Category Archives: Art

Lesson #365: The final lesson.

7/20/15.

The day I started this blog, I was on my closet floor crying because it felt like my life had become a continuous bad day.

Now I’m sitting here on a mocha-colored couch outside of a coffee shop all the way across the country in California, typing my last lesson, and still crying.

It’s good to know some things don’t change.

When I woke up today, all I could think was:

“Mia. It’s been 365 days.”

I couldn’t grasp the number. Trying to process it was like standing on the edge of a cliff, looking out at the vastness, and becoming overwhelmed with fear.

Except I had already done it.

Four seasons, twelve months, 365 days.

I can’t begin to explain the amount of joy, the depth of gratitude, the undeniable sadness, and the expanse of excitement I am feeling right now.

It’s been 365 days, and my life has changed in ways I never thought it would, or could. I have experienced so many things and seen so much in just a single year, and I’ve gotten to express every part of it.

A few months ago, someone told me something. I never wrote it into a lesson because something seemingly more prominent stole the day, but I remember scrambling to write it down, and hoping and praying that the right time would come along again to share it with you all. And I think today is that day.

It literally felt like everything I knew was falling apart in that moment and in the moments that followed—and I’m sure you’ve all experienced the feeling. I walked to work sobbing, and although I cleared my eyes in time before checking in with my boss, she knew something was wrong. After confiding in her, she told me something I’ll never forget.

“The reality of it now is not the reality of it forever—I promise.”

And after this year, and this blog, nothing in my life has ever rang more true.

It just so happens that I started this blog during a dark time in my life, and now it’s ending during the best.

In the nowhere-near-linear process of this turn around, I’ve learned so, so much. Perfection isn’t real. Money can’t buy you happiness. It takes time and guts to heal. Run with full abandon towards what you love, and cut loose what you don’t. Culture and beauty is everywhere. You are seen. People are shitty. People are fantastic. Life is great—or at least it can be if you make it.

From New York to Maryland to North Carolina to Florida. From my beloved hometown of Virginia Beach, VA, to my second life at school in the mountains of Harrisonburg, VA, to landing my dream internship in Los Angeles, California.

It’s been 365 days since I pressed the little blue button to create this account, and hit “publish” on a lesson for the very first time. If I’m being honest—I cannot begin to tell you how utterly happy and relieved I am that I don’t have to come home exhausted at the end of every night and write a lesson. But I also can’t begin tell you how truly sad I am to let this piece of my life go. It’s not every day you get to say you documented each day of your life for an entire year, until you do. And now that it’s over, I’m not quite sure what I’m going to do without my little escape, my outlet, and my canvas for words.

There are truly no words for how bittersweet this is. And if there is a step beyond having no words, then I really have none for how extremely grateful I am.

First, I am always completely and entirely thankful for my God. I know that none of the events in my life go without reason, and that my main man has been by my side through it all. Many times throughout this year my head was more focused on my feet than the sky. I loathed how distracted, busy, and cloudy minded I could be—but He never once left me. I am grateful for the good. I am grateful for the bad. And I am continually and eternally grateful for the grace of God. Even though this (literal) chapter of my life is ending, I am excited to see where He will guide me next.

To my wonderful parents, my special friends, and some really great family members—thank you. Not just for giving me great moments to learn from, but for always pushing me and encouraging me. Nights got HARD. Some days I had so much to do that I wouldn’t be able to start my lesson until 1am. My three options were usually to 1) suck it up and write, 2) cry and write, or 3) go to sleep, wake up the next morning, and then cry and write because now I was behind on a post when I “promised” I never would be. But your constant love and support has been something that’s carried me through, and it doesn’t go unnoticed. All it took was one little comment on the blog or on Facebook or walking across campus to make me look forward to writing the next one. It’s the simple things. You each had a hand in inspiring all these people as well. And I thank you. You know who you are.

To the not so great people—I want to thank you too. After this year, I have a better idea of the kind of people I do and don’t want in my life. I’ve learned that people can teach who you don’t want to be and what you don’t want to be like, and those lessons are just as important. You all have been blessings in my life as well.

