Friday, May 4, 2007

"Oh, the Places We'll Go"

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way . . .

-Charles Dickens A Tale of Two Cities

Paper or Paradox?
Considering that I’ll be graduating with a degree in political science, I won’t miss the toilsome grunt work of drafting long-winded, seemingly interminable papers. It’s not that I particularly disdain writing; in fact, I enjoy writing very much as you can see. What I never quite grasped, however, was the paper writing paradox. First, the preliminary handicap of being conceptually limited by a straitjacket of guidelines and parameters is frustrating to say the least. And second, there’s the rank hypocrisy, which is the expectation to write—with utter ease—the most original dissertation. (After four years, I still can’t reconcile the two conflicting demands.) Consequently, I go by the saying, “Strive to be original, and when you can’t be original, steal from the best.” (I think Woody Allen said that in Loser, but I’d have to double-check.)

Say what you will of my simple philosophy, which does not in any way condone plagiarism, but it got me through undergrad, which is now becoming, more or less, the equivalent to a GED as far as some employers are concerned. Notwithstanding, I quote the preeminent English novelist Charles Dickens for the ostensible purpose of pretending to be cultured and versed in Victorian Era English lit.

What the Dickens?
Charles Dickens’s transcendent anaphora beautifully articulates in text what I fail to grapple in mind, and what I can only begin to make plain in heart. The rhythmic subtlety of Dickens’s prose masterfully conveys the ocean of thoughts, feelings, and emotions that have descended upon me in the wake and at the nexus of yet another closing chapter and forthcoming epoch. The highs and lows that I’ve experienced during my collegiate livelihood have now come to a head. And it’s at this delta that I must brave the uncharted waters that await me. But until my ship is set to sail, it’s best that I reflect upon the route I've traveled.

Looking back at my four glorious years at IU, I can’t say that I lived for the moment in every moment. Certainly, I’ve reveled in my fair share of fun, but always with a hint of moderation. There were times I forwent opportunities to stagger across Kirkwood to study for a huge test. (All right, maybe I didn’t study, but there were times I stayed in so I could wake up and get to my test on time.) And there were times I returned home from work far too exhausted to even fathom going out. College, despite what we understand it to be, is an intricate balancing act. An act of course that becomes much clearer after you’ve drunk, puked, and sobered up. For me, staying in never resonated well.

“Save in Understanding the Whole”
Sir Isaac Newton said it best in his Third Law of Motion: “To every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.” Keeping in mind Dickens, what is clear is that the “season of Darkness” was always the driving force behind our appreciation for the “season of Light.” And it was during the “worst of times” that we learned to embrace the brevity and gravity of the “best of times.” We, as college students, know best.

The pretest anxiety and posttest alarm produced in us, a habitual obsession with grade calculation, and the burdensome group projects and demanding term papers forced many of us into confinement at libraries across campus. Nevertheless, no amount of work could ever forestall the unintended consequences (opposite reaction) that flowed directly from the laborious assignments and the time-consuming workload. The time spent hammering out twenty-page papers and surviving the weeks marked by consecutive test days made the nights out on the town evermore special and rewarding. For me, it was the academic element of college that helped me down those disgusting shots of no-name vodka and cheap tequila and that forced me to swallow that warm-ass cup of beer in beer pong. Why else would we play a game whereby water somehow acts as a cleansing antibacterial agent? And even if water was antibacterial, what the hell can water do about the filthy heads of hair that inevitably wind up inside the designated “water cup?" If the rigor of academia can’t reasonably explain our questionable and unsanitary motivations to play beer pong, I don’t know what else can. I'm open to any suggestions.

Walking Away
As of 4:45 PM (Thursday May 3, 2007), I’m officially an Indiana University graduate. What ended today seems as though started yesterday. A forlorn nostalgia pervades my innermost thoughts. My state of mind is listless for I’m not yet ready to let go. As the age-old adages goes, “All good things must come to an end.” The inconvenient truth of the matter is that college is no exception. We have, but one choice: to continue onward.

