What have you been doing for the past 5 years?

We’re often so focused on the goal that we forget to take a look and enjoy what we’ve already accomplished. It isn’t until we are asked, in earnest, what we’ve been up to – when we realize what we have already done in the process of trying to reach that end goal.

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try to tell me that Kris Holden-Reid doesn’t look like Chris Martin

I was recently having a conversation with a friend. Telling her that I had a new celebrity crush and how confused I was because the actor looked so much like Chris Martin from Coldplay – and since I’m not sure if Martin is a handsome man or not, he is in fact a funny guy and that could work for me. As the conversation progressed to me saying something like “I’ve been single for like five years, I’m ready to settle down with the right person” she asked me what I’ve been doing for those years; my answer:

 

  1. I’ve been taking care of my Dad;
  2. I’ve been taking care of myself;
  3. I’ve edited 5 manuscripts, 2 of which have been nominated for several Latino Literature Awards;
  4. Been featured in an investigative journalism collaborative book;
  5. Given talks at La Guardia Community College;
  6. Completed 3 films – one (unreleased) scripted short and two documentaries – while starting to work on a fourth film;
  7. I’ve written my own novel that’s yet to be published (because I haven’t pitched it out really);
  8. I’ve written two feature length screenplays, and most recently a short film screenplay;
  9. Gained an incredible amount of weight due to depression;
  10. Beat my depression and became active with Pilates, dance, and swimming;
  11. Became a part of the #EveryBodyInAds movement for the Irish Jewelry company Trinkets Jewellry

While listing all these accomplishments makes me feel mostly awkward – as if I were overtly bragging on the things I’ve done, it can serve as a reminder that I haven’t been wasting my time during the past five years. In fact, I’ve been setting up a strong foundation to my career as a filmmaker and positive role model/figure to encourage people to keep on working on their dreams despite their current challenges. As a full time caregiver of a parent, I have to say – it’s hard. Very hard to do anything else other than worry for them, stay on top of their medical appointments and other things that they need. Still, I manage to do so and ensure that I take time to myself while I’m making sure he’s well. Because if I’m not good, there is no way I can do anything for anyone else.

Still, while I’m mostly uncomfortable with bragging on myself – I do feel a bit of annoyance when people who haven’t met me personally, have gotten to know me as the “one who organizes stuff” or “keeps things super clean” or “the one who can go shopping for an entire outfit in 10 minutes flat” from what they’ve heard from people that do, in fact, know me.

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some of my acquired skills is interviewing, directing and editing footage

Although we’re not our jobs, I have worked hard in many different areas and have done other things than be super clean and organized, and fast at clothes shopping. Being fully aware that I’m far from being financially successful/independent – I have to stay that I’ve put a lot of effort at building the foundation to acquire such success/independence at a not-so-far-off date. Maybe that’s what most people classify as successful, and until that isn’t achieved – one can only be known as the one who is super organized, clean and fast at clothes shopping.

At a recent get together with an old friend – she introduced me to some of her new friends – one of which shook my hand and said “I know everything about you!” and then proceeded to tell me “you go shopping for clothes and don’t try them on, and they still look perfect on you”. I wasn’t shocked to hear that from her, since the person who introduced her is always commenting on those particular things about me. But, I was a little disappointed that there wasn’t much else to talk about.

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you don’t think I can’t carry a conversation? EW! 

Nothing is worse than having a person not interested in starting a conversation with you because they don’t think you’re have anything worth talking about. Their knowledge of you does not dwell into anything further than the simple skills – and they care not to make conversation based on those facts that they’ve heard repeatedly about you. They don’t know about your hard work, your goals, and don’t know about the other set of skills you’ve honed for almost all your life and are putting into practice professionally.

Sometimes, it doesn’t matter. What matters is that you know what you’ve done and what you’re planning to do at a later date. For brief moments, it’s okay to just be that person who is super fast at picking out clothes and excellent at organizing – because there will come a time when you’re going to be that person who will be known for what you’ve been working towards.

Coral Swimming
snorkeling over some awesome coral in Vega Baja in 2014

So, while many people I’ll most likely not interact with again continue to know me for my OCD’ness – I will go snorkeling and start working on my next film.

