I can remember the first time I sat down and watched Rocky as a little girl of about seven years old. At that point in my life I was obsessed with Jurassic Park (my parents never thought I’d grow out of it, no joke) and had become a Tomboy, complete with playing army in my backyard and recreating that iconic T-Rex scene in the back of my dad’s Ford Ranger. I was hardly into boxing, and hadn’t discovered the glory that is the Rocky franchise (or, Sylvester Stallone).

Don’t worry, it happened.

All I recall from my first encounter with Balboa was two things: 1) that I was entirely smitten with Sylvester Stallone, and 2) that I really hated boxing. All I really knew (or understood) about the film was that Rocky was a really cute guy living in Philadelphia, who enjoyed getting beaten to a bloody pulp for a living. Also, I understood that he was in love with Adrian, who at the time, I thought was a pretty quiet and uninteresting woman.

Needless to say, my first experience with Rocky was indeed that, rocky. At seven years old, you’re not really able to comprehend the picture and metaphor that film paints, or the message that cinema works to tell. I had no idea that Rocky Balboa represented, to millions of Americans everywhere, the underdog and would stand to inspire people across the world to achieve their dreams. I wouldn’t, for a number of years, understand that The Italian Stallion stood to change the world of not only film, but also the American dream.

That day finally came when I was about ten years old. By then I was old enough to understand the influence of story and the powerful grip it had on people. I had, at that point, discovered how to really compile a story and write what I felt. The ten year old me was just beginning to navigate the journey of authorship, and understand the intricate beauty of writing. I was enchanted with creating my own world and holding the power to change the lives of character; smitten with the idea that I could be anyone – could create anyone – and take them anywhere in a legend. And, since I grew up with hardly any friends at my side, writing took me to a place where everyone was my friend, and I was the star character of my own journey.

Enter my second round with Rocky Balboa. Now, I understood that Rocky was the character that I had always wanted to create: he was me, in every sense of the word. An American who had nothing, but who wanted everything. He was my audience that I wanted to engage – those who I wanted to inspire and entertain. Rocky was to me, as a little girl without friends, a comrade. I could talk to him as I played pretend (yes, even at ten), and more often than not I imagined myself watching one of his matches from the bed of my dad’s pickup truck.

I still hated boxing, though.

After a number of years went by, Rocky (and thus, my adoration for Sylvester Stallone) slowly began to fade as I became enchanted with others things (Transformers, Batman, poetry – typical girl things, right?). Not to worry, however – I’d always be a fan of Stallone and his films.

After that moment watching Rocky as a ten year old kid, I knew that I wanted to write. I knew I wanted my writing to matter and go places – I knew that I wanted to be someone, so that I could affect people like Rocky affected me. I wanted to inspire like The Italian Stallion challenged me to pursue my dream: writing. I just didn’t know why or how.

As my writing improved, my self-confidence plummeted as “friends” in my life began to retreat by the flocks as I pursued Christianity on a deeper level. Jesus, writing, and movies became everything I had. They were the only safe places for me to go when I was hurt, and lonely. Movies and film were a major tool in helping me battle suicide. While others my age began to rebel against their parents, I clung to mine as they encouraged me to continue to write, and watch film. Around twelve years old, I discovered my second passion in life – movies.

Movies to me became pictures in living color. They were the stories I had read put into action – characters that took on flesh, that I could actually see. Their journeys, and their characters, became the childhood companions that I lacked. I gravitated towards action movies, and the excitement I felt watching them; like I was actually rushing beside Mel Gibson in Lethal Weapon as I pursued bad guys, or dangled off a cliff with Stallone in Cliffhanger. Those characters would inspire the ones I would create myself, and drive my creative passion. They were my greatest companions.

As my imagination grew, I began to picture in my mind the stories I wanted to bring to life; like miniature movies rushing through my head. I would envision a character and within moments they were my life-long companion and I understood them better than most human beings. After only a few hours of thought, I had an entire story for them playing in the back of my mind – whether they were stopping bad guys in a gun fight or dodging death in a car-chase, it didn’t matter. Stories, like film, ran through my mind as a growing and aspiring creative; a gift I am sure is that of the hand of the living, breathing God.

