How a rusty knife, a VCR and Doctor Who launched my career

When you talk about the choices we make in our lives you don’t always have the hindsight to connect the dots until later on. Anytime I take a look back at the twists and turns my life took I realize I can always trace the lines from the moment things changed. 

My story starts with a knife. A friend of mine, partner-in-crime rather, homie if you want to get technical,  gave it to me as payment for a “job” we did for a girl we knew. No, I am not going to say what we did or why we were “stiffed” on payment in the first place, all I am going to say is that knife put me on the path I am on now. 

I tucked it away for several yeas. I always kept it on my person. During those days we were small time criminals. He would acquire BMX bikes he “found” lying around and I’d help him find new buyers. We eventually migrated to installing “found” car stereos for underpaid friends of ours. This was taking place during my DJ years. He and I had a breakdancing group as well as a full hip-hop crew. I was the DJ. He was the break dancer and graffiti artist. We had  a couple friends who would rap for or with us and a few who shared our dream to “make it big” in the hip hop game. 

During the course of our pursuit of fame and fortune I bought a CD program called Acid by a company then called Sonic Foundry. It would later get scooped up by Sony who sold it to Magix but it was important. I had to upgrade my computer to use it which mean investing some of our “earnings” on a new graphics card. Since I had bought this JVC camcorder that I still have to make break dancing, and music videos, I decided to spend some of the money on one more piece of equipment, a TV tuner. 

My justification for wanting this was selfish but I bent it to the cause so my friend would fork over the cash. I wanted it so I could record movies and TV shows from the TV to my computer, also as a way to get videos off our VHS tapes which is how I sold it to my friend. I claimed we could shoot on his friends big VHS camcorder and copy the movies to my PC. 

Once I started pirating movies to my PC and backing them up to folders a friend of mine told me about torrents. At first I was only interested in downloading episodes of Doctor Who because I didn’t get the BBC and the Sci-Fi channel (before name change) wasn’t enough. Through a series of events I won’t share here we started a business venture selling pirate copies of movies still in theaters. Ultimately this forced me to need more hard drive space thus my spending habits changed yet again. I sold all my video games at the time to buy more external hard drives, as well as an iPod Video Classic. 

I quickly turned my bedroom into a digital lair where you could find enough movies and TV shows to make Netflix blush. After a while I started to distance myself from our under-the-table shadier endeavors. I discovered with all this equipment I bought to make music videos that I never made I could start a side hustle, well another one I should say. I found an elderly woman who had a ton of VHS tapes she needed put on DVD for her. Hey guess who could now do this. I quickly made a small business out of putting people’s memories onto DVD for them. Before long I had invested in tons of other equipment as I expanded my offerings. 

By the time I found myself homeless in Nebraska in the middle of the 2009 recession I was at a loss for where to go next in my life. Naturally I turned to what I had on hand. I made a DVD from VHS tapes from a woman who was in the community as a part of the Chamber of Commerce. I talked them into hiring me to produce a short promotional video they could put on their Facebook page telling people all about how great the town was. It was a project I never completed due to conflicting views over storytelling. The chamber president wanted businesses full of people, but the business owners refused to let me film their customers, who also wanted not to be on film. Thus it made the town look like a ghost town and we terminated our agreement as I walked away with the footage. I managed to recycle some of this for a class project so I guess I came out on top. 

This is where my life takes a dark turn. It starts with me getting into college and having the best time ever studying broadcasting. This part was going pretty well until dysphoria and depression came back. I needed to clear my head so I started counseling. The therapist dug deep enough she found the story of how I obtained the knife. Patient confidentiality requires her to keep her mouth shut so I was in the clear, or so I thought. But because the knife was assumed to have been used in the commission of a crime it was suddenly wanted for police evidence. This threw my entire world upside down. Within days in what I consider a blur I to this day cannot sort out in my mind ended up checking myself into a mental hospital for a week for observation. 

Once out of that nightmare I found myself facing homelessness yet again. My aunt and her husband came to my rescue on the condition I get a job. Having been cut off from my school unable to finish my degree I quickly enrolled in the community college to by me some time. That lasted all of three months and the nagging to get a job returned. That’s when I decided to seek a job. Most of my experience up to this point had been in short term retail or food service jobs I never stuck with for long. Thus landing job interviews was a massive headache. I decided to turn to a tried and true method of landing a job today, the temp agency. 

I took a job working at the local hockey arena. This was a decent job for game nights that gave  me quick cash and helped build a relationship with the temp agency. Once that job ended it was time to try again. I took a job at an auto parts factory I walked out on mid-shift. This naturally terminated my employment with the staffing agency. 

Looking back on it that day was the turning point for me. I started going to the Army recruiter only to be told since I was 32 at the time I was aged out of joining. Oh well, moving on. I went over to Pizza Hut and applied for a job I’d had dozens of times before in multiple cities across the U.S. It was a job I knew I could get in my sleep. Fortunately when he said he could pay me “waitress” wages and I’d make the rest in tips I walked out pissed. I said you can pay me $8 an hour or I walk. Yeah, I walked.

But I didn’t walk far. As I was leaving the parking lot I noticed a sign across the street. It was a HUGE red banner that said HIRING DRIVERS. It was an auto parts store. This I could do. Drive their car, get paid a decent wage for the market and not have to smell like pepperoni. I was hired on the spot. By itself this job didn’t do much for my career but as luck or fate would have it I was about to take a turn for the best. 

I had only been working there a few days when I was tasked with training the next new hire. He was a young kid had just turned 18 and gotten married a few months prior. He was telling me how his wife refused to work for his uncle because he couldn’t pay her what she thought she was worth. I asked what the job was, he said wedding photographer. During our conversation I navigated my way through the twists and turns until he agreed to talk his uncle into giving me a job interview. That job, videographer, photographer, DJ for a wedding company is how I got to where I am today. If you read my resume in its current form that’s the first job on the list. 

From there I went to work as a video editor, then production assistant, then assistant producer for KHGI NTV News. After than I was a Master Control Operator for KTEN in Texoma. My next job was Staff Writer at the Whitesboro News Record. That followed by News Reporter at the Herald Democrat, then News Producer/Editor a KXII News 12. 

Today I am happily employed as a studio photographer nights and weekends, school portrait photographer by day, podcast host and blogger in my spare time. All because when I was 17 years old my friend stole a knife from a girls dad who owed us money for a job I can’t talk about the details today.  The moral of the story is you never know what you are doing today will lead to tomorrow. Just always be on the look out for ways to take your experiences, craft them into a well-told story and use that as a way to open doors for yourself. 

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Stephanie Bri

A transgender writer who also does podcasts and videos. If you like my writing please consider helping me survive. You can support me directly by giving money to my paypal: thetransformerscollector@yahoo.com. If you prefer CashApp my handle is @Stephaniebri22. Also feel free to donate to my Patreon. I know it's largely podcast-centric but every little bit helps. Find it by going to www.patreon.com/stephaniebri, Thank you.