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. :)

Work Right


I heard from two unexpected sources of wisdom this past week: David Johnson, President of Silent Images, and Scott Dikkers, a founding editor of The Onion. It's quite an unlikely pairing. On one hand, by highlighting the beauty of people amidst tragedy, David uses his camera to help "bring justice, freedom, and a voice" to the voiceless. On the other hand, by targeting the "foibles of humanity" everywhere, Scott uses humor to satirize traditional media coverage of current events. Yet as different as they are, both use stories in unexpected, necessary, and ultimately sticky ways that resonate with people. They challenge people to re-evaluate their perspectives of others and recognize their shared humanity - the impact I would like my storytelling to have too. These are some of my takeaways from their talks. "Seeing the World Through a New Lens" (DJ)

  1. Be a passionate person about everything I do. I'll never know when and where that perfect opportunity will arise.
  2. God has called me to love all people. I can use the camera in my hands to respond to the injustice I see around me.
  3. I am here to serve first, then photograph.
  4. When building a creative team, find people who are smarter than me.
  5. Personal impact of all the tragedy and pain that David has witnessed and documented:
    • Wonder at the depth of God's unconditional love for such a broken humanity
    • Joy and comfort that God is sovereign and will one day restore justice
    • Conviction and responsibility to collaboratively participate in the reconciliation process

"The Funny Story Behind the Funny Stories" (SD)

Scott Dikkers

  1. Nothing is effortless. Even the most naturally talented comedians had to learn how to make people laugh, and often the hard way (e.g. out of necessity as an emotional coping mechanism).
  2. Basic Principles of Creative Leadership
    • Live my mission, and I will become a person of vision. Find out what I need to do or want to do, and just do it. Doing so will create a center of gravity that draws people to me.
    • Invest my passion, not my money. Heart is all I need.
    • Be prepared to scrap everything. If I've invested your money and it's just not working out, maybe I need to redirect my passion.
    • Trust my people. Surround myself with people who are smarter than me, who love what they do, and who need to be doing it to be happy. They will work hard, but I need to trust them.
    • Work right. Learn from those who have gone before me.

Altogether, their advice really encourages me that I'm doing the right thing by focusing on my artistic potential. When I am sharing stories, I feel like I'm doing what I was created to do.

Be Thou My Vision

Greetings from Madison, Wisconsin! I am incredibly excited to begin my video production internship tomorrow with 2100 Productions, the media and communications team of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship. A resounding THANK YOU to all of my supporters from the bottom of my heart. Your generous prayers and giving make it possible for me to explore my creative vision this summer!

The first snapshots of my transition to life in Madison.

Now I don’t write often for the public eye, but my journal has definitely served as a valuable forum for God and me to make sense of each day together. I offer this blog as a window into our conversation. Stories are one of my love languages, so I envision this creative space as a mosaic of portraits inspired by the people and places I connect with, this summer and beyond.

Ironically, my decision to enter the blogosphere was sparked by a personal portrait that I recognized in a friend’s story. At the end of the semester, she performed a beautiful poem she had written for a spoken-word house course at Duke. The memory of my tears during her delivery still lingers on my cheeks; in her eight stanzas, I saw a jarringly clear mirror of myself. Somehow, her poem perfectly resonated with my internal experience, crystallizing emotions I have keenly felt but struggled to reconcile this year. In her words, I heard my story; with her words, I felt that I could tell my story. It was serendipitous and surreal. She later told me, “Chrislyn, this semester I learned that words have so much power, and writing is an act of worship.” Indeed, where I had none, her words supplied me fresh colors for my cloudy canvas, lifting my eyes up again to the Artist who paints the clouds every day - and this reconnection has brought me immense peace.

As I enter my final summer of college, I hope to explore visual peacemaking, the art of reconciliation through stories of shared human experience, like the one above. When told authentically and sensitively, stories have the power to change hearts and transcend every kind of border. I once heard a speaker say, “Stories are dangerous and subversive. Does this make them bad or good? If you want to maintain the status quo, you crush the storytellers. But if you want the world around you to change, if you want to get in to the backdoor of someone’s heart — you tell a story.”

My pulse always quickens when I read that quote. “Amen, sign me up!” my heart sings. But how do you tell a story in a way that inspires people to be the change they want to see, for good? That’s one of my big questions this summer… and I think a good story to start with is the Gospel. Hence the intersection of my craft and my faith at IV for the next twelve weeks! So far, I have identified four personal goals for my summer internship. Since I love to make lists, here goes:

  1. Explore storytelling, words, and images as an act of worship. As I give God the creative gifts He’s given me, I trust that my vision will align with His. Hoping to gain clarity in tangible next-steps, my ethics as a filmmaker, and a subject of focus.
  2. Learn (to love) to cook. Follow my (and friends’) culinary adventures this summer!
  3. Devour films and books. À la Jim Jarmusch, Golden Rule #5. Questions to self: What inspires me? What’s working well in media that inspire me/others?
  4. Rest. I am actively resisting the urge to fill up my calendar with to-dos. After all, “Creative Sabbaths” - one day committed weekly to conversations, original projects, and reflection - did wonders for me this semester. Creativity and spontaneity need space to work their magic!

Going forward: Please engage with my art, and tell me what it makes you feel. Comments, emails, reposts - let's have a conversation. I want to create images that move hearts and hands, and with your help, I hope to keep discovering what moves me to do so.

Thanks for joining me on this journey! I can’t wait to share the stories that find me. In the words of the esteemed Ellie, “Adventure is out there!"