Hopefully I’ll find the right guy to settle down with as I’m making my life happen

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What does it mean to be a part of the bigger picture? (an essay)

Before I built up the courage to be a creative (journalist, writer, director, producer, etc.), I wondered what it meant to be a part of this life. What did it mean to be in the “spotlight” and if I would be willing to give so much of myself – parts that I wasn’t quite comfortable with yet.

As I’ve mention in previous posts, I’ve struggled with my own body image which led me to be so insecure that I was [self]crippled from pursuing my dreams. But, once I began to love myself – that meant peeling away the layers of insecurity that mounted from societal standards of what I was supposed to be – and began to see who I truly was, what were my real and honest passions and desires for my life and career, I began to see what it truly meant to be a part of the bigger picture.

But to tell you how I slowly became the person I am today, I have to tell you a few small moments that meant the world to me.

  • It was 2008 and I began blogging – I wasn’t writing anything remotely related to journalism, but I was writing short stories of what I’d experienced throughout the days during my commute, at home with my roommates and everything else in between. I wasn’t looking for stardom. No. What I was looking for was an audience, something to let me know that there were people out there that would read my writing and enjoy it. I kept on writing, tagging posts, and whatnot, when I suddenly got an email from a new website that was starting up and looking for good content to publish. They reached out to me and asked me if I would be a part of their website since they liked my content so much. It was surreal, I didn’t know what to think, I didn’t know if it was real or not. But in the end, I was part of the hand selected pioneers for this website that featured bloggers from around the world. I had gotten the right feedback to motivate me to keep going.
  • Back in 2011 I was working as a journalist for a Spanish language publication in Brooklyn. I was covering an event where I, as any journo would, stood up and asked a question. You see, when a journalist does that they have to say their names and what outlet their writing for. I had done this many times before, and many more times after…but this day was different. A local girl, college age came up to me after the event and introduced herself. She looked nervous as she introduced herself and added “I’m a fan of your work, I feel you really represent the Latino community with your articles”. That was the moment I knew that what I was doing meant something, and not just something to me, but to at least one other person. That girl – and I saw as her eyes lit up with empowerment from being properly represented in the newspaper.
  • It was 2012 and I heard the nonprofit publication that I was interning with at the United Nations had acquired a new editor. This editor had a reputation of being extremely hard on journalists – to the point that I read reports that she had made veteran journalists cry. So naturally I was frightened to work with her. Our first line editing sit down included me ready to write down anything she said and hoping I didn’t shed a tear if she said something horrible. I remember shaking in my pants next to her at the UN cafeteria early in the morning as I saw her sip on coffee while mine was getting cold. Then, Ms. Orla Healy told me she was impressed with my story on Child Soldiers in Colombia. The second time I sat down with Ms. Healy, I was still expecting to be dissected into a subatomic level, but again was left disappointed when she said she was impressed with the story and loved my work. I thought to myself “I can handle this time of disappointment” and realized that as a storyteller I was doing something right.
  • 2015 there I was, unsure if I made a good film or not. I wasn’t sure if I did a good editing job, if it was enough….but then it was selected for a film festival and I was told “you are enough, you are good, keep going”. At the festival, after I was asked to come up to talk about the film, as I was walking towards my seat – a complete stranger came up to me and hugged me and thanked me for making the film. “We need more content like this, thank you for it”.

These are just a few moments, small seconds when I was reassured of my passion, my dreams….of myself. See, it’s hard to believe you can do something when 98% of what you hear from others is “you’re not good enough” “you’re living in a fantasy world” along with “people who look like you never get to live that life.” It’s hard, it’s challenging, but it’s not impossible to learn to love yourself, believe in yourself regardless of what people tell you. I know, because I did it.

After all the hardships, nervous breakdowns, counseling and what seemed to be eternal self doubt – I found myself ready to be free of the burden that is self hatred and of the destruction that comes with it.That meant getting mentally ready to be part of something bigger than me. Part of what others see as motivational or inspirational in more than one way.

