NYU

The Small City

Disclaimer: If it wasn’t for the fact that I had two classmates with me when this happened, I probably would’ve chosen not to tell you about it; it simply sounds too weird and unlikely.


Ever since I moved to New York, I’ve explored the city feeling comfortably invisible.

Walking down any street or avenue on Manhattan has had the same therapeutic effect on me as walking in the woods of Norway; I’m able dive into deep thoughts knowing that I won’t be interrupted by anyone I know. I can do whatever, be whoever and behave however.

One time I overestimated that luxury and wore my pyjamas to get pizza, and it did — to my big surprise — NOT go by unnoticed (READ MORE HERE), but other than that I’ve felt pretty anonymous.

A Norwegian Airport

In my hometown in Norway and on the Augustana Campus it’s a different story. There, I have extensive networks of friends and acquaintances, and I always meet somebody I know. It’s also  not uncommon for people to walk over and say that they saw me on local TV or something.

That actually happened at the airport in Haugesund a couple weeks ago. My carry-on bag needed an extra scan and, and after the TSA officer had searched through my entire bag — tampons and all — he looked at me and realized that he recognized me. He introduced himself and we ended up having a nice conversation about filmmaking.

Anyway, in the metropolis of New York, those things never happen. Right?
Not to a Norwegian grad student, anyway.

Well, this is where the weird part of the story begins.

Manhattan

I was in a park on Manhattan with my two classmates, Kaili and Nay, when a guy passed us and said a loud “hello.” I instinctively looked at him and immediately regretted it because I assumed he wanted something from us.

(I’ve also told you before that guys never hit on me, so I quickly ruled out that option).

He looked rather surprised and said “I recognize you from somewhere.”

I looked at him and silently concluded I’d never ever seen him before.

He then says: “I know you!” … “Is your name Maria?”

I thought maybe I had lost my student ID-card in the park, and that he was trying to be charming by “knowing my name” before he’d give it back to me. But no, my card was in my hand.

Thoughts: **Maybe he is one of those mentalists making wild guesses about your identity and expecting you to pay him if he’s right? Maria is a common name, so … **

He stares at me again and smiles.
“Lav … Maria Lavelle, right?”

At that point my eyes almost rolled out of my head. Theories of hidden cameras, and my classmates paying a stranger to freak me out suddenly seemed reasonable.

Thoughts: **I don’t want to say that he’s right, because who knows what he’s up to, but if I say no, I’ll never know what this is all about.**

He then quickly added: “You’re a film director! … And you go to NYU.”

Very cold shivers ran down my spine. When he extended his arm towards me to introduce himself, I probably looked like a social illiterate — I didn’t know how to react.

He then said something about how nice it was to meet me, and how he knew me from the internet and how he had tried messaging me.

I was so shocked that I didn’t even ask where exactly he had tried sending these messages, but I knew for sure that I did not know him.

Kaili and Nay looked as surprised as I felt, and I stuttered something about it being nice meeting him too, before the three of us headed back to school, and he walked further into the park.


I’m sure this guy is a nice person; it just made me question what I’ve actually posted online, because even as much of a compliment it was, it was still unexpected and slightly uncomfortable.

After hours of thinking, I came to the conclusion that my online hygiene is good, despite the fact that I have 3.5 years worth of blog posts floating around the interweb.

‘Tis a small world, indeed.


In the lack of a recent photo, here’s one from the archives:
October 2016 — a month before I applied to NYU.

Q&A Answers

Good afternoon and thank you so much for the questions 🙂

Last year I think some of you had a little too much fun with copying and pasting gigantic questionnaires into the comments section, and I didn’t even get to respond to all of them. Thankfully, I didn’t run into that problem this year; I even had time to add some pictures!

Matt:
Do you have all the money for film school now?
No, I only have the first year covered, so far. Which is a miracle in itself, so we’ll see. I trust God’s plan.

Hei:
Er du fortsatt singel? (English: Are you still single?)
Yes. No news since I wrote THIS post.

K:
Name your favorite bible verse.
Philippians 4:13.

Youknowwho:
1. What’s the most dangerous thing you ever did?
 – Ooh, that’s a tough one. Some things are better left untold. Don’t they say that being alive is pretty dangerous?

2. Biggest pet peeve?
 – Conversations like these:
Random American person: You have an accent. Where are you from?
Me: Norway.
Random American person: Oh, me too!
Me: Cool, where in Norway?
Random American person: I think the town was called Stockholm. You see, my great grandmother’s, uncle’s, third cousin’s, great aunt’s sister was from Norway. Do you eat lutefisk? (Pronounced loodafisk)

3. Where would you want to live?
 – Right now I wouldn’t want to live anywhere but New York City, but maybe in a few years I’ll want to move somewhere else. I love Los Angeles equally much, but who knows. I’ll live where God wants me.

