So last night, as is becoming custom, me and the roomies went through and picked a movie to watch before we went to bed.

Now, the gauge for a good movie in my world, is if I am awake at the end of the movie. I have a yet-to-be-undiagnosed disorder called movie narcolepsy which is brought about by movies that can’t hold my attention and cause me to fall asleep after 10pm. This phenomenon has proven to be existent whether or not it is at the theatre or in the comfort of my own home.

I love documentaries so I was pretty stoked when one of the roomies said he’d heard of this movie called 20 Feet From Stardom that was supposed to be really good. And so we turned it on.

This is the synopsis of the film:

Millions know their voices, but no one knows their names. In his compelling new film 20 Feet from Stardom, award-winning director Morgan Neville shines a spotlight on the untold true story of the backup singers behind some of the greatest musical legends of the 21st century. Triumphant and heartbreaking in equal measure, the film is both a tribute to the unsung voices who brought shape and style to popular music and a reflection on the conflicts, sacrifices and rewards of a career spent harmonizing with others. These gifted artists span a range of styles, genres and eras of popular music, but each has a uniquely fascinating and personal story to share of life spent in the shadows of superstardom.

It was beautiful, it was powerful and as always it brought me back to reflect upon my journey through the highest levels of soccer and of life in general. I find any time you are reflecting on a group of people seeking to pursue their passion in a high stakes environment there are so many parallels across so many different industries.

So without further ado reasons why this movie resonated with me in life and from my experience with soccer

1. The Best Stories Are Not The Obvious Ones

This metaphor ties right in with the fact that I was even watching this movie.

It’s not the one that is the product of the media machine, the one that is splashed across my world. We’re sold this idea of what’s the best, where the best stories lie, but often we have to go a little off the beaten path to find them.

This movie is a perfect example. It met the cmac movie test: although I was exhausted and fell asleep for a little bit, by the end I was wide awake, completely absorbed in the story line well past midnight. This is a movie that probably most people haven’t heard of. There are so many players, people, stories, that we’re never going to find on the Nike commercials or the ESPN documentaries, that we have to dig a little deeper to find.

2. The Reality of the Dream You Are Pursuing Can Be Heartbreaking

Pursuing dreams is an amazing thing to do. And in order to truly go for things we have to be vulnerable, we have to put our heart and souls on the line in order to get the best possible outcome. And while the media machine fuels us with stories about success, about people who reach the top, they don’t tell us the dark underbelly of what sometimes those places look like and how there are times when we have to make a choice to sometime leave the pure reasons that we initiated pursuing the dream in the first place behind, in order to get to where we think we want to go.

The music industry, like sports, like business is cut throat, and it’s not always about who the most talented person is that makes it to the top. It can break hearts and suck the joy out of the process when you realize that.

But this movie tied into the biggest thing I’ve learned through pursuing my playing dreams, that it is so crucial to find the joy in the process.

The success is in having the courage to pursue the journey and the passion that consumes you, not through the things that society tries to feed us that’s important such as fame or money or winning things. Those things are nice but it’s not what makes the heart soar.

3. Opportunity Plays a Bigger Role Than Talent

Going to university at Yale was eye-opening for me on a number of different levels. While I learned a lot in the classroom, it was the residual lessons from life around me that really resonated with me at the time and long after I left the school.

I’ll never forget listening to the president’s address to the freshman a few weeks after our arrival on campus. He talked about how we were the chosen ones, implied that we were so much better than most and this inherent superiority we possessed was the reason why we had the opportunity to roam the hallowed halls of the famous institution that we found ourselves at.

I remember thinking that if I ever was to sit in a room and that kind of message was to resonate with me, that I would hope that someone would knock me out. I thought about my friends that I was surrounded by; sure everyone of us were hard workers, but I thought of one of my new friends that had just told me that she had taken the SAT’s 6 times and had a private tutor for the year leading up to Yale in her affluent community in order to get the test scores that were required to get in. That didn’t make her smarter than the others, she just had the resources to get the opportunity.

Women’s soccer (and men’s soccer) in North America has unfortunately turned into something that is about who has the resources and opportunities to pay for the private coaching, for the top club teams, and that matters more than who has the work ethic and desire to get to the top. In the NWSL alone (women’s pro league), I would venture that many have parents that are still supporting them financially in some capacity.

It’s something that is important to recognize, because it brings upon us a sense of humility that is important to allow us all to grow and change the world for the better. Recognizing the role opportunity plays allows us to appreciate the fact that we are fortunate enough to have the chance to live our dreams, something that most are not able to do, not by choice, but by opportunity.

Just like those singers that graced the screen last night with majestic voices and a soul and passion to follow their singing careers, some were just not lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time or have the resources to just continue with their singing careers without also having to put time and energy into paying the bills by working other jobs.

Watching the movie reinforced the powerful message and truth that being able to reach the top is about a lot more than just an amazing work ethic or natural talent, because the incredible gifts that some of these back up singers had were more than enough to make them worthy of the limelight.


The final message that I got from the film, was that there is a beauty in jumping in feet first into a passion, into a dream. There’s also a beauty in shutting off the noises that surround us in doing so; the naysayers, and those that try to define the success of our dreams through societal terms.

A life lived well is relishing the beauty in just soaking in the everyday pursuit of what makes your heart beat. #yaliveoncelivewell



One thought

  1. LOVE!! You’re such an inspiration, Ciara. Keep leading by example, friend. I appreciated your comments on resisting a feeling of entitlement–you’re so right that achievements in any domain have so much to do with luck and socio-economic luck in particular. Nicholas Kristof in the NYT had a piece along these lines about the ‘uterine lottery’ that you might like.

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