Today, as I’ve become more confident of being able to achieve my dreams than I’ve ever been, I share with you the news of my participation in a new and wonderful campaign that features “real women” as their models. But before I explain about the campaign, let me just say that all women are very real – and the term “real women” apply to those women you interact with every day, those women who are brilliant in their own right, have amazing smiles, sparkling eyes, wonderful posture. Women who are strong, smart, sassy and fearless – women who the media do not consider being the definition of “beautiful” because they lack some qualities (e.g. thigh gap, fair skin, fine nose, wispy hair, etc.) but I truly believe that beauty is in the eye of the beholder and everyone is deserving of love and being called beautiful.

Now, to the campaign – #EveryBodyInAds is a campaign that started with a question I trust many women of color, with curves, plus size, or “different” has asked themselves when they open a magazine, look at a catalog or even go shopping “where am I?” As a curvy woman of color, I didn’t see myself properly represented anywhere in magazines or television until America Ferrera and Gina Rodriguez showed up….

As the creator of the campaign and founder of Trinkets Jewelry puts it “the campaign started out as ‘where are the pictures of real women in advertising?’  I now prefer to say “EveryBody in ads” as the “Real Women” phrase can be troublesome to some folk. I think it implies that some women are not real and that is not the intention. This campaign is NOT against anyone identifying as a woman in any way. It is about learning to love yourself!” adding that “roles in movies for ladies over 40 are pretty few and far between. Young slim models are used in advertising and this unrealistic “norm” is almost always often photo-shopped to show something completely unattainable. This gives women and girls a completely unrealistic idea about what a normal body shape is and leaves them believing they are the only person in the world with cellulite. I can’t change the world but I can in my own small way do something about this hence the campaign to use a diversity of women in my advertising. 

To which she is entirely correct. Many of the reasons behind the progressive or body positive models like Tess Holliday, Nadia Aboulhosn and Denise Bidot is to change the narrative of beauty, fashion standards while showing that women who are not a size 0 are worth being looked at as well. Still, the casting in Hollywood continues to be insanely off. Many young actresses are moving to the “leading lady” role while women who are in their 30’s and still quite capable of performing these amazing roles are pushed out. Meanwhile their male counterparts can be seen aging on screen without a problem. It has always been quite disturbing to me how a young woman in her early to mid 20’s was casted opposite a man who is in his late 40’s early 50’s as a romantic interest. I’m sure I’m not the only one that feels that way.

With campaigns with #EveryBodyInAds we can continue to push out this disparity in gender on television, movies and change how fashion magazines portray beauty to our impressionable girls who are starving themselves to become that model they see on the pages of the magazine. But, it’s not just the girls we should be protecting and promoting to be represented adequately in fashion. Our boys are suffering too – making manorexia a term that has been reported on as seen in this UK Daily Mail article.

According to statistics “males make up about 10 to 15 percent of those who suffer from anorexia. Teens and young adults between the ages of 12 and 26 make up 95 percent of those who have eating disorders,” with “anorexia is the most common cause of death (up to 12 times higher than any other condition) among young women ages 15 to 24.” With these numbers increasing, many regulators have decided to step in and do something about what we are exposed to in the media.

In France, a model with less than a Body Mass Index or BMI than what is suitable for their age, height and body structure – as indicated by a healthcare professional cannot walk the runway. Many have objected that this is regulating women’s bodies – but I argue that it’s helping us stay healthy and forcing those in fashion to not impose their standards of beauty on the rest of us. This, along with the change in size of mannequins in several stores in the US and Sweden, along with body positive campaigns like that of Dove, Lane Bryant and H&M the narrative of beauty is changing for many women like me. Still, I feel there’s a long way to go when it comes to recognizing each other as beautiful.

We’ve been saturated with images of what is acceptable as pretty, desirable, beautiful and sexy for centuries, that we still shame those who dare to bare it all in confidence.  Often women are told to cover up their bodies should they be heavier (even if they’re pregnant) – while being urged to take it all off to sell a burger. Men are told they have to have six pack abs to be sexy and tall in order to be sexy. And while we all should be healthy in order to have full lives so we can have countless experiences in – we can achieve health at any size.

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here I am, modeling the long drop gold and diamante style trio set for Trinkets Jewellry

So, I say that I cannot be more proud to be a part of a campaign that promotes body positivity in such a wonderful way.  To be able to be an inspiration to people, not just with my stories, but with the fact that I genuinely love who I am, how I look and encourage others to be confident within themselves, is one of the things I wished to accomplish with my life.  To me, that’s what it means to be a part of the bigger picture. To help people not only tell their stories, but to help them change their stories.

