I Will Rise

Car break-ins cut deep. It's a violent invasion of personal space and an utter dishonor of all that's precious to you.

For the second time in two years I've had my car broken into.

The first was in Oakland in 2017. My husband and I lost our passports, visas, laptops, hard drive and all my work up to that point (photos and videos that weren't backed up). A good friend had me as his only videographer at his wedding and my footage of the wedding - stolen. I could never make up for the couple's loss.

The second happened last weekend in San Francisco. My laptop, hard drive, camera, and everything precious to me - stolen. What hurts the most is that all the photos and videos I've taken and edited, and this is the work I do - I write stories, take photographs and make short films - all my work for the past two years from 2017 to 2019 - are gone.

Due to the work I do (video edits), my files are huge and I don't back them up on the cloud because I couldn't figure an efficient and quick way to do so and I didn't. Admittedly it's my personal folly for not doing so.

In 2016 I cycled around Ireland and shot the entire journey on GoPro. The most hospitable people and greenest place on Earth were captured in several SD cards in my GoPro. In 2017 I edited a short 4-minute video to present the incredible but painful journey but did not upload it on YouTube as I normally would, as I deemed my video unpolished and could be better edited. I sat on the draft video for 3 years, refusing to publish and share it online. Now that video will never see the day of light. And I can't turn the clock back and reclaim the original footage and re-edit the video, because the original footage are gone. All gone.

Some of my best photos of people and places, and I've taken numerous, too many to count, in England, Wales, Scotland, Ireland, Germany, Spain, Italy, Poland, California - they're gone too. All gone.

While on the one hand I learn from this incident to see life as fleeting and therefore precious and I need to cherish each moment with every person and every encounter; on the other hand it feels like all my work had been in vain.

I should have learnt my lesson from the first car break-in in 2017 to 1) never leave my valuables in the car, ever, and 2) always back up your work, especially when they're precious and you have put a lot of work into them.

I did learn the first lesson - for 2 years after the first break-in, I was careful to bring my laptop with me everywhere I went - I wouldn't let it leave my sight. This one time I was complacent, I was hit.

This second time it happened, it felt like a part of me had died. Because I truly had my best work stolen in a flash.

The disheartened part of me says, those were my best work - could I ever produce better work than those?

The attempt-to-be-uplifted part of me says, it's ok, remember Thomas Edison's response when his factory caught fire and hundreds of his patents were burnt to naught? He brought his wife and sons to witness the calamity, and with great enthusiasm he exclaimed, "Great, now that my 'mistakes' have been burnt, I can start afresh!"

Oh, his positivism! It's insane to think anyone could muster such a bright outlook in the face of such tragedy, yet the Father of Invention did, and I take tremendous courage from that.

Edison lost hundreds of patents worth millions, even billions during his time; I lost my best work, but I can also look forward to producing even better work than before.

But more importantly, through it all, I was safe. My husband gently told me, "as long as you are safe, everything else could be replaced. You can't be replaced."

So yes, I may have lost my work and memories, but I'm alive and kicking, and because I'm alive, I will rise.

Piccadilly Circus on a weekend night. Pic taken on my Google Pixel phone in Mar 2019.  In the 19th century, London was infamously filthy - it had choking, sooty fogs; the Thames River was thick with human sewage; and the streets were covered with mud.  London has since built from its past to being the leading financial center of the world (pre-Brexit) and one of the most visited cities in the world, with over 40 million visitors in 2018.  Your past doesn’t determine you. My past work doesn’t determine me. My present and future do.

Piccadilly Circus on a weekend night. Pic taken on my Google Pixel phone in Mar 2019.

In the 19th century, London was infamously filthy - it had choking, sooty fogs; the Thames River was thick with human sewage; and the streets were covered with mud.

London has since built from its past to being the leading financial center of the world (pre-Brexit) and one of the most visited cities in the world, with over 40 million visitors in 2018.

Your past doesn’t determine you. My past work doesn’t determine me. My present and future do.