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College Life

Back in Boston

I’ve been back in Boston since Tuesday August 13th but it feels like I’ve been here all summer. The apartment finally looks like it’s reverted back to its normal state with the tables cleared of random papers, the dishes in their proper cupboards, and the sink free from any leftovers. I think that I succeeded in all of my initial goals for my return back to my college town: make some money to counteract the cost of self-maintenance and travel, explore a bit more of Boston, and say goodbye to old friends. The first goal was easily accomplished through the Boston University employment office where I applied for a quickie job. A quickie job through Boston University usually involves a student usually applying for few hours-long job that someone needs. This usually involves something like moving furniture or babysitting or being a translator during a meeting. I applied for three jobs, and was called back by this woman in Newton, MA who needed help moving. She lived around the mile 18 marker on the Boston Marathon route on Commonwealth Avenue. It was one of the most interesting jobs that I have ever worked. Her family was old and rich. Her still-living mother was in her 90’s, the woman was in her 60’s, her daughter in her 40’s and still living with them. The house was a corner house and beautiful. The woman in her 60’s, who was a Justice of the Peace, used to be an art dealer so the house was filled with dozens of professionally framed drawings, paintings, and canvas. The first day I biked the 7 mile route from my house to theirs, and impressed them because they suggested that I take the T instead so that I wouldn’t be too tired. I first met her husband, who used to be an accountant, and we struck up a small-talk conversation. However, as soon as his wife, the justice, stepped in he turned to go upstairs up to his cluttered office.

The justice offered some snacks to me and then told me how we needed to load her rented UHaul van with boxes and bins. I started right away and made sure to make efficient use of the available space in the UHaul. I spent about an hour carrying and packing the boxes away. She was very impressed with my work, and we drove the van over to the new apartment. You see, the family was downsizing from a full-sized family house to a much smaller one. I helped her unload all of the bins and boxes using some bellhop carts, and then unwrapping all of the individually wrapped jars, plates, and pots of porcellain ranging from Budapestian porcellain to the Meissener Pozellan. Her 90+ year old mother and her sister came to help as well. As we were unwrapping, she asked me if it would be alright with me if I worked for a few more hours that day. I agreed, and she quickly asked if I wouldn’t mind working for a few more days at the same monetary rate offered for that quickie job. I told her that I would be free for  few more days and would love to work with her. I was fed dinner, paid $140 for 7 hours of work, and then driven home by her sister who was very intrigued with me.

And so I continued working for them at the rate of $20/hour. And it was one of the most fulfilling jobs that I have ever had the pleasure of doing well. I would wake up in my apartment here on Ashford Street, clean it up a bit more, and then head over to Newton to the family house where I would help the justice bubblewrap famous $10,000 oil paintings surrounded by $600 frames, carried more bins and boxes to the UHaul van, and even helped her husband the accountant clean up and organize his cluttered office. That last one was also cool, because I was called by him the night before and asked if I could help him. He said that he trusted me and that there were some documents that were so personal and important that he didn’t want the movers touching them. I was greatly honored by his request to allow me access to his personal items. And so we commenced the cleanup of his office. We moved electronics, papers and bills from the past two decades, and dozens of office supplies.

I learned a lot about that family that day. I learned that they were rich, had many things, but also had each other. The accountant and the justice struck me as hard workers. And I always impressed them with my math and science skills, because the family appeared to be more logically, administratively, and artistically inclined but not so much mathematically and scientifically inclined except for the accountant. The hardest part was parting with the things that they have had. It was hard for the justice, because it seemed that she had a long story associated with the life of the artist of a painting we were wrapping, a vignette connected to a piece of clothing that fell out of a bin we were carrying, or a tidbit about something that I said that reminded her of something. But she was also selling or giving away so much of her stuff. And she would confide in me that I was such a Godsend because she wouldn’t have known how to move her important possessions without someone else helping. The accountant was a larger man and had trouble walking, and the 40 year old daughter was still living at home and was having job problems. It almost seemed that this justice was the matriarch of the family and supporting it with her tireless will.

Literally, it almost felt like both she and I were the only ones doing work. But as annoyed as she appeared to be, and as much as they all bickered as a traditional New England family with its white-collar problems, it still struck me as one amazingly beautiful story about a family going through a tough time before it moved on and grew. Their house was definitely shrinking in size, but that only seemed to bring them closer together. It was cute to hear the justice still call her 90+ year old mother “Mommy.”

I asked the justice what she learned about moving out, and she told me that she learned about how one can accumulate so much stuff that is not needed. She learned that what she needed was just good friends and family and a few cherished things. And so I labored, cleaned, and ate with this family and shared stories. We would mainly just talk about the Peace Corps and my eventual deployment to Uganda, Africa this coming November. She would then ask me about my travels and I would tell her about my Dresden Study Abroad Semester and my summer internship in Berlin and my recent Eurotrip with my two best friends this summer. She talked about her own travels and experiences throughout mainland Europe, and her husband would talk about his travels in Eastern Europe right after the wall fell. And on the rides home, her sister would talk about her daughter’s study abroad semester in Barcelona. We shared stories about our successes and our failures, and a small part of our beliefs.

Sometimes the justice would just stop our working to tell me a 5-10 minute story about a couple whom she had just married. This justice really did not want to preside over “cookie-cutter” marriages. She would sometimes offer her own backyard and parlor room to host the legal ceremony for Massachusetts’ couples. And then she would have a small cake with some candles in order to celebrate for a while with the two. But one of the most beautiful stories was about these two women whom she had married in the Arnold Arboretum. She was with one of them at the entrance and the other woman in the marriage was running a bit late. They had chosen to be married at a specific spot near the entrance of the Arboretum, because that was the spot where they would meet since they both worked different shifts as nurses at different hospitals. But then a group of young college students plopped down at that exact spot. The justice walked over to them and inquisitively asked them why they had picked this exact spot. Naturally the students responded, “Uh, I dunno. It just seemed like a good spot.” The justice then informed them that they had every right to be on that spot, but that if they chose to stay then they would be in the middle of a wedding ceremony. The kids then stated that of course they would leave. And as they were leaving one of them shouted, “You look so beautiful,” to the bride who as already in the Arboretum.

I eventually finished up my last day of work with them, and was then invited to join the entire family, including the sister, her husband, the Barcelona daughter, and a close family cousin called Bunny in order to celebrate the 93rd birthday of the justice’s mommy. It was an emotional meal, because the sister shared a toast about how this would be the last meal in this house after almost 2 decades of family reunions, parties, marathon barbecues, and get-togethers with families and friends. It was stressed that this was a house and not a home and that the home was wherever they all were as a family and where the apartment now is. It was a beautiful toast, and the food was amazing and consisted of cucumber and sausage lasagna, Caesar salad, and keylime pie. The sister had made it all, but she professed that she wasn’t a good cook. I bid my farewells to all of them, and exchanged emails with the justice, the accountant, the sister, Bunny, and the sister’s husband. I promised to keep in touch with my endeavors and to share my Peace Corps blog when I leave. I promised to send them messages from time-to-time, and then I was driven back along the Marathon route of Commonwealth Avenue and back to the land of bohemian musicians, college students, broken glass, and a very different family in a very different home that I was more used to.


Atypical Sunday

Last Winchester GrettosSo I guess that I am emotionally compromised for a bit. There are days when I just feel numb and apathetic, then there are days when I just feel as if there are too many emotions to handle. The evening before I had spent performing with my a cappella group, Allegrettos, for the last time ever. It was a small gig at Winchester High School where we have always performed year after year for a few hundred dollars. It was my first ever performance with the Grettos as a freshman in the fall and now it has been my last ever performance with them.

After that I headed to the CAD (computer aided design) lab in order to run some simulations on my Final Senior Design project concerning the test response accelerations of a raised floor system in areas of heightened seismic activity. I setup the simulations on four computers and wrote notes on the screens so that no one would touch them while they were running. I biked back to my apartment and invited one of my friends, Max, over to hang out and chill with me until one of the freshman in my a cappella group came over for a midnight bike riding adventure. We listened to some good music (Dr. Dog and Wilco) and then headed over to one of my other friend’s apartment houses at 87 Linden Street in the Allston neighborhood. His house apartment was pretty cool, and the way you entered into the apartment was through the back door after going on a wooden deck that connected to the second floor.

We entered through the back door, which led to a hallway that housed his bikes, and then entered into the living quarters. Ah it was a very alternative college living area, as one of my friends put it. There was the kitchen with the liquor bottles lining the tops of the cabinets, and multi-colored Christmas lights weaving their way around the bottles, which gave off a very soft glow of dulled colors. The middle of the room had a metal table that was so low that one had to sit down with ones feet underneath it in order to sit at it. Around this table was a very soft L-shaped couch that was awesome to sleep upon, but not that great to lean back with.

Our host, Thierry, at 87 Linden gifted us with delicious micro-brewed beer and some Gin & Tonic with fresh limes. We chilled, and I Thierry's Houseremarked that his apartment reminded me of a hostel. It had the feeling that it held many stories over a long period of time with a wide variety of people coming in and out of that place. We listened to a very indie/alternative playlist that seemed to fit in perfectly with the chill hostel mood. I eventually left, danced a bit at the White Horse Bar and then headed back to my house where my neighbors were throwing an after-party for one of the all-girl a cappella groups at BU.

http://www.bu.edu/today/2013/linden-street-fire/?utm_campaign=prbumain&utm_source=social&utm_medium=facebook&sf12204665=1

http://www.universalhub.com/2013/nine-residents-rescued-burning-allston-house

I awoke with a hangover the next day, and instantaneously went on Facebook. I scrolled through the notifications, and read that there was a fatal housefire in Allston. I shook my head and thought, “Ah well, not another one.” I then took a closer look at the picture and realized that that was the exact same house I visited last night; 87 Linden. I quickly called my friend, Thierry, who lived at that house and he texted me back that he was alright; however, one of his roommates, Binland, who also lived in the attic with him may not have gotten out. One Binland’s friends, Amanda, called me and asked if I had any information about Thierry and Binland. I explained to her that our mutual host friend was alright, but that Binland was probably the one who died in the fire. I then got confirmation from Amanda around 3pm just as I took a picture of the pink flowers of a tree just outside of the Mechanical Engineering. I promised her on her Facebook wall that I would post the picture of the flowers.

http://www.bu.edu/today/2013/linden-street-fire/

Flowers for BinlandIt felt weird knowing yet another person who had died, especially since I was in such close proximity to where the fire happened, and she was probably sleeping already and just didn’t wake up before dying. I remembered the last time we had seen each other, which was at 87 Linden when I was working on an Engineering Economy assignment. Then the time before that was during a Halloween Party in Junior Year when I met her and found out that she was slated to go study abroad in Belize since she was a Marine Science Major. And it was so close to the end of Senior Year too.

I was at a loss during that day, and I biked passed Linden Street, and saw the aftermath of the blaze: the charred remains of a house with police cutting off entry to the street with police tape. I biked to campus, and attempted to continue my simulations for my Senior Design Project of a Raised Floor System. Needless to say, I couldn’t focus. But then my friend from Dresden Study Abroad, Sean Manton, called me and asked if I wanted to go spend a 30 minute break seeing his friend’s art exhibit by the Boston Commons. I naturally assumed that this meant seeing murals, paintings, or floral arrangements. We biked down Commonwealth Avenue northwards to the Commons, and the day was just so beautiful. Dads were playing catch with their sons, girls were frolicking on the grass, couples were going on strolls, and the world seemed normal again. We made it to the Commons and stopped in front of the Cathedral Church of St. Paul, located on 138 Tremont Street. It is an Episcopalian Church that had scaffolding that led to the top of the roof in front of the facade. Sean and I pulled one of the fences in order to create an opening, and then climbed up the scaffolding to see Sean’s friend from Colorado who was in charge of a project to put an aluminum Nautilus on the front top of the church. I couldn’t believe that right now I was overlooking all of the Commons on the top of a very tall scaffolding structure.

Sean’s friend, John, explained how this design was desired for over 200 years, but they didn’t have anyone to build it at the time. So then Episcopal Nautilusthey recently had the ability to commission this design with a new artist using an aluminum shaping plant over in Colorado and then shipping it over to Boston. I explained to Sean that I never had a dull moment with him. I would say that it was the perfect way to take a break from the events of the blaze and my senior project.

We then biked back along the Esplanade, and I couldn’t help but smile at the feeling of sun across my back and people enjoying nature by the Charles. I then happened across Amanda with one of her friends on one of the short piers jutting out from the Esplanade path. She seemed pensive, looking out across the waters of the Charles as the afternoon sun started to set. She asked me how my day was, and I responded that it was good, but not perfect. She then inquires, “What would make it a perfect day?” I then respond with, “No senior design.” However, I knew that this was just a cover for my other emotions, but I knew that she was also dealing with many other emotions as well. I then hugged her and told her to take care as I continued biking back to the lab and to senior design work.

So I would say that this was my atypical Sunday. I did work, and my journey wove through the lives of so many others in many intense ways. Binland’s memorial was on Tuesday afternoon on Marsh Plaza and I honestly could not have felt so many weird emotions. There were engineering friends, two of her ex-boyfriends, old friends, and roommates. Then there was the realization that it wasn’t too long ago when we had all gathered at Marsh for solidarity, support, and mourning for the Boston Marathon Bombings. But together we could join as a community and share memories about those whom we had lost and loved.

Around this time last year the BU community lost Austin Brashears, Daniela Lekhno, and Roch Jauberty. And there have been so many lost since then, and this weekend was just the latest. But we will continue to strive forward, because that is all that we can do. There is life out here and it is good.

Binland’s Website

“We are the voices of the Ocean.”

Amanda on the Charles


To Life We Sing

http://www.npr.org/blogs/monkeysee/2013/04/22/178415907/agony-ecstasy-irony-the-fight-for-the-soul-of-college-a-cappella

And so starts the beginning of the end. I wanted to share the article above, because it resonates very strongly and intimately with me. I have been involved with a cappella since the sophomore year of high school. I was part of the J~Notes at Loyola Blakefield High School, and we weren’t that good. Honestly looking back, we kinda sucked at most of our songs and were reasonably impressed when I helped to arrange the simple Jason Mraz’s “I’m Yours” with my choir director. I didn’t think too much of this group, and felt more connected with my high school choir, rugby team, musical productions, or other groups that I was a part of.

Then back in Fall of 2009 I started my time at Boston University and participated at the SPLASH event on Nickerson Field. This event allowed most of the active student groups on BU’s campus to attract as many of the incoming freshmen as possible to their tables and get them to sign up for information meetings, auditions, networking nights, or practices. I walked down a corridor of tables around the center of the field. This corridor had tables filled with all of BU’s a cappella groups. I specifically remember this short blond girl, whom I later found out to be named Megan, yelled at me saying, “Come join the Allegrettos!” So I got one of their flyers and decided to try my hand at auditions for a collegiate a cappella group.

