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Sunday, April 27, 2014

Ten Things I Learned in Grad School

So I am practically a Master of Film. CRAZY. I just may have people call me Master Hardy for a few weeks, just because. All things considered, getting a Masters is pretty cool. Coming to the end of my degree has left me prone to reflection on the ride it has been, and I thought I would commemorate my journey with a list. I love lists.

Ten Things I Learned in Grad School:

1. You will never finish all of the reading the professors want you to do. You just won't. I tried and I tried hard, and I never did it all. This is when I learned that all I could do was my best, and that would have to be good enough.

2. School is not worth stressing over. There are so many things more important than school. Your priorities should look more like this: 1) God 2) Family 3) Friends 4) Health 5) School. That is happiness.

3. Knowledge matters. Grades don't.

4. Take responsibility for your own education. If you don't like the courses they offer you, make up your own. You have to power to make your education what you want it to be. You have the power to make your life what you want it to be.

5. I am forever and irrevocably in love with Bollywood. I thought I would be thoroughly sick of it after writing an 85-page thesis on it, but I'm not. It's not a phase, it's a life choice. I could write so much more. Hopefully one day I will get the chance.

6. I have amazing friends, both in Boston and back home in Utah. I have never felt more loved than I have in the past two years.

7. There are good people everywhere you go. The world is amazing, love-filled, and beautiful.

8. Stand up for what you believe in. People will most likely end up respecting you for it, and if they don't then that's their problem, not yours.

9. I need other people. I'm a people who needs people, which makes me the luckiest people in the world. And it's completely true - I love people. I thought I could get by without other people for a while. But I can't. I want more people in my life. I want to be in other peoples' lives. I like being a part of something that is built on more than just school or sports teams or circumstance. Most people learn this in high school or earlier, but I've always been a late social bloomer.

10. Trust in God, and everything will turn out the way it should. He takes care of you. Life is a miracle.

I have experienced so much - I have fallen in love, had my heart broken, made new best friends, been excessively awkward, been excessively nerdy (and found other people who compliment my nerdiness), gotten in shape, gotten out of shape, travelled the world, gotten in shape again, lost 15 pounds, gotten out of shape again, trusted in Lord, learned to teach, learned to listen, learned to smile and laugh, and learned to love. I love everything and everyone. I seriously spend much of my days as of late trying so hard not to hug people excessively. I just love everything. I live a blessed existence. Blessed Boston. 

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Resume and Cover Letters

I have begun the long-dreaded and also very exciting job search. I sometimes think I would like to be a student forever, which is why I am heading towards being a professor, but other times a 9-5 job sounds absolutely lovely to me.

In the process of looking for jobs I have been updating my resume and writing cover letters, and I marvel at just how far I have come. I don't write this to brag or anything, it's just plain exciting! My resume looks very different from how it looked two years ago, even more different from three years ago, and monumentally different from when I started college almost seven (seven?!?) years ago. It's fun to look back and see all the things I've been doing and the skills I've gained, and it gives me added confidence that I will, in fact, be able to find a job (even though that often feels hopeless to me, and probably a lot of other people).

In light of the Olympics and watching people 5 or more years younger than I am being the best in the world at what they do, it's nice to know that, though I am no where near close to being the best in the world at anything except being Jenny, my skills are valuable and I am happy with them. And here's to many more years of (hopefully) adding lines to my resume and experiences to make those lines mean something. 

Friday, February 14, 2014

The Two Things that Saved My Media Soul

Last semester I burnt out. My love of film was simply spent. I know, that doesn’t bode well for someone thinking about getting a PhD in film, but it happened. I had a serious crisis on my hands. I got home for the break before my final semester and never wanted to watch a movie again. I watched movies out of habit. They weren’t awful, but I wasn’t enjoying them the same way I used to. Now, this could seem rather trivial from an outside perspective, but imagine if one of the most important things in your life suddenly had no meaning anymore. Suddenly your livelihood is something that feels completely without value and you can’t stand it anymore. I loved movies for the way they helped me experience different lives and understand other people and myself better. But after watching so many and being told over and over what was good and what was bad and being forced to watch things I had no interest in (which has its good side too – I learned a lot), I just plain got sick of it. It was a chore. In many ways, I’m still at that point. But there is light at the end of the tunnel. I know there’s a light because two things starting my journey out of the hole I’m in: Sherlock and Bollywood.

Sherlock came at just the right moment. I need something to wake me up to what I loved about movies and TV – I needed a story awakening. So many of the stories I was seeing were tired, or perhaps I was tired of hearing them. And then Sherlock made me care again. By the end of the first episode of the third season I felt alive in a way that I hadn’t in months. I cared. By the end of the season I had hope that perhaps I could love what I was studying again.