To the guest lessonists—thank you for being apart of something so special. Thank you for telling your story.

And of course—the readers. You are all so special to me. Thank you for lending a listening ear. I hope you have all learned and grown in some way. If you remember just one thing from these 365 days—then I’ve done my job.

I thank this blog for allowing me the space to not be perfect. I thank this blog for teaching me about self control and dedication—but for also teaching me about the fact that shit happens. Living comes before anything else, and you have to momentarily leave all guilt and thoughts if you’re going to do it fully. I thank this blog for teaching me how to be scared, but doing it (or writing it) anyway. I thank this blog for teaching me to live with thicker skin, but to be open, honest, and vulnerable.

Most of all, I want to thank this blog for challenging me to look for the best in each and every single day—especially when there was no “best” in the day—for confronting it, expressing it, and turning it into something meaningful.

I will miss this so much.

I no longer have an excuse to find the best in each day—but I hope this year has taught me how.

It’s good to know some things don’t change.

But it’s good to know some things do.

This blog has added so much color to my life. It been more than a blog for me; it has been a journey. And I can’t believe I did it.

It feels weird coming to the end. It feels like I’m not finished; like there’s so much more to say.

And that’s because there is.

The lessons we learn are perennial. They will continue to arise in many shapes, sizes, and forms.

It all branches on one big tree. They stem from the root of life, and they turn out to all be a part of the same foundation. I’ve found that all lessons all come back to the same core concepts, and this is what I’ve come to know.

Do what makes you happy,

be passionate, compassionate, and kind,

and always, always, always keep learning.

The world will keep telling us this time and time again.

And so will I.

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Day 365.

Lesson #361: Hey, I just met you. And this is crazy.

7/16/15.

Today I rolled out of bed at 5:30am to start getting ready for my day, but no coffee was needed because I was headed to the Emmy Nomination Announcement Ceremony for my internship that morning—and that was enough to fuel me for the entire day.

I arrived at the Pacific Design Center and walked nervously through the beautiful halls complete with sleek modern design and old-fashioned gold detailing. I followed the Emmy Nomination signs to the theater destination. IMG_7368 I assumed I’d report directly to a set-up area labeled E! News like a few of the other shoots I had been on. I thought I would sit there until the crew and the producer arrived, and then I’d help set up.

Surprise.

When I arrived upstairs just shy of 7am, there was no area labeled E! News.  There was a medium-sized room full of breakfast foods and fruit, hot coffee, and a large number of very scary real life adults.

I love engaging with new people. But about 30 or 40 busy, experienced, and most likely stressed out professionals running around at 8 in the morning?

Not so much.

For close to an hour, I waited in a room with retro couches and standing tables packed with producers, camera operators, sound engineers, television hosts, reporters, anchors, and other high-up workers. The producer at E! that I was working under for the morning wasn’t there yet, so I had an hour to either sit by myself in the corner, or use this as an opportunity to chat it up as many industry heads as I could.

I sat in the corner by myself.

Luckily, I had an everything bagel and some strawberries and fruit to keep me company.

A few kind texts from my mom, too.

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I chose a seat in the corner next to a guy in his late 20s/early 30s—mostly because he didn’t seem as intimidating as the others and he was on his phone. This meant I wouldn’t have to awkwardly attempt to talk to him, awkwardly keep a conversation going, or scope out whether he was too busy to talk or if he didn’t want to talk at all.

I knew what an opportunity I was passing up, not out on the floor (or on the couch) interacting with others.

I mean—these are people IN the industry.

But I honestly couldn’t bring myself to do it.

I look 16, I’m obviously younger than the rest of them, and I had trouble thinking I would be taken seriously. What would someone do if I approached them to talk?

Who was I to them?

As soon as the guy next to me got off the phone, he turned to me, rolled his eyes with a kind humor, and a lightheartedly said: “Roommate drama.” I laughed and replied: “Yea, everyone knows about that.” We began talking.

