Advice from a Friend

(…or, all of the best advice I’ve been given by friends and family.)

Hold onto your seats folks, this is going to be a long one.

Tonight, while I was making a new Twitter friend (thank you again #HavenFamily) we got to talking about school and how we feel like we made some bad decisions regarding our chosen studies. We both studied things that weren’t quite what we wanted to do but were realistic and safe. In the end though you just can’t escape your fate and even though we decided to pursue our dreams, we feel a little behind.

Wait. Seriously? At twenty-five. I’m behind the ball at twenty-five?!? Take a step back from that for a second. No one is behind in the game at my age. If you know what you want to do and aren’t afraid to do it at seventeen then you are one of the ridiculously, lucky few. Almost no one knows what they want at any given time. We are all stumbling blindly through this life together and sometimes we fall into the things we want and sometimes we don’t. The important thing to remember is that we aren’t in it alone.

I’ve been given a lot of good advice in my life. A lot. I have been incredibly fortunate to have a supportive and dedicated family/friend group and I would like to share what they’ve taught me with you. Let me preface this by saying that I, by no means, have it together. I have been on the verge of emotional breakdown at least three times in the last four days. It’s only by being in the mess that you can empathize with those who are in it with you. So, grab my hand and we will make it though this together.

The List

1. Never Compare Yourself to Others 

This is super important for anyone in or just getting out of school. Everyone does it and it’s a really hard habit to break. It’s so easy to look around you to see what everyone is doing and think “I really wish I was that good.” Never do that. There will always be someone who is better than you, smarter than you and quicker than you. They are by no means greater than you. Everyone is different and everyone has something to bring to the table. Judging yourself based on others accomplishments will kill your motivation and keep you down. See what they’re doing, appreciate it, emulate their passion and move on. Seriously. Let it go. You’re awesome too. (A special thanks to Cory Howard for always reminding me of this one when I need it.)

And, while we are on the subject:

2. Give Yourself a Break

Nothing kills creativity faster than depression. That deep hole of world suck that surrounds your soul and steals your motivation is just an endless loop of pain. If you’re feeling it then it’s only going to get worse unless you learn to let it go. Kick back for a day or two. Distract yourself with books, friends, media, whatever it takes. Slap on a smile and tell yourself that you can do it until you actually believe it too.

3. Experience New Things

This will also help when you’re trying to give yourself a break. Inspiration strikes the informed mind. Reading, going to museums, meeting new people with new and unique ideas will all help you to be a better person. Knowledge fuels creativity and productivity so if you’re feeling like you’ve hit a wall, it’s probably time that you got out and experienced something.

4. Love Things

For the love of all that is good in this world, please, love things. If you’re going to enjoy something, take the time to really enjoy it. Explore it, learn it and never be ashamed of how much you love it. When you love something, it inspires and motivates you. That’s the greatest power we have.

5. Don’t Let Anyone Tell You Not to Love Something

If you’re like me and you enjoy interacting with people who are fans of things that you love then I am sure you’ve seen your share of blinding-rage-balls-of-hate. It’s important to let other love things the way that they want to love them. You may not get it. You may not like it. But it makes them happy and that’s all that matters. Stop fighting over the stupid stuff and let everyone else enjoy whatever makes their heart happy. Hopefully, they’ll do the same.

That being said, there are also  people in this world who are so unhappy that they feel like everyone else should be just as unhappy as they are. They will do their best to tear into everything you love and rip it into tiny hate pieces. Ignore them. You’ll be happier and, in truth, it really pisses them off when you don’t feed into it. It’s a win-win situation. To touch on that and to revisit point #2:

6. Give Other People a Break

We are all going through life together. We are all trying to figure out what will make us the happiest. We are all the same. Deep down, we just want to be happy. However, none of our journeys are 100% the same. We were’t all given the same lots in life and some people are experiencing serious obstacles. Remember that and give them a break.

You have no idea what someone is going through or why they behave the way that they do. What you do know, is how you will handle your interactions with them. You have the power to lay off the car horn (those are for alerting people to your presence, not for expressing displeasure). You have the power to let someone cut you in line, let muttered insults go and to be short with you at work. Let that stuff go. You’ll be happier when you’ve stopped thinking about it and they’ll be happier when they’ve gotten past whatever put them in that mood.

I honestly can’t talk about this enough. It’s hard to do and you may have to trick your brain into it but I can tell you that it makes every interaction I have better when I assume that the person I’m interacting with might just be having a really bad day. Never assume the worst before assuming the best. Have some perspective and allow yourself to be happy.

