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Meet Mingjie “MJ” Zhai of The Love Story Media in Santa Monica

Today we’d like to introduce you to Mingjie “MJ” Zhai.

Thanks for sharing your story with us Mingjie. So, let’s start at the beginning and we can move on from there.
I started this organization to inspire all of us to discover our inner artist in heartbreak. I started this because I had a lot of anger and resentment towards my ex-husband for his betrayal during our marriage. When it fell apart, I had put all the blame on him and the anger almost destroyed me. After surviving my suicide attempt in 2013, I was diagnosed with bipolar I, and the stigma of being institutionalized in a mental hospital, of being diagnosed with a mental illness, and of losing my job, my home and moving back with my parents only exacerbated the listening of myself as a “loser.” So I was on a downward spiral of depression with strong suicidal ideations. One poignant memory was of myself driving towards the beach, fantasizing of drowning myself in alcohol and then drowning myself in the ocean when a voice. I was about to go on the onramp towards the direction of the beach when a voice that sounded like mine but wasn’t mine, told me to head the opposite direction.

This “opposite” direction led me on what felt like random driving, wandering for hours in a local suburban neighborhood, until I came upon a building that said, “Welcome.” It was here I had begun the real process of healing. In this anonymous support group, it was their acceptance, their authentic shares, and their willingness to be vulnerable in their own self-realizational journey that I began to awaken. Looking back, I realize that that is what true humility is–in those rooms, they told me that “humility is not thinking less of yourself, but thinking of yourself less.” It takes courage to take one’s mask off and admit one’s shortcomings in front of strangers–that takes humility. In many ways, sharing from a place of authenticity and vulnerability becomes a service for the listener so we may discover ourselves in their stories. This phenomenon is outlined in 1 Corinthians 13, verse 12 in the Holy Bible:

“For now, we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face.

Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.”

1 Corinthians 13, Verse 12. NIV

Rather than giving me advice, mending me or fixing me…. because I was never broken, they were speaking from a place of heart and personal experience. The attention was not on me, but rather, was on who they were, their journey, and their narratives soon resonated with mine.

From that space and place, I discovered that:

1. I’m not alone (everybody is going through their personal journey).

2. There is nothing wrong with me (the hellfire can temper my soul into a force for social good).

3. I am imperfectly perfect (I am perfect in my process).

In transformational work, we say, “turn your test into a testimony and your mess into the message.”

In anonymous support groups, we say, “easy does it” or “let go, let God.”

In Christian fellowship with God, we say that we are all part of God, that God is Love, and that Love is defined in 1 Corinthians 13.

This idea that we are all going through the Hero’s journey (quote Joseph Campbell’s The Hero with a Thousand Faces), that we are all interconnected, and that the human experience is a worthy journey to take because God has chosen us for this time/place/bodysuit so that we can master love….this deeper knowing gave me the courage to face my daemons, lean into my shadows, and transform my pain into passion.

Out of the depth of darkness, God showed me the silver lining and I took action. I haggled a wedding dress, bought camera equipment, and flew to the east coast to interview random strangers about love and loss. I started every interview with the same question, “Have you ever loved and lost?” I wanted to see if we can break through the stigma of a mental health or “ism” label so that we may co-collectively normalize and humanize the human experience of heartbreak. What people shared was fascinating; https://vimeo.com/115675370

My journey in multimedia storytelling created a new listening of myself in the context of “cie la vie,” or “it is life” rather than “shit, I have a mental dis-ease.” That gave me so much freedom to create. When I got back to Los Angeles, I had invested in a digital hip hop publisher, learned some valuable lessons on what to do and what not to do, then I left to start my own publisher by reaching out to the connections I had built. This was around the time I began attending Pastor Judah Smith’s church, covering transformational festivals while interviewing artists for my publisher, and taking my own transformational workshops. The collective experiences are the driving force that grounded the publication upon journaling, journalism, and the personal journey.

It’s been almost 3 years since the project inception from what started as a place of deep suffering into my own hero’s journey of transforming pain (depression, suicidal ideations, anger and resentment) into passion (multimedia storytelling, filming, producing, photography, poetry, pitching, learning how to build a startup lean), of choosing self-expression (spoken word, psukhe journaling, publication and program design) instead of self-destruction (feeding my addiction monsters of sex, drugs, and overeating), and creating my love loss (losing my best friend) into a love story (becoming my own best friend).

It’s been a roller coaster, and it will continue to be a roller coaster. The only difference between then and now, is that I have embraced the ride.

Has it been a smooth road?
Any mission worth pursuing will not be smooth. The only way to create smoothness is if you can transform the way you perceive the adventure itself as being smooth. In other words, seeing the beauty in the chaos. Once you lean into the fear, once you are comfortable being uncomfortable, achieving moments of “flow” because more frequent. Flow is the state of mind and heart alignment–when we realize that we are perfect in our process….and I mean Truly realize that we are perfect ….in our process…that state of happiness amidst the chaos…that is the “smooth” in the rugged road we are all experiencing.

Specific struggles:

1. Budgeting my monthly personal spending so I can allocate it towards the project (think raising a baby…you’re constantly thinking about her, thinking of ways to save money so you can allocate resources for her growth).

2. Adjusting my spending habits from a professional teacher’s salary to a lean entrepreneur lifestyle (cutting eating out, credit cards, and serial dating).

3. Getting over the self-loathing and “something is wrong with me” for not fitting in with the crowd. What helped me was reading Seth Godin’s Purple Cow and Stephen Pressfield’s War of Art.

So let’s switch gears a bit and go into the The Love Story Media story. Tell us more about the business.
The Love Story Media, Inc. dba, The Love Story, is a nonprofit publisher and educational platform that inspires all of us to discover our inner artist in heartbreak. We interview artists who have transformed their pain and personal adversities into their passion and creative expression. We produce these interviews into an interactive journal: using augmented reality technology. With our partners, Sam and Robert at Live Portrait, we are now able to see a video directly from the journal so that our tribe can experience journaling, journalism, and the personal journey.

I specialize in inspiring people to discover their inner artist in heartbreak so they may break their hearts open and show up authentically, vulnerably, and creatively for the world. As a former English teacher & Speech and Debate coach, my first passion is storytelling, second inspiring others, and third witnessing the transformational process of myself and others in our co-collective being and becoming in this journey we call life.

Finally, I specialize in discovering my own inner artist in heartbreak…. of going inward so that I may choose the best version of myself when showing up outwards.

The thing I am most proud of in my organization are artists, producers, storytellers, photographers, writers, developers and content creators who believe in this dream, who were and are willing to take their time, talent, and resources to co-create with me.

Honestly, nothing really sets me apart from others. I am human, I am imperfectly perfect, and I am still in my process of self-realization.

How do you think the industry will change over the next decade?
Our industry is shifting towards authenticity, vulnerability, and creativity. We want the raw, the real, and the #100.

Pricing:

  • The Love Story Journal Volume 1 $19.95
  • The Art of Transformation Membership $59/year
  • Break Your Heart Open Showcase $39/show includes Journal

Contact Info:

Getting in touch: VoyageLA is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

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