Never Falter

Forced into Silence (Poster 1)

As most of you have read up on, I’ve been heavily working on my passion project Forced into Silence for the past month and am happy to announce that, after three years of film production, and a total of five years of planning, researching, pre and post production the documentary is finally completed and ready to make its festival rounds – which has already officially begun, since on Monday, April 4 – I sent the first submission kit out for consideration!

I have to admit, there were many days in the past that I wondered if this film was ever going to see the light of day. I wondered why I wasn’t being awarded either a filming grant or journalism grants to finance the film. I wondered if I was doing the right thing, or if I was even taking the right steps to get my film made. But one thing I never once second guessed was that the message of the film had to be heard.

I remember when I first began production on the film, when I began reaching out to therapists and former victims of sexual assault and domestic violence; I was invited to give a talk at a college in New York. During the talk I was asked by one of the students if I would ever give up on making this film. My short and quick answer was “no”. The student, a young female who seemed surprised by my rapid response followed up her inquiry with “no matter how long it takes?” again, I said “no matter how long it takes” and I explained that I’ve known of filmmakers having to wait seven years to complete films and release them. A most famous and perfect example would be that of Richard Linklater’s Boyhood – granted it is not a documentary, but to dedicate oneself entirely to a film and it’s message that it took about 12 years to make – I could think of no better example of dedication to the making of a film. This was something I was ready to do with Silence.

During a prolonged moment of frustration at what seemed to be the end of my project, I decided I wasn’t going to let it die. There was no way that I was going to give up on something that I was so determined in making since 2012. Most importantly, I didn’t want to leave male victims without a voice – something, that while there have been more reports about men being victimized in current mainstream media – is still a challenge for many people to admit, believe and even face. Their voices need to be heard. The crippling social stigmas need to be challenged, so does the extreme factions of both a patriarchal way of thinking and feminism.

Bryant Mancebo - FiS

The way we’re living is changing. We need to change with it.

This documentary means a lot to me. Not because of the responsibility that I’ve placed on myself without anyone asking me to, but because I’ve seen many men who are close to me struggle with their victimization, and struggle even more when trying to speak out about them.  I couldn’t go on without doing something. I couldn’t continue living in a world where women were taken seriously about the violations towards their minds, bodies and emotions, but men were being laughed at, dismissed and shamed because they were violated in the same ways. That to me has never been acceptable.

For now, I’ll leave you with this update and continue to work on my other projects and developing stories for the future – I just want you to remember: Don’t ever falter in the pursuit of your dreams. Don’t ever give up. If you do, you’ll never experience the incredible feeling of happiness and satisfaction that comes with making your dreams come true.

Wanna Blab?

2015-12-09 20.45.01.jpgYesterday, December 9, I was due to guest appear in the award-winning podcast The Dr. Vibe show, but due to some serious technical difficulties we had to reschedule for Monday December 14, 2015 at 8pm EST.

What is it going to be about? It’s going to be about my life as a beyond-indie filmmaker and full time caretaker of a parent. I’ll be discussing how I balance both, stay motivated and face the challenges both aspects of my life (career/personal) throw at me — I’ll also be discussing in depth my decision to start a Patreon page! I’ll also be discussing my next three film projects.

The podcast will be through the Blab application that can be easily accessed through twitter — you can interact by asking questions or by making comments throughout the live stream podcast.

To stay up to date on all things LSP (that’s me btw), follow me on twitter @LaShawnPagan where I’ll be sharing the link to the podcast as soon as I have it.

See you on twitter!

 

Dudes, I’ve been nominated for an award!

liebster2I’ve been blogging here and there for quite some time – and I’ve never heard of this particular award. While my most recent recognition was being part of the 2015 Selection of the Rincón International Film Festival, I’ve never nominated for an award. So you’d be right to think that I’m more than excited when my nominator Steifannie on left me a comment November 7, 2015 announcing her decision to bestow me such an honor. Naturally at first I thought ‘wait, is there such an award?’ and I proceeded to investigate by way of Google and found it to be a real thing – and if you, like me, don’t know much about the award, here are the details: The Liebster Award is an award given by bloggers to other up-and-coming (and particularly awesome) blogs. It’s a way of connecting and encouraging others to keep going with their online presence, promoting the arts in any way possible. The rules changed from nominating bloggers with or fewer than 3000 followers to currently only being able to nominate bloggers with or fewer than 200.

