2018: a year of dreams, action, and magic

My biggest lesson this year is that if there is something you really want to make happen, you don’t need to be ready before you take action. But you do need to decide and move forward. And once you take action, the next steps will be revealed to you in perfect timing, because you have the full support of the Universe when the dream is from the Heart.

Bringing to life She is the Universe, a video series where I share Stories of Girls told by Girls from around the world, has been one of the most fun, joy-filled, courageous and adventurous thing that I have ever done.

If you have no clue who I am, my name is Laura Peña and since June 27 of 2018 I have been interviewing teenage girls and sharing their stories over at www.SheistheUniverse.org (and Facebook, Instagram, and Youtube)

This year I took this idea that was only in my head and my heart and made it into something that I am now able to share with you all! I wanted to create a platform to use my storytelling and design superpowers and help amplify the voices of teenage girls from around the world. Finding 111 girls is the goal, and I am making progress!! Now at 32 interviews, there are only 79 more to find!

I sometimes want to think I did this project for the girls, but the truth is that I did this because this is what I needed back when I was that shy 13 years old who felt invisible and worthless. I may not be able to go back in time and tell little Laura how incredible she is, but I can find other girls, listen to their dreams and let them know how I think girls are the future.

A lot happened since I decided to go from being an animator to become a filmmaker, a director, an interviewer, a producer. Since the day I told my clients I was not taking on work for a year because I was doing this thing. Since the day I did the first interview and sat down with an amazing teenage girl and listen, really listen.

I have been the one on the road, traveling solo doing all the things, but I also have had the support of so many people helping with things like editing, audio, logistics, producing, or just encouraging me to keep going.

This list here is a tribute to 2018, a document to serve as proof that when you want something really hard, believe in it and don’t wait until you are ready and instead take action, things unfold in ways that are both unexpected and kind of magical.

Here are 18 things that happened:

1- Got my US Citizenship approved

After almost 14 years living in the US, and going from a student visa all the way to an EB1 visa, I finally applied for US Citizenship. The process usually takes a long time, but it took less than 5 months from the moment I submitted my application to the moment when I had my passport in hand. I can officially call the USA my home.

2- Went Nomad

Packed my stuff in Portland and for the second time in my life, I started to travel without a home-base. Here is a picture of how I planned my year (I am sooo old school!)

3- Launched a GoFundMe campaign

Before I even had one video out, I launched a GoFundMe Fundraising campaign and got even more than I was expecting. I was not completely funded, but this gave me so much more than money, it gave me the trust in myself, my community and the universe I so needed in order to embark this journey.

And if you feel like helping bring the voices of more girls to the world, you can still do it here!

4- Launched She is the Universe in NYC

I wanted to do a big lunch, invite the press and go big or go home. But it felt off to me. There was something about inviting a bunch of strangers to the birth of my baby (or my 111 babies as my friend Robyn puts it) that felt like waaaay wrong. After connecting with my heart and really asking myself what I really wanted, and who I wanted there, I made a list of 30 people who I wanted to be there.

So with the help of some incredible friends and organizations, I was able to bring to life this baby in a cozy event in the heart of the Big Apple. We laughed, we cried, hugged and celebrated the birth of this idea into the world.

5- Interviewed 32 girls in 4 countries, from 7 different nationalities:

Colombia, Peru, Dominican Republic, and the USA. I feel like I need to do a post on each one of these trips to do it proper justice! here are some pictures of most girls.

6- Released 4 full episodes!!!

I met so many incredible teenage girls, with dreams from being happy, to traveling the world, to bringing Aeolic energy to remote communities. Each one of these interviews as inspiring and I got more than I gave for sure.

With about 100 hours worth of footage, getting down these 4 episodes of less than 5 minutes each into full stories was huge!

Hope you love them as much as we did!

7- celebrated the Day of the girl

Celebrated the International Day of the Girl by creating a series of 3 videos, 2 of them in collaboration with Girl Be Heard

8- Got to prove Sadia wrong:

Watch the post on Instagram

9- Got connected to Girls from South Africa:

Got contacted by Brave, an Organization in South Africa. They heard about my project through someone’s Facebook post (what???!!!)). The founder, India Baird send me the loveliest email where she said:

Love for the girls to meet you and for you to meet us on the road. And we would love you to visit us in Cape Town as well! Hope to hear from you — love what you are doing! Girls are the answer!”

I was lucky enough to meet this group of around 18 incredible, curious, and brave girls!

10- Went to the UN Women

Thanks to connecting with Brave, I then had the chance to attend the UN Woman headquarters in the US. And along with a group of really smart teenage girls from Brave, the Girl Scouts of America and other girls focused organizations, we discussed gender-based violence and found ways to bring solutions to our communities.

11. Wrote a thing

When I started the project I wanted to write my own experience while finding each one of these girls. Especially to give some context of why I thought each story was powerful. I got to write The story of Kartiana so far.

12- Was a panel moderator for 7in7:

I was invited to moderate a panel for the 7in7 conference in Medellin, Colombia. We talked about non-profits, doing work that fills the soul and helping the world be a better place for us all through the work we do!

13- Collaborated with the Mariposa Foundation:

Got to collaborate for a 3rd time with the Mariposa Foundation in Cabarete. Some of the girls I interviewed in the Dominican Republic are part of this incredible organization.

14- Visited a US Highschool in New York City

Thank you to an amazing friend and educator, miss V. I got to talk to a class full of supportive students (mostly girls). I got to share the project and got asked a billion questions.

15- Talked to a group of teen moms for the International Day Against Violence Against Women

The organization Mantay, a home for teen moms in Cusco opened their doors for me and invited me to prepare a talk for the girls about non-gender violence.

I got teary-eyed as another facilitator was explaining to the girls how the International Day of the Girl was born after this group of 3 Dominican girls, Las Hermanas Mirabal got killed during the Trujillo dictatorship in the Dominican Republic.

When it was my turn to share with them my thoughts on violence and share also a few of the videos for She is the Universe, I felt a sense of sadness for everything that is happening in the world, but also I felt real JOY to be in that room, doing exactly what I love the most, connecting with teenage girls.

I asked them to share a dream with the group, and then write it down. I will never forget how one of the girls, a 16 year old who was breastfeeding her twin babies got her piece of paper on top of one of the babies and started to write on her dreams. A priceless moment for sure.

17- Listened to my body:

After going non-stop for months, trying to get this project going I took a much-needed break. I resisted at first, wanting to force myself to work when I knew well that I needed to pause. But finally, I give in and took the Healing house in Cusco Peru as my cocoon so I could be a human again.

This pause got me to reconnect with myself and with a group of incredible women, each bringing light into the world in their own way. I felt honored to be part of such a tribe of Goddesses!

I would say this was the year that not only did I listened to the dreams and needs of 32 teenage girls, but I also listened to myself.

18. Had so many experiences!!!

There were so many individuals experiences, like my trip to the Amazon Jungle of Peru or the time I was invited to an indigenous community in Colombia. So many girls, so many unique stories.

Thank you to all for the support, especially thank you to all the girls who opened their hearts to me so I can share their stories with all of you.

This next year I am coming with a new season full of heartfelt and inspiring stories. If you want to be kept in the loop of what happens next, please share your email here: http://eepurl.com/dxRjlT

Here is to more of this in 2019, in even bigger and bolder ways!

Wishing you all a magical 2019!!!