This week I invited my old friend Carla De Jong to be a guest blogger. If you don’t know Carla, I hope you will get to meet her soon. Carla is a very special person.
She’s creative, she’s intelligent, and she’s strong. But, more importantly, Carla is generous. She has given so much to so many of us over the years, myself included.
Carla cares deeply about quality children’s television and, in her new position at Australia’s ABC, she is now able to commission and develop great children’s shows. I believe the ABC is very lucky to have her.
Please welcome Carla to Planet Preschool. As you will see, she writes the way she lives, with grace and with courage.
When Josh asked me if I would write a guest blog for Planet Preschool, I was extremely humbled….and mildly terrified – a feeling I have felt many times in my life and in my career. However one that I have come to respect, as I‘ve learned that with fear comes choice. You can be brave…hold your nose, jump in feet first….or back away, sit down and finish eating your ice cream.
Last Saturday while I was busy eating my ice cream and being too afraid to start this blog, I visited a photographic exhibition near my house in Sydney called ‘Vintage Dolls‘. The artwork was both terrifying and thrilling at the same time, but it was the piece above that resonated with me the most.
When I look at this image I see a little girl with her toes still touching the ground, eyes closed, trying to let go of her fear so her imagination can allow her to join her friend in full flight.
I’ve come to love the feeling of being afraid, it makes me do things I would not normally do – take on jobs I’m not entirely sure I’m capable of, pitch shows I’m not entirely sure anyone will understand and make phone calls I am entirely sure nobody will take. The curious thing is – almost every time I’ve taken that leap – something quite extraordinary has happened.
It fact, it was fear that initially led me to meeting Josh in the first place. The fear that after two years in television, I was still not making the kinds of shows that first inspired me to hang up my fairy wings, say goodbye to the children’s birthday party circuit and do something more to bring joy to the lives of the preschool aged children I had come to know and love.
So I did what any rational person would do when facing this sort of fear. I Googled.
What I was looking for was some sort of course, somewhere local, something that would teach me the tools needed to make great preschool television. What I found was a company called Little Airplane, a man called Josh Selig and a course that was perfect. The only problem was it ran one night a week for five weeks a mere 24-hour plane ride away in New York City. An impossible situation.
A few weeks later at Kidscreen Summit I was in a queue for the cloak room, my mind still buzzing from the previous session in which a most intriguing speaker opened by telling us that inspiration can come from anywhere – then held up a croissant. A croissant that if you looked closely enough, resembled a smiley face. A croissant he had found staring out at him from the pastry basket on his way into the ballroom.
As I stood there analysing how this brilliant creator’s mind worked, I was shocked by the realisation of just how close our two minds were……literally. He was standing directly ahead of me in the cue.
Once again – I felt the fear. I felt it rise right up into my throat. Should I introduce myself? What on earth would I say? What am I thinking? Who am I to disturb him? He’s probably busy creating the next pastry-based preschool hit right here while queuing for his coat! I should really just leave the poor man alone.
But I didn’t. I took a deep breath, tapped him on the shoulder and said ‘Hi Josh, I’m Carla.’
To some this may seem like a small victory but for me, overcoming small fears is just as important as overcoming the big ones.
Had I let fear get the better of me that day, I would never have been invited the following week to observe the Little Airplane team at work, in their beautiful studios. An experience I will never forget. I also would never have found myself standing on the pavement outside, freezing to death as Josh explained to me what how special it was to have one of my shows nominated as a Finalist in the Prix Jeunesse Awards and how I should do everything I could to be there for the showcase in Munich. This conversation ultimately led to the best week of my life, and my decision to move to the UK on a moment’s notice in the hope that I might end up making shows as brilliant as the ones I’d experienced in the Little Airplane studios that day.
Had I not made that terrifying move to the UK, I would not have had the good fortune of working for BBC Children’s and I almost certainly would not have found the courage to leap back to Oz last year and take up what I consider to be the best job in Australia, commissioning and developing new Australian children content for the ABC.
When I look back down the road I’ve travelled, I’m surprised how often it is the small fears that I’ve overcome which have allowed me to take small steps, that have eventually built the road which has made the big things – that seemed altogether impossible at the start of the journey – entirely possible at the end.
I wanted to leave you with a fridge magnet I discovered while spring cleaning my Mother’s house this weekend. It’s been on the fridge longer than I can remember but this is the first time I’ve really noticed it- I think the Queen may have been on to something.