7. Be Happy

That’s it. Happiness is a state of being. If you’re not happy it’s because you’re not letting yourself be happy. No person or thing can do that for you. Having more money, less debt, more friends, less work, won’t change how you feel for more than a few days. This is the hardest thing to accept for most people. You have to start every day thinking about being happy. Not all days are going to be great but we have one life and spending most of it appreciating what we have is a really great way to live it. And before you start arguing with me I will tell you that happiness is 100% a choice. It’s about your perspective and if you’re unhappy every day then you either need to change your perspective or change your situation.

8. Stop Being Afraid

This has been my mantra for the last year. I let fear dictate a lot of things in my life and it’s only when I stopped being afraid that I started feeling driven. Fear just isn’t worth it. Note: I am not talking about logical fear, like being afraid of wild bears. Darwinism is very real, even though it may not always seem like it. Stop being afraid to strive for the things you want. The obstacles are what make you better and prepare you for the reward. Enjoy the obstacles and stop letting your fear dictate your life.

9. Money Isn’t an Excuse for Avoidance

We all have money trouble. The world is changing, the job market is bad and student loan debt just keeps on a’climbin’. Staring at the bills and mulling over the quickest way to pay or how much you’ll have to save for this thing or that thing will tear you up. I am by no means saying that you shouldn’t think about these things. I’m saying that you can’t let them control you. When you are on your death bed are you going to be regretting buying that DVD when funds were low when you were thirty or will you be remembering those five great movie nights you had with your friends? Don’t be stupid but don’t beat yourself up either. You only every regret the things you didn’t do and the trips you didn’t take.

10. Find People Who Are Doing What You’re Doing

Feeling unmotivated? Are you in a rut or an endless cycle of ‘I should be but I’m not’? Find people who are doing what you want to be doing and hang out with them. I’m serious. Be near them. Bask in their productiveness. Watch what they’re doing and let it inspire you too. Humans need other humans to motivate them. Creativity is crowd-funded and without a crowd your power cells deplete. We have access to the internet, use it. Find blogs that you love and submit content or rent a studio in an artist community and go to as many events as possible.

This is a huge part of why I decided to move to Los Angeles. It’s a giant collection of people who love things and have a passion for creative collaboration. Find what you’re passionate about and seek out others who are the same. You can’t help but to be motivated when you’re constantly being inspired by others. Communities can get you through anything.

11. Learn to Accept People for Who They Are

I’ve had a mantra since high school about how people should treat friendship. There are a lot of people in this world and not the everyone is going to be your best friend. That doesn’t mean that they have to offer isn’t valuable. You have to learn not to hold your friends up to your preconceived standards. One friend might be someone hang out with every day and one might be someone you only see every couple of years. That does’t mean that they are less of a friend. They are just a different kind of friend. Holding them to the same standards as your best friend isn’t fair to them or to you. It’s ok to have different kinds of friends and to accept them for who they are and for what you inspire in each other.

12. Make Friends, Not Networks

Since I’ve moved and been looking for work, networking has been brought up to me a lot. What I hate about it is that feeling that someone might think you only want to know them because of what they can do for you. Networking is great. If someone (mostly old students of mine or new alumni) writes to me or calls me and wants to ask for advice about careers or school I am more than willing to talk with them about it. Sharing our experiences is all a part of being human. Like I said, we are all in this together.

What I don’t like is having people believe that I only care about them personally because of what they can do for me professionally. Everyone on this earth has a special gift or talent that is worth learning about. You can find something to relate to with everyone you meet. The fun part is finding whatever that thing may be. Being able to relate to someone makes it ten times easier to learn from them.

It’s great to have mentors and people to talk to about professional things. LinkedIn and Twitter are great for building a network of people with similar interests that you can connect with if you need work or information. The thing is, all of these people, are human beings. If I’m going to reach out to someone, I am going to treat them with the same respect that I treat the rest of my friends. They should be getting something out of the conversation too even if kindness is all that you have to offer.

Conclusion

Well, that’s the bulk of some of the best advice I’ve gotten up ’til now. I know it’s a lot and if you’ve made it this far then I applaud you. I hope this advice will help to inspire and motivate you as much as it has for me. I wanted to write it down so that I could also refer back to it. Life is a learning process and taking notes is never a bad idea. Actually, that’s another piece of advice. Take a hell of a lot of notes.

