didn’t know exactly what I was going to do, or how I was going to do it…or how I’d know when I had, in fact, “done it”, but I did know that I wanted whatever “it” was to involve video.
What brought me to pouring out my stresses over coffee on that December morning, however, was the disappearance of even that small certainty.
See, I’d started to question myself. Did I really want to do video? That’s what I had been telling people for two years, but it seemed as though I was only doing enough to be able to keep on saying that. If I really wanted to “do video”, why wasn’t I out entering film contests, connecting with the Toronto film community, or even showing much interest the various film and documentary festivals Toronto is blessed with?
I had also begun to question if video was actually my value add. I was (if I may say) moderately talented, but when I looked at the landscape of “people doing video work” there were also plenty of others who were much more talented. Sure, I could improve – but I questioned if there wasn’t some other skill I could be leveraging, to greater effect, to achieve the kind of change I wanted to be contributing to.
All of those things would stay in my mind over the next couple months; slowly stewing like fine borscht (do you even stew borscht? I should really research my metaphors before committing to them). In January, however, after watching a Ted Talk from Jacqueline Novogratz (of Acumen Fund), the elements came together in a flash…in my mouth (cause they’re stew, remember!).
The Ted Talk was about a single mother named Jane that Jacqueline had met while in a slum in Nairobi. What really stuck in my brain after watching it was this one part (this is Jacqueline, paraphrasing Jane):
My dreams didn’t look exactly like I thought they would when I was a little girl. I thought that I wanted a husband but what I really wanted was a family, and I love my two children fiercely. And I thought that I wanted to be a nurse, but what I really wanted to do was to serve…
(You should watch the whole talk some time – for context, but also just because it is great).
I was thinking about this while sitting in a strategic planning meeting at Engineers without Borders when it hit me like the flash of a light bulb (which is ironic, given EWB’s logo).
I thought that what I wanted was to “do video”, but sitting there in my own little world, in the middle of a meeting, I realized that what I really wanted to do, was to tell stories.
Thus, The Storytelling Project was born…kind of. I spent the rest of that meeting furiously scribbling down notes, thoughts and ideas. I began going over all of the video work that I had done in the last couple years – work that, at the time, I hadn’t thought twice about. The creative thought process around video planning and editing had always been a near instantaneous one for me; I just knew what to do instinctively, and so was never very conscious about why I was doing the things I was doing.
Looking back in that moment, however, I began to notice that there were, in fact, clear and distinct reasons, ideas and philosophies behind the creative decisions I had been making around videos; around storytelling. It was a fascinating process. A conscious exploration of previously unconscious thoughts. Over the next couple of weeks I would develop these thoughts further, forming everything from the vision of the project, to ideas around how the actual storytelling process with people would work.
Instead of sharing those lovely details here, though…
I instead (very excitedly) invite you to check out my newly launched website for The Storytelling Project. On it, you’ll find my first story and a write-up of working through that process. Ambiguity abounds.
So as you can see, exciting things are happening. Some of the most exciting things that I’ve been involved with in…ever. But, that doesn’t mean that the ambiguity is gone. Next week I’ll share some of the fun questions I have been dealing with most recently.
Ps. Moral of the story: Not that I (by any means) have things “worked out”, but I think that what this story points to is the fact that things do, eventually, work themselves out. I know that I’m not there yet but it feels like I am, at very least, beginning to move down the correct path. It’s a long, treacherous, scary and booby-trap laden path, but at least it’s a path.
It is sometimes hard to remember that life is not, in fact, falling apart at the seams. But perhaps we don’t have to remember that. Perhaps we just have to hold the seams together long enough to reach a tailor.