It was when I was a senior in high school that I told my parents I wanted to write for a living. This was a terrifying moment for me as an individual, because if you’re a creative artist at all, you know that art is the last thing your parents want you to pursue. Why? Because, all my parents could think as their seventeen year old daughter was crying in front of them, was “starving artist”.

I told my parents that I didn’t want to pursue medicine after two years of taking college classes in high school, and I was scared out of my mind. As I stood there and confessed that I was afraid of medicine and the responsibility of life it put in my hands, I told them that all I had ever done and felt safe doing my entire life was writing. It’s where I felt accepted, exceptional, and talented. It empowered me and filled me with passion. That, I told them, was what I wanted to do my entire life.

And when they asked me what type of writing I wanted to pursue, I gave the worst possible answer besides “I have know idea”: creative writing.

And so, I pursued the Communication field after months of research and conducting informational interviews. Finally, I found myself in a Midwestern Minnesota college, in the rolling hills; tucked back into a quaint little town right outside of Minneapolis. There, I started pursuing Communication – and I loved it. I had the ability to study the age-old phenomenon that is known as Communication, and write.

I wrote, and wrote, and wrote. I wrote on the newspaper and quickly became the Assistant Editor. I wrote editorials and helped tutor students with English, and literature. I took a literature class and loved every moment of it, and eventually earned myself a position as the editor of a poetry journal, as well as a publishing role. I substitute taught a creative writing class as a published author and communicated my love and zest for writing creatively. I pursued theatre, and discovered that I loved acting and the stage. Papers were a challenged I accepted wholeheartedly.

And then came scriptwriting. My junior year of college landed me in a scriptwriting class – a class, mind you, that I had no business taking. I was not a digital media major, nor a film student, and had no concept of cinema on a professional scale. I knew only what I had taught myself and read online; and I knew that I desperately loved film. With the passion for learning any type of creative writing fueling me on, I enrolled in the class and my professor (who would later become one of my mentors) quickly accepted my petition.

That class, to this day, has been the best class of my college career. I adored learning about the intricate details of film and how a script is written. I absorbed everything I was presented and pursued it vigorously. I quickly became a front-row student, and began seeking out my professors after class for outside help and mentoring. I asked them for advice and brainstormed with them, and probably bothered them to the point of oblivion. And, as the semester progressed, I found myself catching onto the trade and falling into a rapid and deep love with it.

And, my professors encouraged me to continue my script well after my class ended. They told me my idea was fresh and new, and that I had a talent that was worth developing. That, if I wanted to, this could turn into a career for me that would be promising. I had never, in my wildest dreams, imagined that scriptwriting for film would be in the cards for me. I always imagined myself as a missionary, writing of my adventures overseas, while pursuing a love for servitude in the name of Jesus. While people had told me all my life that my writing would be renown, I had never truly considered how or why.

I would like to say that I pursued scriptwriting with enthusiasm and finished my script at that time. Unfortunately, after a series of run-ins with individuals who told me that it was impossible and that I was not nearly talented enough to make it into that small percentage of people, and that I was not nearly beautiful enough for the Hollywood scene, I abandoned my script for a year. I decided that it was not worth pursuing, and that my idea could never go as far as I imagined it would: that it would be better for it to die than to fail.

Time continued, and I graduated college. As I began my search for a career, I could not imagine the frustration and the incomplete feeling I had. Whereas I was a confident senior in May, I suddenly found myself as an unsure graduate in August; unsure of what to do in life and terribly unqualified. I began to seek the Lord and ask God what I was doing, and where I should go. What He wanted my career to be.

HR and PR bored me. Marketing terrified me. Journalism, I already knew, wasn’t my forte – I couldn’t spend my life writing hard and dry news passively, without passion or opinion. Copywriting I had tried, and quickly found uninteresting and dead-ended. Being a novelist was difficult and not very profitable. So, discouraged, I searched for jobs and continued to seek out my passion, and what to do with my life.

Then, in August, I felt the pressing of the Holy Spirit lead me Hollywood. And, overnight, I had a burning passion and an unquenchable desire for that industry – as if every part of me cried out for that place. Confused and overwhelmed, I came to the Lord and asked a simple question, remembering how I had abandoned the idea of film a year ago. That thought was, “Oh, God, why this? Why this industry when I’m a nobody?”

