Monday, October 7, 2013

Taking Time to Look Around

October 7, 2013

I have been searching, inquiring, and listening for direction.  I feel like I've lost my dreams and my ambitions.  I feel lazy.  I feel like I don't want to do anything anymore, everything is just a task I have to do instead of something I'm passionate about.

I've been running full speed for quite some time, and I've come to a realization after my recent search for new direction: sometimes it's appropriate to stop and take a look around.  See what and who has been beside me this whole time, and explore the small paths leading to brilliant views that I've been skipping in hopes to get further faster. Who am I trying to impress anyway?

I feel like we're trained to please people.  If you don't please, you don't succeed.  In school, it's up to your teacher.  Even if you're doing something right or the task is subjective, you still get graded on it and you pass or fail based on what someone else has decided.  You're trained to go to college, get a degree in that thing you want to do for the rest of your life, then get a job in that field.  Can't get a job in your field?  You fail.  You find a job doing anything, then, even though you're making the bills, you're nothing.  You're defined by what you do.

Well, what if you're happy?  What then?

Who are we trying to impress when we're just living?  Finding your purpose is so much greater than finding a job that impresses other people.

I realized that I've got my head too much in this search for purpose, and I need to follow my heart.  What do I love to do?  I love to solicalize.  I love to be with my friends.  I love to hear what they're up to, to help them move, see a movie with them, talk about our latest shows, make films together, watch young people learn, help them get somewhere in something we're both passionate about.  I like to teach; I like to team up, and I like to create things that people enjoy.  I want to better myself; I want a mentor; I want someone to look up to.

Now, if I can put all those things together, I think I'll have found my direction.

Sunday, September 1, 2013


I suppose you could consider this an epilogue or maybe a P.S. at the end of a letter, but I finally downloaded all of my pictures from this trip from my iPhone to my computer to be backed up.  While they were being imported, I got to relive each experience I found photo-worthy in 2-second intervals.  It basically tore me up to the point of tears.

After getting back, I felt displaced.  I felt like I didn't belong here, but I figured once we moved into a house instead of the small room in my dad's basement that we came back to, I'd feel more settled.  We moved into my sister's rental home which has three bedrooms and a full, unfinished basement and started the unpacking process.  It was enough to stay distracted for a while, but it wasn't feeling like home.

The house was huge.  We had too many clothes, too many things.  We went through an odd crisis mode and decided to get rid of a bunch of stuff.  We became ruthless with our things and threw it out into the garage for a garage sale.  We held a massive sale, and anything we didn't sell for ridiculously low amounts of money, we gave away.  After selling for a full day, we still gave away 18 boxes, 5 garbage bags of things and some furniture.

We came back into the house, and our jaws dropped at the piles of junk still packed in our basement. We settled into the rest of the house, and basically ignored the fact that that part of the house existed.

We started getting work again, which was good because a lack of work for a month meant a lack of income for two or three.  We panicked a little and said yes to everything.  We looked at our open schedule and filled it to the brim.  We took on too much, but we didn't realize it at the time.

We poured ourselves into work, finding more conflict than usual which was disconcerting.  We don't fight.  We don't get on each other's nerves.  What the heck was happening?  We went through four months of bunk beds in a living space the size of our current closet without an issue, and now we're on one another.

Things weren't settling.  We were a month back, two months back, three months back, and things didn't feel right.  I piled on even more work.  I felt bad for people who needed the help, so I agreed to more work.  This didn't feel like home.

We were supposed to have answers.  It was supposed to feel good to come back.  What are we doing with our lives?  What impact do we want to have on the world?  How do we want to live out however many days we have left?  Not spread too thin, that's for sure.

It's time to slow down for a moment.  It's time to soul-search a bit.  There are many people whom we love and respect in our life that our giving us their answers, but they disagree with one another.  Matt and I don't know what we want.  We've lost sight of all future goals, which is so strange because we came back from the trip with a heart full of them.  We've jokingly been calling this our quarter-life crisis, but I think it truly is a crisis of priorities.

