Where do I begin?
Before I was accepted into AAJA’s week-long ELP seminar, I was struggling as an experienced freelance TV producer. I felt like I was living artist’s life, fighting to continue my craft even as harsh realities threatened my dreams. I am an artist at heart. And I am an emotional being. I believe it makes me a better producer and storyteller. I couldn’t give up.
As I was looking for options, I found AAJA on Twitter. That’s how I learned about ELP. I applied without expecting much. When I was accepted, I felt a door was opening for me (and thought, my God you’ve done it again!). I remember feeling excited but didn’t quite know what to expect.
The program exceeded my expectations.
It’s still hard to fully describe my experience at ELP because it was not linear. In the 10+ years of working in TV production, I’ve never been so vulnerable in front of my esteemed peers. I learned a lot from my classmates, the coaches, and the guest speakers. The varied experiences and stories were enlightening. These are stories you rarely hear elsewhere. Most of all, I learned from my feelings. So I think everyone will have a different experience -- one that’s deeply personal.
If you’re an introvert like me, be prepared to be painfully uncomfortable and open. Be prepared to grow and learn more about yourself, your needs, your wants, your whys, your fears, and your leadership qualities. The growing pains are eased with knowing that you’re not alone and that there is a sense of camaraderie around you.
Not going to lie, I almost broke down in tears a couple of times because I’d been looking for a like-minded group like this for so long. It exists! It’s real, and I have so much more faith in the world now.
Although, we may not share the same feelings and personal/professional experiences, there are more similarities than differences. Essentially, I discovered that no matter where you are in your career, everyone is human. I learned we all have masks on but beauty shines through when we take it off. I also learned that diversity starts with knowing yourself and adding your story to the table. I learned the dangers of “group think.”
With that said, I realized I still hold anger towards unfairness in life, and that it’s time to let that go.
I learned that I am not alone and that I don’t have to do it all alone.
Perhaps you learned to criticize yourself because of your upbringing? (That’s something I learned I need to unlearn.) Being humble and being critical are two different things. Also, that I have a choice: I could focus on what’s wrong or what’s right in all aspects of life. I know where I stand now. Last but not least, I learned being a part of a community like this matters a lot to me.
Whether you’re looking for professional or personal growth, ELP is a unique opportunity for both. If you decide to do it, I hope you get so uncomfortable that you break out of your cocoon – and fly!