As the twilight of my collegiate livelihood nears and as I prepare to enter the nine-to-five working world, I’ll be able to look back knowing that my experience at Indiana University was the greatest of times relished alongside the best of friends. The world we're set to enter diverges sharply from the world we occupy today. Never again will Wednesday commence the weekend, and never again will Friday be a day of designated rest and hangover recovery. Never again will we be able to lionize imprudence, eschew responsibility, and capitulate to impulse. The world we're set to enter is rife with solemnity and consequence. The independence I sought as a freshman is now an inescapable reality. It’s the interdependence that I’ll so badly miss. Soon the friends that became family will embark down disparate paths, decamp, and oftentimes forsake the days of yore in search of news beginnings and perseity. Things will never be the same.

It is my hope that the friends that stand at my side today will do so tomorrow. Realistically, my hope is nothing more than a pipe dream. As we say our goodbyes and as we pledge to stay in touch, the harsh reality suggests that many of us will do otherwise. For what other reason do we attend high school reunions? For what other reason do we revisit yearbooks? Now that I’ve graduated, it’s apparent that distancing indubitably lies ahead.

Etched in Stone
Pictures and memories reflect our futile insistence to relive and recapture the instants and moments forever locked away in time. Impossible is it to reopen the doors that are constantly closing behind us. Unfortunately, in life, there’s no key to unlock the past; missing is an inked quill to rewrite history. Like flowers, memories wither. In time, a rose once picked loses its fragrance and complexion. Prickly thorns and a wilted stem are all that remain. The same holds true for memories.

While we try our best to rekindle evanescent flames, efforts to resurrect relics from the past are misguided. Rather than trying to rouse times past, it’s incumbent that we look to hatch new memories to replace the decaying vestiges of time immemorial. To be frank, I’ll be the first to say that I’m going to miss this place dearly. Nothing will ever be able to replace our four years at IU—the apogee of our existence. All we can do now is hope and pray that our blessings remain bountiful for we know not what lies ahead. “Oh, the places we’ll go.”

"Don't Stop Believing" by Journey

Monday, April 30, 2007

It Was the Greatest of Times

April showers bring May flowers so I’m told. And with the onset of the spring season come clear skies and warmer climes just in time for Little 500—a week of raging, but forgivable debauchery that I absolutely love. It’s at this time of the year that I’m usually overwhelmed by the ire that accompanies final exams. Having only three finals this semester, I’m out enjoying the novelty of this long overdue year-end leisure. An outstanding bounty I’ll graciously collect.

With that said, instead of being outdoors basking under the sun, I’m sitting at a cluttered desk writing a blog post about college graduation that nobody will read. And to think that after four years of college I’m still single. (I personally prefer the designation "eligible bachelor" because, of course, that term carries glimmerings of celebrity distinction.) But that is neither here nor there. Besides, I couldn't care less about my companionless Facebook relationship status. Furthermore, obviously lacking is an "eligible bachelor" option in the drop-down query so that, in and of itself, only reinforces my fervid philosophical objection to Facebook's shitty relationship taxonomy. (Note: I often babble aimlessly to make sure that I'm not only living, but conscious. Checking my pulse determines only the former and not the latter.) I think now is a good point to get back to college graduation.

Again, I've ruined yet another potentially high-minded blog post. (My goal was to wax nostalgic, but as you can see, I fucked that one up in no time.) And because of that, I feel terribly guilty for wasting so much time and energy. So instead of blathering incessantly, here's a preliminary excerpt from the real college graduation manifesto that I've been working on for the past few days. It's my hope to have the final draft done by the end of the week. Read it, and weep:

As the twilight of my collegiate livelihood nears and as I prepare to enter the nine-to-five working world, I’ll be able to look back knowing that my experience at Indiana University was the greatest of times relished alongside the best of friends.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Taking the Scenic Route

I spend an ample amount of time with my grandparents. The visitation hours I've accumulate are in excess in contrast to my peers. The reason being that whenever I’m at home for an extended stay, I make a concerted effort to visit them as the occasion affords. Life for my grandparents is markedly bereaved apart from the accommodations of their capacious white house. Unfortunately my grandparents no longer inhabit the big white house they worked all their lives for. They now reside within the confines of a retirement habitation. What a disconsolate thought. But it’s why I visit.

