Foreign Born

In his book, The War of Art, Steven Pressfield says, “The more resistance you experience, the more important your unmanifested art/project/enterprise is to you--and the more gratification you will feel when you finally do it.” Resistance is real and I know this to be true because I’ve been avoiding cutting a documentary for close to a year now.

I first conceived of it in late 2016, at a panel discussion I went to just before the election. I don’t remember what the panel was about, but I do remember two things. First, that the facilitator asked us to anonymously write down what we were afraid of onto a small scrap of paper.

Those fears were collected and mixed up in a bag and then redistributed to each member of the audience. Each of us had to read aloud a fear that some other human in the group was experiencing. What was so moving was how the fears were so relatable. I resonated with so many of the fears that were read and I could see other people nodding in agreement. If you looked at our group from the outside, you wouldn't have thought we had anything in common. But from the inside, it was another story.

I also learned that a large proportion of undocumented immigrants were children and that was shocking to me, especially given the stories that the media was focusing on, one perpetuated by a hateful man who was running for president. As someone who is foreign born, I knew how hard my immigration journey had been and I was in my 30s. But imagine being young, a child, and facing not only discrimination, but the legal system alone.

I reached out to a producer friend who I knew could shoot and started to try and understand the story. I went to town halls about immigration post election, rallies and found subjects to interview. Then I did something unusual for me. I waited. I couldn’t bring myself to cut the footage, even though I was astounded by what the lawyers I interviewed told me.

Why on earth was I telling this story? Immigration law is complicated. What did I know about American government? Nothing really, before I went to that panel, and as I sit from here from this vantage point, maybe that was the whole point.

I tried one way or another to avoid going forward. I thought, maybe I’ll write a drama instead, then a short drama, then, maybe I’ll just leave this unfinished. It's not really my story to tell. What on earth was I thinking anyway? 

But then suddenly the news broke. The minority president had used his ill-gotten power to separate children from their mothers at the border; children and mothers seeking asylum. The inhumane treatment that has escalated out of that decision is not new. History it seems, longs to repeat itself.

I couldn’t sleep.

I kept waking up knowing what a coward I was when all of these mothers and children had been so brave. I knew I had to finish what I started because the stories I had been told were true. Because they were entrusted to me. I have always been a channel for the truth and now more than ever, I believe we must speak truth to power.  

I’ve been fighting resistance. I’ve been challenged to work in a different language, to collect facts around a history that I had ignored and to use my intuition to sort through fact and fiction and to seek out experts who know more than me. I have an editor who is helping me sort and sift and stay on track. And although I agree with Pressfield about resistance, I also will say that finishing this film is about more than gratification. It’s about a contract, a divine one. When you commit to use your gifts in service at the highest level, you have to get out of your own way. Using your creativity in service demands that you stretch and grow.

Many women don’t feel smart enough, privileged enough, talented enough, perfect enough or important enough to tell their stories, but those stories are what will save us. What do you need to do to stop resisting telling yours?