4. Your biggest mice?
 – Whooh, thankfully you didn’t replace that “m” withy a “v”. Or else I’d have to share my biggest vice, and that would’ve been bad. You can read this post and see if you’ll figure it out on your own 😉

5. Is your tattoo real?
 – Yes, they are.

6. What do you like the most and least about blogging?
 – Good question! I like that I get to express myself through writing, and the almost-theraputic effect it has on me. It’s a great outlet, de-stresser and a nice way to keep my friends and family abroad up to date with what I’m doing. I also like that it gives me a voice that reaches a little further than it otherwise would have.

I can’t find too many things I don’t like about it. It can get a little strenuous when I meet people I haven’t seen in half a decade, and they seem to know “everything” about me, and I have to ask 40 questions in a row to keep the conversation going. But that’s entirely my fault; I choose to blog about my life, so that’s a part of the deal.

7. Celebrity crush?
 – Hmm, I can honestly say I’ve never had a legitimate celebrity crush. The walls of my room have always been completely clear of posters, (besides the celebrity-drawings I made, that my mom put on the walls against my will) so this is a tough one, haha. I guess I don’t see celebrities as stars; most of the time they’re just normal people with cool jobs, and I also find it hard to have crushes on people I don’t know on a personal level. BUT, on a superficial note I must say that Chris Hemsworth and Tim Tebow are pretty handsome.

On an even more superficial note; some faces are just exceptionally good for drawing.

This makes me feel like picking up the pencil and start drawing some again.

8. Who could you marry in a heart beat?
The right one.

9. How many kids do you want? If you want kids at all.
Ooh, I feel like I’m making big decisions just answering these questions, hah! But yes, I definitely want kids at one point. How many? I have a feeling my future husband might want to have a say in it, so we’ll see.

10. How tall are you?
Somewhere between 5’7″ and 5’8″.

 

Lexi:
I’m confused, did you study media or film?
 – I majored in journalism and took a minor in theatre at Augustana. I’ll study filmmaking at NYU Tisch this coming fall. Read more HERE.

How did you fund over the bridge?
 – When we started, Sarah and I didn’t intend for Over the Bridge to become anything more than a 4-minute film, so we didn’t do any fundraising beforehand. We did however, have a fundraising campaign to pay for entry fees at film festivals.

Photo: Rachel Johnston.

Did you rent the equipment for the shoot?
 – We shot everything the minimalist-way and used our own equipment for the shoot; two DSLR-cameras, a microphone and a tripod. All-natural lighting.

Two film producers bundled up in seven layers. #SouthDakota. WIth Sarah Kocher.

Are you working on any new projects now?
– Over the Bridge turned out to be a much bigger project than anticipated, so I’ve spent all my freetime outside school on following up that project with film festivals, guest speaking, media-interviews, screenings at other schools and city council meetings etc. There hasn’t been any time for a new project, but I’m very excited to take on new projects at NYU this fall!

Hanna K:
What’s your workout and diet regimen like?
– I try to avoid anything with the word “regimen” in it, because I’ve spent so much of my life trapped inside strict training routines, both as an athlete, fitness enthusiast and “exercise addict.” Nowadays I just do some running and functional strength training. During the school year I hit the gym every morning, and now when I’m in Norway I just exercise after work. I eat pretty much everything. But then again; I’m not exactly in this shape anymore.

Photo: Line Valen 2013.

Hannah K:
What’s your comfort foods?
 – Pizza and ice cream. No doubt.

Hannah K:
Do you make money on blogging?
 – Nope, not a dime, but I get other things for it — which I’ll write more about later 🙂

Thank You

I left you hanging a little longer than I would have wanted after my previous post, but so many small details had to be put into place before I could share the big news. Now, however, it’s time!

I apologize to the few individuals who already know about this but started expecting some other big news after reading my last entry. If I already told you it means you’re a part of my inner circle, so try to see that as something nice.

If you’ve read the blog regularly, you probably know that the three letters N-Y-U have been the source of a lot of excitement—and despair—for me over the past few months. You may remember my post, “So very bittersweet,” about how I got accepted to the graduate film program at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, and about how I was $30,000 short and couldn’t go. I was heartbroken, but I told God that I wanted to walk on His path, with or without NYU. I let it go, right there in that moment and chose to trust His ways, while I started looking at other—and more affordable—ways to fullfill my dream of becoming a filmmaker.

But then, some things happened behind the scenes, and I wrote the follow-up, “Mysterious Ways,” where I shared that I was suddenly just $15,000 short. Changes in the budget and several donations from family, friends and strangers made the whole thing seem a little less impossible — but still not quite within reach.

In the weeks that followed, I was asked to do a number of interviews with the media, and I told all the reporters that “Yes, I’m going to NYU, and I look forward to starting my studies there in the fall.” When I didn’t say anything on the blog, some of you probably thought “oh, she must have found a way to pay for it then.”

At that point I had only told a few people about my secret because I wanted to wait for all the paperwork to to be completed. But now I can finally write the words:

Thanks to God’s amazing grace, my family’s support and the tremendous generosity of Mary Hart and Burt Sugarman, I now have the money I need to attend the first year at NYU!

