Blog Archive Posts

vacilando: when the experience is more important than the destination

Clear Eyes, Full Heart

The night before graduation, my roommate asked my family how I’ve changed since 2012. (Way to put ‘em on the spot, A.)

My brother said I post fewer photos (lol). Daddy said I’m less long-winded and broader in perspective (#liberalarts). And Mommy started crying because God’s unfolding vision for me surpasses anything she ever imagined.

That was a wondrous moment. When you love your children so much, it’s a sacrifice to let go and entrust them to the growing pains of the learning process. A bit like seeping an alpine berry teabag from Joe Van Gogh. Tugging the string doesn't steer the bobbing pouch precisely, but no matter its course, we know it will flavor its environment and become part of a yummy, richly colored cup of experience over time.

Well, Momma Choo - I’m a teabag. College has indeed drenched and drained me for the better. Just as President Brodhead welcomed the Trinity College Class of 2016 to the company of "educated men and women,” my time at Duke has taught me how to learn - anywhere.

I know, learning is the least you'd expect to gain from a $250k+ education. But it took me until senior year to really appreciate education as a joyful privilege and formidable force for reconciliation and peacemaking.

As an idealistic shutterbug and doodler with an irrepressible reflex to get inside people’s heads, I have always felt at odds with the persistent expectation of neuroscience students to be premed. It required time away from campus - to learn from communities in Colombia and communicators at InterVarsity - for me to reorient my worldview around Story and return motivated to lean in to the tension of understanding everyone's narratives. Including mine - this seemingly fractured mosaic of faith, documentary, neuro, a cappella, education, justice, AAPI heritage, and foodie fusion that forms my identity.

My favorite turning point in Captain America: Civil War is the story of a son's life cut short in Sokovia, which moves self-identified “genius, billionaire, playboy philanthropist” Tony Stark to get real with the A-Team and seek accountability for their power and privilege. Being at Duke, I think we’ve all been there too. It’s challenging to "find your heart” under the intellectual and social pressure to be effortlessly “genius, billionaire, playboy philanthropists.”

And so, amidst all the voices and global resources of the Duke community, I am thankful for every invitation to know and be truly known. These past four years have taught me to value authenticity over ability; to ask good questions by listening for nuance; to reconcile different POVs with humble curiosity; to fortify my capacity for empathy and action with self-care; and to continually discern Why I do what I do in this lifelong dance with truth and grace.

I entered Duke with the expectations of an entitled earner. As a new song begins, I celebrate our next steps forward with the posture of a lifelong learner. Every voice who has joined in thus far: Thank you. Because of you, I graduate with clear eyes and a full heart. Like a warm cuppa tea. :)

A Happy Medium

I took an inadvertent break from online thought-life during my last six weeks in Madison. Between blogging, uploading photos, and interacting on Facebook and Instagram, I was just exhausted by the pace I had set for myself to continually process my offline life through online conversation. Yet in this hiatus, I've had time to examine my heart posture in artistic creation, especially social media. And God, doing what he does best, made a beautiful thing out of a broken thing and renewed my desire to build up community and point to Him with my story.

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Project [1]ntro

2015-05-29_matt-kirk_0135_small-e1434273071140.jpg ...aaand we are officially done with Project #1: Create legendary introduction videos for the new summer interns and staff at 2100! I hope you enjoy our portraits as they roll out on our Facebook page. I had a blast getting to know my colleagues better through this exercise, not to mention the Sony PMW-EX1, audio mixing in Premiere Pro, and the joys of mixed lighting (not). As always, "learning by doing" is the best acceleration for my learning curve. I already feel my eyes sharpening to the nuances of different light, and I am critically learning to TRUST during collaborative production. Given the independent nature of freelancing, I am accustomed to making decisions alone with a client. This project took me outside my comfort zone by inviting me to share directorship with others. We divided up "directing/editing" and "camera/audio" responsibilities among ourselves for half the videos, and I had to (-gulp-) trust another intern to oversee the A- and B-roll for my intro video. (Editing my own video was another beast of a crash-course in core ideas and forced prioritization.) Altogether, there were many healthy and necessary lessons in letting go... and I'm very glad I did! After all, artists have worked in teams for centuries. We were created to create in community, so I am excited to embrace this collaboration in my craft. Intern Video - Ika shoot