Our conversation was interesting, and it lasted a good while. I told him why I was out here, how I got to where I am, and what I want (or think I want) to do. He seemed genuinely interested; it took me by surprise. Not that he seemed rude or mean from the beginning—or that any of these people did—it was just the fact that he was giving me a piece of his time. And that’s a precious, hot commidity out here.

After the first part of the conversation and a little bit of back and forth about our lives, I ask him what he does and how he likes it.

Turns out, he’s a producer at Time Warner.

We exchanged information, and now I have a new LA friend. Or at least, a connection.

A few minutes after 8am, we were finally allowed into the theater where the announcements would soon take place. Each network lined up in a row to begin preparing to record the live event. A few minutes later, the celebrity announcers, Uzo Aduba and Catt Dealy, gracefully pranced onto stage to greet the house and begin listing the lucky nominees. They were surprised at the end of the announcements when the president of the Television Academy came out on stage to read the last two categories. Both of them were nominated for their own show! They didn’t put that part in the rehearsal, so they had absolutely no idea it was coming. I had a huge smile on my face, watching the two amazing women humbly and adorably freak out on stage as they were selected for such an honor—especially Catt in her british accent.

Both seemed humble and sweet. Uzo was absolutely beautiful (she doesn’t have real life crazy eyes…hence the reason she deserves an Emmy) and flawless, and Catt light up the stage with the positive energy and presence she radiates. Before the interview, I told Catt I loved her romper (seriously it was so cute) and she smiled and laughed and thanked me. She went on to tell me how she loved them because they reminded her of Jimmy Kimmel’s pajamas. After the interview she thanked the crew and turned to thank me (for whatever reason). I wanted to shed a single tear of happiness, but I kept it together. What a kind lady.

On the way back to my car, I found myself walking next to an older lady on the way down the large ballroom stairs. She commented on how marvelous and grand the stairs were, and how she was waiting for her prince at the bottom. I laughed and made a joke about still waiting for my prince to come, and she said “I’ve been waiting for years.” We began talking—and again—I had a lovely conversation with yet another person.

Turns out, she’s a producer at the Television Academy for the Emmy’s and Tony’s.

I wanted to fall over and die.

I also wanted to tell her how funny and ironic it was that I applied to the Television Academy internship and didn’t get it—but somehow I still ended up here anyway.

I wasn’t sure if we were on that level yet, so I didn’t.

Even at my own internship, in one of the first weeks I ran into the executive producer in the bathroom without knowing it.

Sometimes we come across the best people in the most mundane of places.

Whether it’s a producer, a stranger with an interesting or inspiring past, your next best friend, or your future significant other—you never know who you are speaking with.

Be kind to all,

and most of all,

don’t be afraid to say hello.

Day 361.

Lesson #357: Get her to the Getty.

7/12/15.

As soon as the museum director said “There’s a great power in observing anything” in the orientation video, I knew it was going to be a good day.

Today we took a trip to the Getty Museum.

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When we looked up from the bottom of the highway, we spotted the large white museum sitting atop a tree-scattered mountain with a beautiful view. If ever a building could be majestic, it was this one. Upon riding the tram up the mountainside and stepping into each of the massive buildings, we found the interiors rich with paintings, busts, sculptures, photos, and decorative antiques lining every wall and corner of each room. Outside of the gorgeous stone and marble walls, we zig-zagged down a staircase into the garden. There were bright green trees, plants, flowers in full bloom, and a small stream running through the garden that dropped into a waterfall. Everything about the museum was pristine, well designed, and absolutely breathtaking.

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Although we stuck together as a group at first, we quickly realized that the only way to really experience the art was to experience it ourselves. As certain pieces of work caught our eye and certain exhibits drew our attention, we began to split off and explore the mysteries of the museum on our own.

I stopped and viewed many of the paintings, sculptures, and antiques, listening to the stories behind the art on an app for the museum through headphones. The last exhibit I went to and the one that captured my heart, was the photography exhibit, “Light, Paper, Process: Reinventing Photography.”

