Feminism

Bite the Dust

Every time I come back to Norway for the summer I suddenly see my country with a different set of eyes, and things that used to be familiar and normal have a tendency to seem a little odd to begin with. That’s okay. I’ve lived in the US for three years, and the fact that I’ve become more “Americanized” with time should come as no surprise. But there’s one thing that has started to bother me more and more each time.

With the fear of sounding like some kind of a traitor, I’ll try to pick my words carefully, but this one Norwegian “characteristic” has become so annoying to me that I, at one point, told myself I could no longer see myself living here.

The concept is hardly unique for Norway, but from my experience it is far more prominent here than in the US.

It’s the “Law of Jante.”

If you’re not familiar with this crippling concept—good for you—but I’ll try to explain it anyway.

This may sound harsh to some, but for the purposes of demonstrating my point, I’ll say that to Norwegians the Law of Jante is what the Pledge of Allegiance is to Americans; in the sense that it’s so deeply ingrained into the culture that people don’t even think of it as a tad bit strange anymore. It’s noticeable as soon as you enter the domestic part of any Norwegian airport, and it reads as follows:

Picture: https://nthestorygoes.wordpress.com

I hate it!

I never noticed how bad it was until I moved away, and I’m sure our society doesn’t even realize the grip Jante has on it.

I don’t think people necessarily mean any harm by obeying to this law, I’m just saddened to—once again—discover the tremendous impact it has on people’s lives and behavior.

The effects of Jante can be very subtle, and it can be very obvious.

Just because the general philosophy says that you shouldn’t stick your head out too far, or raise your voice too high, people rarely have the courage to confront you if they think you’ve put on too much of a show. But subtle or not, there will be consequences for not adapting to the law; backbiting, rumors, lost friendships and a constant feeling of swimming against the current, to mention a few.

This is the recipe for insecurities, inferiority complexes, stagnation and broken dreams, and it makes me feel trapped; trapped inside a room that was built for people who’s been taught to walk with their heads down.

“Don’t stand up too tall — you might get noticed. Don’t speak up — someone might hear you. And whatever you do, don’t try to be good. And actually, now that you’re at it, you may try to hide away those talents of yours, too. Just in case.”

It’s claustrophobic beyond measures.

Sometimes I want to use a sledgehammer to tear down the low ceiling in all these Norwegian rooms that makes it impossible to stand with your back straight.

I’m not saying that cockiness and arrogance is any better, but confidence, dreams and joy cannot thrive in these conditions. We need encouragement, support, enthusiasm, respect and a feeling of self-worth before we can even begin to talk about growth, progress and — happiness.

Imagine if we paid more attention to the reasons why the people around us will succeed, why they’re important, what makes them beautiful, and what they have to offer.

Jante, you’re not going to win. I’m not afraid of using that sledgehammer when I have to, and consider this my first swing.

I encourage every single one of you to internalize these words.
Live, teach and breathe them!

Your voice does matter.

Bless you,
Maria

With a foot on each continent

This month has, in many ways, helped me ease out of my life as an Augustana student and into what feels like a layover while I wait for my next flight. Don’t misunderstand; I love my family and my country, but shifting between continents has a tendency to make me want to stand with one foot on each side of the Atlantic Ocean. It works for a few days, but for every hour that passes, I can feel the pieces of land sliding further and further apart and before I know it, I’m in splits.

Unless you’re a gymnast or ballet dancer, I hope you can relate when I say that sitting in splits can get rather uncomfortable for prolonged periods. I can only free myself from the discomfort by placing both feet next to each other, but that means I first have to pick one. Choosing one in front of the other is hard when you love them both so dearly, but this is the price to pay.

I have to understand that parts of my identity now belongs to America and that certain traces of it don’t always make it through customs when I go to Norway.

When I’m in the US, I’m a student, a classmate, a filmmaker, a public speaker, a foreigner, an activist and an artist.

When I’m in Norway, I’m a daughter, a sister, a native, a former track athlete, a former bodybuilder, a former-a-lot-of-things and a girl who goes to school somewhere far away.

It can be frustrating, draining and confusing.

But even if it may seem a little cynical, I would not have traded it for anything, because I found a place where I can spread my wings and be myself—my whole self—and I know that I’m loved despite my shifting geographical coordinates.

This year, however, the transition felt smoother than before and I didn’t even have to try to sit in splits; I got to bring a piece of America with me instead. My family got to meet with some of the people who have influenced me greatly over these past three years at Augustana, and I realized that a few of the things I thought I’d left behind weren’t gone after all.

With the family Anderson Friesen in Bergen.

 

With Augie president Rob, prsident-to-be Stephanie, Dr. Nitz and the selfieographer Donn outside the Grand Hotel in Oslo.

Even if it was just for a moment, my two worlds united.

Love,
Maria

A Thousand Days of Prairie

My Augustana adventure ended no less than 11 days ago, and based on my activity on social media one might think my blog career ended that day as well, but I can assure you that’s not the case.

After having successfully moved out of the dorms—and less successfully condensed all my belongings into two suitcases—I made it back to Norway for the summer. Now, however, after some actual relaxing and quality time with my family, I felt the urge to blow some life into this place again.

