• Shayleen Smith

Dreams are Never Late


A photo of me in my childhood room with a shelf of mostly Disney movies behind me.
A photo of me in my childhood room with a shelf of mostly Disney movies behind me.

I’ve always loved watching Disney movies. As a child, I found them to be my safe space. It was the one thing I could control in my home, a place that usually felt out of control. I knew when I closed my bedroom door, put that VHS in and hit play, I would be transported to a different world for ninety minutes. Maybe it was a world where monsters were friendly, or mermaids were adventurous, or fish could talk. No matter the kind of world, I knew I would find myself in those stories. I would be inspired, challenged, encouraged, or entertained. I always felt better after those ninety minutes. But for some reason, I thought enjoying movies made me “lazy”. I thought people perceived me as shallow, uneducated, and simple-minded. That was until last year.


I have an education in English Literature and have a passion for writing and storytelling. I always thought this education would lead to publishing a book. But deep down inside, I couldn’t shake a specific thought: I can’t wait for the book I write to become a movie. It was then that I realized it’s okay to love movies. And there are people who enjoy them just like me! Not because we are lazy or try to numb our hardships, but because we find belonging and inspiration and feel things when we watch beautiful films. I realized that I could just skip the whole “writing a book” step if I wanted to… I could actually write a movie instead. Despite my passion and desire, I felt rather stuck because my education was not in scriptwriting, animation, or storyboarding. But I didn’t give up! Enter Story Xperiential.


Working on the artwork of my Story Xperiential project.
Working on the artwork of my Story Xperiential project.

I found this program in the Spring of 2022. When I came across the ad, I clicked through the website like a mad woman, devouring all of the information I could. This seemed too good to be true. Tears welled up in my eyes as I watched the trailer of what the class would be like. I felt such joy knowing this program was available to someone like me; someone with no education in film, art, scriptwriting, or storyboarding. The only requirement? Have a passion for storytelling. Check.


Mind mapping the story of my project.
Mind mapping the story of my project.

The beauty of this program is that it so perfectly balances education in a way that isn’t too intimidating but isn't too simplistic. I found myself diving deeper and deeper every week after the livestream—researching theme, composition, character development, and the like. The constant feedback I got from the XIAB team and my peers felt like I was surrounded by a bunch of megaphones filled with voices saying, “You got this! Keep going! Your work is important no matter what!”


See, this dream of collaborating with others to create a beautiful animated film is a new dream of mine. I think it’s always been a seed within me, but Story Xperiential was one of the first places that this dream was watered and nurtured—and by the experts in the field no less! This dream safely began to grow because it was surrounded by people who knew exactly how to encourage and direct it. What’s even better is that everyone who was a part of this program had the same kind of dream. Some of their dreams have been flourishing for 25 years, but I never once felt judged for my dream being a small seedling. The Pixar staff members, the XIAB crew, and my peers kept reminding me—dreams are never late. They will bloom when they bloom and the world will be blessed when they do. Because we each have a unique story to tell. We each have a place in the garden of creativity and storytelling.


Me with my certificate and some sentimental tokens that remind me to follow my dream.
Me with my certificate and some sentimental tokens that remind me to follow my dream.

So, no matter where you are in the journey of following your dreams, keep learning and growing with others! Your dreams are never late, and you never know who might need to hear the story you have to tell.



 

About the Author

Shayleen Smith - Spring 2022 Alumnus

Shayleen is an English Lit major from Colorado. She is a dog-loving, art-making go-getter who wishes confetti would fall from the sky on demand. She is enthusiastic about people and loves to tell and hear stories of all kinds. On any given day, you can bet she is either watching a movie, hanging with friends, or dreaming about the future.



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