Don't deny it, Instagram has a tendency to suck sometimes - and by suck I don't mean to call social media evil or that it's a terrible idea. I'm not here to tell you to delete your accounts, but I truly think Instagram sucks because it can honestly drain the life out of you if you're not careful.
I've never tallied up the amount of hours I've spent on Instagram but I know that whatever the number is, it's a high one. On average, each user spends about half an hour* every day perusing through posts and double tapping pictures. Just add a few more minutes to that mix and you're probably getting closer to my average.
However it's not so much the hours on Instagram that started to scare me but the time spent after I had mustered enough mental strength to put the phone away and actually decide to do something that didn't require my eyeballs being plastered to a tiny screen.
Because of this need to check it everyday more than once a day my life never felt "there" enough. I was never where I wanted to be in the way I dressed, my career, my home, my photography, love life, and regular relationships. To help console myself and compensate for that I found my way back on Instagram (and some times Pinterest) under the excuse of "trying to get inspiration", trying to "better" myself. I falsely believed that if I could see how others were living I could also apply their ways to my own life.
Maybe for some that method does work (ain't no shame in that game) but for me and maybe some of you that will never be the case. It all became less and less of a constructive critique and comparison of other people's lives to mine and more of a consuming need to see others doing what I wanted to be doing myself - to live through their photos while never having to really do anything myself.
Living through them made it so that I was never living for myself. Time would progress but no progress was actually being made.
However, even with all that said it's not from me that you'll ever hear that social media is the root of all evil. Although I will put it out there to simply be careful. Don't let Instagram, or any social media platform for that matter suck you dry of your precious time or invaluable ideas. Don't let what you see on the screen dull your mind or lead you to put your life into a box of how you think it ought to be because you believe it will make your grass look greener.
You can be inspired until the last of the sheep come home but ultimately only you have the power to do all that you want. No one else is gonna live your life for you and you cannot vicariously live through others.
(I haven't put any words up on the page in quite some time but I'm feelin' a bit different. So just bear with me and my little less than smooth post tonight). I just bawled to the point of snot running down my nose while on my bedroom floor. I'm approximately 8,392 miles away (give or take a thousand depending on what coast of the U.S. you're looking at) from my siblings; I'm a bit behind in the work I have to do; my college loans are very much still existent and just like the body that I'm learning to love daily, they're not changing anytime soon. BUT all that is NOT the reason why you would have found me sitting on my knees crying my eyes out not too long ago. Yes, my life has a few "bumps" that I wish would just roll themselves out but , hey, what can you do?
I'll tell you what I did. I thanked Him for every situation in my life - bumps and all. I thanked Him for my health. I thanked Him for my aspirations that while they are hard to reach sometimes, they are still existent and that means there is always something to look forward to. I thanked Him for my family. I thanked Him for the roof over my head. I thanked Him for the heart in my chest. I thanked Him for every memory I've had the fortune of making and every future moment that I'm blessed to walk forward to. Yes, like I said, my life has had a few bumps and the occasional mountain but that will never stop me from being grateful for everything else. It's in doing so that things fell into perspective and I realised just how bad my focus was. What business do I have dwelling on the bad when there is so much good just begging for attention? Focusing on everything that's good brought me to tears because it made me realise all the more just how much God loves me. He loves me so much that in the midst of all my ruts and complications He is willing stay and see me through. I was brought to tears because I know that no matter what, I'm going to be okay - we all will be.
Last week I turned 24. While there were no balloons or no extravagant gifts I found this year's celebration to be just as special, if not more than any other year of notable mention (You know like your 1st, 10th, 15th or 16th, so on and so on). The day and the weekend that followed were just like any other but this time, being inspired by Liisa Luts who photographed her own wedding, I decided to photograph my own milestone from the first moment shortly after 12am Friday to the end of my weekend after church on Sunday. Yes, I still had to go to work, I still had to come home to wash the dishes and a few other things you could consider mundane but it's because of those things that I truly woke up feeling like one of the most fortunate people in the world. Here I am, 24 with the privilege to work at a place where the people that surround me are some of the brightest and talented people in the field; I get to come home to a place I can call my very own; even though my birthday fell on a weekday, I am grateful for friends who took time out of their weekend to celebrate with me again; and lastly, I get to freely give praise to God, whom without Him all this and the last 23 years would not be possible. So I leave you with these, may you also find any reason at all to celebrate every birthday and regular day in between.