I'm thinking about continuing the blog.  I don't know who the heck reads this thing, but it's helpful to have a place where I can lay down my thoughts in a way that I'd be willing to have other people hear them.  In fact, it's one of the recommended therapies for impostor syndrome - which, I've been told to consider.

Most people don't like showing weakness or vulnerability.  I might say I'm one of those people, however, I also hold the trait which I will coin the "I'll-show-you syndrome".  I perform best under the doubt of others.  It's not really pressure to perform, but doubt in my abilities.  "I'll show you," I think to myself when I'm told I can't do something.  It got me playing the drums, exercising, playing sports, studying film, starting our own business, and now, I'm far too encouraged for forward momentum.  Can someone stop believing in me, and help me out here?

I don't want to leave Colorado.  I like it here, but I'm not sure the current "here" is the most conducive place to be challenged.  My current thinking is to seek out a group of creatives who will challenge me to bounce back into my old self - creatives who will inspire me to be a better everything.  Let the search begin...

Friday, May 3, 2013

Happy Endings

May 3, 2013

The time has come to pack our bags and head back to the United States after four exciting, frustrating, fulfilling, hilarious, touching, life-changing months. So much has happened along the way, and I have felt the changes happening in me as they've occurred. I noted lessons as I learned them. I got to see this world, myself and the United States through different eyes, and those moments provided some of the biggest perspective changes I've ever experienced. I grew closer to our film crew and documentary subjects than I had expected. I met a new type of person on this trip: those who travel for a living. The worldly person. The global citizen. I feel like they've given me some of their drug, and I'm addicted.

I'm expecting to be asked many, many times once we get home: "how was your trip?" My initial response would be in the form of a question, "how was the last four months of your life? Go ahead, try to sum it up in a single answer." All joking aside, this trip wasn't just a trip, it was my life. It's how I lived, worked and played for a third of a year.

I met and hung out with people who created businesses that affect our lives on a daily basis. I met people who have started social movements and covered major news stories on the front lines. Each of them was down to earth and willing to share their advice. They were just like any other person on the ship. It encouraged me in my own future. I'm also just another random human and with the passion in the right place and the right amount of hard work and drive, I can achieve anything I set my heart to.

With that encouragement and sense of excitement comes an odd sense of emptiness that both Matt and I have. Matt described it as climbing a huge mountain and coming to the summit and finding a cloudy day. We know we made it, we have a sense of success, but the view which was supposed to be an enlightening 15,000 foot view of all of the interworkings and components of our lives, how they interact with each other and how they influence one another, was instead a mushy, complicated mess of clouds, and we can't wait here for the sun to burn them off. We have to move on and allow our minds to process what we just went through, and it will come into focus as we look back from further on in our journey.

Our next steps are to re-assimilate and get to processing what just happened. We'll slowly make our way down from the mountain and back to "real life". I'm sure the emotions I expected to feel now, but don't, will come. I'm sure they'll come in waves like they did as I got used to ship-life. I'm sure some old things will feel comforting and others will be unsettling that that's the way things used to be. I'm sure some relationships will be stronger than ever and others will wain as I grow away from them.

One absolutely vital piece of the trip was Matt and I's relationship. It's tough to move into a world where the only alone-time escape is in a 5x5 room with fold down bunk beds. Our experiences drew us together and bonded us stronger, and I'm so thankful for that.

I can't wait to see what's next, and I can't wait to face it with my best friend and amazing husband. Side by side, we're moving forward. "Keep going," as Pedro would chant. We're going to miss everyone from this trip, but in this day and age, we're no further apart than we decide to be. It's not goodbye, it's a big, fat "heeeeeello!"

"...every new beginning comes from some other beginnings end."

Monday, April 29, 2013

Creative Energy: The Priceless Human Commodity

One of my three biggest learnings from this trip comes in the form of energy management.  The other two are about leadership and about not following the societal rulebook about what your life has to be like.

When energy is flowing, harness it.  Human batteries don't store energy forever, so if you feel creative potential bubbling up inside, pour it out right at that moment.  If you don't, it will fizzle or come out in different, unproductive ways.  Then, the batteries will need time to charge again.