The rules are quite simple:

  1. THANK THE PERSON WHO NOMINATED YOU AND LINK TO THEIR BLOG ON YOUR LIEBSTER AWARD nomination POST. 
  2. COPY AND PASTE THE LIEBSTER AWARD nomination BADGE INTO YOUR POST. 
  3. ANSWER THE 10 QUESTIONS YOU WERE GIVEN WHEN YOU WERE NOMINATED.
  4. COME UP WITH 10 QUESTIONS YOU WOULD LIKE TO ASK OF YOUR  NOMINEES (please look below).
  5. NOMINATE 10 BLOGGERS WHO HAVE 200 or less FOLLOWERS and let them know by COMMENTING ON ONE OF THEIR POSTS, and linking YOUR LIEBSTER AWARD nomination POST, along with A SHORT MESSAGE.

I’ve already completed both Steps 1 & 2, so here is Step 3: The responses to my nominator’s questions:

  1. WHY DID YOU START BLOGGING?

To reach a broader audience with my short films, written stories, etc., as well as to grow my online presence as a filmmaker.

  1. DO YOU KEEP A DIARY, IF SO WHY? IF NOT, WHY NOT?

I wouldn’t call it a diary, I would call it a “story idea notebook” and I write in it quite often with ideas for films, some poems, and some (TV/Web) series ideas.

  1. WHAT IS YOUR OPINION ON THE GROWTH OF YOUTUBE AND YOUTUBERS? 

I think it’s interesting…I like how it gives a platform for people who have dreams of becoming a performer at any capacity. However, with the good there is often a bad, and the dark side of YouTube is quite dark….and unnecessary really.

  1. WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE FILM EVER AND WHY?

I cannot pick just one, but you can certainly read my list of 25 Films that have inspired me (1st edition) to get an idea….

  1. WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE FILM TRAILER AND/OR POSTER AND WHY? IF YOU DON’T HAVE ONE, PICK A TRAILER AND/OR POSTER YOU’VE SEEN RECENTLY THAT YOU’RE EXCITED ABOUT!

Here are my favorite movie posters – why? Purely for narcissistic reasons (hint: they are my own movie posters…lol)

Forced into Silence riff pasado poster 2

  1. WHAT DO YOU WANT FOR CHRISTMAS THIS YEAR? 

To just be happy

  1. WHAT IS THE BEST CHRISTMAS PRESENT YOU’VE EVER GIVEN?

A cabbage patch doll…when I was like 5??

  1. IF YOU COULD DO OR BE ANYTHING, WHAT DO YOU WANT TO BE WHEN YOU GROW UP? (EVEN IF YOU’VE ALREADY ‘GROWN UP’!)

I’m already doing and being it J

  1. WHO WOULD YOU BE IF YOU COULD BE ANY CHARACTER FROM A FILM?

This is a hard question….since I like so many films. I’d be Merida (Brave) Skeeter (The Help) Maleficent, Pocahontas, Samantha Jones (Sex and the City), Lieutenant John J. Dunbar a/k/a Dances with Wolves (Dances with Wolves), Mrs. Boss or Lady Sarah Ashley (Australia), Ms. Gruel (Freedom Writers)….you get the point – the strong, curious, authority-defying, game-changing character in each film.

  1. WHAT IS YOUR TIP FOR SAVING THE WORLD?

I don’t know, try to be good to others, do no harm, plant/save trees…spread the goodness within…

BONUS ANSWER:

Although she didn’t ask this question, I liked it so I’ll answer it:

  1. WHAT ACCOMPLISHMENT ARE YOU MOST PROUD OF?

There’s really no way to just choose one thing. I have to say that this year has been full of surprises and accomplishments I only dreamt of having a short time ago. I was very proud of myself when I wrote, directed, and (limited) released my first short film – that was something I thought would never happen. Another moment of accomplishment was when I was invited to be a speaker at the La Guardia Community College in New York for my work on (ongoing production) Forced into Silence , being interviewed by the Award-Winning podcaster Dr. Vibe for his aptly named The Dr. Vibe Show. When my first short documentary, Forever Boogies, made the 2015 Official RIFF selection….I could go on forever, so I guess I can say the years 2014, and 2015 I’m most proud of so far

