Reflections of Life produces gorgeous short films that uplift the personal stories of ordinary people, with the goal of sharing ideas and inspiring change. We feel hugely blessed to feature video-stories that filmmakers Michael and Justine capture with exquisite expertise, and which so beautifully illustrate grateful living principles and practices. In this short film we hear from Annika Samuelsen.

Learn more about Reflections of Life (formerly Green Renaissance) through our Grateful Changemaker feature.

Questions for Reflection

  • What feelings/thoughts/questions surface for you in viewing Annika’s story?
  • How does Annika’s story move you?

We invite you to share your reflections below the video transcript that follows.

Video Transcript

Definitely…I wish there was a step-by-step guide of how to live your life. Ten simple steps to get it together. What was the question again, I’m sorry?

Who am I? It’s hard to put words on that. Um…During my life, I have had a little voice in my head that has been telling me to repress a big part of me and become someone that I was not. As we grow up for some or other reason we start losing ourselves in some way or we build walls around ourselves because we are afraid of being singled out. Changing yourself to fit in only enhances that critical voice.

The stress that comes with being someone that you are not is huge, and that starts eating away at your own body. Feelings bottle up. Everyone’s bottles are created by different materials. Some have iron — some people can bottle a lot of emotions and be very strong. And some people have paper cups.

Bottling these emotions up for long enough, you basically create something else. Suddenly what you call a critic becomes an enemy, and then suddenly it becomes your master. The only way to combat that enemy is to recognize that that is you. And you have to be true to yourself, and you have to try and start to love yourself. Even though you don’t like it that very much.

Somewhere along the line when I grew up a sparkle in my eyes disappeared. My father said it’s as if I was entombed. That little spark has slowly started to come back to me. I felt some kind of spark being ignited to try…when I thought about continuing my life being who I really was. It might just be an ember right now, but it started burning when I felt ready to come out of my tomb and start showing the world who I am and who I am going to become as a person. I chose to call my mom and tell her that I was coming to dinner and tell her that I was actually a woman.

I had these thoughts in my head that maybe I would be rejected, maybe my family would not really want to know about me. And something that I feel very bad about — because in my head, I have never been meaner towards them than thinking that they would ever do that towards me.

My biggest lesson in life would probably be that the people who love you unconditionally, even though there may be some tumultuous relationships in there, they will always be there for you. that’s the thing about receding into your own shell — you don’t really realize that you’re pushing them away until you get them back. Like, they’ve always been there…you haven’t — I wasn’t, and now I’m trying to get back.

Being afraid of losing someone is nothing compared to realizing that you have found someone … that you have actually regained these people in your life. My parents and my brother and my grandparents are the rocks that I get to cling to when the tide comes in. And honestly, I could probably have the entire world against me as long as I have them and my friends and the people that I have close, I could probably take on anything.

If we think about fairy tales, there are always very tough parts for the hero in the middle of the story. And in some way I always believe that life is somewhat a struggle, you can never win life. But in some way or another, at a time in your life, you will see the end of the tunnel, where you will finally have found yourself again.

My fairytale hasn’t ended yet. I’d say that I’m still in the tough part, but I’m finding myself through it. You could say that I’m waiting for the knight in shining armor, but I would probably steal his sword and battle the dragon myself. That’s more awesome.

To support Michael and Justine in their film-making journey, visit Reflections of Life.

Reflections of Life

Reflections of Life

About the author

Justine and Michael are a creative couple living in South Africa.  Their project, Reflections of Life (formerly Green Renaissance), works to spread positive stories that reflect the wonder of the world. With the goal of sharing ideas and inspiring change, they produce gorgeous short films that are posted online and available for anyone, anywhere, to watch and share freely.


Through their films, they explore what it means to be human. They touch on topics that can often be difficult for people to discuss – from loss of a loved one to aging and retirement to friendship to love and courage – universal themes that we all deal with at some stage in our lives.


By sharing these stories, Justine and Michael hope to remind us of one simple truth – that we are all human – that inside our hearts and minds, we are all facing similar challenges.  We have so much to learn from each other, and our connections run so much deeper and stronger than we think. Learn more and support their work at