Faith

Eveybody’s grown up, and then there’s me.

Seeing how many of my former classmates are all “grown up” with boyfriends, fiancés, husbands, kids, houses, cars and down-paid student loans have made me think thoughts that felt distant when I was at Augustana, but suddenly very close now that I’m here in Norway.

I’ve felt a combination of relief and gratitude for the freedom of not having to “grow up” yet; of not having to worry about buying a station wagon, finding a job, planning family vacations or weddings, arguing about how to raise the kids, and about making secure, logical and reasonable life choices.

But in between that relief and gratitude, there’s doubt. Logical doubt. Tempting shortcuts rooted inside comfort-zones. So many easier options, secure options, reasonable options.

“Am I making the right decisions with my life? Is my dream worth hundreds of thousands of dollars? Am I the only one in the world not wanting to settle? Should I settle?”

Photo: Mirjam Lavelle.

You see, Norway is a paradise for secure, logical and reasonable life choices. I’m surrounded by people who’ve done it all the “right way.” You know, the way banks, parents, teachers, coaches and neighbors have advised you to do things from the day you were born.

The Utopia for comfortable and predictable lifestyles is right here in Norway — everywhere I turn I see logic screaming for attention.

Still, I choose not to listen.

Please don’t get me wrong; my heart bubbles of joy when I see people who found their way, their job and their loved one. I’m thrilled to see that their relationships are thriving, that their coffeemaker was on sale, that their station wagon runs well, that their honeymoon-tickets were cheap, that their baby said a word, that the lawn is recovering from the winter and that their student loans are paid down. I’m happy for them, I really am.

But I also know that behind my occasional moments of doubt and temptation for “the comfortable,” I have to continue working towards my dream; the dream that won’t be satisfied by having a house, a car, a coffee-maker and a nine-to-five job.

In the midst of all the noise, I need to follow my heart and trust God.

Photo: Mirjam Lavelle.

So, what am I trying to say?

– In my head there’s nothing logical about NYU Tisch, or even attempting to apply to the program. Less than two percent gets accepted, and it’s so expensive that regardless of how fast I say the number, it still takes a great deal of syllables to pronounce the cost in its entirety. Meanwhile, I could have studied for free at a Norwegian university, settled with my journalism degree, gotten a normal job and started saving up for that station wagon — but once again I ignored logic and went with my heart.

Sometimes I feel confident in the decision, and sometimes I ask myself what in the world I’m doing.

Yesterday fit the latter description. I felt freaked out when I thought about the tremendous amounts of money that goes into my dream, and about the things I sacrifice.

But I tell myself that even if I’m not close to buying a house or a car, and probably can’t afford anything big enough to earn the name “apartment” for quite some time, I’m at least fueling my dream the best I can.

I don’t need a perfect lawn or a nice coffee-maker for now, I need to make films.

The rest is up to God.

Maria

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 🙂

My life as an adrenalin junkie

I don’t need a microscope to see where my high jump spikes once sliced my thigh open; the marks from the stitches are still there, and as I run my palms down my left shin I remember what a once-broken tibia feels like. The crackling sounds of worn out ankle-ligaments and a torn meniscus remind me of a time where no pain meant no gain, and ibuprofen was a part of any well-balanced meal.

Even if I don’t do competitive sports anymore, there are some traces of it that will always be a part of me: the physical marks, the memories, and the hunger for adrenalin.

While my enthusiasm for competitive sports was drowned by injuries, I still allow myself to indulge in the pleasures of a good adrenalin-high from time to time.

I do have to restrain myself though, because if I were to let loose my inner adrenalin junkie at all times, you’d probably see me flying out of planes as a skydiver five times a day, and I wouldn’t have gotten much else done.

But as a younger and less responsible human, I was not quite as advanced in this restraining thing. I won’t go into any details, but I’m pretty lucky things went as well as they did.

I actually think track helped tame that side of me; I stopped doing all those irresponsible stunts when I realized how much I disliked crutches, concussions and having to sit out track meets because of it.

 

 

My tool for self-restraint is to pretend I don’t even like those extreme things. When people ask me if I’d ever skydive, for example, I usually respond with a plain “no.” Not because I wouldn’t want to do it, but because I wouldn’t want the few minutes of pure excitement to jeopardize what I consider to be my real mission in life.

I don’t believe I was put on this earth to live for the short pleasures of extreme sports. Maybe some people are, but I know that–despite all temptation–it’s not what I was sent here for.

However, when smaller non-life threatening opportunities come my way, I do take them.

Like earlier this week, when my dear childhood-friend, Espen, asked me to join a tree top-park:

 

I admit it’s probably more “dangerous” than watching TV, but safer than skydiving — so it’s pretty safe.

Note: Espen is a little less good at restraining himself, (skydiving and bungee-jumping are some of his special skills) but I need to make sure I don’t become a wimp, so this was a perfect dose of adventure.


Oh, by the way, the closest to skydiving I’ve allowed myself to go was at Universal Studios in LA:

I’m not sure what was more entertaining; flying in the windtunnel or watching the creepy guy that followed me around attempt to fly in the tunnel after me. He’s not in the video, but all I can say is that he was high on other things than adrenalin… “Tumbling weed” is the only word that comes to mind when I think about his face getting smushed onto the glass walls in between every uncontrolled tumble. Maybe a rag doll in a dryer gives you a proper visual?


Thanks for reading along, and have a wonderful weekend!

Bless you,
Maria

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

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