My grandparents’ infirmities produce rather incommodious images. My grandpa—the disgruntled half of the pair—stays in the assisted-living wing of the retirement community. The collateral damage of three strokes leaves him paralyzed. His brain is perfectly operative. His body is perfectly inert. This incongruity generates tremendous frustration and is oftentimes most perceptible. It more or less depends on the day. He continues to persevere nonetheless. And my grandma—the more objectively evaluative and timorous—elects to live quasi-independently in the same retirement community, but outside of assisted-living’s ministration. She suffers from arthritis and rehabs daily from a broken hip. Their current predicaments—senile dispositions most aging demographics fear—tenably explicate my intermittent tarriances. Although both of my grandparents live with senectitude’s plight (grandpa especially) I won’t disavow from my commitment to visit regularly. Fortuitously over time, habituation eases the distress. Life at old age often remains the same, but when it changes, it’s rarely for the better. Acclimatization helps. Take it from me.

I love both of my grandparents, but in light of my grandpa’s ebbed corporeal condition I tend to visit him more these days. Truthfully speaking, time spent with grandpa isn’t always peachy keen. Ingratiating? Far from. Grouchiness sometimes seems to be the rule rather than the exception. Largely in part to his physical debilitation my grandpa has become a man of few words. It takes a lot to put a smile on his face these days. I persist regardless of what the fruit of my labor bears. Admittedly I’d prefer that the fruits be ambrosial and at worst marginally palatable—figuratively speaking. I’d do almost anything to see that grandpa enjoys my visit. Anything less treads the path of chagrin and self-reproach. What a delicate balance.

Just about ever member on my dad’s of the family side concurs that any time spent with grandpa is best served outside the assisted-living wing. So yesterday my brother and I agreed to take my grandpa out for lunch at Gray Brothers Cafeteria. I don’t really mind given the empathetic circumstances. A man who in his past life traveled the world and ran his own trucking business doesn’t value quotidian small talk. And we’re all cognizant of the repugnant food hospitals and assisted-living kitchens provide. The food is atrocious. Thus we dine elsewhere. The theory isn’t quite scientific, but it vivificates his temperament. As a therapeutic remedy food is so underrated. "The proof of the pudding is in eating."

I don’t remember the last time grandpa smiled. I sat agape as grandpa palavered throughout the drive. He smiled a lot too. He beamed to denote the birds soaring above us. He simpered to adulate the beautiful weather. He glowed to recount his old truck terminal located downtown. He cachinnated to instruct my brother to drive nineteen miles down the same street. He smiled and he talked frequently and concomitantly. Both smiling and talking stand as momentous feats indeed. The nostalgic swoon semblant by his countenance muted his blusterous proclivities. Lost and twenty miles out of the way he refused to purge the ear-to-ear smile spread across his timeworn visage.

We eventually arrived at Gray Brothers Cafeteria. My brother, and I rotated seats to feed grandpa. I suppose the dilatory commute invigorated his voracious appetite. And time surely elapsed with great haste. We left in no time. Attribute grandpa’s celeritous mastication for the precipitous exit. For a man stripped of any somatic faculties, he certainly compensates at the dinner table. Fittingly I made the arrangements for the ride home.