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I strolled through the wooden-floored rooms, taking in the pictures of birds with their wings spread and the moon floating through the night sky. I was pleased with the pictures; they were beautiful, but it was easy to just look at them, appreciate them, and quickly move on. Then a small corner room in the back of the exhibit really captured my attention. All of the photos in the room were by a photographer I had never heard of named Matthew Brandt.

I walked over to a series of photos by him titled Rainbow Lake. For these photos, Brandt soaked the prints of the shots he took of a lake in the actual water from the lake. I thought they were fascinating and interesting, but another piece of his was drawing me from across the room.

The first picture of the day that I was completely and utterly enthralled with and completely stopped by, was his photo titled Mathers Department Store, Pasadena, 1971. At first glance, it’s only a photograph of a building falling over. But something about it was magnetizing to me. I immediately typed in the code under the painting and listened to the picture’s story on the Getty app; I now understood I felt that way for a good reason.

Brandt’s voice filled my headphones, telling me how he looks up old photos in the Los Angeles Public Library Archive. When he finds a photo he likes, he takes it. This specific photo happened to be of a department store being torn down in Pasadena, California.

He went to the site in the picture that exists now, and swept up the dust from the ground there. Brandt didn’t go in with his camera or any other tools. Just a small bin to put the dust in.

He brought back the dust to use as pigment over the picture.

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00036082-3 “Mathers Department Store, Pasadena, 1971”; Matthew Brandt, American, born 1982; Pasadena, California, United States, North America; 2013; Gum bichromate print; Image: 110.5 x 143.5 cm (43 1/2 x 56 1/2 in.); 2014.17

Brandt said he did this because he was fascinated with the “conflation of time.” I’ve always been fascinated by time and its mysteries and wonders as well. It was at this moment that I fell in love with the photo even more.

To be completely honest, when I got to the previous paragraph, I realized I still had no idea what I wanted to say in this lesson. I knew I wanted to talk about my trip to the Getty and my fascination with the Matthew Brandt photo, but I had no idea what the actual lesson was. The photograph was riveting and captivating and genius—but what did it teach me?

I originally thought: “Ooh, this could spark thought and discussion about time and the past and the present and how the two join together sometimes.” But it quickly dawned on me that from the very beginning, I knew what this lesson was truly about.

When we are captivated by something; when we are fascinated and floored and curious and in awe—we should chase after those feelings and capture them.

We should explore it, and think about it, and discuss it.

To me, that’s the definition of appreciation: loving something and caring enough to recognize it and acknowledge it.

We won’t always know or understand why we are so drawn to something.

And in a sense, it doesn’t really matter.

But what matters is that we give it the appreciation it deserves,

and then we share it with the world.

It’s like a smile for the soul.

I don’t know about you—but I think we could all use a little more of that.

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Day 357.

Lesson #331: Adult things.

6/16/15.

Guys, I’m an adult.

I know because of two reasons.

1) Yesterday, I wore white pants and didn’t spill anything on them.

2) Today, I went to my first ever real networking event.

It was like a whole new world. For me, it’s pretty easy to walk right up to people and say hi. But to be put in a room to do that—on purpose?

Eh…a little awkward.

But it ended up being a lot, a lot of fun.

Actually, I had a ball.

And I learned a few things too.

I’ve mentioned it before, but this summer I’m in a LA study “abroad” program with my university. Tonight was the program’s five year reunion dinner.

I talked to quite a few people, but the first person that really struck me was a wonderful young woman not too much older than myself. She did the program a few years ago and knew she wanted to live out here; now she’s currently out in LA doing her thing, working with ABC network, and making it on her own. The jaw dropper? She graduated college in two and a half years.

Me and the other girls talking to her were completely fascinated, and floored. Of course I asked: How?

“I made it happen.”