I think the most important piece of advice is something I haven’t mentioned yet and something that I’d like to leave you with:

Never be afraid to ask for help. Whether it be from friends, family members, mentors or strangers. If you don’t know something or if you just need someone to lean on, never be afraid to ask them for help. Having help is what makes the struggle to get through this life a little bit less daunting.

If you’re having a tough time or just need someone to talk to, please feel free to contact me by email, through this site or through Twitter (@alyssahoman). I always have time for you.

We all feel the same.

We need more female directors. 

That was my first thought after watching An Invisible Sign which was directed by Marilyn Agrelo. A woman. Which is nice.

But then I got to thinking about my childhood and about my life now. When I was little I was (and probably still am) a weird kid. I wanted to know everything. I wanted to do everything. I wanted to like everything. Except pink. I didn’t want to like pink. 

Pink was girly. Pink was everything I didn’t want to be. It represented vapidness, shallowness and above all it represented meanness. The girls who liked pink didn’t want to know everything or be anything. They wanted the boys to notice them, to make the cheer squad and to be as feminine as possible. They made me feel bad for not feeling that way. I wanted to go to space camp, dig up dinosaur bones and be the best catcher in my softball league. They didn’t understand me and I didn’t understand them and in the end that was totally okay. 

We are all okay now. We are adults with lives and ambitions and just because they weren’t the same doesn’t mean any of us were wrong. But, what it meant for me was that I had a little adversity to overcome and most of it was brought on by me. When I think back to all the times that I felt isolated and mocked I realized that most of the time it was in my head. When you are one of the few people who thinks a certain way you have a hard time seeing from anyone else’s perspective. I didn’t like how I made myself feel and I took it out on them and I think I’m still working through that. 

Now though, I realize that it’s these same issues that I think a lot of people, including myself, are blinded with today. We grow up seeing movies and television and reading books that enforce how we all felt as children. They hone in on the way society made us all feel and how we made ourselves feel and that perpetuated the stereotypes of girly and manly and everything in between. All of that causes what I think may be the biggest injustice which is the fact that we forget how we actually feel. I hated pink. Not because pink was a bad color but because it made me feel less than the girls who did. And I missed out on a lot of great pink. 

We all feel the same. What I mean is that we all have deep, crushing feelings and we forget that everyone has them too. We don’t need more female directors per se. We need more directors who know how they feel. J.K. Rowling successfully wrote a book from the perspective of a young boy. She did this because she realized the one thing that most people don’t. We all feel the same. 

Harry Potter’s feelings, reactions and emotions were exactly how we all felt growing up. She wrote a character that could be any of us. Take away the gender and it’s still the same. That’s exactly what we need. 

Fear is not forever.

When I was in middle school I wanted to paint my walls like Lothlorien. We didn’t have the money and even though I hated my pink walls they had to stay. I couldn’t understand why people painted their walls solid colors. A wall that’s a solid color is a wall. I wall that’s a forest could be anything.  

Now that I am out of school and experiencing all of rigors of the real world I keep thinking back to my childhood and wondering why I thought that I could never have a truly creative job. I feel like I am dragging myself, kicking and screaming, into doing what I want to be doing. I knew I could be anything as long as anything was a lawyer, a scientist or a graphic designer. Being a writer, director or sculptor? That as never a realistic thing. 

Now I’m surrounded by options and I have no idea what I want to do because I want to do it all. I want to create things in several mediums and express how I feel. I want to make movies, write a graphic novel and write a children’s book. I want to make completely immersive environments in parks, museums and galleries so that any kid can walk in and experience what it’s like to be somewhere else. I want to find my imagination again. The imagination I lost when I thought I couldn’t be something. 

After that, I want to teach. I want every kid to know what they have at their feet. I want the limitations to stop and I want them to have someone to talk to about how they feel and to help them find the best way to express how they feel to the world. Because we need more people who feel.

We all feel the same.  

Let Your Passion Be Your Guide

At my age it’s hard to find anyone who isn’t in the midst of an existential crisis. We are all in that stage between childhood and adulthood where we are learning and experiencing all these new ideas and emotions. We are sifting through dune-sized piles of information and trying to decide what makes sense. Everything is being sucked into this wormhole of ideologies, concepts, experiments and ideals, and funneling back out, across the universe, becoming some semblance of the person we will one day be.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s as fun as it is frustrating. There are endless possibilities for what we came do and who we will become. Sometimes though, it can be so unbelievably overwhelming that it’s hard to get up in the morning. I’m not sure if it’s because I am a creative (that’s a talk for another day) but it feels like there is no clear path for me. I have all these ideas, all of these solutions, images and passions that are fighting their way out of me and I’m just not fast enough to create them. I don’t know what direction I should be heading or what I should be doing with my life. All I know is that I never want to be stuck.