This past week has been filled with a lot of reflecting and a lot of trying to calculate the length of a day, because I still can’t seem to understand how my three years at Augustana could go by so fast. When I think about this chapter as a whole I feel like there’s a whole chunk missing; almost like I closed my eyes for a moment and suddenly woke up ten minutes later  — only to realize I slept through a whole night. But when I think about everything I’ve done, experienced and been a part of, I’m amazed it hasn’t been longer.

Photo: Mike Shafer.

This sort of reflecting has also made it very clear to me that these three years have been the best of my life, thus far. Which is something I give God the glory for.

And do you want to hear a fun fact? I graduated exactly 1000 days after I first arrived on campus. Yes, one thousand days! How cool is that? Y’all know I have a thing for whole numbers. You see, despite my lousy math skills, I do recognize the beauty of a round, whole number. If I was to write a book about this, it would be called A Thousand Days of Prairie. I like the sound of that round, whole title too, haha.

A photo from my road trip last week.

Anyway, in my previous post I told you I had some big news to share, and even if I hate to leave you hanging, I have to ask you to wait a few more days. The details just have to be ready first. But I can tell you this: since I’m an actual journalist now and have to maintain certain standards and avoid so-called sensationalization with my writing, I think I can say that these news are pretty extraordinary. Oh, by the way, I’m not pregnant, engaged or any less single than usual, so don’t expect anything of that sort — although, that would’ve been almost as surprising as these news. Just stay tuned.

Bless you all,
Maria

Covenant Awards, Thoughts, Friends & Photos

Good afternoon!

I can’t believe yet another week has come to and end, and that I only have six weeks left of my Augustana adventure, but pondering of that sort is a topic for another post. Right now I just wanted to check in and write a perfectly ordinary post about what I’ve been up to since last time.

Feature Story
As a journalist I usually tell other people’s stories, but this week I was lucky enough to have Kelly Sprecher tell mine. We talked about my childhood and NYU, and everything that happened in-between the two.

I still think it’s a little strange to be the subject, rather than the writer, of the story, but I’m very happy with how this one turned out. Kelly really brought out the essence of why I do what I do. Please read the full story here HERE.

Covenant Awards
This week has been filled with more meetings and events than school work, so the feeling of drowning in papers, assignments and exams presented itself a number of times, but I got it done just in time for the Covenant Awards on Friday, which was a great way to wrap up the week. You can read more about what kind of award ceremony this is HERE, but it’s basically a celebration of Augustana’s five core values: Christian Faith, Liberal Arts, Excellence, Community and Service. And a few students get nominated in each category every year. I was nominated for the first one, which was a huge honor. So even if I didn’t win, it was a great pleasure just to be there as a nominee.

It got even better when my dear friend, Alejandro, won the award for Community! “The Fam” (the collective name of our unique assembly of friends seen in the picture below) started celebrating his victory before the announcer even finished pronouncing his name. A proud moment for us all! <3

Thankful for these people💙💛#augustanauniversity

A post shared by marialavelle1 (@marialavelle1) on

 

With Alejandro Garcia. Photo: Jessica Ruf.

We then went out to celebrate with Indian food (after this highly formal photoshoot, of course)

With Elin Hægeland and Anna Myrmoe. Photo: Jessica Ruf.
I still don’t know how to carry a purse while also wearing heels. Thankfully I had my buddy, Jacob, there for support.

Based on the names in the caption below, one would think we’re all Norwegian. But besides the fact that my name hardly sounds Scandinavian and my friends tell me I’ve become too Americanized to bear the title “Norwegian” there are actually just two Norwegians in this picture. I don’t know how to respond to such claims about me. It’s quite scandalous, really.

With Elin Hageland, Anna Myrmoe, Jacob Knutson and Philly Harkness. Photo: Jessica Ruf.

 

The photographer herself, Jessica. Photo: Anna Myrmoe.

I’m so grateful to be surrounded by talented, ambitious and hardworking people who inspire me to be a better version of myself. Knowing that I’ll leave them in just six weeks makes my eyes produce salty liquids. I think I need to wrap up this post before my keyboard gets wet. Sniff sniff. Love u all.

Blessings,
Maria

Talking about NYU & filmmaking on the radio

Hello!

Like I mentioned in my previous post, I was invited to the “In the Moment Live” radio show with Lori Walsh at the South Dakota Public Radio.

 

This is the second time I’ve done a live radio interview, and it was nice to be back, even if I still think radio is more intimidating than TV. I don’t know why, but it may have something to do with the fact that TV allows you to use more than just your voice to express yourself, and since I’m sort of an immigrant with an intermittent accent, it’s always interesting to see hear how it turns out, haha.

To watch my other interviews, CLICK HERE.

You see, after almost three years in the US, my accent fluctuates between “so American that people ask if I’m from Watertown, SD” and other times I sound like I came riding into the US on a fjord-horse just two days ago.

But with or without accents, I’m happy with how it went and Lori made me feel comfortable in the setting. We talked about Over the Bridge, NYU Tisch and everything in between — for almost 17 minutes. So feel free to hit the play button below and listen along.

 

Or click on this picture:

 

Have a blessed day,
Maria

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