I auditioned with “I’m Yours”, got called back for a second round of auditions, and eventually got accepted into the group. It was during that second round of auditions that the Allegrettos performed one of their songs, “Semi Charmed Life” by Third Eye Blind. I couldn’t believe my ears; it was just pure awesomeness to hear human voices joining together in some weird sort of harmony in order to recreate a song. The rest has been history, and one that is still hard for me to believe. I cannot stress enough just how much a cappella has shaped my college experiences, and it’s ridiculous to think that these a cappella groups were initially formed by students and all student-run. First of all there are the two 3-hour rehearsals Thursday and Sunday night. Then there are the gigs where we performed some of the songs that we learned in rehearsal.

However, the night that everyone looked forward to was the Night of BU A Cappella hosted by the Treblemakers a cappella group. In one of the larger BU auditoriums, all of BU’s a cappella groups performed two songs. It wasn’t an official competition, but it was a night where every group could be represented in the a cappella community and show itself off to the rest of the university with all proceeds from ticket sales going to the Franciscan Hospital for Children. There have been staples of the BU a cappella community, and then there have been groups that have come and gone throughout the years:

Co-ed: Allegrettos, Treblemakers, In Achord, The Bostones

All-Girl: Terpsichore, Chordially Yours, Aural Fixation, BU Sweethearts

All-Male: Dear Abbeys

Christian: Mustard Seed

Indian: Suno

Korean: K-Seoul

Night of BU A Cappella has been one of my favorite nights of the year. It’s a feeling of just being enveloped by such an intimate and intense sound of music. In response to the initially posted NPR article, I think that a cappella has evolved past traditional boundaries, and college a cappella has been proof of that. It has become its own community in college filled with its own drama, interwoven pasts as intricate as some harmonies, and performance opportunities as diverse as voice types. It is impressive to hear a well-produced song on the radio that impresses you, but it’s even more impressive when you can convey that same feeling using only voices. It’s just a different world, because choirs usually sing songs tempered by time and strengthened with the musical expertise of a professional composer.

On the other hand this is all student-run: from the musical arrangements, to group funding, to transportation, rehearsal space reservations, and even group structure. Sometimes I forget that all of these groups are self-run, and that it is through our actions, thoughts, and suggestions that events, performances, and songs occur.

It is hard to convey just how much a cappella has impacted my life. Some of my first real college experiences came from my involvement with the group both through our performances and through our social gatherings. My first ever time getting drunk was with a cappella, my first real college party was with a cappella, and my first time feeling a part of something much greater than myself in college was through a cappella. It had become synonymous with college life ever since I stepped foot upon campus, and I will never be able to convey that feeling of knowing that I would always have this normal routine where I would go to class, go to work, and then go practice with my a cappella group that comprised a large part of my college experience. There have been many adventures that I have shared with my group: running out of water and electricity in bumfuck nowhere Vermont, performing at every Night of BU A Cappella, drunken scavenger hunts, late night practices, singing outside on the streets,  tripping the fire alarm at our retreat house in Cape Cod, hosting a cappella parties, being the guest group of the now best a cappella group in the nation (Nor’easters), and travelling to perform at various gigs throughout the Northeast.

And I will end with one of my all-time favorite college experiences. It was the tail end of Freshman Year, and we were asked to perform as the guest group for RPI’s Rusty Pipes all the way in Albany, New York. It was an overnight performance and we sang “Otherside” by the Red Hot Chili Peppers. The performance was cool, but what I really remembered was how the after-party was filled with old Rusty Pipes alumni and how they all were singing old songs. We were asked to sing one, so we decided to do “Semi Charmed Life” and everyone joined in because the other groups had their own versions of it. As a drunken freshman, I loved every moment of singing in harmonies and rhythms alongside so many other a cappella members from different backgrounds and lifestyles joined together through our love of singing. I have never forgotten that moment, and I will not forget those notes, harmonies, friends, the sand beneath my toes, and the songs with the four right chords that could make me cry.


Marathon Monday

I know that I haven’t written in this blog for  long time, and I’ve mainly done stream-of-consciousness, but I decided to finally spend some of my free time writing here just to keep me grounded and put my thoughts down on paper. I don’t think that I was in the right state of mind to write down my feelings after the events of Marathon Monday/Patriot’s Day. So right now, after the fact I am now able to give life to my thoughts and words as well as to fulfill my role as archivist and historian of these events that have transpired.

On Saturday I was at a party with a friend and I remember having a nostalgic moment with her. We talked about how it is ridiculous that we can literally start counting down the days until graduation, and how classes will end within a month’s time. The talk eventually settled around how we had all travelled around the world and grown from our four years worth of experiences here. I then said, “We have all become displaced,” and our conversation fell silent amid the din of keg-stands, beer pong, and blasting Top 40 pop music. We had come to a moment when we realized that college students and those who grow up in life look for a home. We are displaced in our minds, through our emotions, and in our physical locations when we leave for college and new lands. That realization that college will soon end had already hit us and we are now desperately grasping to share moments among the friends whom we love.

So on Sunday night before Marathon Monday, I travelled from Boston University backwards from the Marathon Finish Line all the way to Midnight Cyclingthe starting line at Hopkinton. I journeyed there with two friends, a member of the BU cycling team Michael Wexler and a member of the BU track team Michael Bhat. We biked through the night on the marathon route and eventually made our way to the starting line. We literally chilled there in the almost freezing temperature until the rest of the Midnight Cyclists that had arrived at the Southboro Commuter Rail stop led the first wave of cyclists past the finish line. I biked back the entire way to Copley alongside the hundreds of other professional and casual cyclists who joined together in solidarity to bike the marathon route. I get to the finish line, and it felt like a moment of peace after an arduous journey there and back again. We take some pictures and I head back home to my apartment to finish making several gallons of sangria in preparation for intense Marathon Monday day-drinking.

I sleep well for a few hours and awake to my roommate and her friends pre-gaming in our living room. Before I could even fully open my eyes, I already take a few gulps of vodka and sprite. The rest of the day involves an adventure through the pre-gaming areas of Allston. I made it to a courtyard where hipsters were tossing a Frisbee disk, hippie girls were hula-hooping, my indie friend was taking Polaroid pictures, stoners were drinking cannabis-infused creamer, bros were passing a football, and drunk biddies were belting Beyonce songs.

I drank here for a bit, then left to another place where I got to play Fusion, a mixture of beer pong and flip cup. Ahh it feels like ages ago, Marathon Mondaybut the day felt so wide and so warm. There were friends everywhere, and all were invited to partake in a breakfast of eggs and kegs. I split off from the pregaming a little bit after noon, and walked towards south campus where the runners were going down Beacon Street. There were only smiles everywhere as I weaved in and out of apartments filled with European girls, Lebanese smokers, and cheering frat bros. I walked down the Beacon Street T lines towards Park Drive where the majority of my engineering friends were all cheering, dancing, and laughing with each other. I just felt so happy to be celebrating my last Marathon Monday with the friends whom I cared about and those whom I had shared my college experience with. This place had become my home, and I was sharing this gloriously beautiful day with my college family. These were the poignant moments of hugs with old friends, small adventures of drinking sangria behind garbage bins, and solidarity as a Boston community cheering on an event of almost superhuman endurance and skill.

And then around 3pm we started hearing rumors of a bomb. Most of us dismissed it as fear-mongering and just went about our normal activities of cheering and drinking. And then the texts and alarmed calls started flooding in and people started to take notice. The police started checking people’s bags even if they were unattended for a few moments, and even I got manhandled a small bit as the cops angrily asked if that was my bag lying unattended on the sidewalk.

Deserted BeaconAround that time, the marathon runners started getting diverted and the cops instructed spectators to start heading indoors. I took refuge inside one of the South Campus apartments with several of my friends and few other BU classmates. It was a very intense atmosphere; with one guy in tears saying how he felt like it was 9/11 all over again. We all tried to sober up as fast as we could, and when I looked out of the window the streets were all deserted and not a single marathon runner could be seen anymore.

I felt distraught, and the tv kept broadcasting the same message on all channels:

“BUPD has reports of an explosion near the finish line of Boston marathon on Boyleston St. Information that people are injured in that area. Please remain out of the area of the marathon route. Remain indoors and return to your residence at this time. More information to follow.”

I then made my way to Marsh Chapel where a few people had already congregated. I needed to clear my head, so I knelt down in prayer by one of the pews. I then made it back west to the Allston area and back to my apartment where I finally got internet access and saw the live-stream of what had occurred. What hit me the hardest was hearing about the casualties and the dozens of amputees. I literally empathized and started to feel like an emotional wreck realizing how so many people who had trained their whole lives for a these moments of joy and celebration could have their entire lives taken away. A lot has already been said about this issue, but there is always more room to share one’s story.

I just didn’t know, all I could ask myself was why? Why? Why did someone do this? What was there to gain from this tragic attempt to steal away people’s joy? I never found an answer that day, but instead I found an overwhelming feeling of the human spirit. All around me there were acts of human kindness, love, and generosity. The technology that we have said distances people from interpersonal relationships brought people closer together in times of crises that could not have happened before. I literally had dozens of texts and calls from friends, acquaintances, and loved ones near and far just to ensure that I was safe. I even got long-distance calls from friends studying abroad thousands of miles away. Then there were the Facebook posts, articles, stories, and pictures sharing how good can come from this evil. And that is what I wanted to share today; the goodness that eventually triumphs over the bad, the love that wins over hatred, and the good works that unite all humans together. The following are links to articles that have demonstrated the overwhelming response of people who have decided to look for the light in a day that was clouded.

http://www.businessinsider.com/inspiring-images-from-boston-2013-4

http://katielannan.com/2013/04/15/the-boston-marathon-is-everything-thats-right-with-the-world/

http://nesn.com/2013/04/boston-college-students-organizing-walk-to-finish-boston-marathon/

http://bucultureshock.com/stay-strong-boston/

http://maddowblog.msnbc.com/_news/2013/04/16/17782438-a-story-behind-the-photo

http://bostonmarathonconspiracy.com/

http://www.usatoday.com/story/gameon/2013/04/15/boston-marathon-blast-help/2086273/?csp=sporttumblr

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2013/04/15/if-you-are-losing-faith-in-human-nature-go-out-and-watch-a-marathon/

http://www.theatlanticwire.com/national/2013/04/photos-stories-kindness-boston-marathon-bombing/64258/

“Runners know that timing is everything… And I will never forget that 7 minutes after I crossed the finish line Boston felt the first explosion… I’m so grateful to be alive”

~Rosie Woods (One of my BU friends)

“I still believe, in spite of everything, that people are truly good at heart.”

~Anne Frank

Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”

~Martin Luther King Jr.

“Boston is a tough, resilient town, and so are its people.”

~President Obama

“This tragedy is not going to stop Boston… We will not let terror take us over.”

~ Boston Mayor, Thomas Menino

“There’s something particularly devastating about an attack on a marathon. It’s an epic event in which men and women appear almost superhuman. The winning men run for hours at a pace even normal fit people can only hold in a sprint. But it’s also so ordinary. It’s not held in a stadium or on a track. It’s held in the same streets everyone drives on and walks down. An attack on a marathon is, in some ways, more devastating than an attack on a stadium; you’re hitting something special but also something very quotidian. When we find out who did this, we may well find some fascination with the event—perhaps a foreign terrorist, or a sick American. Perhaps it was someone who spotted a terribly easy target. Or perhaps it was someone who saw a reflection of the human spirit and decided just to try to shatter it.”

~Nicholas Thompson, New Yorker

“As some of you know, I was 1/2 mile from the finish line when the explosion went off. I had no idea what was going on until I finally stopped and asked someone. Knowing that my family was at the finish line waiting for me, I started panicking, trying to call them. Diverted away from the finish line, I started walking down Mass Ave towards Symphony Hall still not knowing where my family was. Right before the intersection of Huntington, I was able to get in touch with Brian and found out he was with my family and they were safe. I was just so happy to hear his voice that I sat down and started crying. Just couldn’t hold it back. At that moment, a couple walking by stopped. The woman took the space tent off her husband, who had finished the marathon, and wrapped it around me. She asked me if I was okay, if I knew where my family was. I reassured her I knew where they were and I would be ok. The man then asked me if I finished to which I nodded “no.” He then proceeded to take the medal off from around his neck and placed it around mine. He told me “you are a finisher in my eyes.” I was barely able to choke out a “thank you” between my tears.

Odds are I will never see this couple again, but I’m reaching out with the slim chance that I will be able to express to them just what this gesture meant to me. I was so in need of a familiar face at that point in time. This couple reassured me that even though such a terrible thing had happened, everything was going to be ok.”

~Unknown

“Today, in the place I have called home, there is no doubt in my mind where this goes from here. If you have lived in Boston, you probably already know this. If you haven’t, let me assure you, that you need not doubt the strength or spirit of this particular American city. It proved itself in an earlier time, a time it was commemorating yesterday, Patriots’ Day. And the video of people rushing in to help the injured speaks for itself, but it is bigger than even that.

Boston is not the biggest city in America; it is not the most politically powerful. But it has an inner determination and power that only the foolish ignore. Next year, at the 118th running of the Boston Marathon, I confidently predict there will be more runners and more supporters than ever before.

The attackers, whoever they are must be incompetent.

They picked on the wrong city.”

~Jim Walsh, 90.9 WBUR

These were just a few of the sentiments that I saw within the past few days. I will say that there is a new-found sense of determination here Allston Sunsetthat has united all Boston students together. In a sense we all felt attacked and knew that what we needed to do was to stay together and hug our loved ones. There is a spirit here that prevails through the tears and sorrow, and through the toil and strife. As my close friend Mitch wrote down later that night:

“Today is a day that should go down in drunken college history. Unfortunately, the events of the day will be remembered for different reasons. Nevertheless, days such as this force us to recall all those important memories with loved ones that truly matter.”

And so in troubled days like these I will walk on the road that Patriots walked upon into the cool spring air and let Boston save me.

Let Boston Save Me


Self-Esteem

I have low self-esteem, and it kills me. It’s something that I’ve been struggling with and something that eats away at me whenever I attempt to do pretty much anything. I think it’s due in part to wanting to improve myself and excel in everything that I do. I was already gifted in my academics since I was young, and at one point that was pretty much what defined me. It was the reason why I quit Freshman Year football in high school, because I was worried about a D on a quiz that I got in my Algebra II class (I eventually ended up with an A for the year). I have also admired my ability to accomplish things and goals through sheer force of will. I will want to accomplish something, and instead of giving up because it’s too hard, I will instead try everything in my skill-set to reach that goal and then feel good about it; partially because I fulfilled one of my expectations and partially because I did something that not everyone could do.

This has been one of my traits that I have kept with me throughout high school and college. I rarely think that my goals are impossible, and I always get a rush from having a vision and then devoting my time and effort towards fulfilling that vision. This has led to many great benefits for me, such as my tattoos, my studying abroad, my Berlin internship, living off-campus, being on several Executive Leadership Boards here at BU, among other goals and achievements. I guess that I got to the age where I saw myself making my dreams a reality. However, this ability of mine to always strive to better myself has its downfall; it makes me an extremely jealous person. I don’t mean it, and I really try to be happy for another person who succeeds and does better than me.

