This is a rough draft of my Intellectual Journey. I will go through it again once I graduate from BYU and add, delete, and express more insights into my thoughts and feelings about my journey. If you read it all please leave a comment. Thank You.
ESL to GATE to Lost Opportunities
I was born in San Bernardino, California and three years later I found myself in Guadalaja, Mexico. I only knew how to speak English, but could understand Spanish. The kids in the neighborhood didn’t really know how to interact with me because of our communication barrier. But after another two years I was back in my birthplace. This time around I was placed in ESL (English as a Second Language Program) and I hated every minute of it. I never felt I had a problem communicating with the other kids and I could understand the teacher’s just fine. I was in the ESL program and other programs similar to it. I would spend about an hour during class with a tutor and then spend another hour after school with my teacher. This all ended in 2nd grade and things for me changed again. I was considered too bright to be with the other kids and was placed in GATE (Gifted and Talented Education). I was given different assignments, tests, and put into different classes. I spent the rest of my schooling within this program until high school. Both these experiences made me feel like an outsider. I never understood why I was being treated differently. I could communicate and understand what was going on around me and at the same time I couldn’t understand why I was being set apart from my peers. At first the school system thought I had a problem and then it thought I was gifted. From elementary school and through middle school I did my best to fit in with the other kids around me. I tried to do things that people would consider cool. My elementary school at a band program so I joined it and learned percussion, but once I moved from the school I wasn’t able to continue learning. I also did martial arts and would go around California and Nevada competing, but once I moved I couldn’t continue my training. I joined clubs like D.A.R.E., Student Council, and DEMO Teams, but all those opportunities were lost once I had moved to other areas from California to Washington, from Washington back to California, from one area of California to another and finally to Nashville, Tennessee. By the time I got to high school I was done with the education system and wanted to learn on my own. Moving sucked and more than anything it gave me this independent mindset that caused me to be bitter towards organizations, clubs, and other extra-curricular activities.
Depression to Resurrection
I went to high school in Nashville, Tennessee and I had no friends and hated school. So I did what any other emo kid did at the time, I began to write more. The Internet was available at my home for the first time and I began to live on it. I built my own website, visited chat rooms, forums, and other types of discussion boards. I’d express my feelings, thoughts, and experiences through rap lyrics, poetry, and blog posts. During this time I was in the honors program and noticed the difference between an honors class and a regular class. In a regular class they would watch a movie to discuss a topic or some subject matter. In an honors class we read a book. I found it demeaning towards the students in the regular classes. They seemed to get dumber. I began to miss so much school that I would have to stay after school to make up days if not I would fail the class. It wasn’t because I wasn’t turning in assignments are getting good grades on my quizzes and test. On the contrary I would dominate all my assignments, tests, and especially essays. I just didn’t like being in school. I began to develop social anxiety disorder and getting depressed. But whenever I got those feelings I would write and get a boost of confidence and self-esteem and the world seem a lot better. These years helped me learn how to think and express myself in writing. I won a few awards and honors because of my writing and even made friends. I formed a Hip Hop group and produced a few songs. I also helped bring back the theatre program at my school after writing a screenplay on King Liar and performing in it. I would have never gotten the opportunity had it not been for my senior year English class, which had implemented a new program that incorporated more of the arts like poetry, theatre and film. But my senior year English class cannot take the full responsibility for the joy I felt about learning and wanting to make a difference using the talents I had developed over the years. Midway through my junior year my parents wanted to join a church. Being in the Bible belt made this no easy task. I remember the discussions my friends had about what churches they went to and it was confusing. They would talk about their churches by what the cross looked like. They would say things like; “I go to the one with the blue ribbon around it” “I go to the one with the fire on the top” It was silly how they described their belief system by what was on the top of it. So my parents started searching for something that could bring our family together. My family at this time consisted of my mom, my mom’s boyfriend, and my two younger brothers. I wanted nothing to do with church, since I considered myself agnostic, but the motives of bringing our family together wasn’t a bad idea. My brothers and I didn’t get along very well. I felt they were a nuisance and would get in my way. The Sunday came when my mom forced me to get out of bed to go to church with them. My parents went to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints sat through sacrament meeting and I spent that Sunday outside listening to my CD player. After sacrament meeting my parents went up to the missionaries and asked them to be baptized. Then I remember a missionary coming to me and handing me a Book of Mormon, in my mind I was like I don’t read. It’s funny as much as I like to write I didn’t like to read at all. I accepted the gift and heard him share his testimony