Step 4: Here are my 10 questions for my nominees:

  1. Why made you want to blog?
  2. What do you blog about and why?
  3. Is there any accomplishment that you’re most proud of? What sets it apart from any other accomplishment?
  4. (I think this is a great question) What do you wish you knew more about and why?
  5. What is your favorite film/book/television show and why? (if you have one of each, list all of them)
  6. Is there anything or anyone who inspires you the most, why?
  7. What are your ambitions for the future? Where do you see yourself going? (Be it by blogging, or any aspect of your artistic expression – e.g. writing, film, drawing, etc )
  8. Other than sharing your thoughts with the world, what do you care about the most?
  9. If you could meet any person in the world (past or present – alive or dead) who would it be and what would you ask them?
  10. What do you wish your legacy to be – that thing that people remember when they hear your name?

Although some of these questions might seem challenging, I’ve come to realize that if you ask people challenging questions, it pushes them to think of what they want out of life and how to start making it happen. This is my unique way of helping others realize their potential and their true passion in life.

Step 5 – Part of being nominated for the Liebster Award is to nominate other bloggers, here are my (careful) selection:

  1. SHE SHAPES THE CITY

This relatively new blog shares photos and stories of women who are changing the face of Nairobi – dazzling photos of powerful women that are changing lives in their unique ways can be seen along with a short post about this particular and spectacular woman.

  1. MARK, MD, MPH

Want to know how mental health relates to today’s society? Mark keeps his posts easy to read and relatable to the ongoing challenges of the ever-evolving present day, tackling topics like that of trans-person health care from a parents POV, analyzing pop-culture shows and their relevancy on mental health like Kimmy Schmidt. It’s a great blog that every person should follow to learn more about mental health, an issue that is not often spoken wisely about today.

  1. PRISON PHOTOGRAPHY

A compelling blog that shares the rarely seen drawings of prisoners around the nation, how their mental health is affected by incarceration and the goings on of life behind bars. It features also a healthy dose of essays, and reference papers. It’s moving, it’s daunting, and eye opening. FOLLOW IT!

  1. BIBLIOKLEPT

You obviously like reading if you’re here – so, if you like vintage books, but don’t know where to start, Biblioklept is the perfect place to do so. Concise reviews that accompany vintage book covers give any reader a list to start off their reading at any time of year – not just for the summer.

  1. THE BOOKSHELF OF EMILY J

Another blog for book reviews, but this one also features life lessons, opinion, and literary reviews. It’s easy to navigate, read and will keep you entertained both on and offline (when you read one of the reviewed books of course).

  1. POST SECRET

Want a fun, daring and interactive blog to follow? Post Secret is a way for its audience to share stories without revealing their identities. It’s a great site that will make you shake your head, laugh, and think if you have any secrets worth posting (without the risks of course!) It will also let you in the lives of people – and surely will make you feel less alone with your deep dark stories…

  1. THANK YOU FOR SWALLOWING

Don’t be fooled by the (seemingly offensive) name, this blog is full of poetry penned by people from around the globe on various topics ranging from trans-life, birthing, leaving a job you hate, etc. – great content.

  1. OTHER SASHAS

Sasha Martinez journals online about her reading, more than reviews, she gives an insight to how reading pretty much anything makes her feel and it’s great. She’s fun to read and has a great collection of photos for each post. Go follow, enjoy and try to keep up with such a voracious reader!

  1. THE MONSTERS UN

Want a fun blog where monsters meet at the United Nations? Search no more

  1. SERIAL WORD ABUSER

Reviews of anime, comics, films, campy movies and more can be found on this fun blog. Go follow it and be a witness to the series of abused words.

There’s so much good content out there! It was incredibly hard to make a selection – but this is my final list. I hope they accept the nomination and help promote other amazing blogs that aren’t in or haven’t reached the spotlight.

