Kimberly Owen – A Duffle Bag & a Dream

Kimberly Owen- Shares her amazing story on how taking chances in life, and betting on herself turned out greater than she ever could imagine. 

On last year, I attended the Urban World Film Festival at the AMC Theater on 42nd Street in New York City. Gina Prince-Bythewood was presenting her new show Shots Fired. If you don’t know who Gina is; she’s directed movies like: Love & Basketball and The Secret Life of Bees, among others…

After the premier, Gina held a Q&A session; and one of the audience member’s asked, “What does it take to make it, Gina? What does it take to get my words from the page to the screen?”

Gina Prince-Bythewood: Acclaimed filmmaker answers audience questions during a Q&A session.

Gina thought for a moment and then responded, “Passion. It takes passion, and a cause bigger than yourself. That’s it.” She went on to say that in this industry [the film industry] you’re going to hear so many no’s — and passion — and finding a cause bigger than yourself — is what will keep you going.

I became emotional hearing that. I leaned forward in my seat, internally telling myself, DO NOT CRY! Do not let these strangers sitting near you think, ‘what’s up with this crazy chick with the duffle bag?’

Passion. It takes passion, and a cause bigger than yourself. That’s it.” -Gina Prince-Bythewood 


That duffle bag, however, along with Gina’s words, were the reasons I was so emotional in the first place. I was embarrassed to even bring it into the theater. Every time I made eye-contact with someone, inside my mind I wondered if they knew I was homeless. Why else would someone bring a duffle bag to a movie? They must be homeless — or a terrorist. The security checked my bag before they let me in the theater, so that ruled out the terrorist notion. The only option left was homeless, (which I was) but that didn’t even matter after hearing what Gina said. Because, I knew I had the passion — and a cause bigger than myself.

Now, before you read any further, just know that I’m not homeless anymore. Nor, was I for very long.


I moved to New York last year after a few friends talked me into it. They were into film, and they knew I was too. I was scared shitless about moving though. I’m from a small town where people treat me like I’m Beyoncé. I wasn’t ready to leave all of that for the Big Apple. But I moved anyway. Then, these fools tried to hustle me?!


Skyline looking south towards Lower Manhattan at sunset, One World Trade Center in view, Manhattan, New York City, New York, United States of America, North America


A couple of my roommates were struggling to make rent, so they decided to have a house meeting [without me]. They decided to charge me twice as much for rent and divide the extra between themselves. One of my roommates, (thank God for him) smoked a little too much and inadvertently told me what was up. All I asked him was “hey, how was work?” His reply was, “Hey, Kim. Work was cool, you know? And that’s MESSED up what they trying to do! I’m not with that shit!”

Soooo, after I found out what the “shit” he wasn’t with meant. I packed up my shit and left; but not without seeking guidance first. I went to the one person in New York that I trusted: my outspoken boss. He told me, “Yo! Get your shit, and get out of there TONIGHT! Today is the 31st. Pack up, I’ll come get you with a U-Haul. I know a lady who rents rooms in Harlem, you can stay there. Just give your roommates the money for this month, and tell them ‘Good luck with next month, MF’s!’”

I did as he advised, but here’s where the plot thickens. His lady in Harlem stopped renting rooms! He tried his hardest to convince her to let me crash for a couple of nights, but she just wasn’t having it. He put my things in storage and put me up in hotel for a few days. Then I crashed at his sister’s place. But eventually anxiety would set in, and I decided to go to the nearest family I had: My grandmother in Philly. She welcomed me with open arms, and I was so thankful for it. Even though she could be very controlling and didn’t let me close my bedroom door or wash my own clothes. But hey, beggars can’t be choosey, right?

New York City Megabus
New York City Megabus

So, for two months straight, I commuted from Philly to New York City on the Megabus. My mother suggested I come back home [To Michigan, where I’m originally from]. I thought about it, but I couldn’t go back now. I was in New York City! A place where if ‘you make it here, you can make it anywhere’, and that’s what I wanted. I wanted to make it. I want to be one of the greatest storytellers to ever live. To be great at anything you must step out into the cloud of the unknown, and be prepared for whatever meets you there — I call that Faith. You must be prepared to sacrifice. It’s been said, that you will never be great at anything you’re not willing to sacrifice for. The true value of something is determined by your willingness to sacrifice for it. Which brings me back to the beginning of this story: Me, sitting in a theater on 42nd Street listening to Gina Prince-Bythewood.

One night, as I waited for my bus to take me to Philly I occupied my time by doing what average millennial’s do: scrolling through Instagram. Gina Prince-Bythewood posted on her account that she would be doing a Q&A on 42nd Street following the premier of her show. I thought this was a sign from God. Now I’m not your average millennial, so I don’t scroll through Instagram often, but the day I chose to, somebody I admire is in town having a Q&A, and right down the road from where I am?! Must be God! The only problem was the Q&A started at 9pm, and the last bus back to Philly left thirty minutes earlier at 8:30pm. On top of that the next scheduled bus wasn’t coming until 6am the following morning. So, I had two choices: miss the Q&A and go back to Philly, or go the Q&A and wander the streets of New York City until 6am…


But I didn’t wander them. I’m not that reckless! I watched movie after movie until the theater closed. Then I rode the train back and forth from Queens to Manhattan. I wasn’t alone either. Apparently, the train is a great place to catch some sleep (if you’re homeless). So I caught some sleep, and it was honestly the best sleep ever. Because in that moment I knew I had the passion Gina was talking about. I didn’t care about missing that last bus to Philly. And since that night, I haven’t feared one thing when it comes to chasing my dreams.


Iconic filmmaker Spike Lee on set directing.

I’ve learned that everything in life happens for a reason. Being in desperate need of a place to live forced me to step out of my comfort zone and take bigger risks — and one of those risks landed me a job with one of the most prominent directors to ever live — Spike Lee — and I eventually found a new apartment in the heart of Brooklyn, paying less than my old roommates. Talk about Winning.

I realize that stories like mine don’t happen every day, and you may even be wondering was Gina’s Q&A really worth sleeping on the train for? And my answer is simple: Yes, it was worth it for me, and “worth it” is different for everyone. But understand, if you really want something in life, you have to go after it with all you’ve got and never get discouraged by the bumps in the road. I heard a saying once that goes: “You can’t make it to the top of a smooth mountain. You need the bumps to grab ahold of and to stand on.”

So, as you chase your dream be prepared for the bumps along the way. But always remember they are just preparing you for the mountain top.  And if you believe something is truly “worth it” (to you), don’t hesitate to sacrifice for it.


-Kimberly Owen

Kimberly is an award-winning writer based in Brooklyn, New York. She’s an avid reader, Netflix binger, and lover of all things Michael Jackson. The best way to reach her is via email:; IG: authenticko



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