What’s you name?
Where are you located?
If you could describe what you do for a living on your own terms, what would you say?
I’m an adjunct professor in the TV & Film Department at Santa Barbara City College
I’m a freelance Digital Media director in Los Angeles
I’m a digital media producer at Hillsong Church Los Angeles
I lead up youth lighting for Hillsong Church Los Angeles
Aside from your given title, would you say there are any other titles or hats you wear in this position?
Encourager, time manager, accountability partner, trainer, problem solver
Is this what you’ve always wanted to be when you grew up?
It pretty much has been, at least since early high school
Can you put into words your career history to date?
Santa Barbara City College: 01 / 2014 - Present
TV & Film Production Adjunct Professor
FP114 (Video Editing) - Teaches the fundamentals of video editing from development to distribution through hands on experience.
FP175 (Film Production) - Teaches the fundamentals of pre-production, production and post production in the feature film and music video industries.
Olufemii.com: 01 / 2012 - Present
Digital Media Director + Video Editor
Produces, directs and edits music videos and commercials for A-list clients in the domestic and international market.
Clients include Coca Cola, Uggs, Tevas, Sean Kingston, Nickelodeon’s Kel Mitchell etc.
Hillsong Los Angeles: 07 / 2014 - Present
Digital Media Producer + Youth Lighting Director
Shoots photography for weekly distribution on all social media platforms
Shoots and edits video for monthly campaigns and events
Leads up the Hillsong Youth lighting team
ActionVillage.com: 11 / 2011 - 12 / 2013
Video producer at one of the nation's largest action sports retailers
PDXImprov (defunct): 09 / 2008 - 04 / 2012
Creative Design & Marketing Director
• Co-Founder of Portland Improv, organizer of several flash mob events. Many events involving thousands of participants.
• Created and sustained the organization's brand ID and vision
• Onsite Event director & Video editor
If there was ever a time where you weren’t working for yourself, how did you make the leap from working for someone to working for yourself? Was it an easy transition?
I’m still in that process of going completely freelance. I believe the key to achieving complete financial independence as a creative is:
Finding and filling a specific need in an unreached niche market
Effective personal branding
A honed in focus of perfecting your skills
Coming back to the present, (haha) what is your morning routine before you start the day?
Snooze button 2 times. Then Subway.
Describe what you do between stepping into your work space and then calling it a wrap at the end of the day (Basically, your average work day):
In the morning I drive north to Santa Barbara and teach 2 film production classes. After teaching I usually drive to LA for a shoot, then I drive back home to video edit.
What is your favourite part of the day?
Magic hour. The last hour before the sun sets. Creates boss lighting for film production.
How do you define internal and external success in all that you do?
It can be easy to get caught up in external success, which involves the validation from others. The joy that comes from external success, however, can be fleeting due to its subjective nature.
I think internal success is all about recognizing value based on your personal life goals. A lot of the time this disregards the opinions others.
What has been the biggest success so far and why?
Oh wow I’ll have to think about this. I’d say joining the Hillsong creative team.
With all that success there’s bound to be some overwhelming moments, how do you overcome the bumps along the way?
Often as creatives we measure our value based on the level of our abilities, or based on our personal gains or failures.
Finding our significance in anything other than Christ can be a risky venture as we experience the ebb and flow of life. People and situations fail us, we don't reach earthly career goals.
What's incredible is that our worth has already been determined for us (regardless of our bumps and successes)! Christ valued us to the point of carrying the burden of our sins at the cross. Here's a vid I made about this concept not too long ago: Identity.
Ok, so you’re sitting at a cafe across the table from your biggest career inspiration, who is it and why?