Once the energy starts flowing, it's important to appropriately channel it. Projects and activities that the person exuding the energy enjoys are the best places to funnel the energy.  For example, if a person loves to edit, but hasn't felt like editing for days and gets a boost, put them on a project.  Let them free, take away the bounds and open up the energy faucet on them.

As far as managing my own personal energy goes, I'm in a position in life where I'm in charge of my hours, my projects and my clients, so my biggest mistake at the beginning of that transition from 9-to-5 to self-employed was saying yes to everything.  We were afraid of not having enough work to sustain us, and it turned out that we got more work than we could almost handle.  I should have said no to a few things, but shoulda woulda's aren't worth dwelling on.  Moving forward, I'll be able to assess better whether or not we're in feast or famine mode with work and decide whether or not it's time to pour into something or break away and recharge the batteries.

Just this morning's two cents.

The other two learnings are still in journals waiting to be organized into helpful thoughts.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Siesta en Barcelona

April 27, 2013

I woke up feeling pretty rested and found Oli and Matt cooking breakfast for the team.  They had made a fruit salad with our leftover apples and the strawberries and pineapple that we got yesterday from the restaurant we visited.  Oli made cheese quesadillas and some mushroom and onion scrambled eggs.  It really hit the spot.  Then, I realized it was almost 11am.  Apparently we all really needed the sleep.

We caught up on packing up extra gear, editing, sewing ripped pants, laundry and other items that we had been neglecting.  We decided to have lunch around 3:30pm, and Oli and Jessie whipped us up some delicious ham sandwiches.  I can't imagine a better lunch.

It felt really good to have a hangout day.  Even though we were doing small items to catch up on loose ends, it finally felt like we had a moment to just relax.  We didn't have to move, pack gear, carry anything, have meetings or try to run around a ship finding one another to get stuff done.  We were all in one place working as a team.  Some cooked, some cleaned, some edited, some did finances and caught up on receipts and others relaxed and watched movies until it was time to cook again.  We're like a little family.  It feels so good.

We ended up working away the afternoon and then had a late lunch of sandwiches that Oli and Jessie so lovingly whipped up for us. I captured the delicious moment.

We decided to go out for a walk and see Sagrada Familia, the unfinished cathedral in Barcelona that is only about two blocks from the apartment where we are living. The cathedral is stunning! It's like nothing I've ever seen before. Because it's been being built for almost a hundred years, and has been passed between architects and artists, there are sections that look old and gothic and realistic, and other sections that look new and sharp and surreal. It's huge and detailed. I'd love to go back and sit and stare at it for an hour.

We walked to find a cappuccino and warm churros and hot chocolate. They have this snack here that's basically deep fried bread dipped in hot chocolate pudding. Magical! I'm trying something new with my diet to see if I can start feeling better, so I wasn't able to taste them, but my cinnamon cappuccino really hit the spot on this cold, drizzly day. We also found a tapas restaurant where we decided to have our final team dinner this evening and made a reservation.

Mark and Larissa broke off to find fixings for some appetizers before our 9pm dinner and came back to the apartment with a baguette, stinky, delicious cheese and some unique sausage. We enjoyed the snack with some leftover South African wine that Mark had purchased at a winery.

We all headed out for the restaurant for the team dinner. We had a nice walk because it had stopped raining. Such good conversations during our walk.

We arrived at the tapas restaurant and ordered up a family-style dinner where we all got to try some fun and unique Spanish dishes. One of them is called Jamón Ibérico, which is a cured pig leg from a pig who only eats almonds. It is ridiculously expensive and eaten in thin, tiny slices, but it is bursting with flavor. It's soft, nutty and like no other ham I have ever tasted. It's sweet like an almond and not overly salted. Delicate and expensive tasting. We had gazpacho, a cold soup or sopa fría. It's made with tomato and cucumber. Yum yum yum.

We made toasts at the beginning of the meal and each toasted using our new favorite foreign word that we learned. "Dozo" is the team's favorite and has been our ongoing inside joke since Tokyo. It means "please" as in you would open a door for someone and offer for them to go first. Please enter before me. Please take my seat. Please let me stuff myself in this tiny closet in shame because I was in your way just a moment ago.