I didn’t realize until recently when I found myself avoiding specific YouTube videos because they showcased someone’s talent that was better than mine. I have to clarify that this doesn’t mean that everyone who is better than me in something makes me jealous. Rather only those people who have a talent that I have also devoted time to are the ones who make me jealous. This includes people my age with my resources who can cook better than me, those who take better photographs than me, those who work with bicycles, those who sing better, those who are better party hosts, those who speak better German and French, who get better grades, who get better jobs, who achieve more, who work more, who get more attention, who have a boyfriend or girlfriend, and who endure more than me. I feel so petty writing this all down, but it’s been something that has been weighing on my heart and something that I realize I struggle with so much. It’s gotten to the point where I know that hubris will be my downfall. I will be unable to grow from the wisdom and knowledge of others, and I will not be able to acknowledge my faults.

I guess that deep down inside it’s because I know that there are so many other amazing people in the world who surround me, and I want to be like them. I want more than anything else to grow and remain dynamic. I want to improve upon my abilities as well as discover new ones, but that can’t happen if I am too jealous and enamored of those with higher skills than mine. With this jealousy also comes low self-esteem, self-worth, and self-confidence. I sometimes beat myself (not physically) down because I feel that I am just not good enough. It’s a weird thought, because I tell myself that since someone is better at me at something, then I am not really worth that much in that specific area. One of things that I’ve prided in myself has been my ability to be the underdog who rises to the occasion. I am the person without classical music training who is my a cappella group’s vice-president, I am the nerdy kid who played rugby decently well, I was the socially awkward student who now throws parties and is liked.

Looking at this in writing is shameful to me, but I think that it does me good to see how silly and immature these thoughts are. If I can put them out there and lay my faults out bare, then I can move past them and grow beyond them. My friends and other people who know me may find what I am about to say weird, but I guess that I have somehow just gotten used to it; I like myself but at other times I really dislike myself. It’s not some sort of depression or suicidal tendencies, nope nothing like that sort. It’s just that at times I look at myself in the mirror and wish that I could just look a bit nicer, or lose a bit more weight, or workout a bit more at the gym. Sometimes I do my morning routine in the dark so that I won’t have to see myself in the bathroom mirror. I dislike that I can gain weight very easily. I also wish that I liked my body and my face more. As confident as I may seem leading others and going about my business, I feel very fragile when it comes to my self-worth. I dislike having bad skin so much. I randomly get pimples, zits, and random bumps all over my body regardless of how healthy I seem to be.

During the day I usually have this demeanor that all is going well in the world, and I usually believe that. But my apartment here has become my rest place where I can feel in control and safe. I don’t have to be happy and cheerful, and I can just rest. I think that this skewed sense of self-esteem is a residual aftereffect of my struggles last year with how I valued myself with too much of an emphasis on what other people thought about about me. I have been able to grow past that, but my struggle evolved.

I know that I have no right to do it, and that it makes no sense but sometimes when I’m at home here I just curl up into a ball on my couch, bed, or in the shower and just go to sleep regardless of what time it is. The idea is that I can rest my thoughts and forget about life for a bit while I dream. At other times I just feel like I want to cry for some weird, overwhelming reason. I guess that that’s because sometimes I oddly feel lonely and as if I don’t actually have any friends. It’s odd, it’s very odd and I know deep down that my thoughts and petty struggles should not bother me or exist. There are bigger and more important things to worry about, and there are people with much bigger struggles than me. So I will continue to forage on wards and I shall grow past this bump in my life with sincere joy and an attempt to reinvigorate my self-esteem and worth. I’m not too sure how I’ll do it, but writing this down is a start.


A Blustery Day

The following is a post that I started sometime towards the end of last week:

“Ah so here I am at my kitchen table while my food cooks on the stovetop; I made chicken adobo, herbed mixed vegetables, and brown rice. Honestly I feel as if I am living the life right now. I am sure that I will do well in my classes, I am not that stressed, I have a plan for my life ahead of me, and I am enjoying how the weather is steadily getting warmer. Life is good, and today was just one of those good days when I felt as if everything good was happening. I have been successful in accomplishing my tasks, which included creating a poster for the BU Catholic Center retreat, interviewing for my take on house parties in Allston, interviewing for the College of Engineering, sharing a 12 mile Boston night bike tour with my visiting intern friend from Berlin, and just reached the end of Thursday night when I can finally start to unwind for the weekend that is chock-full of even more adventures.”

It’s funny how quickly one’s mood can change from moment to moment. Right now I need some alone time because I just feel out of it today. It could be the residual effects of last night’s Superbowl activities, or it could just be one of those days where I just am not feeling it. It’s one of those days where I am just not happy with how I look, how I feel, how my workload is piling up, where I stand with my friends, and have the little inconsequential things affect me more than they should. During my senior design class I had moments of ennui (I’m too young for that) where I just saw myself having so much work to do for such a long time and seriously questioning my resolve to get through it all this semester. It was that tiny chink in the armor that was otherwise impregnable against the stresses and fatigues that would have normally dissipated upon impact.

I had a good sleep last night. The apartment was warm, but I worried about the impending electricity bill. My bike lock is rusty and I worried about buying a new one, or having my bike locked to a metal post forever. I then contemplated the lives of great minds and geniuses and how it seems that I will never be able to measure up to them and leave as lasting an impact throughout my life. Then I started to think about whether or not I would even get called back for an interview with the Peace Corps, and if I should still show up to the engineering job fair. Also Valentine’s Day is coming up and I know for sure that I will not have a date for the 4th year in a row, which means that for the past four years I have been single for 93.75% of the time. But I have two other single friends with whom I will share a dinner with along with this great 4 liter jug of white wine. These are the little things that I know are very unimportant in my life and usually don’t affect me as much, but they keep nagging at me. I strive to always improve, but days like these just make me want to just sit in a corner by myself for a long time.

As usual, I understand that I’ll get through this and move forward past it. Even now after writing this blog post I feel a little bit better. Writing and giving life to my thoughts allows for a certain type of catharsis and that has helped me to get through days like these. But the rest of the day looks promising, with one and a half hours of emailing and internet errands, about 2 hours of calculus tutoring, two hours of working out with a friend, and then the rest of the night for a relaxing home-cooked dinner.

Life is still good.


Another Day

Today just felt like an off day for some reason. I woke up at 8am and it was cold outside. I mean, it was freezing cold outside to the point that my hands started to freeze even though I wore skiing gloves. My professor got confused when it came to solving the 2nd Order Differential Equation for Mass Balance in terms of concentrations of pollutants and that just frustrated me. I screwed up singing a song in front of a group of people, and then I get back home and stress out about how to pay for the Peace Corps when I’m away. You see I called a bunch of different offices today ranging from the Peace Corps national office, to the regional office, to the Federal Student Loan HQ, to my specific borrowers, to Boston University financial aid, to my parents. I finally figured out how to deal with paying back my loans during my leave of absence if I am eventually accepted into the Peace Corps, but it still sucks that I have this dream and it seems so far away. Only a few thousand measly dollars separates me from having the funds to pay for my loans while I am away volunteering,

Usually I have this hope that everything will somehow work out; however, for some reason today I just don’t feel it. I feel kinda spoiled, but it’s one of those days where all I wanna do is just curl up into a ball and sleep forever. Not everyone in the world can say that. I guess that I can start by saving more money instead of spending it as soon as I get my weekly paycheck.

I’m sure that a good night’s sleep in my chilly room will do me some good and help to clear my mind off of some things. I still hold true that things will somehow work themselves out in the end, because that’s how it’s supposed to happen. People are naturally good and everything will work out in the end. It has to.


Hookups

Ah so here we are at the first weekend of the semester. And it’s a long weekend at that. So far I’ve enjoyed my German class and my other Engineering classes. My commitments are slow to pick up, and I survived the first set of weekend parties in the Allston area, especially after the cops threatened to arrest party hosts in the area instead of giving warnings or citations. Apparently that is more effective at curbing the rate of sexual assaults, armed robberies, car arsons, and stabbings.

Anyways the point that I was getting at was the fact that I have always been confused about the hookup culture. I have hooked up in the past with both guys and girls, but I really never understood it. Now I am not writing this post to talk about the morality of hookups, because I think that that is better reserved for a different time. My problem is that I feel that I have been able to address and confront my own inadequacies concerning my personal issues in life, except for dealing with people whom I am attracted to. Sometimes I am worried about hooking up with them, because I value our friendship too much. Then there is the fact that I would also not like to be in relationships with people because I know that they probably would not last that long for the both of us. So I suppose that I am waiting.

As a result the majority of my hookups have been with people whom I do not know and whom I probably will never see again in my life. I guess that I prefer it better that way because then there is no friendship that I could have broken. But is that what I really want in life? Is it worth it to not take that chance with a friend whom I could have a great future with because I am worried that it may not turn out so well in the end? I think that it is a mixture of that and the fact that I am uncomfortable when it comes to people who may be even slightly attracted to me. Sometimes when I read people’s body language at parties and see that they are somewhat attracted to me, (kissing on the face really close to the lips, overtly laughing to my jokes, hands on my legs during conversations, hugging very closely and tightly for extended periods of time, saying how much we need to hang out in the future) I get uncomfortable because I worry that a hookup may destroy budding, platonic friendship.

It’s my problem: my need for people to like me. If only I could just act without giving two shits about that, but no it’s too hard. I am too addicted to having people like me and I admit it. I mean, I have made great strides with that since last year. However, now it’s the one thing that I want to work on. Maybe I’m still on the fence about the whole hookup culture. But then again I also have felt resistance to pursuing someone whom I would like to just go out with on a date and start a relationship. Many people don’t know this about me, but I have low self esteem when it comes to my worth as a person when it comes to relationships. I never feel like I am good enough for that other person. This doesn’t mean that I hate myself as a person, because that is definitely not the case: I love who I am. The problem is that I thrive on making other people happy, which means that I have trouble dealing with the taking part of a give-and-take relationship. For example, there has been this girl whom I have liked for years. There are so many reasons for liking her and admiring her, but I will never ask her out or even think about hooking up because I love her too much. In my eyes, she’s everything that I would want in a partner, and that makes me want her to be happy; like truly happy. I value her joy so much that I would rather have her be with someone else who would complement her so well in ways that I would never be able to attain. And you know what? I am alright with that and know that that is the best decision for me.

And so what will I do now since I have the professed, platonic friendship of so many and the close relationships of none? I’ll continue to endure forwards through my adventures trying to be the best person whom I can be and see where life takes me. I am a happy person, and maybe society says that we all need that significant other (be it boyfriend or girlfriend) or that weekly hookup. I’m not that talented at either, and I’ll probably still attempt to hookup with people whom I will not know, but I’ll continue falling and rising and fighting.

Over Everything Love.


On Some Sort of Road

“What is that feeling when you’re driving away from people and they recede on the plain till you see their specks dispersing? – it’s the too-huge world vaulting us, and it’s good-by. But we lean forward to the next crazy venture beneath the skies.”

~On the Road, Jack Kerouac

So it’s the last night before I bid a temporary farewell to this old and empty house back in Owings Mills, MD. I have been attempting to finish my reading of Jack Kerouac’s On the Road so that it can be returned back to the library in Maryland before I head back to Boston early in the morning. Once again I start to feel that pang of wanting to move and be dynamic. I just can’t stand wasting away in the same old houses and apartments without actively doing something with my life. I sometimes feel as if I am not using my skills to the fullest: during the school year I never take full advantage of my talents and end up wasting  time with procrastination, and then during the breaks all I do is sleep, eat, and think about when things will start up again.

Everything around me is changing and moving beyond any control. When I leave for Boston tomorrow in a 10am Megabus, it will be the last time that I will head there before my graduation. It will be the last time that I say another goodbye to my old Maryland home and welcome the familiarity of my Boston home for the last time before everything changes and starts again anew.

I just feel stuck right now: stuck between the verges of new homes and new lives. I went back to my high school today to give a presentation about engineering in college to two classes of seniors who are taking an introductory engineering course. I couldn’t believe that I was only 4 years gone from their position and that they too would come to understand the glory of life after high school. I guess that I just also have to work on not holding on to things too much. I tend to remember a lot of things in the past, and as a result I tend to get stuck on how things were and how good they seemed to be back then. If I only I could have gone back to those moments with the wisdom and experience that I had now and did things differently. But then again I would never have gained that insight had I not first gone through those experiences with my naivete and innocence.

I started reading On the Road with feelings of joy and ecstasy as I read about the adventures and the Sal’s calling to once again fulfill that wanderlust to move into the unknown. I think that it is a very fitting book for me, because I think that I have always felt this urge to keep challenging myself to  tread upon those lesser known paths and experiences. With that comes reckless abandonment, which may have seemed romantic and lofty at first, but then reveals itself to have no real purpose. My only worry is that I will soon find nothing in this world that can fill this aching desire. For Sal, it is to be upon that vast and foreign road filled with glory and mystery. For me, it is to discover that new secret or next part of my life that starts to make sense of this mess. Then again, we all have our ups and downs just like any old road, but this one doesn’t have an end in sight.

The nest stage for me is definitely the Peace Corps, and spending those 2+ years away in a developing country. What’s eating me away is that I made good headway on my application, only to have screwed up and pass the 30 day refreshing deadline. When I last checked on my application it was all deleted and I then had to start over again by scratch. It is a long and arduous process, but I know that in my heart of hearts that it is what I was called to do regardless of what anyone else has said to me. So for the time being, I need to finish my book, pack my bags, and head on to this last stage of my college career and see where that “huge vaulting world” takes me.


A Story

Ah and finally after probably two years I finally reach my 100th post, which is not bad for a blog that I started back before my Dresden Study Abroad experience back in 2011. It seems like such a long time ago, but I suppose that as I get older the years start to feel shorter and shorter. After reading one of my friend’s blogs Thinking Outside the Paradox Box, I have been a bit inspired to share something a bit more personal about myself that has not been put out in public yet. It has almost gotten to the point where this sort of story has become trite and overused. People rarely even bat eyelids when they hear about it, and most people tend to then have the “okay, so moving on…” reaction. And everyone else has been more than supportive.

I see myself as being bisexual, with more homosexual tendencies than straight.

The funny thing is that I wasn’t shocked when I finally came to this epiphany, and most of my friends (rightly so) were not shocked either. I guess that it’s because of the way my personality shows itself. I came to this realization about myself on the last night of my Sophomore Year Fall Semester Catholic Retreat. I have always attended the Catholic Retreats at Boston University, because I greatly value my Catholic Faith. Once again, I was asked to be one of the almost two dozen small group leaders who would help to facilitate reflections and post-witness discussions during several points of the weekend long retreat in Kennebunkport, Maine. Fittingly enough, the theme of the retreat was Without Limits. I cannot remember my specific train of thought, but I remember that the apex and pinnacle of the retreat was Adoration during the last night. Adoration is a sacrament of the Catholic Church that is viewed as “an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace given unto us, ordained by Christ himself, as a means whereby we receive the same, and a pledge to assure us thereof” as written in the Anglican Common Book of Prayer. During Adoration, the Blessed Sacrament of Jesus Christ, the physical bread actually and fully realized and become flesh, is presented to the community in one of those sunburst-like Church relics called a monstrance. The monstrance has a glass in the middle through which the community can see the body of Christ.