that he had written in the book. I saw my parents and brothers get baptized and I saw them change. A month or so later I was baptized. I remember reading how the angel Moroni visited Joseph Smith and I remember sitting in on the 3rd discussion about the restoration. I believed it all. I had no reason to contend with these truths. They didn’t seem outrageous and even though I didn’t believe in the god that everyone around me proclaimed existed I knew they were confused about him. I always felt He was a being with flesh and bones the gospel and it’s teachings all made sense. From that experience I was given a new life. I started to read everything! I read the missionary reference library, I read the scriptures, I read sunday school manuals, I read institute manuals, I even started buying books, and reading articles. Not everything was church related, but the majority of it was. I also started saying yes to everything. I did a summer of boy scouts, volunteered at the special olympics, accepted callings, went to camp outs, activities, dances, developed and performed at talent shows, showing off my rap songs, martial arts skills, and dance moves. I went out with missionaries, and I even became involved with things in school during my senior year. My whole life had changed and I wasn’t sure what laid ahead of me. All I know is that I was happy, I was gaining all sorts of knowledge. I remember my Bishop telling me I was suppose to go on a mission and I was like sure how do I do that? I did the interviews, filled out the paper work, and was called to serve in Spain, Bilbao. While waiting to enter the MTC a friend of mine told me I should apply to BYU. I said sure how do I do that? She sent me the application, I did the interviews, filled out the paper work, and was accepted. I then had to defer my entrance until I returned from my mission. The two years before my mission were some of the happiest moments of my life and the two years to follow would also be the same.
When I entered my mission I was considered a blessing. The mission had not received an Elder for almost a year. During my mission I began to implement certain techniques and ideas on how to be a more effective missionary. The spirit of this mission had become sad. Not a lot of people were being baptized and missionaries were tired of rejection. All the 7 areas I served in I was able to teach and baptize. My trainer was a bit stubborn and I felt he didn’t like me much because I just wanted to do things differently. I wanted to approach missionary work with new zeal. I wanted to go to different areas to talk to people and talk to people differently. I wanted to teach differently as well. I had entered the mission during the transitionary phase. I didn’t want to memorize lessons I wanted to teach them in my own words using my testimony and personal experiences. I wanted to teach in a way that showed that we were not robots and actually human. I also wanted the Lord to tell us exactly where we should go to find people. I would pray to know exactly what streets to visit and buildings to knock so we could teach. I didn’t get to do this as much because my senior companions couldn’t muster up the faith for the experience. Once I had become a senior companion I was able to do it and found great results. I also designed different types of informational pamphlets that I had asked the mission President to mass-produce. I also had brought with me a few DVDs that the church had as resources to help with teaching certain principles. I began a whole PR campaign for the church in our area. I started asking branches to do open houses, activities, and when I become a Zone Leader I asked missionaries to talk to 100 people everyday. I felt we could baptized the entire city and even though we didn’t. I learned that I loved to share and teach people principles that could make them better and better their lives. I probably baptized the most people on my mission and at the same time a had missionaries that didn’t like me. I soon found out that missionaries didn’t like other missionaries that were good at being obedient, using faith, and hard work to do the work. I trained on my mission for about a year and a half. I also had only spent 2 weeks at the MTC. I had loved my mission and I was an awesome missionary. One of the most powerful experience I had with the scriptures was in visiting with a less-active family. They had not gone to church for years and missionaries hadn’t been able to visit with them for sometime as well. My companion and I finally got that opportunity. While visiting with the family everything seemed normal. It was like any other visit. When I went to share a message before leaving something changed. I read a verse in the book of Enos 1:27
“And I soon go to the place of my rest, which is with my Redeemer; for I know that in him I shall rest. And I rejoice in the day when my mortal shall put on immortality, and shall stand before him; then shall I see his face with pleasure, and he will say unto me: Come unto me, ye blessed, there is a place prepared for you in the mansions of my Father. Amen.”
Midway through the verse the Spirit fell upon that apartment with such great force that there was not a dry eye in that room. You could feel a burning sensation and a presence so strong. I don’t think I’ve felt the Spirit that strongly even in the Holy Temple. I don’t remember why I shared that verse. All I know is that it invoked the very powers of heaven and the presence of angels to visit us. After the visit my senior companion turned to me and said he had never felt something like that and I had dropped a spiritual bomb on them. I agreed because I have yet to feel such an experience like that again in my life. The family returned to church that week, but sadly fell back into inactivity a few weeks after. I learned that the word of God is the word of God. I served my mission honorably. My companion and I baptized two wonderful men on my last Sunday there and after that baptism we taught a lesson and set a baptismal date with another future priesthood holder.