My toast utilized the bartering phrase I learned in Cambodia that begins with a high-pitched, "ooooooh!" Then follows with, "thklay naah." After someone has told you the price of an item, you use this phrase to say, "that is far too expensive." Then, you commence bartering. Another word was "Ubuntu" which is the word introduced to us by Archbishop Desmond Tutu which means something like, "I am me because you are you." Basically, the idea that we build each other up as a human force and affect one another no matter who we are or what we do.

We enjoyed dinner, then went around the table saying our parting words. This was the last time that we would be all together in one place for this project. Mark and Larissa were heading to DC at 3am, and the rest of us are going to stay here and finish post-production then beginning peeling off to explore around Europe. Matt and I will be staying in Barcelona until May 5th when we take an early, early flight back to Denver. I think I've said it before, but I'll say it again, it will be so nice to have this project wrapped before coming home to restart.

We left the restaurant and found a place with gelato for a walking dessert, then made it back to the media flat to help Mark and Larissa pack up for their flight. Those not helping with the packing went back to work editing, and a few people headed back out for a 2am nightcap. When we walked back, there were tons of young people out standing in massive groups talking and laughing in front of Sagrada Familia. The nightlife is very late in Spain. Many people don't even finish dinner until midnight, then begin their bar crawl in the wee hours of the morning. On weekends, churro places open around 7am or 8am to serve breakfast to those that are still up and ready to eat before going to bed. Then, lunch isn't until around 2pm, so people sleep in until lunch, then have a late dinner and do it all again. We've now adopted this lifestyle.

We stayed up to see Mark and Larissa go and then crawled into bed at 3am. We're finally down to a number of people that offers everyone their own bed and couples a big bed. A good morning's sleep for the first time in a while will feel good.

Unreasonable at Sea's Culminating Event

April 26, 2013

We snuggled into our media flat last night after a long and busy day of settling and editing, and woke up after four hours of sleep to our 6am alarms.  We had to get all our gear together, eat breakfast from our newly purchased grocery stash of fresh fruits, yogurt and milk.  It was magical to eat a piece of produce that hadn't been frozen or steamed.  Pure magic in our mouths.

We called three taxis to tote our gear and selves over to the Axa Auditorium where the final Unreasonable at Sea culminating event was to be held.  The auditorium was beautiful and big.  We had to get set up with four cameras on the event, plus one roving camera to shoot the backstage happenings with the entrepreneurs before they headed on to do their final pitch before Unreasonable at State.  On top of setting up for the event, we also had a meeting with the learning partner we were working on another video for to get approval on the second rough cut.  It was a crazy morning, but the team handled it really well.  Go team!

The event was awesome!  All the entrepreneurs were on their A-game and totally rocked their pitches.  We had filmed their final practice pitches on the ship before landing in Barcelona, and the mentors that were on board tore them apart.  There was so much that the mentors wanted them to change. It was interesting to see what they changed and what feedback they totally ignored.  It's a subjective thing, so they did what they thought was best, and it turned out brilliantly.  Everyone came so far from when we did the original "elevator pitches" during the first week on the ship.  Those elevator pitches were so bad, that we never even posted them.

Before many of the entrepreneurs pitched, the episodes that we had done along the way were shown.  I think the value in that was not only that you got to see their business in action and understand more about it, but also that you fell in love with their personality before hearing them pitch.  The audience got to see Tendekayi in the Hong Kong episode doing sign language with the hearing impaired people he employs there, they got to see how entertaining Pedro is then how passionate he is about eliminating deaths from unclean drinking water, and they got to see Protei getting down and dirty in Hawaii, digging through meters of plastic as they investigated how their sailing drones could help in the area.

Watching the videos we had done brought back so many memories from this trip.  Both from things that Matt and I shot, things I edited, but also flashbacks to the places we slept, the things we ate and the people we met while we gathered this footage.  The smells came back and the sounds came back to me.  The first video brought tears to my eyes because of how bittersweet the end of this journey is.  I had to get it together, though, because I was one of the cameras on stage in front of the 500 people at the event and the lights were about to come up.  Daniel recognized the media team and offered up a big thank you and a bow.  It was a great moment.  It made me feel so proud of what we accomplished in these short four months.