It is very hard to explain to people who aren’t Catholic, because we believe that the bread and wine during mass are physically transformed into the body and blood of Jesus Christ. We partake in him, and it nourishes us more than any physical meal on this earth can provide. Anyways, Adoration is a time of reverence, praise, and contemplation. It is a time to lay everything out before our God, and have him there right in front of us: physically in the flesh. It is a very intimate time.

So during this time I am contemplating and praying really hard about my own sexuality. I had always realized that I was never head-over-heels for girls as most of my guy friends were. And when I did have a girlfriend in high school I rarely saw her as an object of my sexual desires. But was I sexually attracted to her? Hell yeah. I enjoyed when we held hands, hugged, and kissed. However, ever since I was young I had been somewhat fixated and intrigued by the male figure in ways that boys are intrigued by the female figure. Both sexes attracted and aroused me, but I felt more pulled towards men. Once I had made this connection, I felt that God had something along the lines of “I am so proud of you for making this connection. Now go forth and be joyous, for you have discovered a new, more intimate part of who you are.”  I wanted to tell the whole world about this, but I realized that I would rather tell people face-to-face rather than have them all find out about it through the grapevine of the internet. After almost two years, I feel that I have told a sufficient amount of people to the point that I am now more than comfortable to share this on my blog. I think that all successful memoirs, journals, and blogs find their best moments when the authors are at their rawest and most vulnerable. And this is one of my vulnerable aspects that not everyone knows about me for one reason or another.

Ever since then I had been sharing my realization and story with my closest friends. This led to some interesting results. My very best friends said that they accepted me, and would always accept me regardless of what I had told them. One of my other friends was a bit surprised, and said that he had to re-evaluate his personal philosophy of bias against people of another sexual orientation. He said that he always respected and looked up to me, and now that I shared my story with him he feels as if he can still accept me for who I am. Then there were two other friends whom I came out to, who thanked me for sharing that with them. They then expressed their own thoughts about how they too wondered if they were fully straight or not, because they felt that that was how they had viewed themselves their whole lives. Now I had not done anything physical at all with a guy, but within two months these two friends came back to me with stories of their own.

One friend told me his story of sexually hooking up with a guy and realizing that it was not enjoyable and the he definitely was straight. On the other hand, another friend shared how he hooked up with a guy at a party and actually enjoyed it. He now classifies himself as pansexual/bisexual. During junior year at Boston University, I was frustrated with my inability to be with another guy. I definitely knew that I was attracted to men, but I just couldn’t muster up the courage to ask one of them out or even to hook up with one. I was frustrated, because I suppose that I wanted validity that I definitely was bisexual and wasn’t just trying to pretending to be part of a crowd and something much larger. I wanted to belong to myself and know myself better. I ended up hooking up with a girl, which was nice but I really wanted to hook up with a guy. Then one morning I finally mustered up the courage to ask a guy out whom I had been attracted to. We both were engineers, albeit different majors. He was physically attractive, and I heard him yell, “I’m going to have gay sex with my roommate now!” during one of our engineering parties. At first I thought that this was a joke, but then several of my classmates assured me that he definitely was gay. I sent him a long-worded Facebook message about asking him out, and he responded that he was very honored but was actually straight. He then proceeded to commend me for my candor and openness and how any other girl or guy would be more than willing to go out with me if I were ever that blunt.

It’s funny because I have no trouble making friends, but I have all of the trouble in the world with relationships. However, I accept that about myself. It’s because I am a shy person when it comes to matters like that. I am afraid of rejection and afraid of people not liking me. It is a weakness of mine that I have been slow to overcome. My first real experiences with men were during my internship in Berlin. Our group of interns me this other gay student, and I asked him if he could bring me to one of the gay clubs in Berlin. He was more than happy to invite me over one Wednesday night to Schwul in the Kreuzberg area. I was not drunk, and I was very self-conscious being around people my age and older who were very very comfortable with their sexuality. Nothing really happened there other than some mild dancing. Eventually sometime later in the internship I ended up hooking up with a guy. I still don’t know his name but I enjoyed the experience. I felt as if another weight was lifted off my chest in that I was still alive and I enjoyed what I did.

I then came back to Boston for my senior year and I then hooked up with another guy here. By this time, I started to realize why there were so many of my friends hooked up left and right. Many of them were straight, and were not afraid of any bias that against them. However, I still feared what people would think of me.

And now come the focal points of this post: my parents and my faith. As far as I know, my parents do not know that I am bisexual. My mom has stated on repeated occasions how she would vote against gay marriage and how she would be very sad and cry if I told her that I was gay. My dad hasn’t said anything about me being gay, but has asked if I have had any girlfriends since my freshman year in college. I guess that they don’t suspect too much because although I sing and have been in musicals (stereotyped as the realm of many gay people), I have also enjoyed weight-lifting, football, rugby, martial arts, and doing other “typical guy stuff.” Now I don’t believe that there is a distinction or that there should be a gender bias for these activities, only that some of these activities are known for being predominantly associated with certain groups over others.

Even though I am writing on this blog, I don’t believe that they will read it. Instead, I hope to one day talk to them and share this with them, but I don’t believe that I am ready for that yet. I think that that day will come if I eventually find a girlfriend or boyfriend and am in a stable relationship with that person.

Now for the other point: my Catholic faith. The Catholic Church accepts people of all races, genders, sexual orientations, beliefs, and creeds. The difference is that the Church accepts homosexuals but does not condone homosexual behavior. Homosexual desire in itself is not inherently sinful, rather the acting upon those desires is what comprises the sin. It is also written that homosexual behavior will deprive one of heaven: “Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Cor. 6:9–10, NIV).

The Church has called upon those who have homosexual desires to live a life of chastity. It is a hard life, but it is the life that we are called to lead. A lot of gay Catholics have called this the cross that they have to bear throughout life. However, the words chastity and celibacy are often confused. As James Martin S.J. writes, “chastity refers to the proper and loving use of our sexuality, something that everyone is called to. Jesuit professor of moral theology Vincent J. Genovesi writes in his In Pursuit of Love that the outward signs of our sexuality should be “under the control of love, with tenderness and full awareness of the other.” In other words this stands for “‘honesty in sex,’ where our physical relationships ‘truthfully express’ the level of personal commitment we have with the other. In other words, the goal of chastity is receiving and giving love.” (James Martin S.J.) Celibacy is the abstaining from marriage and sex, which is one of the vows that a priest takes.

I have long since tried to understand the issue on both sides. I feel as if everyone has a right to be happy, and that includes the right to marry the person whom one is in love with. Then I remember that the institution of Marriage, another Sacrament otherwise known as Matrimony, is the physical and spiritual union between man and woman. Others respond with arguments against same-sex unions. There are even arguments against live-in couples who have not been married yet. The same definitely also applies for same-sex couples who also live together, which is also a big no no. In Pope John Paul II’s lectures from 1979-1984, he discussed the Theology of the Body. The core principles were that love is free, total, faithful, and true.

Same-sex unions are morally incorrect, because they are not fruitful. Catholics believe that the institution of marriage was created by God and cannot be changed. It is believed that unlike same-sex unions and marriages, two men or women cannot fully give of one’s whole entire self to the other in conjugal love and sex that in its very essence is a renewal of the vows celebrated during marriage. It is not simply the fruit of childbirth, because this consummation can still morally happen between a man and woman who is infertile. Furthermore, it is stated that men were created to be men and women were created to be women and that both sexes had very special places in the world and the Church for them. Man and women physically, spiritually, and so innately complement each other in ways that two guys can’t. That is the reason why same-sex unions are morally incorrect.

Whoah, so this post has definitely been a mouthful, and as you can see I am very invested in my sexuality and my faith, both of which are essentially intertwined. I had been struggling with these arguments, because I just didn’t believe in them. The words sounded pretty, and it sounded like good rhetoric, but in my heart of hearts I honestly could not say that they rang true even after praying about it. I started to ask about whether or not two people of the same sex could possibly and morally, under the Church’s teachings, live together in a civil union. But then we would have the problem of have cohabitation before marriage, which in the case of the same-sex couple, is wrong. Urgh, why did it have to be so hard.

I was talking with my friend whom I consider to be my spiritual adviser of sorts, and we usually go to a different cafe or coffeehouse every Tuesday morning to talk about life and whatever comes to mind. After I shared with him my story and my concerns, he asked me a very direct question: “Have you ever felt that your bisexuality is a cross that you have to bear as your burden through life?” I thought about it for a while, then responded that it wasn’t. Rather I saw my sexuality as a gift that was given to me and something that gave me joy and made me want to share with the rest of the world because that was part (a small part) of what made me Marvin. I loved many things in life: riding bicycles, a good rugby tackle, acing an engineering exam/project, singing with my a cappella group, cooking for friends, fixing up the apartment, working with my bare hands, hanging out with my friends and family, and my sexuality was a small part of who I was and I did not see it in any way shape or form as a burden any more than my ability to make people laugh and smile.

After reflecting on the events that transpired during my last post, I have decided that I was done trying to find loopholes through the rules and regulations and instead wanted to find out what God really wanted of me. It is a growing process, and I want to know which of my thoughts and actions gives me joy. This will no doubt ostracize me from some of my Catholic friends and the Church, but I will still keep my faith. However, I do believe in gay relationships and unions. I tend to think that sometimes the arguments for or against unions and marriages are just a matter of semantics. I think that if God calls me for something else, then that something else is what I should follow regardless of any strict set of rules and regulations. It is sad, because as of right now if I were to die then I would be going to hell since I have not been to Confession for a few months now and have sinned several times since then. Will I still hookup? Probably. Yet, I still love my faith and God, and I am still searching for many different things and people; it will be a lifelong affair but one that I am more than willing to take.

This has probably been one of the most meaningful posts that I have written thus far, and it is very fitting that it is my 100th post. I’m sure that very few people who actually know me will read it, but I don’t mind because I have finally gotten my thoughts out to the world and they represent me so very clearly and possibly even better than even a conversation with me might yield.

Yours,
Marvin Roxas


Some Break Bookkeeping

Ah so I finally have time once again to write in my blog. It’s my 99th post, so I am almost at the 1ooth post mark. I guess that’s cool, Car Stuck in Fieldbecause I was finally able to find some time to write a bit. I am a bit upset that I haven’t been able to edit or fully devote the necessary time to ensure that my posts are worthy of placing on this blog. Sometimes I get so caught up in other endeavors that I feel as if I cannot focus on this.

So the other day I went to Pennsylvania for a DAAD RISE reunion with some of my friends from Berlin with whom I had interned with over the summer. My friend also invited his other college friends from Drexel as well as some of his friends from his childhood. I decided to make the 2 1/2 hour journey using only Google Maps directions and not using the GPS that I had in my car. I make it all the way to his neighborhood, only to make a wrong turn and get my car stuck in a snowy field. I call my friend and explain to him why I couldn’t buy extra limes, because my car was stuck in a field. We attempt to push my car out, but since I only have rear-wheel drive the car doesn’t even budge. His father comes to help, but it’s decided that he will just pull my car out with a rope the next morning. I end up partying at my friend’s beautifully adorned 2-story ranch house with indoor pool, hot tub, tiki bar, and so many other fine amenities such as one of the most well-stocked kitchens that I had ever seen in my life. We drank all the liquors that you could imagine from Whisky Sours to Bahama Mamas to Gin and Tonics, and then I cooked some white wine cream sauce and red wine Bolognese with kielbasa in place of the ground beef. It was a fun night and a nice reunion, but it evened out with the hangover that accompanied the morning as I traipsed around the house in search of electrolytes.

So fast-forward to the next day and we succeed in removing my car from the field. I bid farewell to my friends and then drive back home. Actually, now that I think about it I don’t know why I’m writing this preamble of a story when the main point of this particular post is about something else. Okay then so let me get on with the story then.

On Monday evening I hang out with my friend Sean at his house because he just got back from his family ski trip and was lonely all by himself in his house. He picks me up and we hang out and talk about random crap and reminisce about Loyola through my narrated guide of our 2009 yearbook. Some of my lines:

“Oooooooh that’s unfortunate.”

“See, now I could totally tell that he was a stoner.”

“I think that he’s doing well in life… maybe?”

“Hooray those two have their senior portraits side-by-side in the senior portrait section.”

“I didn’t know him.”

“Wait, he was in the Black Student Union?”

“Awww I remember these things. Don’t you?”

We were a bit delirious at this early hour of the morning, and many things that weren’t funny ended up being funny. We wake up the next day, make some breakfast of potatoes, eggs, and toast. The following hours were full of us just lounging around and pretending to throw poop in each other’s face as good friends are wont to do. This included piano playing, coffee drinking, yelling colorful insults at each other, and napping. It was at this moment, on this spur-of-a-moment that we decided to go visit Kristin Witte at Loyola University. She is the Assistant Director of Campus Ministry at Loyola University, and she was also a sort of spiritual director for us during time participating in the Archdiocesan events during our high school years. My most memorable time with her was when she was my group leader during this beautiful week known as JAW (Justice Action Week) back in 2009. It’s hard to explain what it is in a few words. The aim of the program was to get young adults acquainted with Baltimore City in a new and more intimate way. It was about living in a church in Baltimore for a week, participating in group activities concerning the different forms of justice in this day and age, as well as actively going out into the community to talk amongst the drug dealers, prostitutes, homeless, poor, hungry, lost, and needy who are often overlooked as most people go to the tourist area of the Baltimore Harbor. So we felt a strong connection to her, and I hadn’t seen her for almost three years so it seemed very logical to just meet her on a whim while classes for Loyola were still out for Winter Break.

Loyola University Campusdid not expect the awesome two hours that I spent in that Campus Ministry office. You see, Sean and I had been struggling a bit with our faith in different ways. I was struggling with reconciling the different beliefs of all of my friends, as my own Catholic faith. I came from a very liberal high school background at my Jesuit High School Loyola Blakefield. I was taught to question everything and to truly develop my own conscience and relationship with God and my faith. The Catholic Center at Boston University was different in the sense that I never truly felt that I was “Catholic enough” for all of the students there. I love them all, but it was hard trying to fit in when I felt that I was not good enough, or that my beliefs or those of my friends were wrong. I also had problems trying to reconcile what I was told about several rules and tenets. A Franciscan priest once told me during Confession that I would be going to Hell for masturbating and that gay marriage is wrong.

A lot of these tenets are followed by the majority of the students who participate in the Catholic Center at BU, but I always found it hard to fully believe in them. I just couldn’t reconcile the differences between my heart and my head. I eventually found a medium ground when one of the brothers from the Brotherhood of Hope told me that sometimes I just couldn’t understand some things because they were mysteries that just couldn’t be understood. So for the longest time that has been my answer that has sustained me, yet kept me thirsting for more.

