Wednesday, April 21, 2010

the ringing of the division bell has begun

never go back to the hotel.

yesterday was just like any other day. my groceries were still sitting on my kitchen counter, not yet put away, i had just finished watching dodes'ka-den, which i'd (accurately) heard described as akira kurosawa's worst movie, and was on my way to the byu bookstore to pick up a packet for my brother-in-law when i decided to check the mail. amidst the weekly coupon fliers and my gas bill was another small envelope from texas A&M.

great, they want to reject me again, i thought as i opened it out of curiosity in my idling car.

Dear Jeffrey, Congratulations! We are pleased to inform you of your admission to Texas A&M University for the Fall 2010 semester....

i reread it and scanned over it, catching only every fourth word as my eyes stumbled in confusion. hmmm, that's interesting. i'll have to call them tomorrow, i thought as i put the car in gear. i made it about 25 feet further down the street before the possible implications had my heart beating so fast that my hands were shaking as i made a u-turn and was soon running up the stairs to my room. i read over the letter again and saw a name and number to call if i had any questions.
i most definitely had a question.

by 4:30 utah time their office was already empty, though i called twice just to make sure. the contact info also provided an e-mail address and i typed one out as quickly and coherently as i could manage, constantly stopping to make sure that i was making sense as i hurriedly fumbled over the keyboard.
i compared this letter to the rejection notice dated eight days earlier, hoping for some sort of explanation. it seemed that one, the rejection, was from the university at large, while my acceptance was from the department to which i had applied. i remembered that the application process had seemed a little vague at places, as it seemed that i was filling out forms on both the main university website and the department's own site. i went over it enough times to make sure that i had completed everything, but it seemed i hadn't. if that was the case, at least it seemed that i had made it through the more demanding selection. maybe i had just not finished the university application and with some appeals, could amend it and secure my admission.

my head was spinning. a week ago, the door had seemed shut for at least a year. just monday, a friend was asking me what i was going to do now and i ad libbed that i would apply again, finding a few more colleges to add and make sure everything was nicely polished. really, i hadn't thought about it much, with work being so busy, and i was grateful for that distraction. but the door wasn't yet open. maybe i had not chance at reversing the university's rejection, that i had only passed one of two criteria and would simply have to do better next time. it was maddening. maybe my whole life would be changing in four months, or maybe i was still out. i did my best to hold to hope without getting in the way of disappointment.

i wanted to keep this all quiet, just in case it didn't happen. there was no need in disappointing anyone else with me. still, i had to tell someone, so i called my sister. i made a cryptic post on facebook that i later regretted (wanting to keep the whole thing off the radar) but by the time i got around to deleting my status update, there were already comments. mark suggested in-n-out for dinner and, holding my thick chocolate shake, i chose to tell him, too, or else i wouldn't have heard a word he'd say.
thankfully, an evening of rock band and movie night and more rock band helped me forget the uncertain balance that my future was in.

i hoped to call the admissions office early this morning, but didn't have time before breakfast at ihop with my sister and then a funeral. but the first thing i did when i got home was make the call.

the lady i talked with knew who i was and when i explained what had happened, she told me i was in.

i was only partially successful in holding back my exasperation as i thanked her for the news. she said that last week's rejection letter was also from their department, but that after they had decided to look over my application again and reconsidered. she noted that in the twelve years she had been there, this was the first time she had ever seen something like this happen. hey, works for me.

so, yes, i am 100% officially in to the school. classes start august 30.

it's like going on a mission, except that i'm not coming back. while i'm taking all of my possessions (well, maybe i'll slim down some things), i'm leaving the rest of my life. the slate is getting wiped clean. just as in-n-out came to provo, i'm leaving. the international cinema, weekly trips to the orem public library, the long-running tradition of movie night, laughing with the office, rock band, meeting here for whatever's going on, snowboarding, everything. it's time for a new start.

but i've had a great time in provo. it's been wonderful. and i know it's time for a change, even one as drastic as this. it's a big unknown, to be sure, and i'm one who generally doesn't like moving. likely it'll be hard to leave so many friends behind and there will be lonely times this coming fall. but that will also be less distractions and more reason to dive into my studies and work at school. classes start august 30. i expect i'll leave a few days after my 31st birthday.

