Once upon a time I dreamed about being a famous filmmaker. I was less than ten years old when I wrote my first screenplay and I used to invite my friends over to play in my movies. I directed a final episode for the sitcom Dallas with a Tarantino-like ending, where everybody shot themselves in the head. I also filmed a murder mystery, where my best friend laid on the ground covered in red paint for hours. I created a gangster movie in which I played the naughty character of a grown-up man at the age of twelve. The dialogues were hilarious and I remember editing the VHS cassette as the camcorder was connected to an old-style television. Way before the peak of digital technology and even before Google existed.
It was around the third grade when I drew my first character “Apple Man” (a man who had a giant apple on his neck) and posted it in an envelope to Cartoon Network from Budapest, Hungary to Burbank, California. Since then I've dreamed about creating animated movies and give life to the characters that pop up from my imagination. As most Millennials I grew up watching Disney movies, and dragged my parents to the cinema every beginning of December when the latest Disney movie came out. I was fascinated about the characters with magical powers, although that time they were mostly the villains. I definitely would had gone crazy about Frozen’s Elsa as a child. Ironically, I grew up in a society that favours girls being pretty, quiet and agreeable rather than strong, smart and adventurous. As for me, by the time I entered high school, I spoke three languages, played two instruments, wrote novels, recorded my own stand up comedy, drew comics and produced several short films.
Fast-forward twenty years, with a Bachelor degree in visual communication, I found myself sitting in an office eight hours every day, illustrating icons to a company’s website... Copy-pasting images on flyers... Having meeting about more websites and flyers... If I get very lucky I can edit intros for webinars. Graphic designers are among the most undervalued professionals in all industries. It takes tremendous availability, personal sacrifice, luck and at least ten years of professional experience (for women) to evolve into leaders in a creative field. As for me, a foreign single mother in a capitalistic society, I stayed at the bottom of the food chain all these years. To compensate my inner child for not fulfilling her dreams I developed a coping mechanism of shopping, snacking and drinking wine. Playing Nintendo Switch became the highlight of my day. Sometimes I feel too tired and numb to even cry over my wasted potential. I remember starting my career with passion and desire to influence the way people interpret the word, others and themselves. I wanted to inspire my supervisors to think outside the box and connect with each other on a deeper level by sharing their stories with stunning visuals. I drew comic novels to present software products, which I often had to replace with free stock images. I repeatedly extended my role as a graphic designer beyond expectations, yet I could not keep my jobs for long. My unconventional tendency to challenge the status quo often resulted in irreconcilable differences with my teammates. Not to mention how many times I stepped on my supervisors' toes. Also, my direct and decisive communication style can come off a little too strong, which makes people feel intimidated if they don’t recognise my good will. This awkward situation has been ongoing for over a decade and I can’t enter a new workplace with excitement anymore. I have the ability to create motion pictures from scratch, make people laugh to tears, grab the wheels and steer my team towards success, attain the highest level of devotion to a cause, and yet, all I’m ordered to do is to edit stock images on websites and flyers.
On top of that, I raise a little girl who dreams about being a famous singer / baker (not decided yet). What example do I show her? To compromise her dreams and binge-watch series on Netflix every single evening? It breaks my heart to imagine that despite her talent and positive attitude she might end up in an office following orders from people who lack imagination and only see her as a replaceable asset to their company. After a while her genuine smile would fade away and she would be hooked on coffee just to hold through the day. I picture her hiding her wounds behind designer clothes and acting out to her friends on social media. And I won’t even have the right to nag her about it because I’ve been doing the exact same thing. Don't get me wrong, I've tried everything until I hit massive brick walls and many dead ends. I was freelancing for several years and even founded my own motion picture company. Although having CEO written on my business card did give me some sort of satisfaction and I love the free decision making part, at the end I was more dependent on customers than I ever was on my employers. Running after potential assignments and bargaining the price on a daily basis makes me feel just as undignified as performing monotonous tasks at the office. When it comes to competition between creative service providers, privileged white men in C-level positions are more likely to give the assignment to an agency than to a female lone fighter such as me. You would be amazed how many executives carry the burden of unresolved mother issues and my goodness, how emasculating would that be to see a girl thriving... It is shocking how often I’ve been rejected for a job I was overqualified for, how many times I’ve been ridiculed by my male coworkers and how naturally it comes to my supervisors to take credit for my work. Yet, the most ruthless, backstabbing and gaslighting managers I met during my career were all women.
So how can I break the cycle? What can I do in order to grow into an authentic role model for myself and for my family? First of all, I need to let go of the idea of pleasing others and start focusing on my own purpose. I’ve been trapped in the reflection of other people’s expectations for so long that I almost forgot what I’m truly capable of. In order to fit in, I’ve started becoming an ordinary version of myself. As if I dragged myself down on purpose to comfort the "silly woman" stereotype. If I come across as weak and incompetent I don't confront toxic masculinity. It feels safe. But damn, what a waste! As a profoundly creative person with photographic memory, I have excellent skills to come up with original ideas, write and illustrate stories, develop concepts and dialogues, invent characters and see the whole picture. I am also highly intelligent and able to learn and adapt myself to new situations super fast, solve complex problems, reason with others and understand different points of view. Nevertheless, I am a natural born leader with high empathy, therefore able to give guidance, fight for a good cause and inspire others to become the best version of themselves. Does that sound like a role of a graphic designer? Or a hippy-dippy freelancer? Hell no, I am a golden goose! What I truly need is not just a job that pays my bills but a profession that allows me to exercise my imagination, talent and creative leadership skills without restraint. For a start I must stop listening to people with limited beliefs and stop letting myself down for others’ sake. At some point during high school I have become convinced that I am not capable, worthy or lucky enough to succeed in the film industry so I chose a career that wasn’t demanding for me. I wake up every day with exciting stories, vivid characters and funny conversations in my head and I’ve been flushing all that down the toilet.
Luckily for me, it is never too late to find our true calling. I decided to go back to the classroom and got accepted into a Master’s programme in filmmaking. Soon, I will learn the ins and outs of the business and enter the movie industry with experience. I couldn’t be more excited about the idea of working with trained actors, give life to my characters, build a movie set, develop meaningful narratives, challenge my abilities and watch my work on-screen. For this purpose, every risk is worth taking. Reaching my goals after another will give me a sense of achievement and help me build up my confidence. Regardless of the fact that the entertainment industry is severely male dominated and I will mostly swim against the tide, I am willing to work twice as hard in order to reach for the stars.
“Sometimes it is the people no one can imagine anything of who do the things no one can imagine.” Alan Turing