Local entrepreneurs from the Barcelona area also pitched in-between the Unreasonable entrepreneurs which offered a great energy between new and old business ideas.  One start-up that I was particularly interested in was which sells an energy independence kit where you can use a solar panel to charge a battery that can charge small devices like your phone.  You use the solar panel in your house or on your backpack, then use the energy whenever you want it via the battery pack.  But, it doesn't stop there.  They also have an online community where you keep track of the hours of clean energy that you produce and use yourself, then you can make purchases with the credits on the online community.  Kind of like carbon credits, but on a small, small scale.  Interesting idea, but it leaves me with many general questions about the infrastructure of energy around the world.  Like, if I charged my phone using only solar power, and the little electricity box outside our house read a smaller number, and we paid less this month, would that actually change the amount of energy that the energy company produced?  Just because I didn't use it this month, does that mean that they didn't burn the coal to produce it?  Or, does it just get used elsewhere or just get wasted?  I don't know.  Experts: e-mail me (shawna (at) massfxmedia dot com) so I can ask you more questions, por favor.

In Spain, they don't do regular lunch breaks.  Since their lunch starts around 2pm, the event ran straight through from 10am to 3pm, and we had all eaten breakfast around 7am.  Our awesome producers brought around apples and bananas for snacks, but we were still starving by 3:30 when we finally got our gear back to the media flat and headed out to find some lunch.

We arrived at a vegetarian restaurant around 3:50pm, and were welcomed with some head scratching.  The way this restaurant worked, like many lunch places, is that it has a set menu where you choose a starter between a couple options, a soup, salad, main course and dessert.  Since they close at 4pm (as all  Spaniards know) they didn't have much left to feed the ten of us.  The guy said that he would make it work and seated us upstairs in a little loft.

We got a mix of soups, both of which were delicious, some boiled potatoes and broccoli with some sort of sour cream topping, an unbelievably tasty couscous and veggie stuffed squash and then piles of fresh fruit for dessert.  We told the waiter that we had come from a ship and couldn't wait to eat fresh food.  He brought extra fruit and said we could take it home.  As we left, they were receiving the food for the next day, and the man gave us a whole pineapple and a crate of strawberries to take with us.  Such nice people here!

The team was exhausted and we went back to the flat thinking we would take a short nap, and all ended up sleeping until 7:30pm.  We woke up and headed out to dinner at a crepe place across town that Mark and Larissa highly recommended.  It was delicious.  I had a spinach, strawberry, goat cheese and pine nut salad, and attempted to order in spanish.  I was laughed at, but I think in a cute way and not a you-should-be-embarassed-for-trying-out-our-language way.  I also got a spiced chai.  Didn't even come close to India's chai, but the warm tea was good for a cool, drizzly night.  We ate crepes and drank our chai's in a warm restaurant with good conversation.  Oli was cute enough that she finagled two free dessert crepes out of the place, and we all enjoyed extra chocolate and banana crepes.  Too good.

Matt, Oli, Patrick, Jessie and I decided we would walk back to the apartment and get to know the area a little bit better since we still have a week here.  We walked by a concert hall where many young people were standing outside waiting to go to a concert.  They said you can just buy tickets there, and we considered doing that later this week.  The buildings are old and beautiful in Barcelona and the city is clean and feels safe.  We visited a couple grocery stores trying to find tortilla chips for Oli to make us Mexican breakfast the next morning, but didn't find any.

We arrived back at the media flat and finished up some final work from the day before and hit the hay around 2am.  I'd like to think that we're preparing for getting back to Colorado.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Hastalouego MV Explorer!

April 25, 2013

After three rocky, emotion-filled, work-filled days at sea where people wrapped up what needed wrapping, graduated from what needed graduating and hugged those that needed hugging, we said goodbye to our shipboard family and our home away from home for the last 105 days.

