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If I’m to Shine

Updated: Jun 29, 2020


| This is the 306th story of Our Life Logs |


“I try to push ideas away, and the ones that will not leave me alone are the ones that ultimately end up happening.”

J.J. Abrams

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1 | The Title Sequence

I was born three weeks early on October 28, 1993, in Greensboro, North Carolina, eager to get out into the world and shine. It was as if this passion for film was already in my blood. I mean, come on. Kelsey Parris the Filmmaker. It had a good ring to it.

Since I was three years old, I loved watching Disney movies with my mom and grandma. Many kids watched these movies to sing and dance along, but once the movie ended, they would move onto something else. Not me; I was different.

I would memorize and re-enact entire scenes from the movies like The Lion King, Cinderella, and Mulan. I was infatuated with the entire web of details that made for such a tantalizing production. I was taken by the emotion created by the dialogue, the music, and the characters. I was a tiny preschooler creating performances in my living room for a home movie, but it felt much more important. In my mind, my world was large and overflowing with film, acting, words, and stories.

Little happy me.
Little happy me.

Although I can confidently say I had a happy childhood, it wasn’t always full of laughter. When I was five years old, I experienced my first panic attack. However, the events did not unfold as a big production. I didn’t feel claustrophobic; my heart didn’t race. I didn’t hyperventilate, tremble, or even sweat. Instead, I got really quiet and I didn’t move, as if I was in a catatonic state.

My family, teachers, and friends never picked up on this behavior as a panic attack. They simply believed that I was an extremely shy child. And because I didn’t know what was happening, I figured these attacks were just a normal part of life. Maybe I was just shy.

So, for the next several years, I inched out of the limelight and into the shadows.

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2 | Take a Bow

While I was no longer orchestrating large homemade productions, I kept my feeble dream alive by scribbling little ideas in the corners of my notebooks, building scenes in my head, and, of course, paying close attention to every movie I watched. It was a quiet pursuit, but I don’t think I could have used any more of my energy for my passions. No, every day brought a new kind of exhaustion.

Me as a little girl.
Me as a little girl.

My symptoms of panic attacks continued to go undiagnosed and almost everything overwhelmed me. If I had a lot of assignments to do for school, if I had to interact and talk with people, if I was even out in public, then the arms of Dread would wrap themselves around me. It was too much for me to handle. I would stay home from school at least once a month. I remember saying to myself, “Okay Kelsey, if you can go to school every day until a certain date, then you can take off the next day.” This provided me with the comfort I needed to make it through school. It was my one way to deal with the negative thoughts in my head that told me that no one really liked me, that what I dreamt about was meaningless, that I wasn’t worthy of happiness.

But even my source of comfort wasn’t without consequences. Missing school became so common for me that I almost didn’t pass the seventh grade. My grades were high, but I missed too many days. My mom got a note from my primary doctor, so luckily, I was able to move onto eighth grade.

• • •

As I was weighed down by mental attacks, my mom was fighting her own. She was hospitalized twice for experiencing dangerous episodes. While it was scary, hospitalizing her was the best decision in the long run because she received the help she needed. But, she did miss out on a lot while she was getting help. She missed my end of the year award ceremony where I got an award for excelling in my language arts classes. She missed me struggling to go to school without panicking. But most of all, she missed how I gave up on film.

For years, I had watched her wrestle with painful migraines, shifting episodes, mood swings—depressive lows and manic highs—and I saw how vulnerable she was. At the pivotal age where a daughter needs her mother, I only saw how badly my mother needed me.

So, as I looked at my mother, I couldn’t help but wonder if this was where I would be in 20 years. Pursuing anything seemed impossible if I’d be in this sort of state. As I asked myself these questions, the negative thoughts took over. Of course, I couldn’t do anything like film! I needed to be practical, choose something easy, choose something I could handle. I put my dreams in the grave focused my energy on “the bigger picture.” I was no longer the little girl addicted to telling silly stories.

• • •

When I was 18, I found the reason for my panic attacks and negative thoughts. I was officially diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder and chronic depression in 2011. It was a huge relief to feel as if this piece of my life could be controlled now that I would receive proper treatment. For the first time in years, I felt confident in myself. What felt impossible years ago, now felt attainable.

But when I first began college, I was lost. Each major I declared at Randolph Community College felt wrong. It’s just…it had been so long since I had been really interested in a field that I forgot what it was like to be excited about my future. In the fall of 2016, I transferred to the University of North Carolina at Greensboro hoping the change of scenery was what I needed.

At first, I doubted that I would ever shine again. I already felt as if I had fallen years behind. I had taken a semester off at RCC before actually starting classes and I was still undecided. When I interacted with my peers at UNCG it seemed as if they had everything planned out. They were ready to go. For me, I had no idea what to do or what life had in store for me. Nothing felt right… until I found media studies.

And wouldn’t you know, I got my shine back.

I finally felt home in media studies, as cliché as that may sound. The first course I took talked about how film is art, how it creates emotions, and how important it is to society. I felt like I was a little girl again, setting the stage for my living room performance of Mulan. Sitting in that class, I knew I made the right decision. Over the next three years, I gained confidence again through my screenwriting class. I got my shine back and ready to take on the world as a filmmaker.

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3 | Soon-to-Be Filmmaker

I graduated with a Bachelor’s of Science in Media Studies on December 7, 2018. I am excitedly working on a couple of scripts, and I have a sitcom pilot started, and a thriller short film. I hope to finish it this year so that I can send them around to film festival contests!

I’m still working on my struggles in terms of mental health, but I’m getting better at managing my negative thoughts. It helps that I’m doing something I love to keep me driven and looking to the positives of life. It’s taken me a long time to be okay with the fact that anxiety and depression are always going to be there, but I see them as a part of me now. I wouldn’t be who I am without them.


This is the story of Kelsey Parris

Kelsey, 25, grew up in Greensboro, North Carolina, with a passion for film and a love of shining. However, complications with her mental health caused her to stop shining. She gave up on film. Once she discovered media studies, her shine returned. Kelsey knows never to give up on the dream you’re quite possibly born with.

Today, Kelsey is a soon-to-be filmmaker. She has written a few scripts that she will excitedly send to various film festivals. She has the support of her family, friends, and even a few celebrities. Kelsey hopes to be a source of inspiration to all young girls who want to pursue film. When she’s not writing scripts, Kelsey enjoys spending time with friends and her cat. She watches and analyzes many television shows and movies, much like she did when she was younger. She shows that giving up is not an option, and women can do anything.


This story first touched our hearts on January 24, 2019.

| Writer: Marisa Chiorello | Editor: Colleen Walker |


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