After interning in California, she knew she wanted to finish school but she knew she wanted to get out here as fast as possible. She met and talked to who she needed to talk to, she managed to get the big signature (they originally told her it wasn’t allowed), and she somehow survived nine classes every semester for two semesters (I can barely survive five). Somewhere between her telling us about her journey and me asking how she was so fearless, she replied:

“I don’t like rules. But I don’t like cheating, either. It’s all about winding your way through and then in.”

She told us when she got to LA, she had already been calling ABC for a period of time telling them, “Look, I’m coming to California in a month. Here’s my qualifications. Can you get me an interview?” They said they couldn’t promise, but she didn’t give up. The day she got to Cali, she called them saying, “Hey, it’s me. I’m coming in now, I’m here,” and then finally landed an interview. She didn’t get the position she wanted, but she did get a position starting with the company.

With that being said, I was definitely filling up on inspiration and taking mental notes from her as she talked, and I got this:

You don’t have to break the rules. But to stand out, you have to bend them.

The next guy I talked to was awesome. When he asked me what I want to do, I gave him my usual rundown:

1. I started making YouTube videos eight years ago.

2. I fell in love with development, pre-production, production, post production, engaging an audience and being on camera, and marketing—because I had to do all of it myself.

3. Now I love every step of creating videos and series and movies, which is a bust, because where do I start? I want to do all of it.

He gave me the best advice ever.

“Then do it. All of it.”

He told me about his journey as well; how he’s currently a writer and producer who also acts and is looking to make it in that way as well.

I got super excited because—well—same.

Finally, someone who understands!

When I asked him how to go about it this, because it’s generally frowned upon, he told me something like this:

“You have to put yourself out there. When people ask, you have to be honest and say, ‘Hey, this is all of what I want to do. I want to do all of this and act too.’ Then when an opportunity arises, you’ll be there, and people will have you in mind.”

It’s true. That’s how doors are opened.

And just by listening to these wonderful people and their great advice tonight, doors were opened for me just by listening and learning.

It all starts with a little bit of belief, a little bit of knowledge, and a little bit of inspiration.

Cheers.

Day 331.

Lesson #297: What a bridesmaid’s shoe and a camera can teach us all.

5/14/15.

Today I started editing the wedding I did videography for last week. I noticed that in some of the shots, I was so focused on whatever I was focusing on, I didn’t see that other things were wrong or out of place within the frame.

For example,

I got a beautiful shot of a bridesmaid’s wedding shoe.

It also just so happened to have a large piece of cardboard laying two inches in front of it.

Nice.

So let my amateur wedding videography skills be a lesson to all of us.

In fact, let it be a lesson about life.

1. Check what’s in your frame. Your subject isn’t the only thing that’s in the limelight.

Life translation: Pay attention to what’s going on around you. Focus is good—but when you become so fixated on one thing that you forget or neglect to acknowledge everything else? Not so much. It doesn’t matter whether that “thing” is a person, object, or goal. Are you so set on what you’re after that you’re missing out on other great “things”? Other people, opportunities, chances? Are you so fixed on what you want that you’re creating a negative space for yourself? For others?

2. Once you see something that needs to be removed from the frame to make it an even better shot, do it.

Life Translation: Don’t be afraid to move something that isn’t working in your frame—AKA—your life. You might have to move it a little to the right or a little to the left. That’s prioritizing. Sometimes, it’s just not right and you need to take it out all together. That’s okay too. Every once in a while, our frames needs re-assesing and our lenses need re-adjusting. My good friend Cherese and I talked about this the other night. She told me, “When people think conflict, they think that it’s the end of a relationship or friendship.  It’s not. Conflict is simply the chance to re-evaluate.” So do just that. Prioritize, move, remove, shoot, repeat. You’re the photographer and cinematographer of your life. You have creative reign.

Sometimes we get it wrong. Every shot won’t be perfect. Every shot can’t be perfect. But that doesn’t mean that we’re bad, or that this one shot reflects our abilities. It just means that we have the opportunity to learn from it. We have the chance to readjust.