At the corner of happy and positive influence

Today, as part of my monthly crave-satisfying run I went to Walgreens to get me some chocolate (Lindt Dark Chocolate w/Coconut ) and some kettle popped corn.  As I usually do, I walked in, took a shopping cart and proceeded to walk through the isles – because that’s what I do when I have time to waste. I grabbed some dog food, and proceed to go to the snack isle and get me the pop corn, chocolate and added Tazo English breakfast tea.

Walking towards the register, I noticed my favorite cashier was working today. A young girl with auburn hair, a raspy voice and a lively smile that sort of reminds me of Punky Brewster (since I don’t know her name I’ll call her that from here on) – she always greets me with big smile. Today she was more enthusiastic than usual to see me, I guess it’s because I haven’t been there in a while. As she scans my items she already knows not to use plastic bags. I always refuse to use them because they’re non-recyclable items here and I don’t want any of the bags I toss out to end up in the ocean and subsequently in a sea turtles tummy when the poor thing confuses it for a jelly fish and starts chomping.

Punky, starts putting my items in my cloth tote bag and stops to see my tea, she enthusiastically tells me that she loves that tea and if it can be made iced, I tell her yes and proceed to give her instructions on how to make an ice black tea and she nods and grins wider. Then, she tells me that she “started using cloth bags like you [me]” and I smile. I congratulate her on the progress of thinking about the environment, the convenience and suggest she keeps a few of these tote bags in her car, just in case she needs to run an errand last minute – just so she never has to use a plastic bag.

I always keep a tote bag with me
I always keep a tote bag with me and sometimes, I even match it

After paying and exiting the store I realized what I had done the last six months: I had positively influenced a person to make smarter choices for the environment just by making smarter choices myself. I felt good. I was also reminded that people often forget how their actions influence others, be it positively or even negatively. I was glad I was in the former group of influence.

Although the Puerto Rican Senate recently approved a law that will prohibit the use and distribution of plastic bags throughout the island – after the agency of waste management along with a group of private citizens requested the ban, I have been taking my tote bags everywhere and promoting their use. All in the hopes to minimize waste; promote recycling and maintain the health of sea creatures that are primarily affected by this specific type of trash.

Many local people are confused as to how they are going to deal with the new law. Wondering how they’re going to carry their groceries, since they’re so accustomed to using the plastic bags. As I walk buy with my bag of totes, I hope to continue to be the positive influence that I already have been for Punky. Who so happily let me know that she’s doing what she’s seen be do for months – and that she feels good about it.

I guess what I’m trying to say with this post is that: while you think that you’re only doing things that will affect you personally, it will undoubtedly influence others – you have the choice of what kind of influence you want to be in the world. All I know is that I’m really happy with being a positive one….I also have to ask Punky’s name…dang

If you like to know about the good things some local surfers are doing for the community, watch my docu-short Forever Boogies, if fitness is more your thing, watch this awesome clip featuring Olympic Trainer Francisco “Capu” Ocasio and Bodyboarding champs Galdo Gomez and Fran Castro.

Open Heart

So, being that I live in a tropical island (for now) there’s something I realized when I recently went to New York City: I really love wearing flip flops and tennis shoes with light socks. With that said…my recent visit to NYC was busy, invigorating and inspiring. While I do miss the diversity in people and food, as well as missing that I don’t have to drive everywhere. I feel violently stripped of my independence because I can’t just jump into my car and go anywhere my heart yearns for.

Mr. & Mrs. Marijanski!
Mr. & Mrs. Marijanski!

The past two weeks I spent it helping one of my best friends organize her wedding. As her maid of honor I helped her with flowers, selecting gifts for the bridesmaids and everything else that would entail being not only a maid of honor, but a wedding planner…and three assistants. Even though I have family in the City, I didn’t really tell anyone I was there until the day after the wedding because I knew I wasn’t going to have time to spend with them – harsh I know, but I knew I wasn’t even going to be able to breathe, much less travel anywhere to see anyone.

I also wanted to make sure that I had hours to be able to talk, laugh and enjoy my family without having to worry about needed to go back and deal with wedding stuff. So, as my friend was planning the celebration of the journey she’s going to take with the love of her life, I made sure she had my undivided attention – to ensure the process was easier. That was the first week, and the wedding went off beautifully.