Yes, I do believe that there are some fellow classmates who blindly follow their faith to the point that they do not question Church teachings at all. There are also those whom I think profess a sense of false piety. Then there are those who just want a casual relationship with their faith and do not feel the need to go to daily mass or adoration or retreats. Regardless of this, I still have the utmost respect for many of my fellow BU Catholic Center students, because I know that in the end we are all still searching for the same thing, but in different ways. There has been some controversy in the past that I unwittingly became a part of. At one instance I wanted to throw an unofficial party for the Catholic Center, but I was approached by one of the leaders and told that if I had alcohol at the party then the head priest would be notified. I did not know that what I was doing was wrong, because I didn’t even want to throw the party in the first place. Rather, I was asked by someone else to throw one so that we could all join together as a community in a social environment away from the CC and have a friendly and social time. It kind of let down my spirits, because only a few people came, but we still had fun playing board games and singing Disney songs.

Then there have been times when some student members were made fun of simply because they did not seem to be holy or pious enough. This upset me too, because that was judgment of another human being. This also did not espouse the Christian belief in loving your neighbor as you would love yourself. I guess that I was also shocked that this sort of thing also existed in a Catholic Center, however good it may be.

During our talk with Kristin, Sean and I both shared our qualms and concerns with our personal faith lives as well as the faith climate in our respective colleges. What she shared with us next was so refreshing that I felt as if I had just discovered my faith all over again. She re-awoke the Jesuit teachings that still lay within our hearts but had fallen quiet and dormant during our four years away in college. She talked about how the Jesuits generally believed in pluralism, in that one religion can be true for some people while others may be true for other people. Every person had their own religion and spirituality with which they could associate with on a deeper level that was not necessarily Roman Catholicism. We even talked about some of the hot-topic issues that the media and the church love to talk about. In terms of sexuality and and gay marriage, apparently Loyola University was very gay friendly. Even the director of music for the liturgy was gay and had been in a relationship with another man. The pervading idea was to form your own adult faith that took charge of knowing about it for yourself and not because anyone else told you to believe in something. The campus itself is very supportive of LGBT groups as well as gay relationships on campus.

I thought back to my high school days as we further discussed the use of contraceptives. Many married people in the world are Catholic, and a large percentage of them use contraceptives, but the question was does that stop them from being Catholic? Once again the Jesuit style of teaching was that we were only human and that we had to come up with our own conclusions about how God wanted us to act in our own personal relationship with him. The Right to Life club at Loyola concerns justice for life at all stages, with abortion not being the main focus whereas in Boston University it is the main focus.

It was not about the rules and the tenets, but more about the idea of love. In St. Ignatius’ Spiritual Exercises, he wrote that “love ought to be shown more in deeds than in words.” I had forgotten about the eloquence and the sense that the Jesuits had originally implanted in me that made my love my faith and God in the first place. I was straying away from the initial fruits that had sustained me. This was why we served the poor and loved all students and neighbors regardless of how popular, pious, annoying, awesome, or horrible they were. When Osama Bin Laden was killed and the majority of college students got drunk and celebrated, the President of Loyola gave a small speech at the September 11th memorial on-campus about how one of God’s children was killed that day. And two others were lost in a double homicide in Baltimore that night too. They were still human beings no matter how awesome or horrible they were and that was still sad.

This was the faith that I had missed. This was the faith that made me believe. This was the faith that reminded me that in my heart of hearts I am worth something and loved beyond all measure.


Finals and Stress

The following is a stream-of-consciousness from yours truly around December 19th when I was still in the midst of working on final projects and papers. Looking back on it now, I laugh at how ridiculous it must have been to have not seen the sunlight for a full week since I did all-nighters in windowless labs with only computers and other suffering engineering students to keep me company.

“I literally just don’t understand it. I feel so stressed by the last two assignments and projects that I need to do for tomorrow. I think that it’s because I have repeatedly gotten a very small amount of sleep every night and that I just have had no time to just sit down and think and be quiet without rushing from one place to another. I’m working on a take home final for my assessment of sustainable energy class, and after that I will work on my senior design paper. I literally feel burned out and just so angry and depressed. And I’ve felt like this for an extended period of time. I just want to hit something or just buckle down and have a quick cry to have some physical and tangible release from my frustrations. I guess that it’s just that I can definitely see the end in sight, but it just seems so insurmountable with these last two obstacles. I feel done with my fall semester and I can almost feel the warmth of a comfortable bed signalling my finishing of work. I have grown to detest and abhor this computer aided design lab with its lack of windows and extra bright lights. My stomach never feels satisfied, regardless of a full or empty feeling. My face has broken out in some stress pimples, which just sucks because no one wants those. And instead of working I’m laying down all of my stress into this blog because I just feel like I can’t go on anymore after this marathon of a semester. I just want peace for a day and sleep. I want the warmth of a soft bed with clean sheets and and thick comforter.

I’ll keep this open just soo that I can rant and get my frustrations out as they come. This will be a rough night for sure and I am in the midst of it.

Now it’s 4:55am and I am almost done the take-home final exam which is a relief. But then I will soon have to shift my focus to the senior design paper that I also definitely do not want to write up.”


Now and Forever

It seemed almost as if it were yesterday. Those old days long gone. I remember freshman year when we would congregate on our floor listening to Lady Gag’s just dance while getting ready for the rest of the night. We all would have an early dinner, and then shower in order to get into our best party clothes and see where the night would take us. Every weekend was an adventure and every night was a new trip. If I have learned something in the past few weeks, it is that there are still opportunities to make a fool out of yourself regardless of how others may view you. And then there are those moments when I feel as if I finally did something right in my life. I accomplished a goal of mine and it was great. So now it’s 3:42am Monday morning before the start of Thanksgiving Break, and I just finished entertaining some friends whom I have grown to know since Dresden Study Abroad 2011. One of them had come up from Cornell to visit and hang out around here in Boston.

Sorry, let me start back up one week. So last weekend was difficult because I had worked about 16 hours that week, as well as 6 hours of a cappella rehearsal and planning for an Engineering Honor Society event. The event transpired without a hitch, and then the officers hung out at a bar where we drank some dark stouts and light beers. The night eventually ended, and I originally planned to go to the Machine nightclub. Unfortunately, I had not been able to find any wing people to accompany me. I bike back to my area of the woods, and I will not go into any specifics, but I end up hooking up with someone. Looking back on it, it was an enjoyable experience. I was glad that I did it. I suppose that it was one of those one-night stands where there are no strings attached. However, these things usually do come with baggage, such as this cough that I now have. I do some 3am grocery shopping, and then head back to my apartment for a good night’s rest.

The next day consists of me performing with my a cappella group at this small fundraiser while wearing the same clothes from last night. I hang out with another one of my engineering friends after the gig, and we chill at his apartment and talk about life. He has been introducing me to new music, and I have been introducing him to the engineering community at BU which he has not really gotten to know. I then leave later in the evening, because I have to get the apartment ready for a dinner party for my workmates. We tutor children at some of the elementary schools around Boston. We eat a delicious meal consisting of homemade guacamole, Old Bay sour cream dip, roasted teriyaki pork, brussel sprouts, and nachos from Sunset Cantina. The night revolved around us co-workers playing some good old-fashioned board games such as Catchphrase, Crimes Against Humanity, and Contact. Of course, this was all performed while drinking a multitude of beer, hard cider, and vodka. The added benefit of intoxication led to more creative and unintended results from playing these games.

The night started to wind down for the dinner party, but my neighbors upstairs were in full swing for throwing one of their bi-monthly ragers. Unlike my parties, theirs tend to involve a lot more randos since they advertise it through their friend and acquaintance channels so that anyone can enter as long as they pay $5. I am not a fan nor am I a proponent of this method, but it is not up to me to decide whether or not they can do that. So I walk my dinner guests upstairs to check out the party, but the kegs are all tapped out and the alcohol is all gone. So I walk them back to the edge of BU’s West Campus where I see some friends from the Catholic Center doing some innovative fundraising at 2am. They had set up a table at the border of West Campus and Ashford Street where they had a large pile of PB&J Sandwiches and Marshmallow Puff sandwiches that they sold for either $2 or $1 depending on how much money a passerby had. And they even had a credit/debit card iPhone reader so that those without cash money could pay with the card, which was very cool and appealing to those who had the drunken munchies.

I hung out with them for a bit and saw very colorful people get excited to buy some sandwiches, as well as those who just wanted to cuss out the table for some reason. I eventually headed back to the apartment and hung out with my neighbors upstairs who were all congregated with a select group of friends sequestered in one of the bedrooms. I became involved in a spin-the-bottle game, which may or may not have contributed to my current cough that I have had for the past two weeks. It was an eventful weekend to say the least, and the hookup from the previous night probably also contributed to both my sore throat and cough. Fortunately, I did not have a fever.

I get through the week just fine, except that I am solely focusing on my two midterms and the big BU Night of a cappella show on Friday. I think that I have learned to deal with all sorts of stress at this point. I get to Friday after hastily turning in a take-home exam due at 5pm. I then rush to the College of General Studies on our campus to prepare for one of the biggest shows on our campus that concerns a cappella. It was very emotional for me, because it would be the last time that I would set foot on that stage and perform with my a cappella group along with all of the other groups on the campus. While we were performing, I honestly remembered all of our past performances since freshman year, and I could not believe how much had changed since I joined the group. I was so proud and honored to be part of something so much greater than myself, while also contributing to it.

It was later in that evening that I had the honor of being the host for one of the biggest parties that I had ever thrown. It was the post-BU Night of a cappella party at my residence. Both the basement and the first floor were fully packed, and I steadied myself at the front door in order to play the part as the door warden. I stayed as the guardian of the front door for several hours, and for some reason my neighbors came down and said that they wanted to help me out. Apparently they thought that I threw good parties and wanted to know how I was so successful in my implementation of them. I explained to them that I only allowed people in who were not random, and that my guests were all friends with each other. They didn’t understand that their parties with dozens of random people led to drama, sketchy situations, problems with the cops, and things being stolen.

And every time I left the front door even for a few minutes to actually partake in the party actions, I would return to the front door to see my neighbors overwhelmed by the multitude of people at the front door who wanted to come in. At one point there were 25 random people in my hallway and last year I would have been too overwhelmed to do anything about it. But I had grown since then, so I approached the group, physically blocked the entrance hallway and yelled that everyone who did not know me had to leave right now because the police were coming and they would all be written up. They got most of them out, and then I personally escorted the remaining people away. There were some other instances when random people, who dressed a bit like thugs, wanted to come in. I told them that it wasn’t an open party and that they couldn’t come in. They offered to give me $5 each, and there were 6 of them so in total they said that I could make $30 from just letting them into a party. I declined and said that it was a private party consisting of a specific group of people, and they countered with an offer of $10 a person which would have led to a personal gain of $60. My neighbors were tempted to let them in, but I stood my ground and said, “I’m not doing this for the money.” They laughed and then grew silent after they realized that I wasn’t kidding. Then they repeated their offer, and I still said no. Confusedly, they then sauntered away off of the porch.

Whether they realize it or not, something was learned that night by both parties. I don’t think that they expected to encounter someone who wasn’t looking for materialistic gain. Honestly, that was one of my most favorite nights and one of my most successful parties that I threw during my tenure at BU. I put great stock into my parties, and this was definitely the biggest but also one of the most controlled that I had ever put together. All the a cappella groups were gathered together and it felt so good to have them all joined together in friendly camaraderie as they socialized together after each group put on their best performances. I remember talking to many old friends from freshman year who had shared this four year college journey of a cappella with me. I talked to some of the groups and attempted to rekindle old friendships by saying, ” I remember a time three years ago when we used to hang out together as a cappella groups, and I want to re-establish that connection.” Everyone whom I talked to agreed that there had been a slump where many of the groups had stayed distant from each other for a time in the past two years. I felt that it was finally fitting for all of us to finally come together as one again like I remembered from freshman year.


Trudging Through

So right now I feel so out of it. It’s cold, I don’t wanna turn the heat on because that would mean that I will eventually have to pay extra. I thought that I would have so much free time during this study period time, but I’ve just been waking up in order to fulfill my tutoring obligations as well as working on my bicycle which decided to fall apart at this perfect time. But I was successful in changing both wheels and getting back to working condition again. It’s definitely hard to focus, especially with the allure of just sleeping for an indeterminate amount of time, as well as having the freedom to do whatever you want except that there areso many assignment,s projects, lab reports, papers, and due dates.

Then I start to think that life is getting hard over here, but I remember that I have a working bike, two jobs to pay for my expenses, an education, friends, food to eat, a gym to work out in, and life. In retrospect I assume that all of this will seem trivial, but now it feels like so much. Everyone is on edge, but I’m not too worried. I watched The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey the other day and it was glorious. At first, I was a bit upset because I accidentally bought tickets for the 3D showing, but I grew accustomed to it as well as the 48fps. I felt like I had been transported back in time to an old land with old friends whom I had grown up with. The movie garnered many mixed reviews, as opposed to the almost unanimous critical acclaim of the original Lord of the Rings Trilogy. I believe that this had to do with several key points. One of them was that the critics were comparing the story of The Hobbit with the grander scale of The Lord of the Rings. Another interesting thing to note was that most movie-goers have given the movie very positive reviews when compared to those on Rotten Tomatoes. I think that this has to do with the fact that while the critics were bogged down by the slow story-line and lack of impetus for Bilbo and the Dwarves’ merry quest, the general movie-goer, who had come to love Middle Earth a decade ago, felt right at home with familiar faces and lands. While I felt that I was able to approach the movie with a more critical eye, I still felt like for a few hours that I was a pre-teen middle schooler whose imagination was running wild with lazy wanderings in the idyllic Shire and epic battles in ancient Dwarven realms. During the time of the movie I felt as if I could forget about life as a college student and go back to a time of fantastical battles of good versus evil. It seems as if I had changed more so than the movies had.

And then later that day in Connecticut Adam Lanza aged 20 killed 26 people in the small town of Newtown. In that day alone, the world drifted its attention to the United States again. Facebook, Twitter, and the media poured the majority of its attention on this event with the the majority of CNN’s front page dedicated to the victims, the attacker’s family, and the history of the small town. Facebook is even worse with statuses trumpeting a need for change in U.S. gun control laws, the thousands of children who died of hunger in Africa, and even jokes about the slayings. I refrained from engaging in any form of debate from these articles; however, I stumbled upon a few statuses and articles that helped me find some sort of peace during this turbulent time of emotions.

Restoring Your Faith in Humanity: These are usually cheesy, but they brought a smile to my face. They were little vignettes of small acts that remind me that while there may be these deranged killers who are idolized by the media, there are also the little people (like Hobbits) whose actions can turn someone’s day around.

I am Adam Lanza’s Mother: It’s the tale of a mother whose mentally unstable son goes through sporadic bursts of violence on a daily basis, but then can be the sweetest, smartest child who ever played in a toy room.

Sam’s Speech: “It’s all wrong. By rights we shouldn’t even be here, but we are. It’s like in the great stories, Mr. Frodo. The ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger they were. And sometimes you didn’t want to know the end. Because how could the end be happy. How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened. But in the end, it’s only a passing thing, this shadow. Even darkness must pass. A new day will come. And when the sun shines it will shine out the clearer. Those were the stories that stayed with you. That meant something. Even if you were too small to understand why. But I think, Mr. Frodo, I do understand. I know now. Folk in those stories had lots of chances of turning back only they didn’t  Because they were holding on to something… That there’s some good in this world, Mr. Frodo. And it’s worth fighting for.”