as jaime noted, the curse has been lifted. this means that at lagoon this summer, that puma is mine.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

remembering how merciful the Lord hath been

this is a post that likely won't have the strength that i had originally imagined, but it's something i want to write down just the same.

last sunday night i was helping sam clean up the kitchen as i was being moderately successful at controlling the anxiety inside of me. i had just come off a rough week of work on a short, one by some first-time film makers, where the writer, producer, and star were all the same person. the hours of the show had been all over the place, doing nights then a day then another night and i had gotten home that morning in time to fall asleep on the couch for an hour, with my shoes on and still holding my cell phone, before stumbling up to my room for another hour of rest and still getting to church in time for sunday school. i didn't mind the rough hours, i've gotten accustomed to that. what had me nervous was what was coming up.

i was starting the next morning on a movie called 127 hours, the new movie by danny boyle. if that name sounds familiar, it's because he won the oscar for directing slumdog millionaire last year and had been one of my favorite directors ever since i saw millions. i was absolutely thrilled to be working on the same set as him; for me, it really doesn't get much bigger. but not only was i going to straight to his show on very little sleep, i wasn't going to be on the camera crew, but was doing video assist: recording and keeping track of all that goes through the director's monitor and playing back whatever scene or shot he should require. in short, being in charge of a little cart with a million different buttons and cables, and only having a brief once-over training on a few nights earlier. further, on thursday the production was moving to southern utah, where we would be hiking into canyons and shooting there. this meant i was taking a whole new package, one that had not really been field tested to make sure we had everything we may need. and i was the one getting thrown into all this. i told sam i was most nervous for monday (my first day on the job) and friday (our first day making it all work in the middle of the desert), and that i was very curious how i would be feeling the following sunday, when i would be done.

i kept a prayer in my heart. today, i found myself looking back and thinking what a good week it was. it was hard, to be sure, but everything worked out just great.

the first day was rather light work on set. i was quietly excited to be on set with the director and cinematographer whom i had read so much about in my magazines and to watch them work, my friend who was on the other unit's video assist kindly came in three hours early before her call time to help me get up and running, and before long, everyone was telling me they were glad i was there.

i spent the next two days watching james franco cut his own arm off with a pocket knife, again and again. needless to say, when i watch this movie on my clearplay next year, i won't need to have the "violence/gore" filter on. (the movie is the story of the guy who got his arm caught rock climbing and had to cut it off in order to save his life) i occasionally had to look away during the cutting of the arm's nerve itself, but i've seen it all. and my friend in props tossed one of the fake nerves onto my cart, anyway.

southern utah was a definite workout. we had to backpack in some of our equipment over a half-mile hike, which for me included a 60 lb. backpack of my gear along with a couple of quite heavy batteries (usually i found some charitable soul to help carry those). our location was 100 miles from our motel, meaning that we had to leave at 5 a.m. to be in time for our 6:30 call. and the first night i arrived in town at 1 a.m. and was up until 3 getting everything ready, pushing through the following day on about an hour of sleep. the next night i got four hours and it felt great. for being a kid who was never good about getting up for early morning seminary or particularly relishing scouting hikes, i found myself at times wondering how i ended up in this job.

it was odd not being in the camera crew, and i found myself instinctively looking up when someone mentioned my former crew. doing video assist is much less stressful, although it can feel a little lonely, since you are the only one in your department. as such, there's no one else to specifically help you move equipment or make sure everything is arranged and taken care of. but i know pretty much all of the crew and we pitch in to help each other out as needed. somehow, it all works.

there were some hard times, too, down there. for varying circumstances, we didn't have much (or any) lunch for either day, one camera assistant suffered from heat exhaustion, and, saddest of all, the gaffer on the other unit passed away in his sleep on friday night. he was the father to our key grip and best boy electric and was well-known and loved by the whole crew. it was a very sad moment on set, but there is a great comradery amongst the grips and electrics and they pulled together to carry on. a very sad day, just the same.

and now i have one week off, then i'm back on to finish out the show. i'm missing some of the most beautiful scenery, but it's so nice to have time off, a week to refresh and take care of some things. for how uncertain things seemed last week, and how far away today looked, i feel really good about it all.