And then blessed, blessed Bollywood came back into my life. Writing my thesis about Bollywood has been the best professional decision I’ve made so far. I watched a couple of films to start my analysis and I was swept away into a world that I didn’t know I was missing so much. I fell in love with Shahrukh Khan all over again (in a strictly professional way, of course). I fell in love with the music, the stories, the culture, the camera work – everything – and I remembered why I was studying what I was studying. I look at the way I feel about Bollywood now and I remember that I used to feel that way about every movie to some degree. I am hopeful that Bollywood is just the start, and that my love for movies will return after enough of a breather. In the mean time, I’ve watched every episode of Sherlock at least twice and have spent probably 50% of my time in Bollywoodland. And I am 100% okay with that.

I mean, how could you NOT love this? :)

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

My Conversion Story

I have been a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints my entire life. I have always loved church, and I have always accepted what was being taught, not because I didn't question it (believe me, I have questions) but because it simply makes sense. It always made perfect sense to me. It has been the most natural thing in the world for me to believe. Of course, I had never had any major trials to my faith. I made mistakes (after all, I am human) but I was trying to be better and doing my best, so I felt good about my efforts. I knew the Church was true. That testimony was built on a million tiny experiences building up to one great whole. However, I think it's safe to say that my faith was rarely, if ever, tested in real way.

Then I moved to Boston. Being far away from friends and family was harder for me than I thought. Then I decided to go to India, which is about as far away from friends and family as I could get (that's not why I went, mind you - I love my friends and family). Being away from all things familiar really tested me. I suddenly began to realize all in my life that I had taken for granted, including my testimony.
India was an amazing learning experience for me - never before have I been so humbled both temporally and spiritually. I became acutely aware of how much I have. The poverty I saw was, of course, shocking and life-changing. But the biggest change in me came in an increasing awareness of just how imperfect I am. I became more fully acquainted with my sins and learned exactly how much I need Christ's Atonement. Along with that came a knowledge of how prideful I am - I would not let the Atonement work for me. I didn't think I deserved it. I tortured myself over mistakes I made, big and small - curse of the perfectionist - and wouldn't let myself heal. India was the hardest two months of my life, mostly because I was not happy with my newly discovered self and not happy with some of the choices I had made, and the people there loved me and accepted me, faults and all. Blessed Team India. I probably was not the most fun to be around while I figured all of this out and they were patient and kind with me.

I often think about movies - it is my job, after all - and recently I've been thinking of City Slickers, starring Billy Crystal. In the film, the three main guys ask each other for their best day and their worst day. I find it especially interesting and moving when one of the guys gives the same day as both his best and worst day (see the scene here) As a child it didn't make sense to me in a real way, only in a theoretical way. It began to really make sense when I was in India, where I had my best day/worst day experience.

The worst day in my life was the day before we visited the Taj Mahal. We had all been so excited to see it - it was the culmination of the touristy part of my India trip. But I was the sickest I had ever been in my life. I was so ill I couldn't see straight or walk by myself. All the diseases the CDC had warned us about started running through my head, and I was sure I had Japanese Encephalitis or Malaria. I couldn't keep anything in my stomach - I lost over 10 pounds in a few days. The day before the Taj Mahal trip was the pinnacle of the misery. I seriously felt like I may die. Now, people who have actually come closer to dying than I have may think I was overreacting, and I probably was. But I had never felt so totally and absolutely physically miserable. The feeling of terror that surrounded me was something that could not be diagnosed or treated in any way other than prayer. So that's what I did.

I had a talk with God during the 9-hour car ride back from Jaipur, where I basically came to terms with the idea that I could die in India. I cried silently for hours. But during those nine long, painful hours I learned about my faith. I learned that I believed in God, and not just that I believed but that I was willing to trust Him and that everything would work out for the best, even if that meant me dying. I had never been faced with even the idea of death before, and here I was facing it square in the face with no hospital to go to. But I felt something during that car ride that was outside of me, outside of anything - a comfort and peace that could only have been from God.

We made our way to Agra to see the Taj Mahal, and I was not getting better. The other members of our group were sick too, but I guess I was the only one crazy enough to think I was dying, which I honestly did. We woke up to walk to the Taj Mahal, and I was so sick that I didn't see how that would even be possible. But based on a lifetime of stories about the sick being healed, I knew it could work. At this point it wasn't even about seeing the Taj Mahal - it was about faith.