I instantly think of this whenever there I hear about something terrible that happens in this world. Hearkening back to my more idealistic middle school days and imagination, it is a call that good will eventually win and triumph. This speech always makes me feel emotional, because it calls to me in my deepest musings and wanderings. It’s the music of Howard Shore reminiscent of the idyllic Shire and the bond of friendship between Sam and Frodo knowing that they will have to make it to the end one way or another.

It’s hard to worry about exams when you know that there are far greater problems in this world. But I see my exams as one of those obstacles that I need to hurdle pass in order to eventually graduate and fulfill my immediate goal of joining the Peace Corps. I want to help the world, and I feel called to do it in that way and through my daily actions. There is good in this world, and that is what has continued to capture my imagination.


Tired

It’s 3:23am and I have been working on this homework assignment that cost me $7.50 to purchase online because my professor gave us the link to a Harvard Business Review article that could not easily be accessed online. I also needed to do the homework because it is due today at 11am during class time. I am tired, sleep-deprived, hungry, and not happy. It’s odd, because I feel like I would normally feel good about getting this homework done and taking charge and ownership of my education. But instead I don’t feel right. I’m not too sure about this. I mean, I am definitely sure about graduating and getting my degree in Mechanical Engineering, but I don’t know if I will eventually be able to have a job similar to some of the classes that I am taking. I feel like the majority of my work lacks soul, and if I do infuse my homework and assignments with soul and creativity they just writhe up and die on the page without anyone to witness it.

I guess that this is just one of those trying times that comprise the sum of my education and how I have learned something from my classes. I guess that now I learned about the difficulties in merging two energy companies together and how the dozen or so acronyms contributed to the overall benefit of the company. I think that it would be so much more exciting if I were actually involved in the case study. I guess that I just feel that much more jaded being the only one left in this cold, desolate study lounge while staring at a dry erase board with a hastily drawn turkey, beckoning those engineering students left behind during the break to gorge on a complimentary Thanksgiving dinner.

I just can’t stand this whole thing anymore. I also feel bad because I am being given such a wonderful opportunity to study at this awesome College of Engineering. But I have already tasted a bit of the real world and I am restless to move and grow. I don’t think that I have learned a lot from my classes this year. I may be wrong, but I feel as if the biggest lessons are those that I will be unable to mention in job interviews. These will be the lessons that I learned on forgotten paths far away from the traditional classroom.

I think that maybe I have a flair for the dramatics. I mean, it is quite late/early, my stomach hurts from the emptiness and coffee, and I feel glued to this engineering lounge chair. I had planned to get a lot more done today, but at the very least I accomplished a few things. If only there were more time, motivation, less distractions, and no need for the inconvenience of sleep. Now that I got those feelings off of my chest I can get back to work and finally be done with this class. I think that I needed to rant for a bit, even though the majority of it is unwarranted.


Saturday Bike Rides

Saturday, October 20th

This is the bike ride that kind of started my Saturday bike rides this semester. I had talked to one of my mechanical engineering friends, Zach, and asked him about whether he wanted to go on a bike ride sometime. He expressed his interest in biking, so I called him up around 3pm and met up with him at his apartment on Bay State Road. I pumped up his wheels, and he told me that he had not ridden on a bike since high school. After a practice run down Bay State Road, we then made for Massachusetts Avenue, and followed it towards the Boston Medical Center. The traffic was a bit rough, especially for him since he had not ridden a bike for over three years, and had never experienced city biking. Fortunately he was a quick learner and was able to keep up with me. I too was slightly worried that I would not be able to guide him on this bike adventure because I did not have a city map. I would make random stops at various intersections so that I could ascertain where we were exactly going. When we were almost right up to the Boston Medical Center we turned left onto Washington Avenue. The streets suddenly became so wide and the weather felt beautifully warm. I felt so full of happiness and could almost sense the endorphins being released. I felt at peace with the world as I zoomed by the South End of Boston. We passed by Flour Bakery and ended up in front of the Cathedral of the Holy Cross, which is this beautiful Gothic Catholic Cathedral.

We walked inside and instantly felt transported into a different world as we stared at the vaulted archways and flying buttresses that loomed far above us. Zach and I walked up the aisle towards the altar and got a different vantage point of the entire place, which was deafeningly quiet, and had a certain feeling of serenity associated with it, especially since there was no one else there. We eventually left the church and backtracked our way to one of the most well-known bakeries in Boston: Flour Bakery. This bakery was created by Harvard Graduate Joanne Chang who had a passion in baking and was soon recognized by various cooking magazines and shows. Eventually, she was featured on Throwdown with Bobby Flay and beat Bobby Flay with her Sticky Sticky Buns recipe. I remember eating one of these sticky buns during my freshman year at Boston University. About 3 years ago, my family had dropped me off at Warren Towers for my freshman year, and they had done some last minute school supply shopping for me. As a parting gift, my mom gave me a sticky sticky bun from Flour Bakery and then they left to go back home to Maryland.

I remember sharing that sticky sticky bun with two friends whom I had met that night along with two of their roommates. I prophesized that this special sticky bun would bind us together as friends throughout our college career. It turns out that I was wrong, but I am still friends with at least two of them.

So the sticky sticky bun was simply one of the best baked goods that I had ever eaten. It had a warm, dough consistency in the middle while the outside was covered in melted caramel, and cinnamon sugar syrup that oozed onto the sides of the plate. When paired with one of their home-roasted coffees while sitting outside in the setting Fall sun, for a few seconds you felt as if there was nothing wrong in the world for a bit. I guess that that is what I tried to achieve with this bike ride: the chance to physically and mentally escape the confined area of this campus along with the commitments that I have. After having a wonderful talk about life and finishing out coffees and shared sticky sticky bun, we continued along on our bike ride. We then went north through Rutland Street, which allowed us to see the beautiful brownstone apartments of the south end. We then passed through the narrow South End Library Park and then eventually turned left onto Huntington Avenue where we passed by the Museum of Fine Arts. It was around this time that we reached the Back Bay Fens, which is this beautiful garden and pond area that is hidden from the majority of Boston University students because it is kind of out of the way from the straight shot directions offered by Commonwealth Avenue and Massachusetts Avenue.

The sun was shining so beautifully through the tree leaves which were just on the verge of changing colors. So we were able to see the various hues of the leaves as they changed from green to yellow, brown, orange, and red with the setting sunlight sparkling through the boughs. We chilled by one of the bridges that crossed the Fens stream, by sitting on a leaf-covered hill. It was glorious and I honestly felt that I was not in Boston anymore. We then took our leave and biked down the Back Bay Fens to Landmark Center, where we had two options: either follow the Riverway and go south towards Jamaica Plains, or bike northwards up Park Drive and then turn left onto Beacon Street. We chose the latter, and then passed into the realm of Coolidge Corner and then turned right onto Harvard Avenue to make it back to the Allston area where I lived.

Saturday, October 27th

The next day consisted of a bike ride adventure to Flour Bakery and the Cathedral of the Holy Cross again, and then following the edge of the Back Bay Fens all the way down the Riverway to Jamaica Pond. It was ridiculous to even see the pathways by the small stream bounded by small hills of colored leaves and brick/stone bridges. At one point I passed by a stone bridge and there were what I thought were film students filming a girl by the side of the bridge. The weird part was that there was also a live octopus being held up in front of that girl. It kind of intrigued me a bit, because, ya know, octopuses are not that indigenous to Boston.

We continued along the Riverway, and found ourselves biking through the leaf-filled forest pathways until we passed by Leverett Pond and Wards Pond until we then found ourselves faced with the open expanse of Jamaica Pond. The Back Bay Fens, Riverway, and Jamaica Pond which are all part of The Emerald Necklace. This is a green area of Boston that kind of resembles a necklace with The Arnold Arboretum and Franklin Park acting as the gems hanging from the Riverway. I have always wanted to explore more of the Emerald Necklace, so I will save those other parts for future bike rides.

We took a small break on one of the benches on the shore of a pathway that wound its way around Jamaica Pond. We admired the view as well as enjoyed a few healthy snacks that I brought with me to re-energize myself. We continued along the pathway and turned eastwards onto Green Street to make a pit stop at Blue Frog Bakery. Afterwards we took the Southwest Corrider northwards and also made a small stop at the Ula Cafe which was located in this brewery complex on Amory Street. We continued on our way up the Southwest Corrider until we made it back to the Northeastern University campus. I honestly cannot even believe that I had never heard or seen of these places before now, and it was too beautiful to put into words.

Saturday, November 3rd

This one was a large group bike adventure. Whereas the past two had been only one or two other people, this one consisted of 7 bikers including myself. We left from the Allston area and went eastwards down Commonwealth Avenue. Then we turned right onto St. Paul’s Street and biked diagonally down Knyvet Square, and down through Amory Field and Hall’s Pond. We then turned left onto Beacon Street until we reached Park Drive, and then turned south towards Landmark Center and the Riverway again. However, this bike ride felt so epic because I was literally leading a caravan of 6 bikers as we wound our way south down towards Jamaica Pond. I actually got chills when biking through the Riverway with this cavalcade of bikes. We eventually made it to the outskirts of Jamaica Pond and took a break on one of the overlooking hills. The weather was perfect: the sun was shining brightly with a strong warmth as the chilly wind whipped around and through us. It was the very definition of a crisp, Fall day. We tossed the frisbee a bit and took a few model pictures before we continued our way around Jamaica Pond.

We then followed Perkins Street and then turned northwards onto Chestnut Street where there were a lot of residential areas. Afterwards, we turned left onto Boylston Street, and then right onto Chestnut Hill Avenue, which brought us through more residential areas, as well as Cthe Cleveland Circle stop near Chestnut Hill Reservoir and Boston College. We alighted left onto Washington where we stopped at Cafenation. It was that local cafe feeling that a lot of us were in the mood for. The funny part was that I had originally planned to bike around the Chestnut Hill Reservoir, but I missed it by about 1km. Incidentally, the intersection of Chestnut Hill Avenue and Washington Street was where I normally biked to work at the Winship Elementary School. I always wanted to check out one of the cafes around here, and now I was finally able to share the feeling of a local cafe with one of my friends. As usual, I ordered a coffee to perk me up from the crisp coldness of the outdoors. Ahhh, then we shared a few stories, had a few laughs about the different plural forms of Octopus. Apparently, octopetye and octopussy were not correct. Incidentally, the plural of hippopotamus is not hiptopussy. Afterwards, we biked east on Cambridge Street until it hit Brighton Ave, where we turned right to go back down to the Boston University Campus.

I’d say that it was a pretty successful bike adventure, and yes I was a bit nervous about leading it. But in the end I guess that my sense of directions improved, and that I would definitely be doing it again sometime.


Worth It

So right now I feel a little bit better and at ease. I am tired and maybe I could justify saying that I am a little bit weary. These past weeks I have been unable to actually get to my bed to make it to sleep. I usually pass out on one of the couches here, wake up at some early time in the morning, and then transfer myself to my bed. The procrastination has kind of gone out of hand. I think that it’s a mixture of thinking that I have so much time to do all of the things that I need to get done, but actually knowing that I don’t really have that much time. It’s the disparity between freshman year and senior year, getting work done and procrastinating, making promises and then failing to live up to them.

What makes this year so much more meaningful is that this will most likely be the last time that I will ever be able to experience this sort of college lifestyle ever again. Soon, drinking or chilling around without have too many cares in the world will become a forgotten memory. But college is worth so much more than that, and I believe that it is important to go through this time in one’s life. I do not think that college is for everyone, but for those who have stuck with it thus far, I know that there have been many things that I have come to learn. I learned that I can deal with large mood and energy swings throughout the different days of the week. Sometimes I will go through a day and feel like crap when I wake up, and then steadily feel better as the day progresses. And then there will be other days when the opposite occurs. I have since been trying to fix my Nikon D40 camera, but I am unable to remove the bottom screws in order to see if I can get the gears up and running again. Tardiness is also an issue, as I have been late to most of my classes, meetings, and work hours. Haha, one of my friends here in the Senior Design Lab just told me that I looked stressed. I mean, it’s true because there is just still so much to get done. I have a preliminary senior design report, a sustainable energy project, a business model project, upcoming a cappella performances, Halloween Costume and party plannings, work hours, and not enough sleep or time to also relax. Fortunately, I have still been keeping my workout schedule, but I have to keep reminding myself that this is only temporary stress and that I just have to take things one step at a time. I have stress, but it’s definitely manageable and all will be well… all shall definitely be well in the end.

Another thing that eats at me is my inability to be early to things. I feel as if I just have a hard time getting to places by the time that I am supposed to be there. Usually this is caused by over-sleeping, but sometimes it’s just because I absent-mindedly forgot about the time or because I just waited until the last possible moments before biking there. Or sometimes I end up fully ready to do some homework on the couch in my bedroom, but lay my head down for a moment and then inevitably fall asleep. It’s a problem that I struggle with, but I still have time to remedy the situation.

Ahhh so now I’ve made it to a hungover Saturday morning after a wonderful night of Halloween shenanigans. Currently I am listening to Ben Howard, eating some faux pasta carbonara, and about to brew some Sanddorn Berry Tea from my private, German stash. Let me first get back to Friday, because I started the day by groggily waking up for my 9am class. I endured through 3 hours of lecture, then met up with my project group. It was an iffy continuation of our project, but it started to take some shape by the end of our meeting. I moved on to hang out at the Catholic Center and get some coffee, and then I biked to Goodwill in order to see if I could buy anything else to help me with my halloween costume. I ended up buying a grey shirt, because one of my possible costumes was 50 Shades of Grey. I then bought some food coloring, flour, and Karo syrup in order to make fake blood, as well as cover my face with white powder in order to look more dead.

I then find my old jedi robes from last year, which was stored under my bed, and I headed over to one of the dorm towers where my a cappella group members were costuming up for our guest performance at Boston College. I get there and everyone has fake scars, fake blood, and white makeup that makes them all look like undead zombies. I get some white makeup and fake blood on my face, and then head off towards Boston College on my bike as the rest of my group takes the T. I get some intrigued looks as I bike several miles to get all the way towards the Chestnut Hill Reservoir and the BC campus, where I got lost for 10 minutes, while trying to navigate a campus that was not a straight line like BU. The performance is successful and the group splits up. I bike back to BU, and meet up with one of my closest friends since Freshman year in order to borrow her camera to take some pictures over the weekend since mine was still out of commission.

I get back to my apartment where my upstairs neighbors were in the midst of throwing one of their very large parties. I pregame with a few shots, and head over to one of my closest Boston friend’s place in order to help him celebrate both his birthday and his halloween party. It was interesting heading over there, because I got to see a bunch of different halloween costumes. It definitely was a night of mischief as the student populace all cavorted through the streets in different outfits and fanfare. I saw, what I assume, is a freshman biddie girl trying to impress someone by dressing up as a Playboy bunny with an outfit resembling a leotard with fishnet stockings. I saw a few ghouls here and there, as well as witness policemen driving up and down the streets, looking for some party to bust or some drunk students to arraign. I get there and enjoy seeing the different Halloween partiers slowly trickle into one of the Linden Street apartments. I am gifted with a homemade IPA, which was brewed by the party host who was also celebrating his 21st birthday. The beer tasted sweet and mild, with some bits of sediment at the bottom of the bottle. I eventually left to go to a party on Verndale near Harvard Ave, where I was able to see even more friends.