God quickly began to correct that mindset. Then, one day, I stumbled upon an article on Sylvester Stallone and his Rocky journey, and was overwhelmed. I remember sitting at my computer and crying, thinking that Balboa was literally me – that Sylvester Stallone, at the beginning of that journey, was literally where I was in my life. I was sobbing as God reminded me that even out of nothing He created the world, and that He had great things in store for me, if I would only develop the heart and confidence for it.

So, I began to write my script again. All throughout the summer of my graduating year I pursued my script and worked it and re-worked it, inside and outside. I tore it apart and put it back together. I devoured scripts, and began to research the art of scriptwriting, when people around me began to tell me that I wasn’t properly educated and would never succeed – again.

I took it upon myself to closely follow the works of Sylvester Stallone. He became the standard that I set for myself to pursue – I got as many of his scripts as possible and, I devour them. I study his tone and prose, as well as his characterization and careful craftsmanship. Again, the seven year old girl that had fallen head-over-heels in love with Rocky Balboa emerged, and I developed a renewed love and appreciation for Stallone and his work. He would become my inspiration, and my “idol”.

Then, one day, I realized that I needed to own the Rocky films for myself, outside of my parents VHS copies. So, I scoured the department stores around my home and finally found them in Target. I purchased those movies and guarded them feverishly. I began to watch, and study, the character of Rocky; and take in the raw enthusiasm of an inexperienced Stallone.

What I found was a man so desperate to pursue his passion that he overcame overwhelming odds to show the world what he could do – both as Rocky, and as himself. Stallone overcame a mountainous industry of people who all told him he couldn’t do it, and stuck it to them. He edged his way into a cracked door, and threw his foot inside. What resulted would be a powerhouse career that would blow the door off the hinges of Hollywood, and land him a reputable career that has inspired millions.

  Rocky has taught me a lot about myself, and the career I have chosen for my life. I am thrilled to say that I did end up finishing my first script, and intend to pursue a myriad of others that I have been feverishly pursuing. Is it terrifying? Of course. Is it daunting? Like nothing you would believe. There were countless days that I would pound my head against my desk and cry; thinking I couldn’t do what I so desperately ached to do. There were days I could fly through scenes and feel like I’d conquered the world. Then, there were simple days where I wrote a few pages and felt content in my life. But, each and every time, I went away with a feeling of satisfaction and contentment, knowing that I was doing what I had been born to do. I felt, writing my script, that my writing could go places like I had never felt before.

Am I a famous Hollywood director and scriptwriter? No. I’m a simple Midwestern girl hell-bent on pursuing her passion and unwilling to let people stand her in her way. People have been standing in my way my entire life, and I realized late in the game that I’d let them do it. It’s not so much people’s fault as it is our own for putting the brakes on our passions and our dreams – it’s a lot of us that gets in the way, too. A lot of our insecurities and doubts and worry stand in the way. Many times, people just verbalize them.

There will be people in life that try to tell you and I that we can’t. Whether they are jealous or just negative, I’ll never truly understand. But, I know beyond a shadow of a doubt, that there will be people in my life that stand in my way and try to knock me down like Mickey tried to down-talk Balboa. Then, there’s going to be people who knock me down like Apollo Creed. And then, there’s going to be days where I come out victorious and can scream, “Yo Adrian, I did it!”

The fact remains – you are you. You’ve been gifted like no other person has before. God put inside of you your passions and desires and talents even before you were knitted within your mother’s womb. You can’t change it any more than you can change your own DNA, as much as you want to. The dreams and aspirations that God has put inside of you are yours and yours alone – and, it’s your job to protect them and use them. For so many years I hide behind my abilities and let people’s opinion be the standard for my success. That’s not the case.

What matters is that you do what God has called you to do, and you do it with everything. That is what matters. Success is only a fruit of sacrifice, and comes only when you have tried and completed a task. You cannot be successful if you do not, at least, try. And, even then, failure is only a stepping-stone to success, and is the gateway to knowledge. It’s not even about being successful: it’s about what you can do in the pursuit of success, and keep moving on, no matter the odds.

Because, in the end; “it ain’t about how hard you hit, it’s about how hard you can get hit, and keep moving forward.” That’s how winning is done.

And, guess what? I don’t mind boxing, anymore.