I woke up this morning with a small headcold and a case of insecurity. My body is telling me I need so slow down and stay home, but my energy level is up enough to support my mind wandering in what feels like 1,000 directions contemplating what exactly I am doing in Anchorage. There is so much potential in Anchorage for See Stories, but where should I start? Will it work out here for See Stories? Will I be able to materially support myself and my son in the way I want to?
I am aware that as a business owner I am supposed to project an image of confidence, and as an educator I work to support self-esteem in my students. I have never been good at trying to project an image, but my authentic self tends to be confident and enthusiastic. Yet here I am facing my insecurities, one of the most human experiences one can have. Everything has changed in the past two months, I’ve moved with Tchabo to Anchorage, my grandparents passed away, Tchabo started kindergarden, and I’m reframing my work model to emphasize local Anchorage projects so that I don’t have to take Tchabo continuously out of school. In a way it’s shocking that I’ve been doing as well as I have given all the change in my life, and yet that feels like little consolation in the face of today’s insecurity.
And yet this is a reality that business owners (and everyone!) has to face. It is an insecure world. Sometimes there are too many clients, other times too few. Sometimes payment comes on time, sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes I spend a week writing a grant to create a project for myself, and most often the grant doesn’t come through. Sometimes I look in the mirror and wonder if there is something wrong with me that I choose this life. Why don’t you get a regular job, Marie?! Or even more insidious… stop with the entrepreneurial bit, get a consistent job, it’s the responsible thing to do… as a single mom you OUGHT to.
And yet I trust in my continual calling to run See Stories and to be an entrepreneur. I’ve been like this since I was a teenager, and I’ve always cherished this about myself even when it’s hard. I don’t want to live in a compartmentalized way, work, personal, parenting… I want my life to be in a balance. With See Stories, Tchabo can travel with me to a village to be with me as I teach. I can make a family reunion into a film workshop in my own village in Nebraska, spending time with family and delving into community stories with the next generation. When I need personal time I can take it, and when I am ready to be in the world I can go. And yet inevitably, there are moments and days when it is hard.
Several days ago I picked up Victor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning as if I unconsciously knew that I would struggle with insecurity today. As I nurse my cold and my emotions I read his instructions that seem directed precisely at me in this moment: “Don't aim at success. The more you aim at it and make it a target, the more you are going to miss it. For success, like happiness, cannot be pursued; it must ensue, and it only does so as the unintended side effect of one's personal dedication to a cause greater than oneself.” I know this in my bones, even as my mind spins with questions. I am responding to my own particular call in this particular moment in the best way I know how.
Sometimes the reminder about the “cause greater than oneself” is so tiny that it disappears next to the deafening noise of the mind’s chatter. As I respond to Frankl’s call, I realize that today a student from my last workshop just wrote me that she had an exciting interview with a woman who spoke Swedish. She is crafting a film on Swedish traditions in Wausa, the town of my late grandparents. A beloved student and friend from Uganda wrote me to say hi and check in, a young woman whose story and strength of spirit continually inspires me. Ultimately it’s my students, and the next generation, that inspire me to continue with See Stories. As a film educator, I get to support youth to share and engage in stories that are meaningful to them.
While I sit with both my insecurities and my inspiration, I also realize there are limits to what one person, and to what I, can do. And that’s okay. I follow my bigger call as best I can, but that doesn’t always have to look momentous. It can be as simple as a student doing an interview that touched her. Or a conversation with a former student about how she sees her path forward in Uganda. If there is one thing I would like to go back in time and tell my 20 year old self, it’s that the difference you make doesn’t have to look huge to be meaningful. In a world obsessed with “scaling up” and “broadening impacts” I am content to “scale down” and focus on the little openings. I wonder where they lead…
*I would like to acknowledge my teacher, mentor, and friend Lydia Ossorgin for her conversation that helped me to refine this blog post.