The day after, I slept. Like a baby. The following week I went to the scheduled appointment to donate platelets at the New York City Blood Center, after a little over an hour and almost an entire IV bag filled with my white matter, I gathered my strength and went uptown to see my grandfather on his birthday. He was so surprised he gave me a tight hug and his eyes filled with tears. At 89 years young, the only man I’ve known in a grandparent position was emotional, smaller than what I remembered him being when I was a child, but still as loud and enthusiastic about his Mets.

don't be fooled by his grumpy look - Grandpa is a total sweetheart
don’t be fooled by his grumpy look – Grandpa is a total sweetheart

We spoke about all things Puerto Rico, New York, and my work. Although he doesn’t quite understand what it means to make movies – well, independent movies on hardly any budget, he’s very supportive of my work. He’s seen my documentary Forever Boogies and loves it. Of course, that’s something I’m extremely happy about. Leaving late, I realized how much I missed him, and my grandmother. While she and I didn’t always have the best of relationships – she actually was extremely abusive towards me when I was a child – I now enjoy the benefits of having a relationship with the only grandparents I have left in this life.

That second week I was able to enjoy a great Friday. As a ‘thank you’ for all my efforts as a maid of honor, I was given tickets to see Joel and Victoria Osteen at Barclay’s Center in Brooklyn. Arriving early, I wanted to make sure I skipped the long lines that I was sure were going to take over the block. At 11:30am I was within the first 15 people in my line (there were six lines). I was behind two Colombian ladies who were talking about their families back home (gossip) and a Dominican lady and her friend were behind me – both of which were complaining when two elderly and disabled African American women skipped the line before us. Silently I listened to all the harsh comments in Spanish whispered behind me, as I watched these two women struggle in the cold air with their wheelchair and walker respectively. At one moment I felt compelled to look behind me and I saw that the clearly defined six lines merged into a giant single line as it wrapped around the block – obstructing the entry for the subway. Everyone was eager to see the Pastor Osteen.

A night of hope with Joel & Victoria Osteen
A night of hope with Joel & Victoria Osteen

As soon as I walked in and got my ticket stub, I saw a table for World Vision, and immediately felt bad that I couldn’t afford to sponsor a child right then and there. Then I tried to excuse my lack of finances with the fact that earlier that week I donated an insane amount of platelets that will undoubtedly help children with Cancer “you still helped someone!” I said to myself as I walked away from the photo of the child that captured my attention. His beautiful hazel eyes against his dark skin asking for some type of help from anyone…his frame a little too thin for his height and age. “I’ll help you soon, I promise” I repeated to myself as if he were in my brain and could hear my thoughts.

Further walking towards my section I stopped by a table and purchased a book for $10 and a t-shirt for $20 (also a gift from my friend), joyfully I walked to my seat and prepared to personally hear the message I’d only been able to watch on television. The Osteen children came out signing with the band and wowed me. I’m not being biased – not at all, but I have to say, they both sing beautifully, although my favorite is Alexandra, her voice is so clear, strong, and with a perfect degree of rasp that is completely delightful. Their rendition of the classic Amazing Grace is simply moving. October 16 is a day I will never forget.

I felt every word, ever emotion went running through me and my mind was clear of every decision that was eating at me. I had been considering so many things, so many huge decisions. Do I stay, do I go? What if my father gets really ill again? What if I don’t make it? What if I can’t make it back if he gets sick again? Extremely depressing decisions to make all whilst aggressively attempting to make my career take off – then I heard the message that gave me hope…the message that cleared the clouds from the sky and opened my heart – the message that changed my life.

“Let the wind blow you toward the right direction,
quit fighting what He has in store for you…
Sometimes God will deliver you from the fire, other times,
He will make you fireproof and deliver you through the fire”

While I don’t want to spoil anything, there are changes that are coming. My life has been revived; my spirit has been freed from the chains of guilt and fear that crippled me for so long. My heart has been opened and I welcomed my destiny fully.

I will complete two films, even if that means I have to finance everything myself and make the production scale smaller than what I wanted to – it’s not something I’m foreign to, I mean I did it with my debut docu-short. The world will know my work, and will be positively influenced by it. That’s what really matters to me: getting the message out there.