It’s interesting how sometimes life can challenge the strength of your conviction by putting you in the situation to question a decision you made. This is a glimpse to my story from being a healthcare professional to producing FollowLeadLOVE.
February 14th of 2020 was my last day working full time for a Rehabilitation Agency as a Traveling Supervisor/Clinical Specialist. My decision to leave a stable career in healthcare doesn’t have anything to do with the company I was working for. As a matter of fact, I’m quite satisfied and happy with my work responsibilities and my position within the company. It has something more to do with following my gut instinct and listening to my heart as far as my next journey through life.
It all started with a conversation with the main subjects of the documentary FollowLeadLOVE over dinner around April of 2019. At that time, I just met Kristine Bendul (main subject) and have known Abdiel Jacobsen (main subject) for quite some time. One of the topics of our conversation was about their dance partnership and their vision as professional dance partners. Call it divine intervention or maybe having consumed a few glasses of wine, I told them that what they are trying to do is socially & culturally relevant, plus their backstories are something out of a fictional film, that they should have a documentary about it. I guess, they had this “aha” moment that they decided to call the Award Winning Brian Thomas to be their Director. However, he (Brian Thomas) suggested that they will need a Producer. Like the professional dancers they are, they synchronically without missing a beat, looked at me at the same time, and for lack of better words, begged me to be their “pretend Producer” until they could find one. At that time, I believed that the spirit of wine took over me and I replied, “why not.” And that moment when I responded “why not” will forever change my life’s trajectory.
In order to keep up with my “pretend Producer” status, I decided to actually join them on a weekend of June 2019 as they compete and perform at Disco America in Essington, PA . To make the long story short, that weekend resonated something from within me that led me to decide to stop pretending and for real-produce a documentary about their journey. By the way, at that time, I didn't know anything about producing films nor was it even on my agenda. That is a different story in itself.
Why did I decide to actually produce a documentary about Abdiel and Kristine’s journey as dance partners ? Even after the fact I don’t have any lick of experience in doing so? Well, that weekend made me realize that perhaps being happy and satisfied weren’t enough to live your life to the fullest. Perhaps, in order to create the change that you want from within, you need to aim for joy and challenge. And that opportunity presented itself to me in a form of going through an unchartered territory of producing FollowLeadLOVE.
One may ask, what happened that weekend? Let me try to explain this the best way I can, you know when you witness and experience something that is so transcending it gives you that tingling sensation, bigger than yourself moment? That’s what I felt ! Just listening about their vision as a dance partner did not provide enough justice it deserves, especially after witnessing firsthand how their message can resonate beyond dance. What they are trying to do needs to be forever immortalized through film and it just happened that the opportunity to be part of it as a producer auspiciously landed in my lap.
FollowLeadLOVE is about a Queer African-American and an Aging Asian Female Broadway Veteran set out to break the barriers of the world of professional ballroom competition where male is lead and female to follow. Throughout, they discover that what they are doing reflects on bigger issues in our political & socio-cultural climate. This is a film that transcends beyond the world of dance. A documentary that looks into the nuances of our social & cultural landscape on issues such as Inclusiveness, Diversity, Acceptance, Female Empowerment & Equality. This synopsis pretty much encapsulates my feeling and thinking after being fully cognizant of Abdiel and Kristine’s mission. Hence, I made the decision to take the leap of faith from healthcare to producing this documentary film project.
Here’s another kicker, a month after I left my stable healthcare career, the lockdown due to the Pandemic caused by COVID-19 was strictly implemented at least in NYC. Stock Markets taking a massive nosedive, businesses closing, unemployment reaching fever pitch, quarantine and social distancing all these uncertainties affecting both our Global Economy and Citizens. Believe me, if I have to charge a dollar for every time I hear or imply that my timing was unfortunate, I will have enough money to make a downpayment for a penthouse apartment in Manhattan. Well, I don’t blame them, it can be perceived as a real bad timing. However, instead of getting stuck and dwelling on that thought, I want to go through this with optimism. Don’t get me wrong, it did add another level of challenge to me as the producer of the documentary looking to raise funds to complete the film in the midst of global chaos.
One of the books that I have read is “The Power of Kabbalah” by Yehuda Berg. Even Though, I don’t practice Kabbalah, its contents provide me with some level of inspiration. One of the excerpts from the book that resonated to me especially during trying times, is the part when it stated about “Obstacles are our opportunity to connect to the light.” That “transforming is the purpose of our lives, and only an obstacle can give us that opportunity.” It provided me with a different perspective on taking this obstacle as an opportunity to not only use my time to raise funds for FollowLeadLOVE but to also optimize this new found platform in honing my true life’s Purpose, Mission, Vision and Values.
Taking a major leap of faith requires going through an adventure of a lifetime and producing FollowLeadLOVE is my next big adventure. The more I trek through this, the more it provides me with my WHYs rather than my WHATs. It made me realize my true purpose which is to provide a humanizing approach while helping others expand their purpose using film producing as one of my mediums. It also reinvigorates my mission of bringing about the true essence of humanity and being one of the vessels to the marginalized, underrepresented & the voiceless with my chosen platform. FollowLeadLOVE affirms that my managing experience in healthcare is just a gateway to producing films that I can utilize toward my vision of creating a thriving socio-cultural ecosystem where Representation, Diversity and Inclusion are abundant. The decision to transition from “pretend” to “for real” produce FollowLeadLOVE helped facilitate a clearer definition of my values which are, be a catalyst for change, facilitate a growth frame of mind, collaborative spirit, thinking outside the box & continuous expanding of my purpose so I can help others expand theirs.
Yes, life is full of interesting circumstances that constantly challenge someone’s strength of conviction. Having decided to take a major career leap of faith right at the cusps of Pandemic chaos, so I can fully devote my time to produce the documentary entitled FollowLeadLOVE may be a fool’s errand for some. However, this fool knows that this is another way of affirming a personal philosophy of his...It doesn’t matter who you are, where you from & what journey you are in, as long as you always aim to be a better version of yourself knowing that YOU deserve nothing less.
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