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#WeStayLearning Issue #019: What If

#WeStayLearning Issue #019: What If
I recently watched a movie called Look Both Ways, which I loved. It’s a feel-good movie, and that’s the only kind I like, but it also had some powerful lessons.
warning: SPOILER ALERTS
It’s about a girl named Natalie, who had sex with her friend Gabe, with both agreeing not to “make it a big deal”. Then, on the eve of her college graduation, her life diverges into two parallel realities. In one reality, she becomes pregnant with Gabe’s child and has to navigate motherhood in her Texas hometown, while in the other, she moves to Los Angeles to pursue her dream career in Animation. It’s not just one moment that defines your life; it’s all the moment.

Look Both Ways | Official Trailer | Netflix
Look Both Ways | Official Trailer | Netflix
In the reality where she gets pregnant, her parents are not entirely happy with her because she and the baby daddy had to move in with them. After giving birth, she battles postpartum depression and stops drawing at some point. She and Gabe do really well for the first year of parenting, and then things start going well for him; he gets his own apartment and asks Natalie to move in with him. Scared that their relationship wouldn’t work and it’d affect their child (Rosie), she declines and encourages him to go and date. Gabe begins a relationship and even proposes to a woman named Miranda, making Natalie jealous. Natalie throws herself into her artwork.
In the other reality, she moves to LA and gets a job as an assistant to animator Lucy Galloway (one of her role models). She also fell in love with her colleague Jake. They encourage each other to follow their dreams, with him desiring to be a successful movie producer. Jake and Natalie consider moving in together until Jake receives a year-long job producing in Nova Scotia. They try long distance, but it doesn’t work out. Around the same time, Natalie finally shows Lucy her portfolio so she can see her as more than an assistant. Instead of being impressed, Lucy gives some critical notes, calls her work unoriginal and even encourages her to quit to find her voice, so she does. She returns home (to Texas) to a friend’s baby shower and leaves the event feeling like a failure. Everyone else at the event had work or relationship going for them, and she didn’t have either. Again here, she throws herself into her artwork.
In both realities, she gets a career breakthrough. Where she is a mother, she writes a book inspired by her daughter and gains much recognition - including sitting on a panel with Lucy. In this reality, Gabe later breaks off his engagement with Miranda because he is in love with Natalie. And in the other reality, where she moves to LA, she does find her voice and makes a film; Lucy visits the premiere and is so impressed by her that they schedule a call for future engagements.
In both realities, her love life had a happy ending. In the reality, where she has a baby, she ends up with Gabe, the baby daddy. In the one where she moves to LA, she ends up with Jake. He travels all the way to the premiere of her short film despite risking his producer job.
In both realities, everything worked out.
Different men, but great love either way. A thriving career in Animation - one via a book, the other for a short film. It’s the same skill, same passion but manifested in different forms.
This movie made me think about my life. I have caught myself in the past thinking, what if? What if this happened where would I be today? What if that didn’t happen, where would I be today? But Look Both Ways, the movie made me stop and think, “maybe I’d be here anyway, and I’d be fine anyway.”
Maybe I would always have ended up where I am today, in the version of the career I am doing today, doing something I love and am good at. Perhaps my friends, my partner, and my current city might have been different, but I’d still be doing great.
As long as the dream and your essence are consistent, you will end up where you are supposed to be. 
Maybe there isn’t one way to succeed, have a dream career, and live a dream life. Maybe there are lots of different paths that can lead to the same road.
And this means (to me at least) that no matter where we find ourselves, even though we make a mistake in one path, we can always keep going and course-correct.
I had a conversation with someone recently who had a baby at eighteen. Right now, at 40+, she is doing fantastic; she is doing a PhD, has businesses and is well respected as a black woman in tech and DEI in the UK. During our conversation, she said that for some people, having a baby at 18 would have been ‘the end’ of their life, but for me, it became a motivation to thrive against all odds.
It doesn’t matter what happened, didn’t happen, or what path you took; it’s just a matter of staying focused, finding your voice / harnessing a skill, and saying yes to opportunities.
  • It’s not just one moment that defines your life; it’s all the moments.
  • You can always cross-correct, so don’t be afraid of making mistakes.
  • You can and should always hold on to your dream. So sharpen your skills and be relentless in pursuing the life you want.
  • You can always make the best of the reality that you’re in, whether it is smooth or rocky. If you don’t stop trying, you will always end where you should. That was what was consistent with Natalie. In both realities, she held on; she didn’t give up. 
So look both ways. There isn’t just one way or the only right way. There could be multiple ways, and they can all end up well.
Resources
Resignation Guilt by The Being Circle: Leaving a job can be challenging, irrespective of the reason: whether to pursue a new opportunity, focus on a different passion, go to school, or take a break. Whatever it is, you may feel incredibly guilty and awkward about sending in your resignation letter. Sometimes the mix of emotions: Happiness about a closed chapter, a new opportunity, or finally leaving behind a toxic workplace, in addition to the sadness about leaving behind the friends you made during the time there or the work on which you spent a significant amount of time can become overwhelming. The Being Circle put together an eBook because of this. Whether you just quit or plan to quit soon, this book will provide tips for an easier transition. Download for free here
How To Sell Anything by Victor Fatanmi: Get a 10% discount on Victor’s book using this link. Selling is a noble cause and an essential skill we all deploy across different areas of our lives, whether we know it or not. However, the more conscious and competent we get with this critical life skill, the better for us. In 2012, Victor Fa wanted to design graphics to help businesses look beautiful and unique. As he went deeper on that mission, he found more gaps and opportunities to create more value, partnered with others to build systems, and found himself up the road of the change leader — which should be the alternative name for the “salesperson”. He has put together the core selling themes as he has found them over the years, hoping that these notes help you create and earn more value in your work and life.
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