I'm tired of this seemingly never-ending cycle of outrage I find myself in whereby I am appalled by acts of political and creative unkindness then spend time articulating and analysing my feelings. Today I want to talk about me. I turn 27 years old in a couple of weeks, the same age my mother was when she gave birth to my big head. While children and a family are not currently on my horizon, my career is. A career in television as a writer that I didn’t know I could have and there are things I wish a younger me would have known. I share these realisations with you in the hope they will help you feel as good about your journey as they have made me feel about mine.
1. It Is OK To Say No
This past week, I called Seye, one of my best friends to tell him I no longer want to do the podcast we’ve been planning for months. I’ve only just streamlined the slashes after my name down to writer and director and I’m finally happy with that. I can do the acting, dancing, designing, vlogging (this list could go on), but after years of being a Jack of All Trades, I’m finally mastering Dani, who I am and the space I occupy. Supreme Bae Jeff Goldbum’s Dr Malcom in Jurrasic Park said “You were so preoccupied with whether or not you could do it, you didn’t stop to think if you should.”
Can I make a fifth season of Dear Jesus for YouTube? Yes, without a shadow of a doubt. Should I do it? No. Can I make a podcast with my best friend? Yes. Should I do it? No. I don’t like saying “no”. “No” is a negative word in my mind. It denies my talent, it denies my ability to achieve my goals. But I am learning that there is power to be had in saying “no”. And while I might not like telling people no, it is sometimes necessary to protect myself and keep me focused.
2. Be Quiet
I talk a lot. There is very little people don’t know about me. I am a very open person who detests secrets. Of late, I have realised how my tendency to wear my heart on my sleeve leaves me vulnerable to attack. Sometimes those who attack me don’t even realise that their words or actions have wounded me because of how freely I speak about my experiences. I am learning to protect my dreams and the paths I am taking to make those dreams a reality. I am not someone who is easily dissuaded once I have made up my mind about something, but I do get knocked sometimes by the most simple things. Everything is not for everyone. I am learning who I can genuinely confide in. I am learning when to speak and when to shut the hell up. I look forward to mastering this. I wish younger Dani took this more seriously. It REALLY could have helped her.
3. It’s All Going To Make Sense
Urrrgh. I’m crying now. The last 6 years have been difficult for me. Don’t get me wrong, there have been wonderful times, but mostly there has been tears and deep sadness. Since I graduated I have had no idea what I was really doing, which is partly why I did everything. At university when everyone was being placed in traditional industry jobs, I was so proud because I had been offered a permanent position at SUPERSUPER Magazine as Video Director. Little did I know that a few short months after graduation, the magazine would fold and I would go from sitting front row at London Fashion Week to serving curry goat rice and peas in my Aunty’s Jamaican take-away. I was so angry at myself. I didn’t wallow too long in self-pity and got on with making my web series. Note how Mercedes’ fall from grace mirrors my own.
In my mind, I was going to make this web series and the BBC was going to be walking down Hither Green Lane one day, see me working in the shop and save me. Sign me up there and then. boofBaffBOSH! BAFTA, Emmy, Oscar and I can go to heaven in peace. Alas, it took 4 years of producing the show, flying to New York and Jamaica with my own money while working full time at the take-away, before my friend Genna was in a position to recommend for a job where she was working. And it wasn’t as a writer, it was as a Post Production Co-ordinator. I didn’t know what I was saying yes to. I just knew I had to get away from the shop and start making my to my Oscar. The biggest joke was, the skills I learned in the shop help me everyday working in telly. My ability to build rapport quickly and my willingness to make any and everyone a cup of tea made up for what practical, technical knowledge I lacked. I wish younger me had known it was ok, that it was all going to make sense. I wish I had more faith in my journey and my process. I would not have spent so much time making myself unhappy because I wasn’t where I felt I was supposed to be (the Kodak Theatre).
I like myself a lot now. I like the woman who I’m becoming. I love how clear everything has become recently. I’m very thankful to the girl I was, who was fearless of shaving her hair and bunking class to design a collection for an off schedule runway show. More than anything I’d tell younger Dani that she was perfect, supremely beautiful and exactly who I needed her to be.