By the time 2010 rolled around, I’d just begun writing for two publications, one for pay and one for free movie passes. Tri-C started giving me more classes to teach. And word of mouth regarding the Career Coaching began to spread. Additionally, various local organizations began to invite me to guest-speak (pro-bono). Whether it was on business, marketing or jobs, at a time when life still felt dark, others asked me to be their light.
One of the most emotional talks I gave was at the Cleveland City Mission. The Christian based rehabilitation organization has both a male and female shelter, strategically positioned on opposite ends of town. And when life felt most bleak, speaking with these audiences offered a certain perspective that my still confused soul craved. Some of the women were victims of physical abuse. Some of the men had served jail time. All the people, with the tremendous work that the City Mission of Cleveland provides, were focused on turning their lives around. Each of us is broken, and there’s no magic super glue to fix everyone.
If nothing else, I wanted to offer these people hope. Some level of it. And the only way I could do that is by giving them the truth. Luckily, once I began sharing my story with them, the one that began way before Corporate America. When my family came here as immigrants, lived in the Chicago projects a la Good Times and how nothing was ever handed to us. In one case, I went even further back, to Kiev, Ukraine, and fighting Nazis. Not me, of course. But my family certainly. Struggle is struggle and what I learned during those speaking engagements – really conversations – is that sometimes the only way people will connect with you is if they feel the depth of your struggle matches theirs.
That summer also planted the seeds for two new book projects. Anita Myers, a friend from grade school, contacted me and knowing I’d written some novellas, asked me to join her on a new book journey, one that would help people with their personal lives. And that summer? A man I had briefly dated dumped me on a text message and Anita encouraged me to keep a 30 day diary of the post break-up experience. I reluctantly accepted both of her challenges and after the month was over, reached out to one Barri Evins, who was my mentor at the Cinestory Screenwriting retreat. I sent her the draft and asked if she’d work with me on it. She said yes, under one condition, “That you cut out the bullshit and get to the heart of the matter.”
In 2010, between teaching Art of Story and eventually Screenwrting at Tri-C, the contributions to both online publications and the simultaneous structure building of two books, storytelling, in its written form, took center stage. All the while, the economy still sucked, clients didn’t yet cover all the bills and you couldn’t pay those bills with all the movie passes in the world. So while I knew that I was on track, perhaps, I thought, I should be riding a different train line. But where would I get my boarding pass?