What Homeless Teens Taught Me About Life

Giving a voice to the voiceless is something I've been passionate about since I made my first documentary my senior year of high school. It followed several homeless teenagers in Pasadena, CA. They let me follow them around all day, starting with shooting up heroin first thing in the morning behind a dumpster. Then they showed me the parks they hung out in, the abandoned YMCA building where they slept at night (including the indoor swimming pool they used as a toilet), and the drop-in shelter they showered in.

Being exposed to illegal activity felt dark and scary to me as an 18 year old. However, when I sat down to interview these teens, I learned more about why they were on the streets: they came from broken homes, they never felt seen or had their basic needs met. I saw tears in their eyes as they shared their deepest fears, hopes and dreams.

And suddenly, something shifted inside me. These were teenagers, just like me. Well, not just like me on the outside. But on the inside, they were people, human beings. My judgement started to fade away and I began to see the world as a collection of people who, deep inside, were so much like me.

Years later, I went through another profound realization. This was the realization that the church I was raised in was not the one true church and only path to God. This changed everything for me. My whole identity had been built on my belief in this church. When that was gone, I had no idea who I was.

I call this point my "spiritual awakening" because I began to see my True Self under the layers of identity that I had created up to that point. I discovered that I was not just a Mormon, a military wife, and mother...my external identity. Inside, I was a Soul, a Soul with dreams, desires for growth, service, and freedom. And I also knew that every single human being was also a Soul. This caused me to again, start seeing people under the layers of their external identity.

Ever since my awakening journey began in 2014, I have had the desire to make