It’s when I ride the passenger side do I best mull over life’s minutiae. The ride down became the single cynosure of thought. For ninety minutes grandpa was at peace. I started to think about life as a series of races. Win or lose we trudge on to the next race with a pledge to lose never, place higher, and race faster. And when we do win, we seldom relish the moment. The next race is set to begin shortly after. Then I thought about today. I thought about my grandpa and the long trip to Gray Brothers. The interstate route—featureless and congested—saves time, but the experience lacks comeliness. The scenic route fraught with pulchritude and reverie apprizes the journey. The destination—a delayed gratification—becomes the forgotten reward. As luck would have it, life isn’t a race. Those who pledge to loser never, place higher, and race faster don’t always go on to live happily ever after. In fact, they rarely do. Life is much more enjoyable driven at the pace of a victory lap. But to those of us who aren’t racecar drivers, it’s best we take the scenic route.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Something About Boxes

Let me commence with a charge to which I must confess. Rarely do I succumb to my innermost feelings and emotions. That’s who I am. That’s how I operate. Furthermore to prove my point, I wouldn’t hesitate to say that even my closest friends aren’t privy to the way I think and feel. Bathetic stimuli fail time and time again to elicit the appropriate [tender] response that my peers can comfortably display. As a rule thumb, intense ardor must besiege my overprotective amygdala (set of neurons in the medial temporal lobe responsible for emotional arousal) to evoke even the slightest flicker of affection from my algid, benumbed, and cold (ABC) heart. I find it excruciatingly difficult—if not impossible—to think of a particular person, place, or thing that resonates deep within me. Then again there’s always been something about boxes.

I remember the first time my family moved; I was eight. Albeit we moved to a house just four blocks away, the move didn’t fail to cast my once familiar childhood into a tempest-tossed sea of unknowns. My brother and I worked in collaboration throughout the day to gather all of our toys and miscellaneous possessions. I remember tentatively placing my toys into each of the boxes’ dark, cavernous abyss. Every toy I placed within the box led me to believe that my toys were gone for good. My mother promised me that I would see my toys again. Luckily for her, she upheld her guarantee, but my short-lived enthusiasm didn’t last long. The ephemeral satisfaction came to a screeching halt when I discovered that moving involved a lot more than simply boxing up my toys. And you guessed it, the more I learned about moving, the less encouraging mom’s faux UPS toy-delivery insurance policy became.

When all was said and done, my room resembled a desolate barren thanks to the newly repainted white walls and clusters of boxed-up belongings. Years of brotherly horseplay and fraternal dalliance perished. The enchantment-filled toy-adorned sanctuary evanesced. My erstwhile room I once frolicked about freely and retreated to in times of castigation, hibernation, and recreation lost its luster—bereft of vitality and devoid of life. Theretofore, I relied on my eight-year-old naïveté and cloak of innocence to insulate my juvenile spirit from life’s harsh realities and commensurate short-end-of-the-stick misfortunes. “Nothing lasts forever” as the age-old adage goes—eight-year-old naïveté, veil of innocence, and toy-adorned sanctuary included.

Fast-forward to the present.

Sadly, eBay isn’t much into the business of selling eight-year-old naïveté and cloaks of innocence. I doubt naïveté and innocence in tandem would be much help anyway. I know from experience the withdrawal-related effects of extirpation (see above). That’s why I can’t even begin to fathom my college graduation next year because Bloomington has been my home for the past three years of my life. I’m not the least bit thrilled about parting ways with the friends that have become family—all of whom I hold dear.

Today I stood motionless inside the empty house of a great group of friends who are now graduated seniors. All that remains of the house’s formerly plush interior—stockpiles of boxes, featureless walls, and uninhabited living spaces—irks me to no end. All of the good times we shared are nothing more than frozen memories locked away in time and destined to become grandiloquent stories of yore. Throughout my life I’ve held paramount my ability to maintain the most unflappable equanimity. Apparently I’m due for a change. I guess after conducting my own informal 21-year longitudinal study, I’ve learned that boxing up my emotions never resolved anything. I had unconsciously become the very object I learned to hate most, a box—a vacuous, despondent—although not four-sided—container. Boxes are bereft of feeling and devoid of emotion and in part to the aforementioned description; I know that I am better than that. In hindsight, I know—somewhat regrettably—that my lasting impressions could’ve been more definitive and that my goodbyes and farewells could’ve been more sincere, but at least I’ve confessed to the initial charge of obduracy. And now whenever I think about my befriended group of graduated seniors, I’ll treat them to an open heart rather than a closed box. Oddly enough—there’s always been something about boxes.