It would be this guy Salomon Ligthelm. He was a lead video producer at Hillsong Church for years. He directs gorgeous internationally syndicated television ads and, shoots incredible music videos for A-list artists. When he releases a video on Vimeo the whole world seems to take notice.
In my opinion, he has single handedly set the visual style that Hillsong has adopted for all of its video content. The incredibly high quality in Ligthelm’s visuals has been adopted by so many churches around the world too.
It’s so interesting reading about the glorious art that came out of the church during the Renaissance period. I believe that today’s church is finally reclaiming that territory in the form of gorgeous video media.
Check out Salomon Ligthelm’s portfolio.
Now, someone new to the career field is sitting across the table from you, what advice do you give them?
Choose a specific area of expertise.
You're asked, “What area of film production are you in?”
Never state, “Oh I’m good at everything.”
It will be assumed that you are mediocre at everything.
State your specific area of expertise, (DP, video editing, color correcting, VFX, screenwriting, etc) and you will be respected as an expert in that field.
If you are actually good at everything, it will be evident without having to be told.
Would you go back and do any of it differently or just the same?
I would have learned graphic design too ;)
So if that little kid you used to be before looked at you now, do you think they’d be excited to grow up?
What do you want to do next?
I’d love to continue to learn visual effects
What is your favourite saying/inspirational quote?
“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will”
First off, welcome to Sydney, Australia! Hope you are enjoying your time here so far and that you've gotten to see some of the great things our city has to offer. If you ever have the chance, head over to Newtown Brewtown, they have some of the best cronuts that you just gotta try. But anyway, obviously it is no secret that you are here for Hillsong's annual conference - it's all over the news and A Current Affair even did a piece on it. While I was at the gym today I was able to get a glimpse of what they were saying - don't even bother with it because it's totally exaggerated. Even if one part of it turns out to be true don't pay attention to any of it. While I have never been famous or in your shoes I encourage you to keep on doing you and block the rest of it out. Not just what A Current Affair had to say but what every other person has to say too. There will always be people who frown upon your actions, doubt your beliefs, or find it hard to trust what you say but that's okay because Jesus knows your heart. He has seen your struggle, your journey and yet He still continues to walk the path with you by choice! Be comforted in that truth. Yes you have had some run-ins with the law, your personal life isn't so personal and everyone knows how many times you've snuck into clubs while still being underage but we all have pasts. I don't say that to make you look worse off but so you can realise, there hasn't been a preacher or a pastor nor a person in the pews that is exempt from sin. We all make mistakes and no matter what, we will probably continue to make them - that's what we get for being human. More importantly, because we are human we also get Christ and because of Him we all get futures worth living and worth looking forward to regardless of our pasts.
Some may call me naive, ignorant, or blindsighted by your fame for saying this but, "Go you!" E.E. Cummings once said, "It takes great courage to grow up and be who you really are." I believe it takes an even greater amount of courage to do that in the public eye. Everything you do will be scrutinised so don't feel like you need to be anything else but who you want to be and who God is calling you to be. Surround yourself with people and pastors -as you have- who will help support you (Eccl 4:9-12 & 1 Thess 5:11).
Like I said, people will come along and comment and maybe their comments will seem real, don't let it get to you. You've been given the life you have for a reason, enjoy it and go to Him daily to help you walk it - only He knows how to do it right.
Love you brother and always rooting & praying for you, Teni
Sidenote: While this letter is mainly addressed to Justin Beiber, it's also for those who find themselves in similar situations. Just because those around you see you as something different doesn't mean anything. There is grace in Jesus, there is love and forgiveness in Him too. Turning to him (or back to Him after a long period of time away) won't make you look like a fake or fraud in His eyes. It shows that you are a human in need of what only the Heavenly Father can provide (Luke 15:10). So it's with that that I end by saying, let go and let God. :)
If you've watched any rendition of the movie Cinderella and left with nothing or if all you can think of is how unrealistic and impossible the chances are of falling in love with a man you just met and becoming queen is, I hope you also take away one more thing: Cinderella never started out looking for a man, all she wanted was a night off and to make friends. Seriously, have you ever realised that? While her sisters went out gallivanting and forcing themselves into dresses that don't fit only to end up miserable and alone, all Cinderella desired was two simple things: to put her feet up for once and to meet new people. Although the original synopsis for the movie was created over 300 years ago we can still apply some of the lessons learned to ourselves today.
