It used to be like clockwork.
When your blood begins to boil.
When your heart is beating out of your chest.
When you’re on the verge of blacking out from the vicious bombardment of suffocating anxiety.
According to a study at UC Davis, “One out of five Americans has an anger management problem.”
It used to be a source of fuel. Doubts and dismissals were top-of-the-line motivational gasoline; the vitriolic venom that kept the motor roaring. At a more naïve time in my life, I always fell back on what I thought I could depend on most: my drive. Without any developed skills or realization of talent just yet, I kept my fire kindling through negativity, thinking that I could just run over and bulldoze my way through every challenging obstacle that was hurled at me.
It became addictive. I almost fell in love with the bitter taste of proving someone wrong.
I was a late bloomer in college. Once I discovered my niche and knack for efficiently putting together films, I was able to knock down one project after another at a blistering pace in a process that was very shortsighted and narrow-minded. A handful of these works were birthed from joy. A joy for creating and perfecting the craft of storytelling, and the rest were forged out of spite. I often felt wronged (and hurt) by those who were considered closest.
“You’re stupid if you think you can just drop everything and make movies. This isn’t a fantasy.”
“How are you going to make money?”
“Nobody wants to hear Asian stories.”
For athletes, the motto of “playing with a chip on your shoulder” is considered to be a positive trait. Absorbing criticism and spinning it into an infectious, ambitious energy to combat said criticism. We celebrate and encourage it, but…there’s something unsustainable about it.
Then it hit me like freight train carrying a ton of bricks and a huge sign that says, “You deserve this.”
The price that was paid was a frightening moment of panic in the shower: vision got blurry, lungs got heavy, and the walls started caving in like one of those trap doors in Indiana Jones.
It is never too late to admit you were wrong.
I spent too much time internalizing and occupying my mind with what I had perceived as what others had thought of me. Even as I began to accomplish more noteworthy goals, I had a difficult time shaking off the internal darkness revolving around the back of my mind. It clouded my judgment, it made it hard to trust others, and it became the antithesis of what I was trying to achieve: building and maintaining quality relationships with people that I cared about the most.
I looked in the mirror and I saw a kid that got lost along the way. Someone with immense potential, but their progress was being hindered by a relentlessly blinding rage. I’ve never been officially diagnosed, but I am aware that anger has been something that I’ve always struggled with. It’s not the worst thing to be suffering from, but it can be cumbersome when one is trying to navigate their way, socially and professionally.
With all that said, I am a firm believer that humans should be allowed to feel everything on the emotional spectrum (as long as we're not hurting anyone) and we should never be shamed for feeling and talking about something as natural as anger. It's the suppression of anger that's unnatural. In a funny way, it can lead to reflection and understanding when thoughtfully managed. It can be cathartic.
“Anger can be productive”, Audre Lorde said this.
As of now, this is the most mature version of me thus far. I still have my moments of brooding, but I’ve learned to channel those moments into something more well-intentioned and less destructive. Instead of looking to reciprocate my pain and flip it onto another human being, I would rather use my anger, my guilt, my regrets, my heartbreak, and any other weighty emotion that could be deemed as “negative”, and invest it towards building bridges, conversations, and stories.
I don’t want to be burdened by it anymore. I want to be truthful to myself without compromising any semblance of emotional intelligence. And to be completely honest, it was the power of people that saved me all along. Why blame people anymore when they are the very reason why making films and living life is so meaningful in the first place.
Don’t use anger to fight yourself and others. Use anger to fight for a better you.