A good thing about getting old

A good thing about getting old is I can walk into a classroom and talk about a hobby and ways I’ve incorporated it into my work and personal life while filling that talk with nuggets of information I’ve learned along the way either on my own or from others.

(For the abridged version of this post, skip down to the part that says, “And that brings us to today.”)

In 2005, I decided to gather some photos and work with a photographer to put them together to music on a montage for my sister’s birthday.  I remember him asking if I had ever played any instruments because I was very particular what photos went where during specific parts of the music.  At that time, I was familiar with the normal functions of a computer – but I didn’t know about any programs that I could work with to make this happen easily.

Fast forward to 2010, I decided to start taking classes to get my Masters in Instructional Design.  I bought a MacBook Pro to get me going with my classes.  I started to realize I was really into any classes that incorporated technology.  For a couple of the classes we were asked to create photo stories.  I was so into these photo stories that I remember a professor telling me that I should go into film directing because I was so particular about how it all flowed and what each photo focused on.  I started making them for class, work, and friends’ and family’s birthdays.  One of the first meaningful montages that I did was a personal reflection for my Production of Instructional Resources class.  It was based on my dad’s ability to overcome effects from a traumatic brain injury by using his passion for gardening.  I had no idea then, that people would still be talking about it and I would be sharing it with a class of college photography students.  More on that in a minute…

When I was done with my masters program, I had all this free time!  I needed to take more classes in something!  I enrolled in a photography program with the New Jersey Center for Visual Arts.  I bought myself a fancy schmancy camera and went to town.  I started photographing a lot – when I first bought the camera I went on my first hike with an outdoor group.  They probably thought I was nuts because I could barely keep my balance on the logs that laid across the river and I was more worried about dropping the camera than I was of falling.  There, I met someone who worked for a non-profit who asked me if I could photograph a gala her company was having.  My first gig!  I didn’t like it much though because not everyone always likes getting their photo taken so asking people while they were networking and mingling wasn’t easy.

I continued to take photos at family parties and I also started doing maternity photoshoots.  I did a few kid photoshoots at the park with my friends’ kids for my photography class projects.  At this point I was still teaching elementary school.  I loved teaching and I loved photography but I never thought I’d get to incorporate them together.  That’s part of the story that will come in a minute…  I went on to win a couple photography contests – one was a contest to display the beauty of New Jersey, sponsored by Senator Jon Bramnick and was also had a photo selected to represent summer in New Jersey on a New Jersey blog.

Eventually I started teaching in a high school computer lab – and the lab was all Mac computers!  Thank goodness I taught myself how to use it during my masters days or I could not have gotten this job!  The cool thing about this job was that all different teachers throughout the school brought their classes to the computer lab to work on a plethora of projects.  Some had to do with iMovie, podcasts, garageband, etc.  It was something that came so naturally to me and I loved it… but it was considered an “aide” position so that meant I got no medical benefits and I got paid barely anything.  So during my second year there, I went to a birthday party and met the birthday girl’s sister.  We became friends and eventually went to a concert together.  The concert was in Philly so we had a lot of time to talk.  I told her about my job and then she told me about hers.  She was responsible for teaching professors how to use the online learning management system.  How cool!  The department she worked in focused on helping professors sharpen their teaching skills.  How cool!  Shortly after the concert, Rachel posted on Facebook that she was being promoted!  I congratulated her and then asked, “does this mean your position is available!?”  She said yes, and that she was actually going to ask me if I’d be interested in interviewing for it. Yes!  So I interviewed and got the job!  I was sad to leave a great bunch of teachers at the high school, but excited about this new opportunity at Columbia Business School!

Eventually I moved to NYC and got busy with New York life and all that it entails and started spending less and less time getting creative with photos.  I lived there for 3 years and eventually moved to Arizona for a year.  I barely used my camera anymore.  My creative side was falling into a deep hole and I needed to get it out.

And that brings us to today.

Today I train professors on how to incorporate technology into their classroom.  This is the first higher ed position not in a business school and I love the fact that I get exposure to so many different professors teaching all subject matters.  On my second day there, I met a professor, Jane Beckwith.  She’s fiery little lady.  I’ll have to tell you the first story she ever told me which made me never forget her another day.  Jane is in the art department.  We eventually got to talking about photography and I also showed her my montages.  On the day that the eclipse was supposed to happen, she asked if we could move her appointment so that we can experience the eclipse.  I said yes and we went on a rooftop with a few other colleagues to witness what was going on.  During the walk back, I pointed out how the leaves on the ground looked like a bunch of moons.  The sun was shining through the leaves and the shadows were projecting like moons.  We took photos of this beautiful display and then she asked me if I’d like to audit her photography course.  I was very excited about it – but I realized that a course on Saturdays from 8-3 might not be doable for me right now as I’m still getting situated from moving back.  I broke the news to her and she was disappointed, but asked if I could  teach a class on photo stories one day instead.  Of course!

So today was that day.  I  thought about all I’ve learned along the way in my technology courses, photography courses, when I led that journalism class about photo stories.  During that journalism class we visited a part of the NY Times site called “1 in 8 million.”   (This was Humans of New York before Humans of New York.)   I incorporated that along with the formula that Life Magazine used to use for their photos which told a story.   I told them my story and how I fell in love with creating montages.  There’s something about them that allows you to pull on heart strings when music is added to the photos and brings them to life.  We talked about the photo story I made about my dad’s garden and how passionate he is about his hobby.   I had no idea I’d still be showing it to people 8 years later. Years ago I had a blog and one of my posts was, “What do you live for”  I mentioned how my dad’s garden keeps him ticking and I hoped that I would have something that keeps me ticking for that long.  Something I look forward to doing and can get lost in.  I think putting photos to music might be that thing.   Kinda funny since I used what makes me tick to display what makes my dad tick.  Speaking to the students about having a passion and how to make their photos come to life and what details to focus on was awesome.  It was the first time that I taught a class that the students chose to take on their own will.  I felt like they were hanging on every word and piece of advice I gave.  And truthfully, I didn’t prepare as much as I would’ve liked to.  I went in and spoke from my heart and it all just worked.  I showed them how to use iMovie and they were off and running with photo stories of their own.  Tonight I received an email from Jane.

Your class was inspiring. Students are very satisfied they can continue on their own. I look forward to Monday and to see your further work on your parents. Your advice will help me to create a good slide presentation for Peter Lin’s class
Thank you

My heart is happy. I thanked Jane for the opportunity and inspiring me to dig my creative side out and keep it going.  I’m helping others by doing something I enjoy.  Isn’t that what life is all about?  Isn’t that what my dad does with the gifts from his garden?  Despite taking an alternate route on this path of life, I might be going in the right direction after all.



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