One of my good friends from freshman year then had a talk with me. She told me that we’ve come so far since freshman year, and that she is going to be honest with me because she is a little bit drunk. She was literally my first friend at Boston University when I was a freshman. I still won’t forget walking on my floor on 9b in the Warren Towers dorm and seeing her skip down the hallway as she greeted me. I thought that she was a Senior or an RA or someone who knew what was going on, but she corrected me and told me that she was just a freshman like myself. Haha, I remember those days and the friends we had and the adventures and dramas that we’ve gone through together. She then told me that I was the friend who made it through to the end. We were first friends, and our friendship survived all the way to now as seniors. I too was also drunk, but I felt that we both shared a beautiful and powerful moment. We had survived our college years together, and we were starting to look back. We also discussed a bit about how this all would be a forgotten memory before we knew it, and that was partly why I loved taking pictures and writing in my blog. By writing in my blog, I could capture a small piece of what it meant to be a college student, as well as the thoughts that raced through my mind. She was also wearing a dress made out of pages from a Stephen King novel, and she asked me to pull out a page and read it. It said, ”          ,” and those words seemed to fit that moment so well.

We drank more, danced for a bit, and then started to head out. As we were heading to the front door, the music came to a standstill and one of the hosts told the party guests that the party was over and that we should head home. It turns out that the cops had shown up. All of the guests filtered out, and the cops named all of our costumes as we filed past them. We all wandered down Verndale and scattered to our respective homes for a drunken sleep.

The next night consisted of me throwing my own Halloween party. It turns out that having the open basement helps so much with population control, because when people want to cool off they head downstairs where couches, beer pong, and bar area are. Because of this, it seemed as if there were not a lot of people who attended the party. It was the typical party where people showed up in costume, got drunk, danced, and had a good time seeing old friends and making new ones. Towards the end of the night, two of my friends had passed out in the basement. One of them eventually made it upstairs to my guest bed, and the other one wanted to walk back to her dorm room. It was 4am, and I told her that I did not want her walking back through the neighborhood by herself, so I walked her to the main streets. We later on found out that a girl was physically assaulted near my apartment around the time when I walked her home.

Then on Sunday my a cappella group performed at the 2nd Annual Bristol Recording A Cappella Armageddon competition. We then practiced at our rehearsal for a bit and then found out that classes were cancelled for Hurricane Sandy the next day. Oh man that was a rough night because I then had to finish working on my preliminary senior design project that was due that next day. I worked until 5am on Monday, but fortunately was able to bring the report together, especially since one of our group members was kind of slacking.

It may just be naivete, but I believe that these weekend events and adventures of a sort are the times that we will remember the most, or maybe they will be the events that we attempt to remember, but can never really recall due to some sort of inebriation. I’m just saying that I believe that it is worth it to keep going through these college days. All of our regrets, actions, and successes make us who we are for better or for worse. I just think that life is worth it. I don’t know, I guess that the title of this blog post made sense when I started writing it, but now it just awkwardly ends.


A Grey Day

Today was a grey sort of day. Last week I was somewhere in New Hampshire for the Catholic Retreat, which was quaint and pleasant. I had finally convinced one of my best friends since freshman year to come with me to retreat. I think that she really enjoyed coming and getting to meet people who were at retreat and actually wanted to be on retreat.

But today was a grey day. It was a day devoid of feelings that just felt bleh. For some reason I just was not feeling the usual spontaneous happiness that is a package deal with me. Either way, I know that this day will pass and that more days will come. As for now, that is all.


Everything

I just wanted share the story of the weekend, because it was jam-packed with many events and situations. Unfortunately, I did not bring my camera to most of the events, but I do remember them quite well so here it goes. Friday consisted of my a cappella group holding callbacks. I knew that the auditioners were nervous, but I too was nervous because it would be my first time teaching music to someone else. I had sung this song so many times for over a year, but still had some trouble with it. I am perfectly capable of tutoring Calculus I & II, Physics I & II, Engineering Mechanics, and Matlab Programming, but I have so much trouble when it comes to teaching even relatively simple parts in music. I just get nervous, have trouble with complicated and syncopated rhythms, and end up getting off tempo and beat. However the rest of callbacks ended up working out just fine and I was successfully able to teach my part to the other tenor 2’s who came to callbacks. My group then deliberated until past 1am and then we dispersed only to all hang out back at my apartment. I cooked several types of pasta and we all chilled hardcore until well into the early morning.

Saturday was packed. My a cappella group performed at College Fest near the Hynes Convention Center in Boston. It was pretty much a convention with many booths promoting various services that would be interesting to college students. During this time, groups would perform on-stage. Around 4pm, my group performed Shake it Out by Florence and the Machine as well as a Crawl/Fly by Chris Brown/Rihanna mashup. We then left the venue and then did an impromptu performance out on Newbury Street and we were able to attract a decently-sized crowd of people. I biked back home and prepared to go to the Ben Howard concert at the Paradise Lounge.

My friend and I pregamed and then headed over to the concert venue where we soon found ourselves in a cozy area that gave us a clear view straight ahead of the stage area. The opening performer was cool and sounded very Southern folksy. Then the crowd went wild when Ben Howard took the stage. I absolutely loved it. I could feel his music reverberating through me in a totally different way than Amon Tobin’s songs. Whereas Amon Tobin’s songs were very physical, Ben Howard’s songs were all about the feeling and the emotion. His voice just had this timbre that made you feel as if you were hearing someone share a story about a home far-off in some distant country. The first time that I had heard his music was during a cold night last year after a party when I was coming down from my unsoberness and had just finished cleaning up the house. I felt lonely, and longed for the kinship of friends and the wonder that came from exploring those lost areas during my study abroad in Germany two years ago. I decided to Stumbleupon while I lay down in bed. I came across this site featuring Ben Howard’s music videos. While watching and listening to Old Pine, I felt as if I were transported back to the rolling green hills of Germany. I felt as if I was once again exploring hidden pathways on the Rathen Bastei trail in the Sächsische Schweiz. I felt as if I finally found my home again.

I would continue to listen to his music as the year progressed. I spent dozens of long, cold, sleepless nights and would find comfort listening to the Ben Howard Pandora radio station. His songs describing the longing of coming back home, the renewal of all things, and keeping your heart strong helped get me through the stress of Junior Year when I felt a little bit dead after coming back from the excitement and life that was life in Dresden, Germany. I’d say that it was a rough year in many different ways, but I learned a lot about myself during those sleepless nights. And Ben Howard kept me company.

So I would close my eyes while he played on stage, and let my mind wander. I could feel the emotion emanating from his entire being as he sang these songs that sent chills down my spine. My friend who accompanied me there succinctly put it, “I felt like I had something in common with everyone there, besides just that we like ben howard’s music. everyone except that obnoxious, drunk (and I think english) girl.” Yes, other than the drunk biddy who was yelling at inopportune times, I felt as if we had all come together in unity to partake in the wonder that was Ben Howard’s music. For an hour we all shared a common home in that venue.

The concert came to an end, and I hurried back home in order to prepare for the rest of the night, which involved the Senior Standard Party at the Fuller Building (the one on Commonwealth Avenue with all the art). The party was originally supposed to be secret, so that only a few hundred seniors would come and then they could have an open bar. However, word spread and over a thousand people RSVP’d, so they had to make it a cash bar and find some way to accommodate the large number of seniors who all-of-a-sudden wanted to attend. Regardless of this, I biked back home to shower and pregame, then I headed over to the Fuller Building whose windows were fogged up from the large amount of heat and humidity inside due to the hundreds of drunk dancers. I had decided to wear an all-black outfit and as well as bring my camera, which convinced most people that I was the official photographer for the event. It struck me that with every step that I made, I would see a senior with whom I had shared an experience with. I saw members of my a cappella group, rugby team players, engineering students, community center volunteers, Catholic center students, study abroaders, PDP classmates, random people whom I partied with at some time, ex-bfs and gfs, and close friends with whom I had shared many intimate moments with. And they were all together under the same roof united by the fact that we were all seniors exercising our right to party together.


Outward Signs

“An outward sign of an inward surrender…”

I felt that this quote was fitting for the weekend. I just can’t put it into words, but there is just so much that has been done and accomplished so far and I don’t know what to do about it. Or maybe it’s just the tired version of me that usually manifests itself during those lazy Sunday mornings. So allow me to explain the week thus far.

My classes are not bad at all, and I actually feel as if I am learning a lot more in terms of real-world knowledge that can be applied right now instead of sometime in the far off engineering future. There’s definitely been some stress, but it hasn’t actually been that bad compared with how Junior Year usually went. There were times when I just felt exhausted, stressed beyond all belief, and lost during Junior Year. Right now I feel as if I can handle any of the problems and challenges that Senior Year can throw my way. And right now I am in my senior design class lecture not really understanding the true point of the class. Taking notes doesn’t really help, and I feel that I would like to start my design project but I do not know where exactly I should start.

In the true fashion after Senior Year, there have already been some experiences this year that are cause for celebration. I was already ahead of my work on Wednesday evening. I supposed that I would work out and then chill in the apartment afterwards; however, I forgot that I committed to going to the Amon Tobin concert at the House of Blues that night. So I got home and pre-gamed a bit with some friends and then biked on over to the House of Blues for my first ever concert there. I could honestly say that it was pretty awesome in that respect. I could describe the music as being very bass heavy with a tone similar to electro-dubstep. There was a series of white cubes arranged on the stage that were all connected together to create some sort of geometric shape, and a series of projectors and fog machines depicted a story on the white cubes. They were all on different depths and heights so that the scenes being projected seemed to tell a story. I felt the bass reverberating through me as I stood there and pulsed to the beat.

The following Website gives an explanation of the visualization that goes into an Amon Tobin concert. It was literally a very overwhelming experience in terms of the senses. I could feel the waves of air pulsating from the speakers after every beat. The images told a story of being on a futuristic rocket ship that was then under some sort of space attack. The projection mapping made it seem as if Amon Tobin was the captain of the ship and attempting to keep it under control. The ship then exploded and the story continued.

Eventually the concert ended and I left from the House of Blues for my first concert there ever. I could finally check that off of my senior year bucket list. We exited to the bright streets of Fenway Park crawling with drunk football fans, high concert goers, street vendors, and bicycle carriages. I then biked back home through the perilous streets of Commonwealth and made me way back to the safety of my own home and bed.

The next big event occurred on Friday after classes when the engineering seniors had their first senior meeting of the year. For the first time in over two years we all congregated in Morse Auditorium, and the last time we were all there was Freshman year for our Matlab exams. And oh how things have changed since then. Back then there were so much more of us and we were all bright-eyed and hungry for more. Now we all seemed jaded. Now most of us know a little bit more about life through our experiences. I’d say that now we have our established friends are not so pre-occupied with trying to impress each other or pretending to be someone whom we are not simply because we are still trying to discover who we really are. I’d say that most of us are jaded in one way shape or form. We’ve gone through sleepless nights and days hyped up on coffee, drunken breakups and awkward parties, but we’ve also gotten the taste of new horizons and experiences that made us feel that fleeting taste of awe. I mean right now I am outside in front of Ingalls on Cummington mall on a bench as the lukewarm wind whips around me and gives me shivers while Blink 182 plays from my laptop. I feel so much more alive out here than inside.

The meeting ended and I was invited by some friends to go explore some of the bars downtown. I had missed my workout on Wednesday so

We drunkenly found a playground!

I went to the FitRec and then headed over to the Faneuil Hall area. I bought a 6-pack of Jamaican Red Stripe with me as I raced down the Esplanade to make it to the Hong Kong bar before the cover charge started at 9pm. I thought to myself, “Challenge Accepted.” I made it to the bar exactly at 9pm, and was greeted by 8 of my friends, all of whom were girls. I resigned myself to the situation and decided that it would still be a fun night. I missed the $1 beers, but was still able to get some for $1.75, which was not bad at all. We then went to some other forgettable run-of-the mill bar with more expensive beer, but a live band that played “Semi-Charmed Life.” It brought back some memories, but then our group got bored and we left. Fortunately, enough of us were drunk enough at this point and we bought cannolis at Bova’s Bakery. It was a departure from going to Mike’s Pastry or Modern Pastry, which are the usual main places where people go to get cannolis. I personally like the taste and texture of Bova’s cannolis better than the other two. So we leave and wander down one of the alleyways to a side playground where we continued drinking the rest of the Red Stripes. It was something out of a high school movie where we all went to a playground to go drink outside. Usually it would be smoking, but in our case it was definitely drinking.

I then departed and biked back to my place on Ashford Street. Again there were hordes of freshmen wandering around the streets, but nothing too out of the ordinary.

Pratt Street Basement Party

Saturday was another busy day due to auditions for my a cappella group here at Boston University. From 2pm – 9pm we auditioned over 60 people and then discussed whom we wanted to call back. Afterwards I biked back home to let out some steam with some friends back in the apartment. We chilled hardcore and I made some pasta and food. We left and made it to my friends’ housewarming party on Pratt Street. They had a beautiful 6-person house with a well-painted living room that connected to a foyer, kitchen, and basement area along with three floors. One of my friends living there eventually shared with me a story that one of the rooms in the house is only accessible through the basement and was a safe room used by Harriet Tubman in her Underground Railroad system. I believed him then, but right now I am a bit skeptical of his claim. The night ended after another successful party in Allston. As I may have stated before, it’s funny to think that as a freshman I would have given almost anything to get into a party. And now that I am a senior, it is so common and easy to have something to do over the weekend.


On Parties

“The world will be saved by beauty.” This was one of the quotes shared in one of those early morning conversations after a successful party. Let me start by saying that there is a certain bias and stereotype against parties. I believe that the media, movies, books, and tv shows depict parties as places of debauchery, alcohol poisoning, people taking advantage of others, and so many other assumptions. Ahhh there’s just too many trains of thought right now, but I shall attempt to reconcile them all. So parties are an interesting beast. College parties in general are usually associated with the problems with many of today’s young adult population. There are cases of intense hazing, sexual assault, fights, accidental deaths, and even rape. I’m not saying that those thing’s don’t happen, because they do. However, I am saying that people should sometimes withhold judgement for those of us who enjoy partying.

You see, I have long since decided that I wanted to devote my life to service and helping others. My end goal is volunteer in a third world country or developing area as an engineer and help out in whatever way I can. My next immediate goal is to join the Peace Corps right after I graduate from my undergraduate studies here in Boston University. So what does this have to do with parties? Well I attempt to bring my ideals of service to the task of throwing a party. Few people in college will be able to experience what I did last night and this morning. And it wasn’t because I was successful in getting high, getting plastered, winning beer pong, or even hooking up with someone. No, it was the knowledge that I threw a successful party. What surprises me is that I have been to very few good parties during my college years. What I have learned about throwing parties is that the focus should not be on the host, but on the guests. It is about the people whom you love and cherish who should be the focus. Now this may bring the focus towards the materialistic side of things, but the focus is still on the guests.