Two nights ago, we had the alumni ball where everyone on the ship got dressed up and had a sit-down, four-course meal. Matt and I sat with a couple who we had met early on in the voyage and then never really followed up with until that dinner. It was interesting to talk with them and hear what they remembered about our first conversation. Apparently, I raved about rambutan in Hawaii and told them how much I was looking forward to it in Vietnam.

Last night was the commencement ceremony for the students and after that was Unreasonable's graduation ceremony which is basically a circle up where everyone gets a moment to say whatever is on their heart. We first heard from the entrepreneurs, then Daniel made sure to highlight the admin team and then the media team. Following up after the articulate fellows felt a little bit intimidating, but because we had grown so close, I had some confidence to tell them how I really felt.

I'm sure it came out all jumbled and nothing like I had imagined it in my head, but when it was my turn to speak, I wanted to thank everyone and to thank the program for taking me through exactly the experience that I needed right now in my life. I came into this project thinking of it as an end goal. It was a year and a half in the making, and Matt and I had to make some dramatic changes in our life and careers in order to make room for it. We made some hard decisions, made it through the big changes of selling our car, moving out of our house, putting our cat into long term kitty-care with my mom, starting and pursuing our own business, Mass FX Media, and finally saying goodbye to all of our brand new clients that we had gained during the first seven months of doing Mass FX Media full time.

This trip had been the end goal for so long that once the countdown had reached single digits and we had reached San Diego, I realized we had nothing left to plan for. I got the expectation that this trip would answer the "what's next" question. About three months into it, I didn't have my answer, and I started to panic. What do I want to do? Who do I want to work for? What should we pursue next?

With work as a distraction and ridiculously talented and inspiring mentors, I slowly came to the realization that this trip ending meant our future was beginning. We were in charge once again of our day to day and the projects that we'll take or turndown. We can live anywhere we want and work with whomever we want. With just three days left at sea, I started packing and felt excitement for what is to come, and it was these people standing before me that offered me excitement for the edge, not fear.

I ended my, probably too long and rambly, speech and admitted that I was about to follow in their footsteps and follow my own dreams: I'm going to direct the feature film, Operation Babylift. Cesar yelled out, "tell us about the film!" and I couldn't help myself. I used the opportunity to pitch the film. I got some good feedback and one of the mentors approached me afterwards and said I had to make that film, and another mentor gave me a contact our in San Jose.

That all said, we'll be heading out to California late this summer to follow up on these leads and visit all our new friends in San Fran, San Diego and LA. I'm ready to jump in. No more excuses.

We had a fun, but late, party and headed to bed to get a couple hours of sleep before our 6:30am breakfast call to be ready to disembark. My emotions were extremely level and steady today. Nothing extreme, no tears, not really any giddiness either. It was all happening and it all felt right. I felt content and ready.

We debarked, grabbed some taxis and checked into our new home for the next ten days: an AirBNB apartment in the middle of Barcelona. We had to get four taxis to get all of our stuff and all of our peoples over to the flat, but it went pretty smoothly. The flat is really nice and there are enough beds for each of us to have one, a small kitchen, a laundry machine and a little patio. It's close to restaurants, grocery stores and public transportation. It will work out well.

We settled in and were ready for an early lunch around 11:30. Spain shuts down for lunch which is scheduled for 2-4:00ish, so we were turned down at every restaurant we went to. People had no idea why we were wanting lunch so early. We found a nice little Colombian restaurant that was willing to have us in early and we ordered up some fun Colombian delights. We worked on our Spanish and made friends with Fernando who we knew we would being seeing a lot during our stay here since his restaurant is just at the bottom of our apartment building.

While we ate, we were sought out by a random lady looking for a bunch of Americans. She was with the taxi company and we had left a bag in one of the taxis. It turned out to be Mark's clothing bag, and it was crazy how it got back to us in that restaurant. What awesome people!

After lunch, we did a gear swap, bought groceries and then hunkered down on post-production while part of the team went to shoot the Unreasonable VIP dinner tonight. It feels good to start settling down, and I'm now just looking forward to the day that we can get some sleep. Early event tomorrow all day for the culminating Unreasonable pitches in Barcelona. Should feel good to see the entrepreneurs in their final form and hear the pitches they've been perfecting for the last four months.