So I asked the men in our group, who were wonderfully and fortunately priesthood holders in our Church, if they would give me a blessing to heal me. They placed their hands upon my head, blessed me, and the pain and fear was gone. It literally melted into a dull ache that I could manage. It was the sweetest, most amazing feeling I have ever had. I had been healed! I wasn't feeling 100% better, but I was well enough to walk to the Taj Mahal, take several jumping pictures, and glory in the beauty of the Taj Mahal itself and the Gospel that had healed me enough. That day we had to cancel our flight due to a road closure and spend hundreds of dollars to get a new flight, and then ride on an awful, bump side road to try to get back to Delhi, but I was grinning ear to ear. Best day.

I learned so many things from this experience. The first is that I never want to be without the priesthood in my life. I will be eternally grateful that there were men in my group who could give me that blessing. It was as close to a biblical miracle as I have ever come. I took the priesthood holders in my life for granted before this. It was simply a given that they held the priesthood. But I now know the precious gift that it is and how wonderful each man who lives his life worthy of it is. 

I learned what humility is. I had to be brought to the lowest physically and emotionally I have ever been, but I have learned to accept the Atonement and the wonderful blessing that it is. There is nothing greater, nor more powerful. It was this experience that fully converted me, forever and always, to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I want to work hard to keep these feelings alive. 

I grew closer to God in those awful painful moments than I ever have. I am so grateful for my health when I have it. I am so grateful for my body. I'm so grateful for my family in India who took care of me while they were also feeling sick. They were suffering probably as much as I was and still took care of me. I've never been so humbled and so grateful. Perhaps it's silly if it took being that sick to have such an appreciation, but I choose to look at it as gift. This experience was the worst and the best - my worst day, but also my best day.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Mid-Semester Update

I haven't blogged since....India. Woah. Apparently I'm a really awful blogger. But we all knew that, didn't we? Any way, this week was especially crazy. If ever there was a roller coaster week in my life, it was this one. Because roller coasters are so fun (read: painfully enjoyable), I though I would share my ride with the blogosphere. So here's what happened.

(Note: I am taking 18 credits this semester. Normally I take 16, but with my TA job that counts as two. It should count as four, but because I've done it before it doesn't. On top of that, I made a goal to attend two Institute classes. We have Institute for everyone on Wednesday night and Institute on campus on Thursday. Each Institute class is two credits, so I'm really taking 22 credits. And for those who don't know, Institute is a series of religious course provided by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and my sanity every week. And then I have my TA job, which is time consuming (but I love it), and I also have my RA job, which is flexible (a blessing and a curse). So I'm taking 22 credits and working two jobs. Gross. There's just not enough time to do it all.)

I graded 22 papers this week. They ranged from completely wrong to pretty good. I really enjoy grading - I like marking up papers and giving grades. I have since I was a small child. Weird, I know, but I find it rather satisfying. But 22 papers is a lot, especially when you have 4 classes of your own to manage.

I found out on Tuesday that my mom's mom, whom I call Ma, has breast cancer. She's of course handling it like a champ, but it's scary nonetheless.

I found out on Wednesday that I received another scholarship! What?! Crazy, right? The Assistant Dean of the College of Communications just emailed me on Wednesday afternoon and informed me she gave me money. That doesn't happen. So wonderfully crazy. I am so grateful.

The Red Sox won the world series! This is awesome, but I unfortunately did not get to participate in any of the festivities. I did watch the final game, but I watched while grading papers.

And then there was Halloween, for which my roommate assembled an awesome Halloween party at our apartment. I dressed up as hipster Mario, and we danced the night away in our newly cleaned up attic (seriously, Chellee spent so much time preparing for this party - she's an amazing hostess). It was a night to remember.

A week full of highs and lows - mostly highs, and definitely some faith building lows. I have a great life :)

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Orphanage Visits

I think my favorite experience so far has been visiting an orphanage here in Hyderabad. We went during summer holidays, so half of the children were off visiting other family(in order to be considered an orphan you have to have one or no parent). There were about 50 children there, boys and girls, all adorable.
They sang us songs and recited poems. They wanted us to sing for them, so we sang twinkle twinkle little star and they knew it so they sang along. They asked us each what we did in the US, so we told them what we study. I love telling kids I study film - it makes them think I'm famous. 

The orphanage is run by an amazing woman and her husband. We didn't get to talk with her much beyond hearing what the needs of the orphanage were. We got to know her husband, Dileep, much better. He used to play pro cricket for Hyderabad! He's such a nice man. He always says "God is great!" When talking about the kids in the orphanage. The people who run and work in the orphanage love the children so much. It's wonderful to see children who come from such difficult backgrounds find a happy and loving place to be. 