And lucky for us, we get more than one shot in this life.

Life really is a roll of film.

So keep shooting.

Day 297.

Lesson #294: Drunk lessons.

5/11/15.

Tonight my wise friend, Michael, told me these words:

“Mia. You will meet a lot of people in your life. You will do a lot of things when you go out to LA. And you will know. You will just know.”

Michael was also drunk.

But drunken lessons are among some of the truest lessons in this world.

And knowing Michael, I know exactly what he meant.

People tell us constantly to trust our instincts and gut. But what exactly does that mean? Between deciphering what we’re feeling and questioning if it’s actually our gut or just our head, we often get caught up in the complexity of it all. We don’t know if what we feel is real. We don’t know how to tell. We forget how to do it. We forget what it means.

But the simplicity of “just knowing” applies to most everything in life.

When you know, you know.

And even if it isn’t too clear at first,

from the very first moments,

you know.

Follow it. Go with it. Trust it.

Day 294.

Lesson #291: What I learned when I just went for it.

5/8/15.

Whether you’re uncomfortable with stepping out of your comfort zone, scared you might fail, or embarrassed by the lack of things you know:

1. Start somewhere.

You don’t and won’t get experience if you never put yourself out there and physically go after what you want. Seth Kingsley, one of the head writers and producers at E!, emailed me this after I sent him my resume:

You rock. I love students who know what they want to do and go after it! I talk to kids all the time who say they want to be writers but don’t write. Or aspiring actors who don’t act. You, on the other hand, are getting things done! So keep it up.

I promise you, I didn’t realize that what I was doing was special. I still don’t. I’m just truly doing what I love to do. But what Seth said inspired me to think about my life and pursuing my dreams even more. Actually—it helped me today in my attitude towards tackling what seemed like something I didn’t know how to do or think I could do: just go for it.

A few months ago, a friend from high school saw my final video project that I talked about in a previous lesson, and asked me to film her wedding. My response:

“…………You know I’ve never done that before right?”

She told me she knew. But she believed in what I could do.

Honestly, I was scared shitless. All the way up until today, and even all the way through the wedding, I was terrified.

All I could keep thinking was: “Am I doing this right? Do I look stupid? Am I getting the right things?” 

My lesson of the day isn’t “how to stop nervous thoughts” or “overcome them” or ‘”solve them.” Oh, no. When you’re nervous, you’re nervous. When you’re scared, you’re scared.

But as you’ve probably heard before,

do it afraid.

Do it not knowing what you’re doing or if it’s right. Do it with questions. Do it with doubt.

But do it with belief that that you can get through it, that you will learn from it, and that it’s your first step towards something.

2.If you want something, don’t settle for not getting it.

Gonna be real for a moment.

Sometimes I just have to hope and pray the whole world doesn’t read this blog.

Tonight, I also met a really attractive and nice guy. And we ended up kissing.

This is completely not like me.

No. You don’t understand.

If an attractive person even looks in my direction, I’m like: “What are words?”

But tonight, I decided that it wasn’t going to end with me going home and wishing we had kissed. It was going to happen.

It was somewhat obvious that we might be into each other. And then it became blatantly obvious. We talked all night, but then it started to get late so I said bye. I looked back at him and walked really slow. He laughed at me from down the hallway and caught up with me to walk me out. When we got to the door, we awkwardly stood there for a minute and then said bye again and went our separate ways. I got in my car and was like, “What? What? No. I’m not leaving until—no.” So I seriously got out of the car, went back in, pretended I left something (classic), found him, and made him walk me to car.

You know how it went from there.

Anyway.

This is really awkward. I’m literally posting this on the internet.

But basically, what I’m telling you is this.

IF YOU WANT IT, GO GET IT.

Period.

The end.

Thank you, today, for teaching me a great lesson, and helping me realize that I have way more guts than I give myself credit for.

It all starts by—well—starting.

So whatever it is,

go after it.

Start by starting, and don’t back down until you get what you want.

Day 291.