Here's the thing, I find myself inspired in a way that I have never been before and it comes from a very unexpected source. A source that time and time again, through various voices in my head and in my life, I’ve told myself that it should not come from.
I was just starting to figure out my groove, re-starting my life and career in the place I needed to be—back in Brooklyn.
I was just starting out in my new leadership position working with students to help them find their voice through the power of media and the art of storytelling.
I was in the middle of writing a huge grant proposal, suffering my usual bout of writer's block, when the inspiration came.
My boss asked me to get on the phone with an educator to discuss his student's project.
"Hello, how are you?" he said.
In that moment, that hello felt like something I hadn't felt in a long time. I couldn't quite put into words what I felt at the time, listening to this other person on the line talking so eloquently and passionately about his students, but it was familiar and new all at the same time. All this from a phone call. Right after that conversation, I sat back in front of my computer and wrote the 10-page outline for the grant proposal.
A few weeks later, still in the midst of the proposal and finding myself in the middle of writer's block yet again, I was prepping for an event at a school. It was 10 am, and we were in the middle of a film shoot, so I was dressed in my film clothes (all black and a beanie), dancing to my own beat and getting the classroom prepared when I heard a voice behind me say, "Hello." I turned around and there he was.
It took me a minute to collect myself because I wasn't expecting the feelings that came then, that same familiarity and excitement , now coupled with fear.
A fear I'm all too familiar with. A fear that I own, and I know I must work on, but I will get back to that later.
He was two hours early, and as I've come to know him, he has a habit of doing that (which I find refreshing). He sat reading a book while I prepared the classroom—his classroom as he later pointed out. Every time I looked up, he looked up. Every time someone came into the room and I told an awkward joke, he laughed before the other person did.
Who was this guy? How dare he laugh at my inappropriate jokes without me having to apologize for making them? Familiarity, excitement, fear, and now…comfort. The afternoon went on and I got to hear him talk more about his students and how he works with them. That night, I finished the grant proposal. Inspired much?
Coming back to that fear I spoke about earlier, I can't tell you when it started but I know it has a lot to do with what I was exposed to growing up. It has to do with beauty. I know that I’m smart, that I work hard, that I'm somewhat talented, that I'm weirdly funny, and that I have a good heart, but I've never felt beautiful, never in the way that I grew up thinking what beauty is and was.
What media taught me was that white, tall, and thin was beautiful. I'm none of those things. I know it's ridiculous now to even think that. I'm even embarrassed writing about it now, but it's genuinely what I felt. My view has changed as I've gotten older and been surrounded by so many beautiful and inspiring women of different and all walks of life who have taken me under their wing and helped me to build my confidence.
I try to bring that now to the students I work with, because it breaks my heart to think that they have those same feelings I felt. But, I still have those moments where I feel like less. It's no one's fault but my own. So my big fear is that I'm not good enough because I'm not beautiful. This fear has gotten in my of a lot of “almosts” and I've missed out on a lot of great guys who just ended up being friends because I drew that line, or I walked away before they could.
I've never wanted to walk through that fear more than I do now.
Not just because of this guy, but because I know it has held me back in so many parts of my life. I feel like I'm on the cusp of something and I will get there if I get past this. It's important that I do this for those who are counting on me as well. Most don't even know that I carry this fear. I'm ashamed to admit it to them.
"Why don't you just ask him out, or let him know how you feel," they always tell me.
Truth is I can't expect him to feel anything for me, if I don't begin to love myself first. So, as I try to work through this, I hope it happens in our time, when I am ready.
So you know that feeling I couldn't quite explain the first time I heard his voice on the phone? I know exactly what it is now. It wasn't just being able to write a grant proposal that his presence suddenly inspired me to do. It was also to be able to write again, period. I have written every day since.
Being able to write in that way again, has led me to a greater understanding of myself and where I want to be. That career path and that groove I was on only got clearer and louder.
There's this feeling I get whenever I speak to him, whenever I get a text from him, whenever he is around me, and ache I feel when we don't speak.
I know what it is. It's home.
How often does this feeling come in our lifetime?
Cecilia works with underrepresented youth in her hometown of Brooklyn, New York, using her talent in film to tell their stories. She is a Filipina.