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So, in the midst of a career change, here I am :)

JasonGW

Member
I've been visiting the site more and more lately owing to some exciting changes in my life, and have had the pleasure and good fortune to talk to a handful of visitors here who've really helped elevate my perspective regarding the industry. As such, I decided now is the time to properly introduce myself.

I grew up loving to read and write. My mother taught me to read by the time I was three, and I haven't been able to stop since. I eventually realized I had a passion to write, too, and started to college in 1995 to learn journalism. However, life at home was fairly cruddy, owing to my father being a drug addict and thoroughly destroyed Vietnam veteran, and when I learned that I could get a good job quickly just by earning a couple of IT certifications, I leapt at the chance. Within a short period I was doing computer repair, designing websites and generally having a good time (aside from a pretty awful relationship that ended with my son being essentially kidnapped by his mother, never to be seen again). For the next decade and a half, that's where my life went: IT, computers, servers, networks.

In 2007, however, I was involved in a pretty terrible accident that nearly broke my neck (damaged three disks in my neck and two in my lower back), and life changed dramatically. Over the next two years I went through an immense amount of physical therapy and even a spine surgery before I finally was able to live without constant pain again. When I went back to work, I realized something pretty clearly: I hated my career. It paid well, yes, but it was tedious and unbelievably dull; I craved something more creative. At the urging of friends and family, in 2009 I decided to go back to school, and I enrolled at Santiago Canyon College in Orange County, CA.

I didn't know for sure what I wanted to do except that, broadly, I wanted to write. So I decided to start simply and take things I figured would help me learn to be a good writer. Philosophy, psychology, history, and every literature class I could get became the staple of my educational diet. Shakespeare, ancient literature all the way back to Gilgamesh, British Literature, American Literature, etc. When I learned that the school had a writing contest every semester, I decided to give it a try. Over the next 4 years I won first, second and third place awards across all categories: poetry, short stories and non fiction (no, not all at the same time; out of 8 semesters, I entered during 6 of them and won 6 awards total). One of my research papers was chosen to be presented at the 2011 state Honors Conference. And little by little, I began to realize something: I'm half decent at this.

Then I took a screenwriting class. During the first half, I was tempted for the first time to drop the class--the teacher was TERRIBLE. He missed half the class sessions, and the rest involved pitching film ideas to the class with virtually no instruction whatsoever. I was miserable. Then, halfway through the semester, the teacher was let go, and replaced with a teacher who had an MFA in screenwriting from USC. Things changed dramatically, and the learning curve was suddenly phenomenal. By the end of the semester, I was in love with screenwriting, and over the next year I completed both the intermediate and advanced classes with flying colors, and even completed a certificate in Media Studies. In 2010 I applied and was accepted to the UCLA Scholars Program, which I completed the following year. And just when things were looking great, they took a crappy turn.

I applied to UCLA's school of film, and made it into the top 30 for interviews on my first attempt. Unfortunately, I wasn't selected, perhaps in part because I hadn't yet finished my GE's at the community college. Then, I became really sick, and stayed sick for most of the year. My grades suffered, but I was too stubborn to just quit or take a semester off, and my doctor couldn't figure out what was wrong. Finally, one day I awoke to agonizing tooth pain, and my dentist found the problem: a root canal I'd had done many years before hadn't been completed correctly, and had become extremely infected. Because most of the roots were gone, I felt no pain, no pressure whatsoever, only the symptoms of infection: exhaustion, apathy, etc. He drilled in, drained the infection, put me on a 20 day cycle of intense antibiotics, and told me I was lucky I hadn't died, as the infection had grown enormous. I only felt its effects, finally, when it broke through into the next tooth's root area.

By this point, another year had passed, and I hadn't bothered to apply to UCLA or, really, anywhere else, again. I'd come to feel like I might be wasting my time, but I persevered, thinking that at least I would finish my associates degrees. In 2012, I decided to apply again, but more broadly, and this time applied to USC, CSULB, Chapman and UCLA, with a completely fresh set of writing samples.

Once again, I got into the top 30 at UCLA, and once again, I wasn't accepted after the interview. I'd already been accepted to CSULB by the time I learned this, but something struck me this time, and I was a little pissed. The way I saw it was this: on two separate occasions, I applied to UCLA with two completely separate sets of writing samples, and on both occasions I was selected for the top 30 to be interviewed but then wasn't selected to be admitted. I realized, perhaps, that I wasn't very good at interviewing, maybe because the situation terrified me. At the same time, I reasoned that having been chosen for the top 30 on two separate occasions, I MUST be doing something right, so I decided I would appeal, even though the school actively encouraged me not to, saying that they don't typically grant admission on appeal. I wrote an impassioned letter, and a very kind soul from these very boards helped me edit it down to be more concise and focused. I submitted the letter, decided that I would content myself with CSULB if UCLA for some reason decided not to let me in, and proceeded to just "get over it".

Four days later, I was accepted on appeal. I'll be starting in Fall 2013, and I couldn't be more excited. When I found out, I was at the Museum of Contemporary Art in downtown LA with my amazingly talented girlfriend, Kelley Frisby, a classically trained illustrator. I opened the email, signed into the website, and cried. I couldn't believe it. It took me days to process the development.

Four years ago, when I started attending classes at Santiago Canyon College, the concept of a "dream school" was as foreign to me as freedom must have been to a lifelong slavery victim. In 2010, the UCLA scholars Program gave me my first glimpse at the concept, which in 2011 was dashed by unexpected illness. Now, in 2013, I'm sitting here, chosen for my dream school, preparing to transfer in just a few short months. I've graduated with 3 associates degrees: English, Multicultural Studies, and Communications, and I'm on my way to becoming the first person in my family since my grandfather, to graduate from a 4 year institution, and as far as I know, the first person in my immediate family (parents, aunts/uncles/first cousins) to go to a school as prestigious as UCLA. The experience is, in a word, astonishing, and there's a part of me that still isn't sure how to believe it.

Growing up, I was unfortunate to live with a tyrant of a father who knew no better way to deal with people than threats and force. I was fortunate, however, to have been influenced--dare I say it, saved, even--by many great women of strength. My mother, an aunt, a high school teacher who remains one of my best friends to this day, and now numerous female professors in Women's Studies and English, all of whom helped me to feel more confident in my ability to achieve good things, high-level things.

And so, my hope is to learn at UCLA how to tell the kinds of stories that the heroic women in my life have long deserved and seldom received: stories of courageous, powerful female heroes--not heroines, but HEROES--who take on a harsh world that's often stacked against them, and overcome incredible odds to achieve great things. That's my dream, my passion and my direction going forward, and I can't wait to get started :).
 

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