Filmmaking is for Warriors: Teaching

filmmaking-is-for-warriors_teaching

“Do you know any famous people?” the tiny child asks me.

“Famous people?”

I don’t know what else to say. I’ve been a filmmaker for 10 years, but most of the people I know aren’t plastered on the cover of People Magazine. I do know some actors who have been plastered all over the billboards in Kansas City, which is pretty cool. Mostly just because those actors are totally awesome, and it’s nice to see them achieve new things.

Inevitably, it doesn’t matter if I have an answer to her question, because there’s a half dozen more questions flooding my way. I wave my hands at the brood of small people and do my best to change the subject back to the class I’m teaching and away from my filmmaking career.

Teaching.

I started teaching theater and acting when I was 19. I shouldn’t have, really, because I had no idea how to teach. Those first few years my head was under water and the kids drowned with me. I’m sorry, kids, I didn’t know what I was doing.

But like Dory the fish said, “Just keep swimming! Just keep swimming!”

So I kept pushing my way through teaching, class after class after class. I taught basic and advanced acting, improv, film acting, film production, costumes, musical theater (as a sub, ’cause I don’t do music), black box and radio theater. I’ve assisted in directing shows. I’ve subbed for ages that I would never have chosen to teach – 4 year-olds are not my buddies. I’ve taught subjects I knew very little about and had to research – radio.

And then I was burnt out. And I didn’t want to do it anymore.

Kids take a lot of energy. Kids need a lot of attention and help. Kids are SO MUCH FUN TO TEACH.

Plot twist.

I love teaching. I love talking to those kids. I love playing games with them and seeing them grow. I love seeing how kids learn to rely on each other in theater. I love seeing how theater changes lives for the better – confidence, friendship, coordination, memorization, basic theater skills, communication, trust, loyalty, diversity and a host of other things. I’m sure people learn this stuff in sports, too, but I was a theater kid so I can’t speak to that.

I had a screenwriting teacher who loved his job. He really did. He loved interacting with his different students. I had another film teacher who loved her job. She was the most understanding teacher I think I ever had, always open to giving students a second chance to learn.

And I think to myself, why don’t more people teach?

Because every single person who loves teaching, also hates it. At the end of the day you feel wiped out, left for dead and drained. Your job is to push other people into greatness, whether that is in theater, writing, math, science, robotics, music, computer, filmmaking or military training.

People push back.

Sometimes they do it on purpose. Sometimes they’re just too scared, as some of the 8-year-old students in my class the other night.

The better you are at being a teacher, the more you hold yourself accountable to the things you are teaching. Your students are pushing back, and you are learning more than them.

That’s a cliche. I hate that cliche. It’s obnoxious. Obviously if you’re teaching a child multiplication, you already knew how to multiply. Duh. That kid didn’t teach you that.

But while you were teaching multiplication, that kid was teaching you patience, kindness and long-suffering, because that kid’s probably an aggravating little dude with a numbers complex that needs a reality check.

I subbed for a theater class this week and last. I haven’t taught in a very long time.┬áIt was hard work corralling all those little people. I was hungry and my throat hurt and I wondered why I would put myself through all this when I was still in my month of recovery.

But when I went back last night to teach, the kids told me I was an awesome teacher. Their words, not mine.

And I thought, I love teaching. Why don’t more people do this?

September: The Road to Recovery

September_the road to recovery

There’s a downward spiral with diets and special cures. Gluten-free, Paleo, Vegan, Dairy-free, organic…sounds like a rich dude’s excuse not to eat with the masses at Taco Bell. And it sounds even more ridiculous when you don’t happen to be a rich person, but more like a person who gets by with a little help from my friends.

Then you find out that the sickness that’s been destroying your stomach and cognitive abilities can only be cured by a diet more restrictive than Paleo. And you start to think that maybe everybody else has it wrong…

I promised myself, as a writer, filmmaker and generally legit person that I would never venture into writing about food or health like one of those experts who publishes meal planning guides and gorgeous pictures of food that shouldn’t look that tasty because nothing in it is normal.

Sorry.

I have started a new diet that involves cutting out gluten, dairy, corn, sugar, all processed grains, and most oils. Oh, sugars includes most fruit, too. And alcohol, coffee, soft drinks, fruit juice and ALL caffeine.

I know, you would rather die with your Hazelnut breve latte in one hand and your jumbo cinnamon role in the other.

I almost would too, but it might actually kill me.

In 2013 I had to make a huge change in my life. I was so sick that I couldn’t eat, I had lost massive weight, I couldn’t think properly and I was in so much pain that I could barely work. So I started cutting things out of my diet.

I cut corn and milk first.

My brain worked again.

I cut gluten next, although that process extended over a very long period because it is exceptionally hard to cut out all shreds of gluten (gluten is a protein in wheat, barley and other grains that manufacturers use as a filler and preservative. It’s in everything, dude. Everything).

Now, I was cheating a bit. I still had dairy to a certain extent, and I still had problems. I learned to avoid foods with a lot of grease, olive oil, soy, processed-ness and other triggers that kept me awake at night with abdominal pain. Eventually it was too much to bear, and in January or February of this year (2016) I cut out dairy completely.

Weeks passed. Fake cheese started to taste better than real cheese. My favorite cheesecake is completely bereft of dairy, soy, corn or gluten and still tastes like a dream. Mmmmm.

I felt better. I had less problems. I had more energy. Some weird things that I’d been dealing with since I was a young teenager disappeared.

But I still had a digestive problem that lead to reoccurring infections.

So I kept researching. Reading. Thinking.

Then I found information on Candida overgrowth. I read through the causes first – excessive sugar/alcohol diet, antibiotics, contraceptives/birth control, and stress. Since the first three weren’t a factor in my illness that started when I was about 16, I focused in on the last one. Stress.

And I realized that for a person who claims to love God and trust in His promises, I shouldered a lot of burdens. I worry about things I say to friends, even close ones. I worry about social engagements of any kind. I worry about my films. I worry about writing instead of just writing. I worry about my family. I worry about my friends, even though most of them are grown adults. I worry about politics and the world.

I worry about food and health and my husband and my phone usage and whether or not my car is going to stop working on the highway and I get crushed by a semi going 80 miles per hour.

Here’s the thing; I started the Candida diet, which is basically a cleanse that annihilates the overgrowth but promotes a healthy gut and Candida level. It cuts out all of the things I mentioned above and focuses instead on healthy green vegetables and meats. I am taking probiotics and drinking only warm things without caffeine. I even added vitamin C to my daily routine, because it’s the main ingredient in helping the body naturally fight stress.

But none of that will be enough unless I let go of my burdens, trust God, and stop letting other people take too much out of me.

This is why I haven’t been writing. I have been very sickish, in my heart, my head and my gut. But I’m on the road to recovery. That’s September.

September is my chance to be free of a 10+ year disease.

I’ll be praying every day.