Disillusionment of College
I entered BYU having all ready gone forth to serve. Little did I know that my experience here would last me 7 years and be filled with inactivity in the church, heartache, and more than anything disillusionment with school. I was so excited to be here at BYU. I knew I wouldn’t have to worry about people drinking and acting like fools. I also was excited to continue my studies to help grow the kingdom of God on earth or so I thought. When I arrived in Provo I had no clue what I was suppose to do. So I spent two days figuring all that out. I got housing at Helaman Halls, which probably was my first mistake. As a 23 year old return missionary living in a dorm filled with 18 and 19 year olds was a bad idea. Next I went on to pick a major, which was communications with an emphasis in advertising. I figured I was super awesome at sharing information with the world so I should go into advertising. I also tried to double major in film and so I set that up too. I had enjoyed making short films in high school and people had told me I was fairly good at it and had used some preparation days on my mission making short films too so I said why not. My second and third mistake. First semester went well, I did manage to get one low grade thanks to American Heritage. I read that book front to back and could teach it without a hiccup, and I was baffled by the fact I failed every test. Luckily, my essay gave me enough points to pass the course. Silly me thinking that grades mattered in college I decided to take it again and got a C my second time around. When I first arrived I also figured I’d graduate with honors that dream was soon shattered after my second year. College was hard because it brought with it thousands of distractions. Girls, parties, and all the clubs/organizations I got involved in. I was breakdance club president for a few years, I became an resident assistant for a year, was a Y-Group Leader for a few semesters and helped organize a few awesome events like BYU’s Best Dance Crew. Most of my disillusionment with college came once I got into my majors or learned more about them. The film program at BYU is not all it’s cracked up to be. There isn’t much of a link between the film program and BYU Broadcasting. I understand why, but it’s sad to know that the majority of people working camera’s, editing shows, and being involved in the big productions are students who are not in the film program. In fact most of them were rejected from the film program. And the students in the film program that become successful are the one’s that drop out and do things on their own. I know the film program as received a few Student Emmy’s for their short films. But those same people are still freelancing their way through the business. Being in the film program was filled with discussion from professors about how only 2% of the people that graduate will actually continue to work in film. It was filled with lectures of if you want to make films you’re in the wrong program. I remember doing an internship at the LDS Motion Picture Studios and hearing from the producers that film is not a career for people who want to have a family. It was one negative lecture, lesson, and discussion after another. So I skipped all the theory classes they held in high respect because studying the meaning of film to them was all that mattered. The only successful professor I met, in terms of making a film or working in the industry, had a lifetime movie and a web series to his name and the other did a few commercials while working in advertising. I entered the film program as a minor and took all the electives and practicum classes, but learned more while working at BYU Broadcasting and volunteering at sports shoots. The film program also limited students on what resources they could use to produce their own films. They didn’t and still don’t want students wasting their precious time making a film that doesn’t meet the faculties high standards of theory. Some classes are limited enrollment and you have to play by their rules to ever get your capstone film made, which soon becomes their work and not yours. The way I got around it was I purchased my own camera and developed a web series of my own. I have made hundreds of videos and have six years worth of professional experience. A lot of my videos have been seen by millions of people nationally and internationally.