Monday, April 12, 2010

the curse of makbule

last summer, some friends and i went to lagoon. there, i determined that i would win the biggest prize at the park, a giant plush puma, which i decided would be named "makbule." i knew that with enough money and persistence, i could win the game and imagined what a cool story it would be to tell as makbule hung out on the back couch during movie nights.

despite all of my confidence (and $20+ in quarter tosses) i didn't win the darn puma. and i was kind of surprised by the failure, actually. i had imagined the awesome blog post i would write. it was going to be so cool.

as some of you know, i applied to texas a&m's graduate program of animation for this coming fall. it was such a cool story: i had a film background, learned some computer animation, miraculously pulled together an application in the midst of a busy semester in the byu lab, successfully took the gre without any time to study, and slid my application in barely under the final deadline. i felt pretty smooth, ferris bueller-like.
they said they had received my application and would notify me around the "end of march or early april."
for the past three weeks, friends and family have been eagerly asking me if i have heard from them. as i was beginning to wonder if i missed some new method of notification delivery, i saw their name on an envelope as i was bringing in the mail through the cold rain this evening.

it was a very thin letter.

as far as rejection letters go, it was relatively blunt.

the curse of makbule continues. i had imagined writing a blog post (title chosen and everything) about how exciting it would be, yet how hard it would be to leave all the friends and wonderful things i have going on here. i looked forward to being in a singles ward in texas (or would i go to a family ward?), of making new friends and hopefully teaching sunday school there, of being really lonely and dearly missing my friends and movie night and hpbc and wondering if i had really made the right choice to leave everything but trusting that i had. not to get carried away, i mentally sketched out what would write if it didn't happen, too. just in case.

well, i'll be here for a while longer, now. which means now i need to think about what to do with the hpbc once we finish the series (although, with the way work is going, it's going to take us a while to get through "the deathly hallows"), continue to plan movie nights, consider getting a season pass to one of the snowboard resorts, and search for the new path in my life.

this morning on my way to work, i was listening to some old conference cds. my all-time favorite talk came up, the final talk given by elder maxwell. in it, he shares lessons learned throughout his life. the line that has always stuck with me is "never go back to the hotel."
recently, i've been learning (or noticing) that president hinckley was right, "things will work out." our plans don't always go as we plan, but they do keep going, and often better than we planned ourselves.

at the moment, i have no idea where i'll aim next. but, at the start of this year, i commented that i was excited for the unexpected things this year will bring. it's barely april and i've already had the chance to meet the cinematographer of some of my favorite movies and am currently on the set of danny boyle's newest movie, one of my favorite directors. these awesomenesses don't solve my question, but they do remind me that surprises and the unexpected do happen, big and small.

never go back to the hotel.

Sunday, April 04, 2010

family conference for the single guy

only one post in march. for shame.

conference. dang, this weekend really flew by (excepting the closing prayer). i love it. no matter how many times i've been able to be in the conference center for a session, it's still exciting to be there. during the sunday afternoon session i tried to take notes not on what the speakers were saying but my thoughts as i was listening. i still plan on taking a severe highlighter to the ensign next month.

in the past, i've posted here a summary of the speakers and what they spoke. sitting in the nosebleed section as elder andersen got up to speak, i was thinking about the unmistakable common threads throughout the weekend. and i wasn't the only one, either, as the junior apostle commented on it as well.

family, raising children safely, and the hope of the rising generation: these were the topics that permeated all ten hours of the 180th general conference. counsel to teach children the gospel and love of the scriptures early was repeated and much of the priesthood session was directed toward those of the aaronic priesthood. it was interesting to hear all this talk to "the youth" about the greatness of the rising generation and to realize that that's no longer me (and it hasn't been for a while...) i will definitely look this conference up when i have my own children in five, ten, or twenty years.

but at the moment, i don't have children, don't attend a ward that has a young men's program or a primary, or really have much interaction in any way with people under 20 (allison, you are 20 now, right?) outside of babysitting my toddling nephew. so, what's a single boy supposed to do? there's still plenty. elder christofferson's talk on the stupendousness of the holy bible made me want to press on with my study of the book, elder oaks clarified how blessings of healing work, and, dang, i could easily go through my notes and list a fat paragraph of things i learned and was reminded of: the gospel is not easy to live, duty is virtuous, set up spiritual early warning systems, and it goes on.
and the power of example, mentioned in a couple of talks, can influence more than just children.

as i'm working to be patient for the day when i will have a family, president uchtdorf wonderfully taught that patience includes actively and persistently working towards the accomplishment of a goal.... ; )