I honestly don’t know what to say. I’m still blown away, and I realize that this sounds like one of those stories you only see in the movies: “Foreign girl without financial resources gets accepted to prestigious university, and a Hollywood-couple—whom she has never met—watches her zero-budget documentary and decides to give her the help she needs to fulfill her dream.”

This is the short version of the story, but the truth is that most of this happened without me knowing. My family did what they could to help me on my way, but when they couldn’t go any further and had to let it go, some people picked up that near-doused torch before the relay eventually ended up in Los Angeles where Mary and Burt ran the final leg of the race.

God surely works in mysterious ways.

I did not see this coming, and words cannot express how grateful I am. I laid down all my plans of going to NYU that day when I wrote the first post about it, but there was a way there all along. I just couldn’t see it on my own, and I needed help to run the distance. I don’t know how I’ll finance my 2nd and 3rd year in New York, but I believe there’s a way for that too.

I want to thank my family for doing everything in their power to help me make this happen, as well as my friends and the Augustana community for their support and encouraging words.

I want to use my talents to honor God, and I will do my absolute best to make sure these resources are well-spent.

Love,
Maria

Seven days of spring

Thanks for all your love and get-better-messages I’ve received since I told you about my hospital visit last week. You’re truly amazing <3

After a week of laying in bed, eating nothing but bread and baby servings of french fries I now feel much better. Several pounds lighter and a couple of shades paler, but better! Thank God.

It’s been a week of contrasts. When I started to feel sick last weekend, it was snowing and I was—like I mentioned in my previous post—freezing my butt off (mostly because of the fever, but still). And now, as I took on my first day back in the world, I had to deal with sunshine and 28°C (83°F). It felt like I had slept through a whole season! Which I probably did, in South Dakota terms. Spring must’ve been last week.

Just a screen sample from a video I shot to illustrate what snow looks like.

Oh, and before it fades too far into the past, I just want to share something fun! Right before the whole kidney thing I had the pleasure of attending a so-called “friend raiser” event with the Bishop Dudley Hospitality House (the homeless shelter where we shot “Over the Bridge”). I was honored just to be invited, and enjoyed the fact that I could see the gala venue at the Hilton downtown from the inside, but I had no idea what was awaiting me there.

In hindsight I see that I probably should have taken the hint, but oh well. I just remember thinking people were unusually welcoming, “but hey, these people run the biggest homeless shelter in the state — hospitality is their thing,” so I didn’t think twice about the fact that everyone knew my name or wanted to say hi.

Apparently I was “the guest of honor” — something that only became clear to me when I was asked to step onto the stage area in front of a 170 people crowd to receive a “Sincere Appreciation Award.” I did not see that coming, but I can’t express how much that particular award means to me. When Sarah and I started producing “Over the Bridge,” our main goal was to raise the awareness of homelessness, and by receiving this type of recognition from the people who sacrifice blood, sweat and tears to help the people in need in Sioux Falls, it feels like we succeeded.

We have won several awards for the filmmaking aspect of it, but nothing felt quite like receiving a humanitarian award for the work we did. The circle was suddenly completed, and I now know that Over the Bridge has fulfilled its purpose.

To God be the Glory.

Photo: Naras Prameswari.

Maria

New Words and Nice Meals

This weekend was so packed it didn’t really feel like a weekend at all, but I had so much fun that it didn’t matter.

It started off with tons of errands, emails and meetings on Friday, then on Saturday I attended my first ever “Luncheon” with the Board of Trustees at Augustana.

When I got the invitation from Augustana President Rob Oliver a couple of weeks ago, I honestly thought he meant to write “lunch” and just added “eon” by accident, but it turns out that “luncheon” is an actual English word. Who would have guessed! I’m so happy whenever I can add another word to my vocabulary, and I wouldn’t be opposed to making this a regular one. (To any new readers who now wonder how I even got into college … I’m Norwegian, okay)

According to the Merriam Webster dictionary, it means:
“A formal usually midday meal as part of a meeting or for entertaining a guest.” 

Anyway, I was there as a presenter and told the story of how I came to Augie, and how that somehow led to NYU and the opportunity to bring “Over the Bridge” to film festivals all over the country.

Just being there was an honor in itself, but to stand alongside my fellow students and friends, Kofi Gunu and Matthew Watt, was simply amazing. They inspire and impress me, and I’m excited to see the great things they’ll do in the future.

With Kofi Gunu, Matthew Watt and President Rob Oliver. Photo: Becky Blue.

Also, an important detail: Ole was there too! Throughout my years here at Augie, this guy is the closest I’ve been to having a date, so a big shoutout to this handsome fella for always being there for me.

Following the luncheon, “The Fam” (aka a large group of individuals who—despite our diverse backgrounds—consider each other family. Read more HERE) and I went to Falls Park for a photoshoot, which I’ll tell you more about in my next post. But I can tell you it involved a live Pyton snake, so you don’t want to miss it. Stay tuned!

Bless you,
Maria

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