The advertising program is a great program, but I soon learned it was behind on the times and feel it still is, I still hear of students and the comms department who don’t know what a blog is, have decided not to be on facebook or twitter and yet they are studying communication. I was a part of the Ad Lab back in 2005. I worked with the ad students, some of which now teach classes here that I wish existed then and also manage the ad lab, I was confident I would enter the program. I didn’t because I failed a test that use to be required to enter the program, but was soon removed because the Intro to Advertising class never covered any of the material found on that test. I wanted to reapply, but by that time, I had too many credits. I blame that on my multicultural scholarship requirements that would force me to take 14 credits every semester so I would take classes that I didn’t need just to meet the requirement. 14 credits was something I couldn’t handle with all my other responsibilities and so every year I would withdraw from one class or fail it or get an incomplete. I’ve learned now that they only require you to take 12 credits because they found 14 was too much for students. I applied to the communication studies program as my back up plan not really knowing what it was all about. During my time in the program I felt classes were outdated and I took notice of something called social media. I learned all I could about Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube as well as any other social platform that came along. I noticed there were no classes teaching about these awesome ways to communicate or research being done on them. Also BYU banned YouTube, which prevented me from started my web series sooner. I started to get depressed and became less active in church. I couldn’t handle not being able to learn what I really wanted to learn about. I had to take a ton of classes I didn’t need to take while still working to support a family and being involved in all the organizations around campus and in the community. I soon left the communication studies program and looked for something new. By this time I felt my best skill was my ability to share information and teach. I changed majors right before BYU put a limit on being able to change your major and went into Technology and Engineering Education. This program is a like a hidden gem at BYU. All the classes have 15 to 20 students and you get to learn graphic design, film, robotics, engineering, computer science, wood working, and metals just everything that’s awesome. Also you only have three professors that teach all those subjects and they are some of the best teachers I’ve ever met. You also get a job once you graduate and that’s almost a 100% guaranteed. I loved that major because it would award me a teaching license and a job to support my family. I took all the technology classes and teaching classes and aced them. It was easy. But in my engineering classes and wood working I hit a wall. I had finally found something I couldn’t understand and had a hard time learning. By this time I couldn’t afford to go to school anymore. I had exhausted my scholarship, pell grants, and student loans. In trying to learn and further my education as fast as possible I ended up taking longer and building a ton of debt, so I dropped out.
My life as a dropout was awesome. I had a full-time job that paid well, I could work on my web series, and I didn’t have homework. I left school in October of 2011 and didn’t return until September 2012. During that time I accomplished a great deal of things. I met and became friends with a handful of celebrities and musicians. I got the VIP treatment at all the clubs and venues in Utah. I was sort of a celebrity within the Hip Hop community. I obtained sponsorships and learned so much from the people I met in the music, film, and entertainment industry. So why did my life as a dropout come to an end? I wanted to look for a career doing video production for bigger name brands like the X Games, RedBull, and ESPN. I applied to those jobs and even though I had the experience and an impressive resume. They wanted someone with a college degree. Student loans became a reality and the doors to bigger and better opportunities were harder to open. I realized I had to get a degree if I wanted to take the next step or so I thought.
Fall semester was about to start and I wasn’t sure if I could return to school. I spent a week meeting with advisors in multiple departments and a few days before school started I got back in. The communication studies program was kind enough to take me back as a major because I figured a communication degree looks better on paper and on the wall. Also I found communication theory and the classes fairly easy. A lot easier than engineering and wood working. I planned out my course of action for the tenth time or so it felt. My first semester back was a cake walk and soon realized that being in school prevented me from getting a better job. In the month of November I was offered a ton of different jobs. I was offered these jobs because they had my resume on file, found me on LinkedIn and were referred to me by an employee. I had to turn some of them down because I couldn’t work the schedules they needed. One offer I didn’t get because another candidate had the degree and had worked their previously. Later I found out they lacked the experience and gave that person different responsibilities. One of the job offers put me against a production company to see if they wanted a full-time employee or wanted to outsource their video production, and in the end I beat out the competition. They now have someone who not only is great at video production, but also has a vast knowledge of social media marketing. Now I’m on the road to graduate in August with only 4 more classes to go. I just hope the department doesn’t decide to cancel one of my required classes in the spring or summer. I have a job that will become my career once I graduate because I’ll be able to work full-time and will have transformed their video marketing into a big source of revenue. Something I’ve managed to do in my first month working there. It’s sad to think that my current major has been shut down. It’s funny that a lot of the things I’ve done and or reasons I left some departments have now incorporated the classes that I wish existed while I was there. The film program now has classes dealing with the industry and business side of film. They integrated more TV production and web video. The advertising program now has classes involving video production and also offer classes in social media. My mission no longer exists and neither does my first ward. The breakdance club is no longer the center of attention for BYUSA and multicultural scholarships have lightened their credit loads and offered better advice when charting a course to finish school. Some of the places I wanted to work at no longer care if people have a degree and want people with experience now. But hey, I’m in school and just want to get my paper because that paper still means something. Not sure what it means though, but one day I’ll figure that out. I still plan to teach one day and be like the teachers I met in the TEE program, who taught me that professors don’t know how to actually teach and that the University only cares about their football team and the research papers that are written up by professors. I want to be like my senior year English teacher who implemented a program that inspired me to learn about video production and allowed me the freedom to learn in a new way. More than anything I’ve learned that having the freedom to learn without restrictions has allowed me to actually learn.