When I was seventeen years old, I knew exactly what I wanted. I wanted to be a writer and an actress. I was going to throw all my stuff into a junky car the day I turned 18 and drive to Los Angeles and make my fortune. That is what I was going to do. It was my sworn destiny. I was going to work my butt off until I was a working writer and actress and no matter what happened, I was not going to get jaded. Because it was about the work. And I loved the work.
In January of the year I was going to turn eighteen, I got pregnant. Everyone told me to get an abortion. Everyone. But I didn't. I'm the kind of person who is going to do the thing everyone tells you that you cannot do. And I was going to have that baby. At 17, I thought, what if this is the only baby I get to have? You laugh. A great cosmic joke that I had five babies.
I vividly remember my 18th birthday. I sat outside in the beautiful sunshine on the front porch of the crappy apartment I shared with my boyfriend and let that dream die.
That year was high school graduation. I attended while pregnant. No one knew. I was watching everyone go off to their bright futures and my dream of running off to LA was dying as the baby inside me grew. I considered adoption for a long, long time. I thought about it deeply. Ultimately, I made the most selfish and unselfish decision, I kept him. I knew I was in it by myself and I just mustered the strength to do it alone and left my abusive boyfriend and moved back in with my parents.
I wrote stories all summer. I thought my dream was over. Everyone told me it was. Everyone. And I smiled and nodded when they said it was over. That I had screwed myself with my own passionate mistakes. That it was time to grow up and do something sensible. And I put that dream in a box with a bow on it and kept it safe. I would take it out every now and then and look at it and sigh and cry a little for that little girl who wanted too much.
The fall after I had the baby, I enrolled at Webster University and began a new dream. Going to college was the best decision I ever made. I didn't know I wanted to be a director. I didn't know I could be a director. I discovered what I didn't even know I had in me. Then, I found theater again. I found little magazines that published my stories. I found ways to be a mom and pursue dreams. Smaller dreams. Smaller goals. Just do one project at a time.
At my parents house is a gas stove that has a pilot light in the middle. It's always burning. This was my dream. It stayed alive, burning quietly in the middle until something arrived to make it grow.
That was my dream waiting to ignite glorious burners in creation. I was waiting to catch fire.
And I climbed my way into a short film and then another and finally, finally I was ready to start my feature. This is what I have been practicing for my whole life.
If I had not made those mistakes and trashed my dream and re-invented it, I don't know that I would be here today. But the story is not over. I'm crowdfunding to raise the post production funds I need to finish my film. It's going to be a big roller coaster ride, I can already tell.
Look what was waiting for me right here all along. I've been so lucky that so many people believe in me. And most of all that I did not quit. This is the year it's happening. My seventeen year old self is not sure how I pulled it off so far. She can't really believe it.
That girl wanted so much, had so many stars in her eyes.
If I could, I would have told her to be patient. It's the work that matters and the work will come. Miracles will happen. Ready to catch fire.