I cannot divulge too much information, but, I lost the film class that I was slated to teach this fall. Not due to any shortcoming on my part, I was assured, but simply due to forgetfulness on the school's part.
It slipped their mind to notify me that I was not teaching this semester. Showing up at school, certified, paperwork done, syllabus written, printed and copied... Pulled aside, apologized to while in shock, then driving home sobbing as I panic about how the hell I am supposed to survive the next semester without a job. It was humiliating.
I spend the week depressed, avoiding phone calls and interviewing for another job teaching a class for a highschool program. Frustrated. I have intermittent daydreams about waking up in five years and discovering I am still here, still teaching, Los Angeles forgotten, storytelling forgotten.
But I am drawn to the highschool teaching position, mainly because of the organization and the people who run it. I am drawn to the idea of offering these kids what I know. There is one half of me that finds great joy in teaching, in building relationships with kids, in encouraging growth. But there is that other half of me that wants to be back behind the camera, and to never hear the words "Those who can't do, teach" again.
One of the more derisive comments I heard while out in Los Angeles this summer, ACing on a feature, was: "I know you're just a teacher, so I get that you don't know a lot of how this really works, so..."
I nearly decked this kid (he was eventually fired for being a douchebag) but I just clenched my teeth and tried to breathe.
One of the most unsatisfying parts about teaching does not come from the job itself, but from the fact that people look at me as if I failed. I failed to get on my way to being a cinematographer. And to be teaching so recently out of film school, that failure is so much more pronounced. Add that to the underlying stigma that women will never truly be world-renowned in the camera department (a woman DP still has yet to be even nominated for an Oscar), I start panicking. Every class I symbolically hand the camera over to someone else to go and shoot. I feel like I fell into a trap.
I get the high school program position. I am very excited to be working with this group, yet at the same time I am worrying about having to learn an entirely new program, learning how to teach an entirely new age group... and sometimes I feel moving forward in teaching moves me backward, away from my dream. I get angry with myself. You're too selfish to be a teacher, and you're not strong enough to follow your dream. You're not teaching because you want to be a teacher, you're teaching because you're stuck. Why did God put me in this position? Why is he denying me the chance to pursue what I really want?
But then I remember something rather crucial. An important question.
What do I want most?
An Oscar? A million dollar contract? Fame? Admiration? A 1964 Chevy Malibu Chevelle SS convertible in canary yellow?
I was told once, by a small prayer group made up of some amazing women, that "your work is going to reach a lot of people. But it's the people around you, that you work with, that you're going to affect most. That's your greatest impact."
Just a couple weeks ago I get an email from a girl who reads my blog. She is fighting against misogyny, discouraging voices, of attitudes from men that denied her access to learning in a film school. She thanks me for my blog, says she will not give up. And I cry. I cry that she has to deal with this, but I cry because her story and others like hers mean so much to me and why I write. That someone found encouragement in my experience, means the entire world to me. Thank you, thank you, thank you for writing me.
Then a week ago, I am getting a pint with a friend before he starts school the next week. We are discussing our dream plans, if we ever get successful in our careers. And my dream comes tumbling up out of my mouth, surprising me: I want to start a program that gets girls on set, behind the camera. Scholarships, experience, an internship program, encouragement. And I want to have the experience to give them something worthwhile, and a body of work that speaks to them.
What I really want to do, when it comes down to it, is help people, build relationships, and teach by making movies. I want to impact the people I work with, encourage those who are struggling.
So, as I look into another year of working on my syllabus and classroom management skills instead of working on camera techniques and storyboards, wondering why God is keeping me here, I remember where my heart lies, what it desires. What truly makes me experience joy. This is not a waste of time. This is a taste of the bigger picture.
I feel that this season in my life is just preparing me, reminding me of my greater goal. I really do have a place in my heart for teaching, and it runs alongside my dream of cinematography, of pouring my heart out onto film. And, in relief, happiness, I realize not only do I have room for both, but, for me, each one is necessary for the other.
So this May, I'll head out to Los Angeles with my heart intact, ready to make movies, tell stories, make art, and follow my dream fiercely... to be where I belong, behind the camera... so when I am ready, when I truly have something grand to offer, I can give hope to girls like me who aren't sure if they'll ever quite make it.