Ladies, life is not about finding your prince charming, it's not about finding that man to complete you, it's not about looking a certain way and fitting into what doesn't fit you all for the sake of being accepted. Last time I checked, you were born already complete and whole. These last, however old you are, years you have lived such a wonderful existence without the addition of being married.
Contrary to popular Facebook belief, not everyone you know is getting engaged, married and/or having children. Not everyone's status is changing from "single" to "in a relationship" and that's okay too. Your life is happening whether you have a man or not so go and live it! Create your own fairytale and do so proudly. Step away from the stigma that being single is less than any other relationship status because it's not (Little known secret: every status was created equal, we just let society put value to each one and didn't fight them on it). Know that everything you currently have in your life is enough.
While we're being honest here, I believe that ball or no ball Cinderella would have found a way to move out and move on happily. In the mean time though, she lived life, enjoyed each day, worked hard, and made the most of her time by valuing what she had - even if all she did have was one dress to her name and 3 mice as friends. Ultimately, she knew that she had all the trappings for a fairytale ending, prince or not.
However, this is not to say that you have the wrong goals if you are indeed looking for a guy. Don't be ashamed to admit that either. Your guy will come but it won't be the start of your life but rather a positive and welcomed addition to it.
God is like GPS. He ain't gonna show you all the steps at once, he'll take you one step by one step until you get to the desired point. You know where you are and He knows where you are going. so don't get frustrated with not knowing all the steps. Funny thing about the unknown is, there's also another name for it, trust.
And remember, even GPS systems show grace when you make the wrong turn. What makes you think God won't show you even more grace and help you get back on your way when you fall off course - no matter how far you've gone.
Adulting is hard. I don't think there is ever a time in your adult life when you can say I finally have it all figured out and from now on I'll be good. Adulting is constant mix of coming to the end of yourself and leaning into God's graceful understanding a whole lot more. Although it only took me, ohhhh six years to figure that out, it's a process I wouldn't change for anything. However, as I venture along in this "process" please be patient with me. I know I have not posted anything new in the last few months but I assure you, you all are always on my mind. Bear with me. I'll be around shortly.
I don't think I thank you guys enough. For one reason or the other I always seem to be so preoccupied in pointing out your flaws, the shape of the skin that falls around your muscle, how the left is bigger than the right, or how both are bigger than all the girls ( I selectively notice) around me. However day in and day out you lift me up without fail. Every day since the one I was born you have been my go-getters, fearless adventurers, my own magic carpet ride from point A to point B. Without so much as a questionable doubt it has been you all along. I may have had some pretty harsh expectations for you but you have met and exceeded every necessary task I have ever thrown your way. Nature or not, nurture or not, you two are pretty bad-A and for literally carrying me through the last 23 years without cease, I salute. I thank you. I love you. Here's to the next 23+ years and wherever you guys and life decide to take me.
There's a peace in letting go of certain things when you realize they were never yours to own in the first place because God has something in store for you.
There's a peace in letting go of certain things when you realize they were never yours to own in the first place because God has something in store for you and it's far better than you initially dreamed.
Let go, the future is waiting for you to embrace it.
I hope you take these moments and how they make you feel and you hold onto them for life. I hope that in this moment as you realize how amazing, how awesome, and capable, and stunning you are that you keep that realization with you forever. It's in this moment that truth is brought to light. It's in this moment that you finally believe in what was inside of you all along: greatness, strength, intelligence, ingenuity and grace.