The children themselves are just beautiful, wonderful people. Two children in particular stood out to me - Malesh and Lakita.

Malesh is about 10 years old and was the first kid to have enough guts to stand up and talk to us when we arrived at the orphanage. The kids were all sitting in neat rows, and we asked them if they had any questions for us. Malesh was brave and raised his hand. He asked where we were from and what we were studying in English (a little broken English, but still impressive). He then proceeded to sing a couple of songs for us, at first solo. The other children usually joined in. He and his friend asked us if we would come back and teach them English. He wants to be so good. 

Lakita is a tiny adorable girl, about five years old. She was recently rescued from the red light district where her mother was a prostitute. When we visited the hostel where the orphanage houses the girls, we discovered she has two older sisters who were also rescued. They are all beautiful and so sweet. Many of the children are in the orphanage with their siblings. It's nice to know they have each other. 

One of the most impactful elements of our visit was realizing that our country director, Ben, was once an orphan in a place like this. He and his twin brother were adopted at 15 months from an orphanage in Goa (an Indian state). Knowing his background turned every little boy in the orphanage into a little Ben. And now Ben gets to return to India and serve children like himself. So wonderful. One of the boys drew a portrait of Ben - they call him Ben 10 because of the TV show (it's very popular here).

 These kids are amazing.

Our visit to the girls hostel also included dancing, singing, and henna - a woman who works there is also a
professional henna artist for weddings. On our palms she drew an Arabic design, and on our forearms and the back of our hands she drew and Indian design. She is quite the artist. 

They fed us lunch, they danced with us, they kissed our cheeks, and they did more for us than they will ever know. We visited to assess the needs of the orphanage, and we came away with a few things we could do. I hope we can help them like they have helped us. 

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Final Week of Summer Camp and GLOW Wave 1

We have come to the end of our summer camp and first group of GLOW girls. It's definitely a mixed bag of emotions. This week was rather difficult in some ways. First, on Tuesday very few children showed up to summer camp and GLOW had to be cancelled entirely. This is due to a number of reasons, the first being that it is wedding season. There is a season for weddings? Why yes there is! The auspicious time for a marriage in India is determined by the position of the sun and the moon. So all of the weddings happen in that prescribed time, which means there is a lot of traveling and family gatherings and such. This eventually translates into poor attendance at summer camp.

The other reason we had less kids in attendance is that they plain forgot. We last me with them on Thursday of last week, and it's hard to get them to remember to come back. There should have been more kids on Wednesday but our partner organization SAPID threw an environmental rally in our summer camp slum so everything was pushed to an hour later. Anytime the time is changed with something in India, that means a good amount of people won't show. We had a few kids but not as many as last week. It ended up being actually very good - the kids received more attention and more instruction. We went over English words for parts of the body (head, shoulders, knees, and toes etc.) and colors, numbers, and fruit. The kids had fun and so did we. GLOW was cancelled on Wednesday too because of the time change. On top of the time change the government schools started their new school year this week and neither SAPID nor our group knew about it, so a good chunk of kids were missing because of that. I was really sad that my project, GLOW, though scheduled for 6 days and 6 lessons only ended up having 3 days and 3 lessons, not due to anything that I did but mostly due to cultural issues and scheduling conflicts. Still, it was rather discouraging.

But we still had Thursday. And Thursday ended up being our best GLOW meeting. We taught the girls about menstruation, and our translator from SAPID, Urmi (the coolest woman you'll ever meet and our adopted Indian mom), was fantastic at explaining things where we fell short. I've never taught about menstruation before. I had to have Ben, our country director and resident health teacher, teach me how to teach it. That was an awkward but informative experience ha ha. I think Eric, who sat through Ben teaching us how to teach it, probably felt more awkward. It was pretty funny. But it went well with the girls, I think.

And then we taught them about self esteem. Julia took an apple and compared it to self esteem - when you think negative things, it's like dropping your apple and you get bruises. However, inside of every apple there is a star (then she cut the apple and showed them how the seeds made a star pattern). The girls loved it - they kept calling themselves super stars. And then we had them write in their journals things they liked about themselves. Annie asked if she could read what they wrote and many of them wrote that they wanted to help poor people. This was eye opening - they ARE poor, and they want to help others in their situation. I think I learn more from these girls than they will ever learn from me.

I hope what we taught them sticks with them. I think it was a wonderful way to wrap up our first wave of GLOW girls. We are going to try to get a new group each month to work with so we can help as many girls as possible.