Meet Mary Krell-Oishi. She is an ambitious mom who recently wrote her first screenplay for a project in a screenwriting class at the local college and, on a whim, submitted it to a writing contest.
Months later, after winning awards at several film festivals, her romantic-comedy script entitled “What Would Meg Do” will be produced as an independent film, featuring an award-winning cast and crew.
Having won multiple awards for two subsequent full-length scripts and with a short script in the hands of another film production company, Mary has successfully launched her new career as a full-fledged writer and is living her dream.
And oh, did I mention that she is 60 years old?
Sitting across from Mary in a small Italian restaurant, one would assume she is much younger. Tall and slender, she appears poised and composed, until she starts chatting about her favorite topics–her husband of 35 years, her son and daughter-in-law, and her kindergarten granddaughter, Myka–and then she radiates enthusiasm, positivity, spunk, and sass.
Toss in subjects like acting, writing, teaching, and retirement bliss, and you can’t help but appreciate her expertise, wit and candor.
I tell Mary that her professional story inspires me (a younger mom) in pursuing my own career aspirations and dreams. I mean, how often does the evening news feed us success stories about women who have retired from their past career to begin an entirely new adventure altogether? We don’t usually hear news about that. How often are older women told that their prime years have passed and advised to simply take up fun hobbies post retirement? Frequently.
Mary would tell you that no matter your age, it’s never too late to realize your dreams…even if it involves a challenging project (like writing a film) and a hard-to-break-into entertainment industry in which usually only the most talented, most beautiful people survive.
For the thirty-five years prior to writing her film, Mary’s first career embodied the entertainment world, but in a much different way: teaching high school students in Southern California about theatre production and acting.
From scratch, she developed an award-winning theatre program, designed to not only educate drama students about all aspects of theatre play production but inspire them to write their own scenes, participate in acting competitions, and explore their set design, directing, or acting abilities.
Mary also utilized her directing skills, receiving awards and recognition from the California Educational Theatre Association, Orange County Department of Education, and school districts. Throughout it, she has loved it all, but one day in 2009, she was ready for something new. And although some might have dissuaded her to take a different path, Mary knew she wanted to “broaden her horizons.”
She tells me about the phone call that literally “transformed” her. While helping a student direct his scene, she received a call notifying her that her script was the contest winner. That precise moment concluded one dream and started another.
Now, having retired from teaching, Mary is excited to turn her dream of writing into a full-time reality. Of course, it hasn’t been easy, and she has faced hurdles and roadblocks. Daily schedules and balancing her time, for example.
Since the age of five, Mary lived her life by a bell. Life had been structured around school and work, with a 30-minute lunch break. Living day to day without a defined schedule was at first confusing to her, and she says it literally took six months before she stopped looking at a clock while dining out.
Age has also presented a barrier in forever-young Hollywood. Mary’s eyes flash with anger when she describes the time when she walked into a prospective management agent’s office to interview for representation. The 30-something-year-old man realized her age and discounted her with a, “This is probably just a hobby for you” statement. I notice that immediately after she says this, her expression changes to determined and resolute. Nobody will deter Mary in pursuing her life’s passion.
I ask Mary — a seasoned mom and professional business woman — life tips she can share with other moms seeking to fully embrace motherhood but not lose themselves in the process.
1. When somebody (a prospective employer, for example) says “no” to you, remember that it’s just a mere word. It’s not a physical thing that can hurt you or hold you back.
2. Quit putting up roadblocks in your life; it is often your own negative self-talk or fears that hold you back. So, get out of your own way.
3. Consciously make sure to enjoy your time as a mom. When you are in the middle of chaos with your kids, stop for a second and remember what you have. Appreciate them.
4. Surround yourself always with people who build you up and encourage you. Negativity is toxic.
5. Never lose sight of your motivation: It is the biggest driving force for realizing your dreams. Mary’s most important motivator? Myka. She wants to leave an inspirational legacy for her granddaughter.
6. Life is short; choose joy. Always.