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Archive for August, 2010

Living a Better Life

(Preface note: I am writing this post as an entry into Donald Miller’s Living a Better Life Seminar contest. However, this is all completely true of the story Brandon and I presently live and are working towards)

Leaving Brandon at the airport was difficult, but I knew we were working towards our dreams. Being apart from my husband for four months as he finished film school was a sacrifice worth making. As I flew out of LAX with tears in my eyes, I trusted that the experience would make both of us stronger. Brandon is a true introvert, and during the four years of our relationship I had witnessed him struggle with depression, insecurity and seclusion. The control side of me felt like he needed me to be there with him, but I knew that God had closed the doors for that to happen and Brandon had to go through this alone.

A couple weeks later he still had not made any new friendships, but loneliness wasn’t his only struggle. He had used his time alone to do a lot of self-reflection and began questioning everything about himself, mainly his faith and his gift. “Am I actually talented, or am I chasing a dream impossible to attain?” and “Who is God, does he really exist, and how on Earth am I supposed to believe he cares about me?” I woke up one morning to find an email he wrote me addressing all these deep questions. I simply told him it was okay to question, as long as he was actively searching for an answer. The next night, as he was walking home by himself at 2 in the morning down Wilshire Blvd he saw a bird. The bird was several feet in front of him, hobbling along on one leg. He had a broken wing and injured leg. However, he continued to hop with strong confidence. He was completely comfortable in his disability and just kept walking the path. While other birds may take the easy route and fly across all their obstacles, or travel in groups to share the burdens, this bird was taking the long way by himself and appeared completely satisfied. The bird turned around and made direct eye contact with Brandon. In that moment a feeling came across him so strong that it spoke directly to his soul. In this instance, he knew God placed that bird in his path to show him a symbolic representation of himself. Though he may only see his disabilities and all the challenging obstacles in his way, he could find contentment in his damaged status. He started crying in humbleness, completely identifying with this lone black bird. I woke up the next morning to another email where he explained this experience to me. All he kept saying was how he has realized he needed to find contentment in his brokenness.

Meanwhile, while living three time zones away from my husband I had been going through my own deep questioning. I had always lived life at the top of my game. I graduated high school president, editor, etc of different clubs with a 6.2 gpa and full ride college scholarship. Over the last four years I had continuously promoted at my company and didn’t know any 22 year olds as successful in their careers as I was. However, the path I was walking down felt very empty. After graduating college I had no idea what my purpose or calling in life was. Every other time in my life, God had always dropped into my lap what I needed next. This time I was left searching without an answer. Reading Brandon’s email on my iphone while still laying in bed that morning I started realizing what God may have set up. Why did Brandon want to find contentment in brokenness? Suddenly I realized that my calling as his wife is to support my husband. It was so obvious that God had gifted him with a talent behind the camera. His dreams of being a successful film cinematographer were not unachievable. I realized it was my role to help a broken bird realize his potential to fly. Maybe it’s the eternal optimist inside of me, but I know he can soar. I just have to fix his broken wing, which in Brandon’s case in self-confidence.

When he finished film school in December he came back home to Florida after having the most amazing experience of his life without me. After four months, he had built intimate life long friendships, seen and experienced new aspects of life and had found himself. It was certain that film was his calling and LA was where he needed to be, but life had us stuck in Florida. So, over the last eight months, we’ve started writing our own story. Piece by piece we’ve begun investing in all the equipment he needs to make short films. We started a video/production company called Blackbird Medias. For now, we are focusing on wedding videography because it overlaps with our long term goals in that Brandon will be able to accumulate all the tools he’ll need in the long run and will provide an income in the mean time. We’ve spent this year slowly figuring how to be a small business owner and overcome many obstacles. I have no question that Brandon’s gift was his talent behind the camera and that it’s my calling to help him achieve his dreams.

So, the question was posed, what is the story you want to live? I needed you to understand the background of our dreams before I explained to you our future story.I realize the question is posed to the individual, but when you’re married your lives truly do become one and I cannot see my story in a singular form. My story is shared with Brandon and that is why I write in plural.

This is wall art in our “living room” (couch area of the studio). It says “Go confidently in the direction of your dreams,” -Henry David Thoreau with black birds soaring. We can only do so much planning because so much of “making it” in the film industry is hap and circumstance of who you know and who you meet. But, to the extent that we can plan, we will continue to build up Blackbird Medias in the local Tampa Bay area offering creative, video and photography services. During this time we will continue to live frugally, pay off all our debt and invest in film equipment. We have already begun networking in the local film community, but plan to accelerate this as time continues. By building relationships with other local film makers we can be involved in producing, directing and shooting shorts and local features. Presently we are living off just my income and use all income from Blackbird to invest back into the company. Eventually, when we can both be living off Blackbird’s income we’ll be able to travel to other film festivals and such around the community to build relationships with others in the industry. Ideally we want to see Brandon getting hired to go on shoots both nationally and internationally for feature films, documentaries, commercials, etc. Once we are able to build up a savings nest and pay off our debt, my greatest goal is for us to take two months off to go backpacking through Europe and explore parts of the world we’ve never seen and make some sort of documentary or blog video series out of it. The stories of people fascinate me, and I would love to travel to other countries and find out the story behind all the strangers that cross my path.

Part of the “supporting my husband’s dream” that comes into play is looking at where I can fit into the film industry. I have very strong leadership skills and work successfully in sales. Therefore, I realize that the only place my personality fits is as a producer. One of the people God has already brought into our lives is a film distributor who’s only found God over the last couple months. He recently felt a calling to produce a feature film that we will be working with him to fulfill. I can already look and see how God is lining up relationships with people whom we didn’t know a year ago, but will be playing a vital role in our future.

So why do I care about Donald Miller’s conference in Portland, Oregan? I know God has placed Brandon and I together, as different as two people can be, because together we make an unstoppable team. I, and so many others around us, look at us and know we are bursting at the seems with untapped talent that could change the world around us if our energies were pointed in the right direction. I know we’re at such a pivotal point in our lives that the little decisions we make right now will permanently influence the direction our lives take. I know God created us for great things and I don’t want to miss out on the story he has planned for us. I could use help creating the vision and the plan to get us to where we want to be. I know Brandon is aware that he’s got talent to impact his generation through story-telling on screen, but his lack of confidence is standing in his way. He has talent enough to one day be standing on the stage in the Kodak Theatre accepting the Oscar for “Best Cinematography” but all he can see is the obstacles between him and his dreams. I feel like the opportunity for Brandon to go to this seminar could be an eye-opening experience for him to realize that he is the only thing standing in the way of writing the story he wants to live. (And just to epitomize the situation, he didn’t see the point in entering the contest when odds were so small to win. But I believe in our story and know that these sacrifices we’re making now will pay off ten fold. My hope is that you too see an amazing story not yet written and help us fill in some blanks) At the very least, thank you so much for reading our story.

For anyone else who wants to check out Don Miller’s seminar, check out this vimeo link for more info about it.

Living a Better Story Seminar from All Things Converge Podcast on Vimeo.

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