I don’t want to be stuck doing a job I hate in a place I don’t like with people I can’t stand. I see so many people going through the motions. Day in, day out, they show up to whatever job they have, do their best to get through the day and go home, too exhausted to do anything else. They tell me that it’s just how life works. You go to school, get a job, pay your bills and survive. It doesn’t matter if you don’t like it. Just get through it for the paycheck and use your spare time for the things you like. The spare time that you never have because your so emotionally exhausted from going through the motions.

It seems like such a waste of passion. I know I will never be able to do that. It’s not in me. I want to love what I do. I grew up being told to utilize my skills and abilities. I never had the white picket fence dream and as I look around me during the day, no matter where I am, I always feel that little pang in my heart for those people who have resigned themselves to being miserable. That’s not to say that everyone is like that. I swear, the women and men at Starbucks are some of the most joyful people that I’ve ever met. But you know the miserable ones when you see them and you have to wonder why they never tried for anything more.

It’s now that I blame possibilities. There are so many choices and so little guidance that it’s no wonder everyone leaves school confused. We are given degrees in a specific field but the truth is that no one knows what our personal possibilities are.

What can I do with this?

Why would I do it?

How can I apply what I know?

So many other questions and no one to help you answer them. It’s here, at your lowest and most confusing points that passion comes in.

All of us are born with passions. We can love one thing or many things. Passion is that feeling you get when you just can’t stop thinking about something no matter how hard you try. Maybe you love plants or math. Maybe it’s something as specific as designing highways and analyzing traffic patterns. Or, maybe you love a lot of things. Personally, I love quite a few things. I am passionate about animal rescue, education, storytelling, museum exhibits, children’s book illustration, culture and language.

When I graduated with my degree in Advertising & Graphic Design I felt stuck. I thought that I was limited to things that fell under that category. It was suffocating and limiting. It took me two years to start making personal art again and it has only been in this last year that I really started thinking about how I want to live my life. I wasn’t enjoying design anymore so I took a step back to re-evaluate where I was going and none of it involved any of my passions. I had relegated myself to enjoying my passions in my spare time which made my day job so much less enjoyable. That’s when I decided that it was time to make my passions into my job.

Obviously, I am just starting to do this. I am making plans and generating ideas to combine the things that I care most about. I have the freedom to create my own dream job and I am going to fight for it. In the ever inspirational words of Lizzie Bennet I plan to “Save the world, change the culture.”

As an example, here is Sir Patrick Stewart, whom I think we can all agree is pretty much the coolest guy ever, talking about how he has been pursuing his passions. Making you cry is an unavoidable byproduct of his awesomeness.

Now, here is the part where I do my best to give you tools to (hopefully) inspire you. It’s been a number of things that have lead me down my current path, many of which are life experiences and people who are unique to my own life, but some of them are available to everyone and I’ll leave them here for you to peruse at your leisure.

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Firstly, The Lizzie Bennet Diaries. A webseries about a 24-year-old Mass Communications graduate student with a whole lot of passion and very little direction. Really, it’s a modern day take on Pride and Prejudice but if that’s all you get out of it then I feel sorry for you. This is the entire playlist if you’re feeling awesome.

Hardwick_Chris

The next is… *gasp*…a book. Self-help books have a bit of a stigma for being exclusively for nerds and introverts so it’s no surprise when the author is one as well. The Nerdist Way by Chris Hardwick is the best book for creatives who want to take control over their lives. Chris uses gaming terms, scifi references and his own personal struggles to explain to you how your brain works and how you can control it. Seriously, give it a read. I promise you a brand new dice set that you won’t regret it.

The last thing I’ll share for now is TEDTalks. I didn’t know that anybody hadn’t at least heard of TEDTalks until I was getting dinner and telling my stepdad about the videos I watched today. He had no idea what I was talking about and I couldn’t believe it. TEDTalks are one of our greatest resources. We have some of the greatest minds in the world gathering to discuss, collaborate and speak on the most relevant topics and challenges facing our world. The videos are free and accessible through YouTube as well as TED.com and it would be well worth your time to make it through them. This one is the most relevant to this post and if you enjoy it, look up some of Larry Smiths other videos concerning career adice.

I hope you are now a little more inspired than you were when you stumbled upon this post. I’ll leave you with my current mantra in hopes that you will join me on the journey of making your passion into your career. Don’t let fear get in your way.