Hold on to it all because when bad moments come to try and steal what is so rightfully yours - and they will try - it will be hard to come back to that place of truth and light. It will feel like the darkness and its lies are winning. However, do not fear my dear. Pay it no mind because fear is only False Evidence Appearing Real. Fear knows your worth and tries to distract you from knowing it too. Hold on to the moments of joy, contentment, peace, strength and hope. They are truth and under no circumstance will truth ever fail, flee or falter.
No matter where life leads you I hope you are never so consumed by the enormity of it all that you overlook the small wonders presented to you daily.
A few weekends back my family and a few friends took a drive few hours south to visit the small town of Kiama. Although Australia has many other cities worth exploring, we decided to take a day trip and stay a little local. So without further adieu, here are a few photos from that glorious Saturday.
Kiama, you are as gorgeous and breath-taking as ever. Your small town charm reminds me to be grateful for everything I have the chance to see. I could not have put these words from Bethel Music any better myself when they said:
"May we never lose our wonder. May we never lose our wonder. Wide-eyed and mystafied, may we be just like child staring at the wonder of our king."
Happy Friday everyone. I hope that whatever your plans for this weekend (long weekend if you live in Australia and celebrate 'Straya Day) are joyful, give you rest, and leave you pumped up for the week ahead! Here's an oldie but a goodie to get you up and at 'em.
Contrary to what we've always been told, Esther was not the heroine of her own story, she wasn't even the main character.
You don't need to have it all before you get it all. You don't need to measure up to any standard to be considered good enough because His strength is made perfect in our weakness.
Allow God's grace to take you where only your dreams can, and then some.
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In recent weeks the entire world has gone through a lot.
I pray these words leave you all well.
In all the time before I left I never really took the time out to show others what I knew. I never set aside a moment to share the skills someone else had taught me. I guess I was so distracted by an ego that secretly fed on the "well done"s and "good job"s to stop and think that someone else could benefit from me passing on my experience to them.
The more I thought about what I could have done better the more I realized that this happens far too often and not just with me either. In a society where it's do or die, fall or fly I think we've forgotten that we can also strive to be the best without (unknowingly or intentionally) tripping up those around us. It should never be about building our own self up to the point that if we were to ever move that our community would fall. Am I saying you shouldn't improve or grow yourself? No. But should you selfishly take everything for yourself so you can look better than everyone else? Think again.
It is possible for co-workers, teammates, siblings, parents, and all other types of people who work together to better themselves without diminishing or undermining the other(s). Here's how:
It's funny how this season, although filled with uncharted territory and new routine is similar to many of the previous ones where I knew exactly what the next step held. I may walk without knowledge of what the future holds but that is not to say that I walk in uncertainty of who holds it. Jesus, you are the same yesterday, today, and forevermore. You were the same when You gave me the map to my current season and there was no doubt in what my actions were or meant. Jesus you are the same today when questions of my very being and purpose cross my mind. Jesus you will be the same when I finally meet up with whatever tomorrow contains. I trust in you. I know you have hopes, plans, and steps for my future that will not bring me pain. Sorry if I ever thought otherwise and let my self-created fears get the best of me.
I'm 23 years old. I'm black. I'm a woman. There are so many statistics in between those very words that sadly, to some people it would be a surprise to hear of how I just graduated with a master's degree from a really good school. However, all that withstanding I'm happy and so privileged to say that I live in a society where (higher) education is not only welcomed, it's encouraged and celebrated. I'm happy that my stats are not stats at all but badges of honor I get to don proudly because of the places and way I was raised.
So to those who are told you can't because of you're background or current situation, that your dreams don't suit the color of your skin or your gender, remember that you can either carry your traits like a ball and chain around your ankle or diamonds around your neck.
It doesn't matter what hasn't worked for others before if it works for you now - just go for it! To the meanies (yes, I said meanies) who tell you no, pay them no mind. Focus on yourself and using your own badges of honor to help you cross that finish line. Know that when you are ready I and a few others will be waiting to cheer you on - roses and all. Anyone who takes the time out to go for their goals should be celebrated.
You are worthy of celebration.