A Little Lesson from the Movie Amistad

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amistad-movie-posterAnyone who has ever met my mother will tell you she has touched many lives though out her time here on Earth. Even though she takes a little heat in my show, she is every reason why I have become the woman I am today. This week, without even knowing, she has been on my mind every night before I go to bed. My day job gets stressful at the end of the month and my anxiety levels go through the roof. I have tried many ways to ease it and one thing that was suggested was to watch 30 minutes of Reality TV before bed. “It doesn’t require you to think Jeannette, try it and see what happens.” I tried it and it did the opposite.

Instead of shutting down, my mind went into a tailspin. “What the hell? Why are these people on TV? I can’t watch this shit! Shut up already, these are not real problems!” So I changed the channel. Last Monday as I was flipping through my Netflix I stumbled upon the movie Amistad. I thought of my mom, smiled, and hit play. Each night I watched 30 minutes before bed and slept fairly well. No, the movie is not funny and it does require you to think. Even though it was the first time I have seen it, Amistad and I have history together.

When I graduated from High School I decided I was going to be a lawyer. I knew it was going to be a lot of hard work, but I was determined to maintain a high GPA in college. I had a 4.0 by the end of my first semester. I started my second semester off with a bang! My Sociology teacher gave us an opportunity for extra credit. We had a huge paper due and if we turned it in a week early he would edit review the paper and give it back to us to finalize prior to the due date. I took advantage of the opportunity. I turned the paper in and he gave it back with a note. “Ms. Rizzi you are on the right track. Edit ____________ and you will get an A.” I took the paper home and started to work in it. The final draft was due the next Friday. By Thursday it was done. I went to school, went to softball practice, and went home. My phone rang and the devastating news was delivered. My best friend committed suicide.

I woke up that Friday and sat on my living room floor. The last thing on my mind was getting to school to turn in a paper. I don’t even think I blinked as a steady stream of tears rolled out of my eyes. My mom was cooking everything I had ever eaten and I couldn’t bring myself to stand much less eat. There was a knock at the door. It was my softball coach. She told me my teachers were notified and it was okay if I wanted to stay home. The following Monday I pulled myself out of bed, put my paper in my bag, went to Sociology class and turned the paper in. That Friday he gave it back to me with a huge red “F” on it. I said, “What is this? You said I was on track for an “A.” He said, “I also said it was due on Friday.” I swallowed my tears, held my head high, and said, “But my friend shot herself, that’s was I wasn’t here to turn in my paper.” He said, “Ms. Rizzi that’s a personal problem. This is business. It’s time you learn, no matter what happens in your personal life, in business, you have a job to do. No matter what, no excuses!”

The next assignment was to see the movie Amistad and write a paper about it. I took the assignment home and didn’t even bother to open my backpack. I didn’t care about school. I didn’t care about anything. The following Friday when it was due, I rolled out of bed, walked into the kitchen and there were two things sitting on the kitchen counter. One of my mom’s fresh baked breads and folder that said, “ I love you, keep your head up.” I opened the folder and there was a paper inside with a title page that said, “Amistad.” I went to school and turned the paper in. A week later the teacher called me up to his desk and said, “Ms. Rizzi, this paper is unlike anything I have ever seen. If I could, I would nominate it for a Nobel Peace Prize.” I went home and said, “Mom, what did you write in here?” I showed her the paper with the big red “A+.” My mom and I had the best laugh over it. She made dinner and we sat down together. As we were talking I said, “Maybe I can write sometime about Katie that touches people the same way your paper touched my teacher.” My mom said, “I think that’s a great idea Jeannette. Write from your heart and it will help you heal.”

Today I look back on that story and I am not only thankful for my mother, but I am thankful for that teacher. At the time I wasn’t aware of the impact he would have on my life, but now I know. I hold myself to his “no excuse” standard every single day when it comes to business. No matter how far I have to go or how hard I have to work I will get there despite the obstacles. I do it month after month in my day job. Sometimes I even surprise myself with the kinds of numbers I push my teams to pull out at the end of the month. And sure, there are times when I know I piss my employees off when they start with excuses and I shut them down. “I don’t want to hear why you can’t do it. All I want to hear is how you will do it and when it’s done.” Even though I feel like a bad person when I say it, it pushes them to get the job done. The smile that comes from them after they reach success always leaves me with a good feeling. Hopefully in the long run I will leave boost my employees confidence just like that teacher helped boost mine.

Yesterday I closed out another successful month in my day job and today I have a meeting for my heart project. I might hear a “yes,” I may hear a “no,” but no matter what I will not make an excuse about why this dream can’t come true. Eventually the show will be successful because I did what my mom told me to do. I wrote from my heart. Thank you mom. Thank you for pushing me onward and upward!

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