I In Them & You In Me

TV shows like “Suits” and "The Office” often portray an American workplace rife with the toxic schadenfreude of everyday office politics. Thankfully, some stereotypes are meant to be broken. In my application to 2100 Productions, I expressed a desire for “a work environment that nurtures growth in character and intellect.” One week in, the office culture at the InterVarsity National Service Center (NSC) has already completely exceeded my expectations! At every level, the staff consistently model a culture of generosity, humility, and rest…and it is beautiful. Office culture starts at the top, and it was a privilege to observe the farewell ceremony for InterVarsity’s departing president.  While I don’t know Alec Hill or his wife Mary, I feel like I do now. People shared stories that painted an inspiring portrait of true servant-leadership. Humble, teachable, approachable - the testimonies to Alec's open-hearted spirit moved me to tears by the end. Serenely, Alec exhorted us to always dedicate quiet time to God, treasure relationships, and “look for the redemptive purposes of God amidst pain.” While I really wish I could’ve interned under his Christlike leadership, his character lives on in the ethos of the NSC community.

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Humility: Every Wednesday morning, the NSC staff come together for Chapel, a time of musical worship and Scripture. During our first Chapel in the new NSC building, we “raised an Ebenezer” together, creating an artistic display of glass stones that reflect the ways in which God has been with each of us. Ebenezer means "stone of help" and comes from 1 Samuel 7, when Samuel sets up a monumental stone after experiencing God's provision, saying "Thus far the Lord has helped us.” It was really special to see the scripture come alive through this collective expression of gratitude to God for the new space!

Teachability: The communications team (video, graphic design, editorial) comes together every Monday morning for Manuscript Bible Study, an inductive way of reading Scripture in community. The head of comms started off our first meeting, saying, “We examine the Bible together because it is the prime example of communication that has transcended all time. It is the living Word from the Author of all communications and stories.” I came here because I want to connect my craft with my faith - what better way than to consult the Bible for guidance and inspiration?

Approachability: I’ve realized that I am not afraid to start conversations with IV leadership; after all, they treat us all like family! Alec hugged us individually on his last day, and a certain vice-president "video-bombed” one of our intern shoots (shoutout to my Duke fam at the NSC!). The original founder of 2100 Productions ate lunch with me and shared amazing stories from his travels...including his undying love for durian (“Durian is like the Gospel: to one, it is the stench of death; to the other, an aroma that brings life”). Our peer mentors have treated us to lunch, and our production mentor (affectionately dubbed “Coach”) sits on the floor with a magical whiteboard to cogently share the wonders of optics with us. Before exchanging any formal introductions, staff have even invited me to provide feedback on their projects and sing on the musical worship team. From what I can tell, generosity is the convention here!

Rest: There are lots of couches. A quiet room named “Shalom.” Wombat Wisdom Fridays (aka, exchange inspiring videos over lunch). Free bubbles and Boggle. An indoor basketball arcade. And invitations to eat all-you-can-eat homemade pho, join a teammate's family on a gorgeous weekend hike to Devil’s Lake, watch Pitch Perfect 2 after work, and hit up Buffalo Wild Wings for the Warriors game!! My mind, body, and soul are loving the holistic rest this community brings.

Obviously, these are my first impressions. I’m just over a week in, and especially in a time of transition to a new space with changing leadership, the office culture is evolving. Yet these glimpses of a harmonious body working towards a shared vision give me a lot of hope. I feel valued and known by my colleagues, but I also feel like a fish swept up in a tide of love that's much larger than myself. Indeed, “no one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us” (1 John 4:12).

Looking ahead to my second weekend… 

  • Wrapping up production and rough cuts of the introduction videos for all the 2100 interns. I’ll share them when they’re live next week!
  • This weekend is the annual Pulse Arts Conference at Blackhawk Church. Beyond, beyond excited. I’ve signed up for workshops about photography as a spiritual discipline, songwriting and arranging (led by John Arndt and David Gungor of The Brilliance!!), and visual literacy in the church. The conference tagline is “PULSE: connecting arts to the heart of God.” It couldn’t be more perfect, really!