I remember when I was a freshman doing the typical Allston Freshmen crawl where a large group of friends and acquaintances would walk around looking for an open party to get into. I remember that the goal during those days was to please my friends and get all of us into a party. I guess that the goals for that evening are all different. Some people aim to just try alcohol for the first time, others are trying to impress their friends and show them how they can get them into an awesome party. Others are naturally curious about the situation and others still just want to get laid. Back in those days I fell into the category of trying to please my friends. It was probably 1/3 altruistic and 2/3 trying to get them to like me, because that’s how I derived happiness: from the acceptance and approval from others. Anyways, back then I remember seeing upperclassmen and really hot girls and guys going into parties and thinking to myself, “Aw man, what I would give to be able to get into parties like that or to host parties like that.”

And yet, here I am three years later already a one-year seasoned veteran of throwing parties in the Allston area. And I can say that it is a difficult but rewarding job. You get out of it a similar amount that you put into it. For this beginning of the semester party, the basement needed an entire revamping. The tenants from last year with whom we shared the basement with did not care for the upkeep of the apartment. We would continuously have trash and barbecue tables and leftovers strewn throughout the communal hallway, the backyard, and the front yard. So I had to clean through almost a decade of filth, trash, and crap in the communal basement after they had moved out. Armed with toilet paper rolls, Mr. Clean disinfectant spray, and trash bags, I started my week-long adventure that was the cleaning of an off-campus basement on Ashford Street. The entire ceiling is covered in exposed insulation and spiderwebs and the floor was lined with trash ranging from half-filled wine bottles to smashed red solo cups. I filled up several full-sized black trash bags with everything ranging from articles of clothing to piles of dirt and dust to forgotten blenders, computers, and furniture bookcases.

After a week of diligent work, I had successfully installed a series of lights that illuminated the dark parts of the basement, a bar area, a couch lounging area, a cafe sitting place, and a dance space with speakers and a stereo system for people to dance to chill dubstep while the first floor was retained as the area to dance to more upbeat pop music. After that was set up, I then had to clean the first floor of the house and clear out a bunch of the breakable personal possessions so that they would not accidentally be knocked over during the course of the night. Okay, so the house was then cleaned, but there was no alcohol. So I then had to bike two times to Blanchard’s (which is our local liquor store) in order to buy 5 handles of alcohol (3 vodka, 1 rum, 1 gin), and 3 30-racks of beer. So those went to the freezer and refrigerator as I then biked over to Star Market to buy the 10 liters worth of mixers and 5lbs of ice in order to create mixed drinks in the basement bar area. I get back home, and the final thing to do was to bake the 4 batches of cinnamon bread in order to have some snacks for the party guests, because people get hungry during a party.

So I shower and now I am ready to begin welcoming people to a party. Now I can’t get nitpicky, because my new neighbors upstairs were also hosting a party for three of their friends who were having birthday parties over the weekend. So several of them and yours truly guarded the front door and porch in order to either bar or allow people to enter. So this is the part that I never truly understood until fairly recently: the host rarely gets to reap the physical benefits of a party that he throws. Others may disagree with me, but I believe that it’s a valid statement. Guarding the front door proves to be a very hard endeavor, because you have so many groups of freshmen who attempt to get in. Usually I have to physically bar the door with my body and ask whom they know at the party. The difficult part is that I have trouble knowing if people really are invited to the party upstairs, especially when people are insistent on entering. This is a job that is not for the faint of heart, because you are the final defense against strangers entering into your home.

I had groups of freshmen girls say that they were ready to come in because they ditched the other guys whom they came with. I also had groups come to me saying that they were already marked on their hands with sharpie at my party, indicating that they were already at the party. Sadly, we had to inform them that we didn’t  mark people who entered so they clearly were at the wrong house. We also had the argument given by many people that they had already gained entry to the party and quickly left to get a friend, and so were entitled to enter back into the apartment. The funny part was that they would actually get mad when they were not allowed entry. My neighbors did a great job not caving in under the pressure, but a few randoms came through.

The problem is that the randoms become a problem. Sure, you have the hapless freshmen who realize that it’s a closed birthday party and that they don’t feel comfortable so they leave. But it always seems that at every party we get a group of thuggish-looking people who start messing with the music, making the girls feel uncomfortable, and drinking a lot of the alcohol. These are the people who are the hardest to get to leave, because they act as if my house is theirs and that I am the one intruding. Honestly, you meet many people who intimidate you and you have to deal with uncomfortable situations. But if you are able to weather through them and deal with them, then I feel as if you can grow as a person. So I spent the beginning of the semester party mainly guarding the front door and getting yelled at by cops because I was sitting on my own front porch with some friends. I suppose that it was illegal for us to sit on a porch while we were all over 21 and talking about life, albeit while some of us were drinking out of red solo cups and smoking cigarettes of course.

It may seem like a thankless job, but I believe that I have grown over the past year because of my hosting of parties. I’ve learned a lot about patience and tolerance. Throwing parties has also made me a lot less materialistic, knowing that I risk having some of my stuff stolen or broken. But they’re just stuff, and people will remember these parties as moments when we came together as a class and as true friends to loosen up and enjoy each others’ company without spending too much money. Over the course of the night from 10pm to 2:30am I probably had three drinks. So I had maybe the slightest of buzzes, but nothing that would have made it one of the crazy nights. But there were some highlights. One of them was at midnight when we all sang happy birthday to Mitch and then had him blow out the candles. Another was during one of my brief respites in the basement when I was singled out by my friends Ana and Mitch who stared directly into my face and informed me of my impact in their college lives. I know that this was the drunk them talking, but I felt that it came from the bottom of their hearts.

Another was when one of the guys in my engineering class came up to me and thanked me for hosting this party. The thing was that in his years as an engineer, he never really had the opportunity to hang out and party with us, and he really enjoyed it. And that’s the one thing about being the host that kinda makes me sad: I miss out on talking with my guests, because I have to guard the door against those who would impede upon our right to have a good party. There were some other interesting moments: for example whenever I told a group of freshmen off I would tell them that I was in their exact position three years ago and that I would have given almost anything in that moment to gain access into a party. I told them to stay safe, take care, and pay it forward whenever they themselves hosted a party in the future. This would usually dissuade people, because they respected me for utilizing a sincere tone with them.

Little do they know of the challenges and lessons that they will face head on in the years to come during their tenure at Boston University. Not everything that shines and glitters at these parties remain gold forever. But throughout all of that I have pride. I am proud of the work that I put into setting up and maintaining a party that was not busted by the cops, that most of my guests told me that they enjoyed. I look after my friends, and I think that I have their respect and that they have mine. What has improved in the past year is that I no longer derive my happiness and joy from their approval as much as I used to in the past. As a result, I have become much more content and happier with myself as a person. And honestly I could say that that night… was a good night, and that is a beautiful thing.


Continuing Onwards

So here I am back in Boston. No I don’t think that I found anytime to update the rest of my blog. This is very unfortunate, as it became a memoir of sorts that I want to remember. But as I have often learned, it is extremely difficult to try and remember and document everything even with a camera, journal, and pen handy. So in the chance that I get to document the rest of my Berlin experience, here are a few tidbits:

So we visited Dresden for the DAAD RISE conference, an epic bike adventure day through bookstores, Iraqis who were freedom fighters
and hated the US, attending the opening of a skateshop, and the stumbling into the underground Berlin party scene in an abandoned warehouse, bidding farewell to friends one-by-one as they returned back to the US, exploring the Guinness World Record’s Longest Biergarten near Frankfurter Tor U Bahn stop, bonding with my Norwegian and Mexican roommate, saying goodbye to another dear friend, exploring new bars, joining in chillstep dancing by the Brandenburg Gate for the Hempparade, dressing up fancily, eating a delicious mushroom lunch and exploring the most beautiful park (Volkspark Friedrichshain) in Berlin, having one more epic bike adventure through cafes, art stores, the abandoned art building of Tacheles on Oranienburger Strasse, and sunbathing in Volkspark Humboldthain, getting a tattoo at the Loxodrom tattoo shop that says “endlich daheim” on the Thursday before I left and then eating my last Döner at Mustafa’s, and having the last farewell by reaching the seat of kings at Königstuhl on the northernmost point of Rügen, Germany after sleeping outside in Middelhagen and then staying in a beautiful seaside apartment and biking for 40km as we biked through the unbelievable beautiful and golden seaside forest pathways, and then bidding farewell to my blue bike that had accompanied me on many adventures throughout my time in Berlin. I bid farewell to Germany at 4am when I left my apartment not knowing the next time when I could see that beloved country again.

I started the first day of classes today, and already I just feel so off and odd. I mean, I was living my life and enjoying every moment back in Germany. What am I doing back here in the US? I have one more year of classes and then I can move on right? So much has changed and in a way I feel kind of jaded. Sure, so I haven’t weathered the horrible wretchedness that comes from living a harsh life, but I tasted so much out there. I just feel like going to classes back here is kind of backwards and that I have learned far more outside of classes rather than in them. I returned a little bit more than a week ago only to return to a messy apartment with friends who could not possibly understand what I had gone through, in the same sense that I could not possibly fathom what they had gone through during their own summer.

Now I realize that I actually now need money. Along with the scholarship I may have spent about $1000 during the entirety of the summer including travel, food, and flight to and back from Germany. Now I don’t think that this is bad at all, but now I don’t have much money left. I can barely pay rent right now until I get the loan processed and it just sucks. I had the opportunity to intern over the summer and possibly make over $8000 this summer; however, I knew that if I did not take the opportunity to go back to the place where I fell in love then I would regret it forever. As such, I am so glad to have had that experience that I will be able to bring with me throughout life. I wish that money would not be a problem, because life has been going along amazingly well until I was brought back down to earth by my landlord who reminded me of a rent that is needed for September. So now I return back to the life of theoretical classes, payments of electricity and rent, and the reminder that all it takes is a sick day or week to be unable to pay my electricity bill or groceries. But all will be well in the end, because it always has been. I will take life moment by moment and enjoy it for what it is worth until I can’t enjoy it anymore. So I end this post knowing that somehow I will make this work.


Remembering

http://www.3news.co.nz/Three-students-killed-in-Tongariro-crash/tabid/423/articleID/253993/Default.aspx

I found out about this about 3 hours ago. It was the end of a beautiful Friday, a Friday where everything seemed to be perfect. I slept in, moved in two of my closest friends into my apartment to begin the subletting for the semester, hung out with one of my graduate student friends who led one of my discussion sections, took pictures of the sunsetting across the Charles River, and then had an amazing Indian dinner at India cuisine, and then finished the night off with people coming over to chill and share stories.

Today was absolutely gorgeous. I hung out with my friends from all-around, and biked through the fresh air as the sun lit up the sky for the first time in weeks. It felt like the perfect end to a difficult semester.

In the midst of the get-together, one of my friends asked me if I knew anyone from the engineers who was studying abroad in New Zealand. I responded that I did, and then I named a few. I looked up online to the first person whom I thought of who was an engineer and studied in New Zealand. I rapidly moved to the computer and searched for one of my fellow EK100 student advisors and when I saw his Facebook page my heart sank.  Three engineering study abroad students in the Auckland, New Zealand program died when the van that they were in flipped over during a ride to Tongarino. There were posts all over his Facebook page saying, “Austin, you will be missed. I love you.” from so many of his friends. It was then that I clicked on the article and realized that he was one of the people who died. Austin Brashears whom I had worked alongside with for EK100 as a student advisor last Fall, who walked dressed with a bright pink sleeveless shirt and hat for Multivariate Calculus Freshman year in Arazyan’s during the first warm day in months, who attended my parties, whose parties I attended, and who was in the last throes of studying abroad in Auckland, New Zealand.

I froze, and I literally am having trouble breathing. And I don’t think that it’s overacting, but I believe that it’s because of the proximity that I have shared with him both inside and outside the classroom. He was a student just like me and us. I remember passing out and lying down across my desk in a Mechanics of Materials discussion session, and he sat next to me and passed out without caring whether or not the TA was paying attention or not. And we all stopped our partying and talking here in 7 Ashford to have a moment of silence in honor of our fellow classmates and friends. And I put one of his profile pictures up of him hanging from a sign post pointing towards famous cities, towns, and geographical landmarks. That’s the point when it hit me the hardest, sure we weren’t the best of friends, but I felt as if I shared a kinship with him. No, I don’t think that I shared anything specifically more special than others did with him, but I felt the strong bond that connects us as engineering students, study abroaders, and friends.

I knew him as a living human being. He was not supposed to die, because we are still young. We were just ending the struggles of junior year, and were about to start the adventure of senior year that awaited us. You were going to return as the EK100 Student Advisor Coordinator, and have an amazing program welcoming frehmen engineers to Boston University. I knew that you were living it up in New Zealand having just as many stories from your experiences as we had in Dresden.

At this stage just finishing Junior Year at Boston University, I felt invincible, but for the second time in my life I feel the most vulnerable that I have felt in a long time. I bet that you lived it up to your last moments and made sure that you had experiences to share when you got back. I think back to our own study abroad experiences and remember those times when we were challenged, or felt as if we ourselves could have died. But we always found some way to make it back home. We were invincible, and nothing could harm us. We kept the adventures coming, just like everyone does studying in this mess of a life. But life is also fragile just as it is strong and vibrant. I hope that you felt those moments of being infinite during your New Zealand adventures. I attribute this blog post to you my friend, having somewhat known you and remembering those moments that we shared together. I still feel numb, but I hope that you are fulfilling that next stage of your great and endless adventure now.

I will return to Germany this summer for my internship in Berlin, but I will first stop by Dresden. I will wander through the streets that I used to walk and I will remember. I will drink good beer, see old and new faces, attempt to communicate in German, and drink an ice-cold Feldschlösschen as I look out across a sun setting over the River Elbe. I will return, and many will not, but I will remember and finally be able to feel as if I am endlich daheeme. And though you will not physically return back to the United States, I know within my heart of hearts that you are finally home too.

endlich daheeme

 


Staying Up Late

Oh my God this is ridiculous. I mean, I know that every semester has a lot of hard work, but this tail end of the semester is just getting to be crazy with the amount of work that I have to get done within the next week. The projects consist of group work, but I don’t even think that we can do a good job on it before it’s due. On top of that, I reached the limit of my work study award, and can no longer be payed for working at the Winship Elementary school where I tutor the kids in reading, writing, and math. I miss them a lot, and I miss sleep too.

Then I just got a notification that our professor wants us to retake old data, because we didn’t get enough, and the other major project that we have to do has the entire group caught up in trying to figure out what product to research and work on. AAAAARGH!!! Part of engineering is life. And life is beautiful and includes receiving enough sunlight and joy and the feeling of unbridled freedom. A lot of us engineering students don’t get enough of that, or become too accustomed to the dark. But the darkness is almost gone, the dawn is coming (both literally and figuratively), and I can make it. One more week to go, let’s do this!